For brides who are currently planning a wedding, shopping for a dress will likely be one of the most exciting experiences during your journey to the aisle. This is particularly true for those who have envisioned this moment their entire lives, and have yearned for the day they get to say yes to the dress. At the same time, though, the process can quickly become a little intimidating given everything that's involved, like finding a designer, silhouette, and overall style that suits you best. Therefore, it's helpful to walk into a bridal salon appointment with a few questions prepared, especially if you feel like you have no idea what you're doing.
Buying a wedding gown is a process, and knowing what to ask is important in ensuring that you have an easy and enjoyable dress shopping experience. So to help, we tapped two expert stylists to shed light on the questions most brides should ask when searching for their gowns at a bridal salon. Read on below to learn more, and don't forget to take notes and bring them to your own bridal appointment.
Meet the Expert
- Ericka Plackowski is a bridal stylist based in Detroit, Michigan. Her goal is to help brides create and put together the best looks for their special day.
- Grace Thomas is the founder and lead stylist of Built Gracefully, a personal wardrobe styling company based in Portland, Oregon. She offers event styling to clients for things such as engagement parties and weddings.
What is the turnaround time for my dress?
This question is by far the most important one on the entire list. If searching for a made-to-order gown, it could take several months for your dress to be created. So, when shopping at a salon, it's always important to ask about the turnaround time before making your final purchase, as you never want to buy a dress that's expected to arrive too close to (or after) your wedding date.
Michigan-based bridal stylist Erika Plackowski also notes that understanding the timeline will help you plan out your other bridalwear details, as a wedding day ensemble isn't just about the dress. "It's important to have an idea of when your dress will arrive back at the shop," she says. "That way you can plan properly when ordering your other accessories, like your shoes and veil."
Are there any trunk shows coming up?
A trunk show is when a bridal salon features a wide range of gown samples from one specific brand. While they don't regularly happen (and aren't always clearly advertised), they are events to keep in mind when looking for your gown. Trunk shows will also give you the opportunity to purchase dresses from a designer you love, at a sometimes discounted price.
What shades are available for this dress?
Contrary to popular belief, wedding gowns come in more than just one universal white shade. In fact, you'll never realize how different shades of white can look until you walk into a bridal salon. "There are so many shades of white and knowing which one you want to wear is important," says Portland-based stylist Grace Thomas. "If you're keen on a bright white, you'll want to make sure the silhouette you try on comes in that shade."
How popular has this dress been in the past year?
If you want a very unique gown, it's worth asking this question. "Some brides want a one-of-a-kind piece, while others do not mind seeing their gown on other brides," Thomas says. "Stylists will be able to share which dresses have been their most popular over the past year." This can also be a good way to discuss current bridal trends or trends that many have passed their expiration date, if that's of interest to you.
What type of veil looks best with this gown?
If you found a dress you think you want to wear, the next step is to fully envision your day-of look by trying on several different wedding veils. This is due to the fact that some gowns may look best with a cathedral veil, while others look better with something short and more subtle. "[The stylist] may have some on hand to give you an idea," Plackowski says. She also notes that this is a great time to ask your stylist for their opinion, especially if you're not set on what type of veil you want.
Does this gown require a bustle?
While bustles are a common feature on most gowns, they have the ability to change the silhouette of a dress and potentially alter the way your ensemble looks. That's why it's important to ask whether or not your dress will need a bustle.
It's also necessary to consider how difficult it is to bustle the gown before saying yes to the dress. "Make sure you know how complicated or uncomplicated this process will be," Thomas advises. A complicated bustle can be inconvenient for the bride and bridal party.
What customization options do I have?
Don't be fooled: What you see isn't always what you have to get. Many bridal gowns can be customized in subtle ways that can really make a style stand out and fit your aesthetics. For example, you may be able to alter the color and fabric, switch up the straps, and even add built-in undergarments to a dress you potentially want to buy. "Love a strapless gown but need straps? You can easily add straps to most gowns if you ask!" Thomas notes.
What range of silhouettes do you carry?
"If you're looking for multiple dresses, one for the ceremony and one for the reception, make sure to ask what range of silhouettes the boutique has available," Thomas advises. "More so these days, you will find transitional gowns, created from multiple separates, that allow you to remove different parts to create a whole new look. If you're interested in something like this, make sure to point this out."
Are alterations done in-house?
Unless you have a specific tailor in mind, it can be more convenient to have alterations done at the salon where you plan to purchase your dress. However, not all salons do alterations, so it's definitely important to confirm whether or not they offer this service before making any final payments. Another tip? Be sure to ask about pricing so you have a point of reference when comparing in-house and external options. "I recommend budgeting anywhere between $125-$500 for alterations so a bride is prepared," Plackowski says.
What's the best way to store my gown before the wedding day?
A bridal gown is a delicate garment and shouldn't be thrown into a closet until the wedding day. So, be sure to ask the stylist how you should properly store your dress before saying "I do." This can vary depending on the amount of beading or embroidery, the fabric the dress is made of, and the color. Some gowns can be hung up while others should be laid flat, but ultimately, your stylist will know exactly what you need to do to keep your ensemble in the best shape possible.
Do you provide preservation services?
It sounds far away, but it's never too early to figure out what you want to do with your gown after the wedding. "A lot of brides are putting their dresses on resale sites, but if you're thinking about keeping your dress, make sure you discuss preservation services and even ask if you get a discount since you purchased your dress from them," Plackowski recommends.
What happens if I change my mind and want a new dress?
It's worth noting that you can't just return a wedding gown if you find something you like more. When shopping, you should ask if the salon will provide a refund, allow you to do some sort of exchange, or if they require a non-refundable deposit. Bridal dresses are oftentimes an expensive investment, so it's beneficial to know all your options before making a final decision on your preferred look.