Tip 1: Have a budget, stick to your budget, and make sure everyone knows your budget.
If the sales consultant doesn't ask you about your budget, tell him/her. Make sure everyone you bring shopping with you knows your budget. Often times I see well-meaning friends hand the bride-to-be a dress that is several thousand dollars over their budget. Make sure everyone is on the same page.
Tip 2: Bring pictures and have a style in mind, but be open to other styles.
Actually, try on all styles of dresses! Most brides end up buying dresses that they did not think they would like. Back when I was engaged, the style was one-strap dresses. I kept looking at these beautiful style dresses on models in The Knot. I was dead set on buying a one-strap dress. Well, I tried on tons on dresses like this. And guess what? This style just did not look good on me. At all. I am short (5'3) and these dresses overpowered me. There was just too much fabric. I ended up buying a strapless ballgown. If you told me I would end up buying a ballgown prior to shopping, I would not have believed you!
Tip 3: Limit your entourage.
I know, I know. 'Say Yes to the Dress' is my favorite show, too. I love watching the drama of the mean mom who doesn't like the dress the bride fell in love with. Or watching the bride go $5,000 over her budget. But you should not be one of those people! Seriously think about who you are going to bring dress shopping with you. In my professional opinion- bring no more than two people. Yes, just two. Maybe three. No more than three.
The more people you bring, the more opinions you will have to listen to. Even the nicest entourages will not all agree on the same dress. You should not have to please anyone when searching for a dress. You should only worry about pleasing yourself. Especially if you are the one paying for your dress.
Tip 4: Have questions prepared.
Yes, you should do some homework prior to stepping foot in a dress shop. Come with a list of questions prepared for the sales consultant. Knowing the answers upfront will alleviate some stress later down the road. Some sample questions to ask:
- How much do I need to put down as a deposit?
- When are the payments due?
- Do you do alterations here?
- Do you offer discounts on headpieces, veils, or accessories if I buy my dress here?
- Can we take pictures of the dresses?
- How long will the dress take to arrive after I order it?
- Will you store my dress until my wedding day?
- Do you offer a discount on bridesmaid dresses if I buy my dress here?
- Do you have any trunk shows or sales in the near future?
- Do you offer cleaning or preserving services for the dress after the wedding?
Tip 5: Keep in mind extra costs.
Don't just look at the price tag on the dress and think, "Ok, that's in my budget. We're good!"
You need to remember to think about a few extra costs, such as:
- cost of alterations, which sometimes can be as much as $200
- cost of a veil or headpiece, cost of accessories, cost of a belt
- cost of any custom work, like adding a flower to the dress
- cost of a 'rush fee' if you are ordering your dress last minute
- cost of undergarments
Tip 6: You can not return a wedding dress.
Repeat after me: "You can not return a wedding dress. You can not return a wedding dress. You can not return a wedding dress."
I have several friends with two wedding dresses. Why? Because you can't return a wedding dress! If you are on the fence about buying a dress, think it over. Get out of the store, go home, and think about it. The worst thing you can do is to make an impulse purchase and be stuck with a dress you don't love.
Tip 7: Know when to stop looking.
Already purchased a dress? Great! Now stop looking at other dresses. Seriously. Stop looking at dresses! Refer to Tip #6. You can not return a wedding dress!