Four months after bridal salons across the country had to shut down due to coronavirus, many are now open for business. But like most aspects of life these days, wedding dress shopping during a pandemic is nothing close to normal.
Bridal salon owner Lori Allen knows just that. You'll recognize her from the hit show Say Yes To The Dress: Atlanta, which follows Allen and her team at Bridals by Lori as they assist brides in finding their dream gowns.
Meet the Expert
Lori Allen is the owner of Bridals by Lori, a bridal salon in Atlanta, Georgia, and the star of TLC's Say Yes To The Dress: Atlanta. The entrepreneur and bridal expert is also the author of Say Yes To What's Next, a book aimed to empower women approaching their fifties and beyond, available to order on July 14, 2020.
But now, because of COVID-19, Allen's studio of nearly 40 years looks a little different—hand sanitizer is everywhere, fewer people are on the floor, and everyone is wearing a mask. The result is an altered wedding dress shopping experience for brides.
"It’s a different shopping experience now," she tells Brides. "This is a time that none of us have ever faced before. We are figuring out a new way of shopping for bridal."
It’s a different shopping experience now. This is a time that none of us have ever faced before. We are figuring out a new way of shopping for bridal.
We tapped Allen's expertise on what to expect when shopping and the actions brides should take before and during their salon appointments. Because if you decide to visit a bridal salon during the pandemic, there are a few things you need to know.
What to Do Before the Appointment
Dress shopping during COVID-19 requires a little more prep work than under normal circumstances. Here are four things to know before you head to your local bridal salon.
Call the store.
When you call the store to schedule an appointment, be sure to ask about their preventative safety measures. Doing so allows you to be prepared for the appointment and determine if you will feel comfortable and safe while inside the store. Allen suggests inquiring about face mask protocol, social distancing practices, and more. "The stores that you know really take this seriously are going to have preventative measurements as far as cleanliness goes," says Allen.
At Bridals by Lori, Allen says all customers are required to have their temperatures checked upon arrival and wear masks inside the store. Most open bridal salons across the country will require you to do the same.
Do your research.
Whether you're shopping during a pandemic or not, Allen wants brides "to do a little work before they come in [to the salon]." Adding, "I noticed brides sometimes just depend too much on the consultants. I want them to study dresses and see what they like and bring in a few pictures to give us some sort of idea of what you’re interested in."
Familiarize yourself with dress silhouettes and designers before visiting the salon. You can see the newest, trendiest looks from Bridal Fashion Week here.
Even if what you love in photos doesn't match your vision, it still gives your consultant a place to start—so you can truly make the most out of your appointment!
Know your budget.
You wouldn't begin planning your wedding without determining your budget first, so why wouldn't dress shopping be the same? "You need to know [your gown budget] before you walk to the store," urges Allen. "That helps us find you the perfect gown and it saves you a lot of heartaches."
Recognize that the experience will be different.
"I do want brides to know that shopping is going to be different right now because we have to be safe," shares Allen. "We have to be safe for our staff and we have to be safe for our customers so know that your guest number is going to be very limited and somebody in your party is actually going to dress you and then you’ll come out onto the runway because we've got keep the social distancing measures in [place]."
But while dress shopping during a pandemic is nowhere near normal, there is a bright side: You'll always remember when you found your gown! "Will you ever look back at these pictures and remember when you bought your wedding gown!"
What to Do During the Appointment
The day is here! As you begin to try on gowns, here are four tips to keep in mind.
Bring a small support system.
Social distancing measures will require you to bring a tiny entourage—but that is actually a blessing in disguise! One of the most common mistakes Allen saw before COVID-19 was "people who just bring too many people with too many opinions and people who are way too vocal." The end result is a bride who leaves the appointment "frustrated and confused" and most times, without a dress.
"You need people that are really supportive in your life and who’s opinion would matter," she adds.
Allen says that professional bridal consultants can take one look at a bride and tell whether or not she loves the gown she has on. However, mask mandates make the consultant's job extremely difficult. "You cannot see the bride’s expression when you cover up everything from the eyeballs down. You can’t really even tell she likes it or not," explains Allen. Because of this, she and her team are having to be much more vocal during appointments, asking brides specific questions to better understand their feelings.
Allen adds, "We’re asking ['How are you feeling?'] earlier in the appointment as she’s trying the gown on." (Brides, keep this in mind, and if you don't like a dress, say it!)
Ask about delivery dates.
Because of the pandemic, brides-to-be shouldn't rely on the typical dress shopping timeline. Therefore, you should always ask your consultant about estimated delivery dates before committing to a gown to ensure the garment will arrive on time for your wedding date. Some manufacturers are open, while some are temporarily closed, and others are working at a slower pace because of COVID-19. "It's just uncertain times we’re living in as far as bridal goes," shares Allen.
Wear a mask!
In addition to your shapewear or appropriate undergarments and heels, face masks (for both you and your crew!) are a must when dress shopping right now. We have 18 fashionable and oh-so-bridal face masks options here to help you get into the bridal shopping spirit!