Choosing a bridal shop

Research bridal stores before making appointments so you know what designers they carry and their prices. Where you go may depend on your budget. There are chain bridal stores, upscale bridal boutiques, thrift stores and bridal outlets.

Do some pre-shopping before the big bridal shop appointments so you have an idea of styles that you like. Going into a room of big white dresses with nothing in mind can be quite overwhelming. 

Call around to some different bridal shops to ask questions. Remember the way they treat you on the phone could be indicative of how they treat you in the shop. Ask the following questions:

• What is the average price of your dresses?
• Are alterations included in the price?
• What designers do you carry?
• Are accessories, such as veils, available at your shop?
• How many people can shop with me?
• How long do appointments take?
• Are there guarantees on the dresses?
• What are the shop hours?

You don't have to buy a dress at the first shop you visit. Don't let sales staff pressure you into anything. A good bridal shop should be clean, well lit, and have plenty of mirrors. Happy shopping! 

Tips for wedding dress shopping

Some advice before you start shopping for the perfect wedding gown:

Don’t let it break your bank. Determine the wedding budget and allocate only a fraction to the dress.

Respect the salesperson. You’ll get better service if you’re honest about your budget, rather than wasting time trying on dresses you can’t afford and dresses that don’t fit. Making an appointment will help you get focused attention. Try to shop during the week; Saturdays are busy days for bridal shops.

Leave your ego at home. Don’t be offended if the salesperson has you try on a size 12 when you're a size 4. Bridal gowns tend to run small and almost always need to be tailored.

Research is important. You’ve read the magazines and watched the shows. Now call around and shop online to see what’s available. You can find highly rated bridal shops on Angie’s List, among many other wedding-related categories. If you’re treated rudely on the phone, don’t expect better treatment in person. Determine store policies regarding bankruptcy, fire and other factors that might force the store to close or your gown to be damaged, lost or unavailable. Be cautious of any bridal shop going out of business, though you might find a good deal.

Avoid added pressure. Trying on 50 dresses in one long day could turn anyone into a “bridezilla.” Set aside an afternoon or two. Give yourself time to focus. Take notes. Some bridal stores don't allow you to take pictures, so be sure to ask what their policy is.

Don’t bring an entourage. Sales people cringe when they have to battle too many bridesmaids’ opinions. Bring your mother or a trusted friend to help facilitate a good decision.

Don’t pay in full. If you need to get your dress tailored, pay the minimum deposit with a credit card and stretch out the rest of the payments until you can take the dress with you. Using a credit card allows you to file a claim dispute if necessary.

Don’t wait. If you’re ordering your dress, give the shop a dress delivery date that is two to four weeks earlier than your actual date and be sure it’s recorded correctly in the store. Ask what happens if the dress doesn’t arrive by the projected date. Ask who pays for expedited delivery should it become necessary. After you’ve placed your order, call the shop every five weeks to make sure they’re on top of things. If you’re having an off-the-rack dress tailored in the same shop, be sure it will be finished well before the wedding date.

Plan for alterations. Most wedding dresses need to be altered, and that can add to the cost. Be sure your seamstress is qualified and experienced. Check reviews of highly rated seamstresses on Angie’s List.

What does a wedding dress cost?

The average price of a wedding dress is $1,053, according to a statistic from the Association of Bridal Consultants, but there are options.

Look for sample sales where dresses of various sizes are sharply discounted. Another way to save money is to check out thrift stores, vintage shops and bridal outlets.

Your wedding budget should be set before you go dress shopping, and you should have a certain amount of money allocated to your dress. Make sure the bridal consultants know what that number is, so you don't waste each other's time.

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