Many brides have dreamed about wedding dress shopping. They've collected pictures from glossy bridal magazines, and they've researched which shops carry the designers they favor. Once they get the ring, these brides simply cannot wait to get started.
And then there are those of us who consider wedding gown shopping a necessary evil. Regardless of your attitude, having a good or bad shopping experience has a lot to do with the way that you approach things. Believe it or not, there's etiquette to dealing with bridal salons. Consider these five tips before you get started:
Make appointments with each bridal salon you plan to visit.
Do not book more than two appointments per day— one in the morning and one in the afternoon— you have no idea how long you'll need, and whether the bridal shop will be running on time. Never expect to walk in the door of an upscale bridal salon without an appointment and just browse through the wedding gowns. With an appointment, you'll describe what you're looking for, and then they'll bring you a bunch of dresses to try on. You won't miss out because if you don't find the dress of your dreams, they will keep bringing out dresses until you do.
Start out with the less expensive boutiques, discount warehouses, trunk shows, etc.
Try on the less expensive dresses first, and if you fall in love with one— stop right there. If you're thrilled with a polyester-satin gown, don't try on something similar in silk-satin.
Know what kind of wedding gown you want to try on.
Strapless, or absolutely not. Short, or long with a bustle? It's fine to be open to trying on a bunch of different necklines, but if you know you absolute do not want a poufy skirt, tell the consultant so she doesn't waste time hauling a bunch of dresses over to you that you don't want to see. They're heavy!
Be honest and direct about your budget.
If you have a max of $5,000 to spend, and you want a dress that's going to cost that, tell the bridal consultant the truth. Ask to see dresses between $3,000 and $5,000, and not a penny over. Remember, most boutiques also charge a hefty fee for alterations. If your veil has to be included in that budget, tell your salesperson that from the beginning. Don't agree to try on dresses that are more than your budget, and if they keep bringing them to you, it's time to go somewhere else.
Don't arrive at the salon with a huge group of friends.
I suggest only your mom and your maid of honor, or two girlfriends if your mom isn't nearby. Those TV shows that feature a huge peanut gallery of family and friends giving each dress the thumbs up or thumbs down are not realistic. Bridal salons are busy places and you aren't the only bride with an appointment that day. Besides, your opinion is really the only one that matters.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events, a full-service traditional and destination wedding planning company and Do-It-Yourself wedding planning consulting service for DIY brides and grooms based in the Washington, DC area. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show "Wedding Island," about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques. Sandy's book "How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional," will be released on March 1st, but is available online for pre-orders now where books are sold.