A wedding gown is unlike any other kind of dress you’re probably ever going to buy. Not only because it’s the symbol of one of the most important days of your life and the very embodiment of what “bride” means to most people, but because it’s going to be more elaborately constructed and expensive than any dress you’ve ever had before. It’s ceremonial attire in the best sense of the word. Buying a wedding dress is a very big deal! So this week, we spoke with Ani Keshishian from L.A. Banquets and Anoush Catering and got her tips on what you need to know before you head out on your first wedding gown shopping trip!
#1: Know your price range
As soon as you step into a bridal salon you will be overwhelmed by the sea of delectable confections beckoning to you. It’s imperative that you know how much you can spend, and how much more is your absolute limit. DO NOT try on dresses above that limit, or you will be a very sad bride-to-be. Do not try them on just to see, and do not try them on for fun. It’s no fun at all to fall in love with a dress that you cannot have. When you’re setting the budget, bear in mind the cost of a veil ($100 to sky’s the limit), headpiece, and alterations. More about alterations later.
#2: Know where and when the wedding will be
No use shopping for a satin gown with a cathedral train if you’re going to wind up with a ceremony on the beach, and even in Southern California a winter wedding calls for a different dress than a summer one does. Make sure when you choose your wedding venue to keep in mind whether it’s outdoors or indoors, and any other features, like if there’s room for dancing; you’ll want to make sure your dress won’t get in the way of having fun on your wedding day! You’ll also want to know if a religious ceremony will require that your shoulders be covered.
#3: Do some research
Go online to the websites of local bridal salons and of designers themselves. Email yourself or print pictures of dresses you like. Check with the salons to see which of the dresses they have or can get samples of, and what they cost. Also ask the salons the range of prices they carry in general; pass on any shop where the selection is mostly out of your price range (although you should certainly ask to be notified of upcoming trunk shows and sample sales).
#4: Don’t wait too long to go shopping
Anticipation can make things sweeter, but most dresses take four to six months to arrive in the shop, and alterations can take several months after that.
#5: Make an appointment and only bring a few people
To get the full attention of a sales consultant, make an appointment. Despite the TV shows where the entourage includes a dozen bridesmaids, both mothers, and a few aunts and cousins for good measure, bring along only a couple of people whose judgment and taste you trust.
If you ask someone for an opinion, she’s going to give it. Do you really want to referee a roundtable discussion? What you do want, though, is the opinion of your salesperson. Keep an open mind and if she suggests a style you hadn’t considered, try it on anyway. You may have walked in wanting something slinky, but the way you look in a ball gown could surprise you.
#6: Bring undergarments and shoes
If you have a strapless bra, bring it. Nude or light-colored undergarments will be much less distracting than leopard-print when you’re trying on white chiffon. The shoes should approximate the heel height you anticipate wearing, even though the gown will be hemmed later when you’ve bought your wedding shoes. Some salons provide robes, but think about bringing a lightweight wrap so you’re not waiting around in your underwear.
#7: Doll up a bit
You don’t have to look perfect, but you’ll feel better and look better in the dresses you try on if you do your makeup and hair before you go shopping. Bring a hair clip to see how the neckline will look if you plan to wear your hair off your shoulders.
#8: Buy a dress that fits you today
Dresses can be taken in up to four sizes, but they can only be let out one size (at the most, sometimes two) without a complete re-make, and alterations are expensive. Corset-back gowns are the most forgiving, but even they have their limits. Letting out a satin gown at all is problematic because original stitch marks will show. Lace, on the other hand, can be manipulated to cover a multitude of sins.
#9: Discuss the cost of alterations
About 90 percent of dresses will need to be hemmed, and depending on the embellishment at the bottom, that can cost $100 to $350 or so because there are many layers of fabric to consider and often interlinings that keep the hem hanging perfectly. Fifty percent of brides will also want bra cups sewn in; add another $25 to $65. You may want bustles for a gown that trails in the back; add another $50 to $100. In all, while the cost of alterations vary widely, the price tag for an elaborate dress or significant tailoring can reach $800 or more.
#10: Be prepared to pay a deposit
Expect to pay up to a 60% deposit when you order your dress. Consider putting it on a credit card so you have a back-up position if you run into problems. In most circumstances, deposits are not refundable.
#11: Read the contract carefully
Confirm that it includes the correct style number, size, and color, and that your measurements were transcribed accurately. Make sure that any special instructions were written correctly. And of course, double-check that the price, deposit paid, delivery date, and your own contact information are correct.
#12: Be sure to take a picture in the dress you’ve chosen
It’s going to be a long time until you see yourself in it again, and you’ll not only want to sneak a peek at it now and then, but the picture will be useful when you’re selecting shoes and jewelry to wear with it, as well as when you’re picking out bridesmaid dresses.