Today's Bride

Dressed to Impress


As the ultimate fashion statement, this one article of clothing is probably going to be the most talked about, and most expensive, dress you’ll ever wear. That’s right, we’re talking about wedding dresses. So, what do you need to know? When should you start? Where should you go – and what can you expect once you get there? Read on for the answers to your most pressing questions, and prepare yourself before you plunge into the world of bridal gowns.

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Nine to 12 months before your wedding is an ideal time for shopping for your wedding dress since it’s best to have about six months to spare for fittings. Wedding dresses are custom-made, and once your dress arrives, it’s going to have to be altered — usually several times — until it fits you perfectly. That said, many companies can turn a wedding dress around quickly. But if you have less than six months, start shopping right away, and try to be flexible about your dress choice.


Before you start fantasizing about the length of your train or the details on your sleeves, you need to ask yourself a few questions in order to narrow the search. First, what style of wedding do you want? Formal, informal – or somewhere in between? Whether you realize it or not, you probably have a good idea of the general theme of your wedding, even if you haven’t yet chosen your location or decided on the size of your guest list. The style of your wedding gown should complement the theme/style of the wedding in your head. Another important, and undeniably practical, consideration when shopping for a gown is the season in which you plan to get married. The notions of seasonally correct attire have long since past. However, there are fabric and style choices that lend themselves nicely to each season. A gown made of a lightweight chiffon, for example, is a much better option for summer than one made of a heavier fabric.

As your wedding dress shopping approaches, collect photos of your favorite dresses and attach tags denoting what you love about each – such as the bead work, neckline, fabric and shape – to use as inspiration. When you speak with a wedding gown consultant, bring the pictures with you so you can easily communicate what you’re looking for.


Once you are ready to begin shopping for your wedding dress, you will need to decide where to purchase your wedding gown. For the most part, you will find local bridal shops to be helpful and dependable. However, it is a good idea to do a little research into a bridal shop before you begin your dress selection.

A vast majority of bridal shops are locally owned and operated & offer a full range of services for the bride and the wedding party at a variety of prices. Most full-service bridal shops offer a much wider selection of gowns in styles that can be purchased off-the-rack in addition to their custom-order gown inventory. While an off-the-rack purchase may be available, most merchants typically will order a brand new gown for most brides and their attendants.

You can usually expect a higher level of personal attention and quality service with a qualified, professional, trained wedding gown consultant to assist you in shopping for your perfect dress. There is usually an owner on the premises and also an in-store seamstress who will consult on custom alteration possibilities and concerns. In addition, bridal shops will most likely have all the other accessories you’ll need, like shoes, veils and jewelry.

“There is always a personal touch when you chose a full-service bridal shop” says Daniela Ghinga of Dora’s Bridal & Formal. ”Full scale salons will be able to offer you everything from expert advice to alterations all under one roof.”

Most importantly, full-service shops are typically authorized dealers of the designers they select to sell – unlike many online dealers. This means you’ll have both the shop’s guarantee and the designer’s assurance of satisfaction to stand behind your purchases. This strong relationship will help you avoid problems with delivery date and quality control on custom orders.

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As a final step, you should check to see if the salon has a reputation for service as well as expertise. Look to see if the shop advertises in major bridal magazines, bridal shows or local publications. Advertising displays a commitment to their business, and usually means they’ll be here tomorrow to deliver on the promises they made today.

Keep in mind that value isn’t just about price – you’ll want to look at the quality of the gown as well as the quality of the service at the bridal salon. Instead of focusing solely on finding the best price, you should look for a bridal store staff that is truly interested, concerned and passionate about helping you find the dress of your dreams.

“Make sure the quality of the gown is what you’re expecting compared to the price,” suggests Kathy Leaf-Bordner Leaf of Doreen Leaf Designs. “When looking at gowns, notice the craftsmanship of the dress. You should be checking for finished seams, even hemlines (as lesser quality gowns tend to have uneven hemlines), as well as making sure beads/sequins are adhered securely.”

As far as payment, most shops require a 50 percent deposit with the balance due either at your first fitting or when you pick up the dress. Be wary of any shop that asks for more than 50 percent before the dress comes in.


Try to limit your shopping to three or four different salons; it’s easy to forget which gowns you tried on where. Make notes of gowns that you liked, jotting down the style number and store where you tried them on.

Different bridal stores carry differently priced gowns, so once you have determined a budget make sure to pick a salon that carries gowns in your price range. You won’t know unless you ask, so make sure to call before you go and also find out if you’ll need to make an appointment. Some shops will allow walk-ins, but most require appointments so that a consultant and a private room are available for your comfort and leisure. Generally, your appointments will last between one and two hours, so be sure you space them evenly.

Klodt Photography as seen on


Once you’ve selected (a) bridal shop(s), choose a shopping companion whose style and opinion you trust – and who won’t be pushy (most brides count on Mom and their maid- or matron-of-honor). If possible, take the same people each time so everyone is equally informed as to what you’ve seen and liked.

It’s important that you limit yourself to only one or two people. With an entourage of friends and family around a bride, the onslaught of opinions on gown styles, what is and isn’t appropriate for a wedding, the stress of pleasing yourself, your parents, and your friends, can be difficult to handle. Remember, in the end, it’s your choice.


When you arrive at the bridal salon, generally a specific consultant will be assigned to you. You will most likely work with this person every time you return to the store. A good consultant will ask you what type of wedding you’re having, how you envision yourself looking on your wedding day and what styles of dresses you’re drawn to. She will also recommend dresses based on your body type.

Take advantage of a consultant’s expertise. She works with brides every day – if anyone knows about dresses, she does. Bounce ideas off of her and consider her advice. Keep in mind, however, that you can stop asking if you feel pressured. A good consultant will never try to talk you out of or into something or makes you feel uncomfortable.

When you find ‘The Dress,’ you fall in love with it right away; you’ll know as soon as you put it on. Even if you initially deny it and vow to try on other gowns, usually you’ll end up coming back to that dress that made you feel so special!

P.S. Once your gown ensemble is ordered, please be patient with the salon. Keep in mind there may be minor mistakes from time to time. But also remember: A reputable salon will work with you to correct these mistakes. Making your day perfect is as important to the bridal salon as it is to you!

Photo by: Malick Photo, Klodt Photography


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Photos by: Allure Bridal, Justin Ketchem Photography, Today’s Bride Show


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