Monday, March 21, 2011

Step 24 - Research and Order your Wedding Dress

(9 Months to 24 Months before the Wedding)
Your wedding is the biggest day of your life. The quest for your wedding gown is the highlight, the most exciting and fun filled part of the wedding planning process. Your gown will set the tone for the entire wedding. Over this period you will be lavishly pampered as you are magically transformed into a beautiful bride.

From the time you were a little girl, you have been imagining your wedding day! Now that the time is approaching, you should form a clear picture of how your wedding day should be. You want to start looking at bridal magazines, start to focus on bridal dresses at stores, bridal shows, and expos, look at libraries, and look at wedding related websites, wedding related articles, forums, and blogs, and look at specific bridal shop websites in your general area.

Always keep a notepad and pen around you whenever you are looking at bridal dresses, bridal accessories, and bridesmaid gowns, keeping notes on dress designers that have captured your attention and also any wedding styles that have gained your attention. Anything that you have noticed and if you are able to print out or cut out put cutouts in a baggy and put into your wedding organizer/planner. You should continue capturing ideas over a couple of month's period.

You should start looking seriously for wedding dresses around nine months before your wedding. You should seek out a few different bridal stores including bridal shops, bridal boutiques, designer showrooms, store chains and shops that sell second hand wedding dresses. The first time you go, just get a feel for them and do they have dresses that fit your style. Plan to take your closest confidantes, your mother, your maid-of-honor, your bridesmaids, or a close friend and just get a feel of the atmosphere of each place, how attentive were the sales ladies, does the store have dresses that you liked, is there a dressing room or private area that you can try on dresses, and how well was the store run.

You should narrow your search down to about three bridal salons. At each salon, you want to make an appointment about two weeks in advance. It's best to try to make the appointments during the week. Friday nights and weekends are just too busy and you want undivided attention at these appointments. Bring only one or two people along with you, again your mother, sister, maid-of-honor, bridesmaid, or close friend. You need someone whose opinion you trust and respect to help in your search. This person may also be needed to lift the dress over your head, handle a zipper in the back of the dress, have laces to tie, and have hooks to fasten and if the store allows, even take pictures of you in different dresses.

Set up appointments for three separate days, could be three days in one week or scattered over several weeks. Remember to bring photos of dresses and accessories that have captured your attention, also bring a notepad and pens, bring a bottle of water, your camera (if the store allows) and remember to come in a good mindset and relax. Make sure you only bring one or two close friends, not all your bridesmaids and absolutely no children. Bringing a few ladies along, often they bring different opinions and end up squabbling and with children they often play hide and seek, stain wedding dresses, embarash other brides, and in some instances have knocked over stands and have gotten themselves hurt. Another day will come for them, this wedding dress hunt is all about you and that's where the focus should be.

As you arrive for your appointment, many stores require you to sign in and register. You at first will meet with a bridal specialist or in some stores called a bridal coordinator. You will want to show them some pictures of bridal dresses that have caught your attention. You will also want to have the budget you have to spend for your bridal dress available. A suggested idea is to present a price $500 less than your wedding dress budget to keep aside for alterations and accessories. Each store may have their own way of presenting their dresses to you and many even offer brochures of different wedding dresses. Just to note, in this day and age, some stores charge you for the dress appointment but will offer you a credit when you buy the wedding dress. Make sure you ask the store if they charge for the appointment when you call to make the appointment. Don't forget to take notes on things that interest you.

A few other points to make before you go to your appointment at the bridal salon. Make sure you are freshly bathed and wear nice undies (no thongs). Wear little or no makeup, avoid hairspray, perfume and don't apply hand lotion or body lotion and no tanning solution. You don't want anything on your person that can be transfered onto the pristine wedding gowns in the salon. Even don't wear fancy earrings that can snag on delicate lace. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. You may be asked to leave your shoes at a location by the entrance.

There are many things to talk about when discussing wedding dresses. Plan on an appointment lasting about an hour and a half. A good bridal specialist or coordinator will explain everything you need to know about wedding dresses. They will cover the color of the wedding dress. Traditional american wedding dresses are white or are off-white such as ivory, blush/champagne, or egg cream. You see a little more colored wedding dresses these days or a little trim based on the wedding's color scheme. Most weddings though, where you see colored wedding dresses are brides from different cultures such as red wedding dresses are common in Chinese culture.

Today, dozens of fabrics are used to make wedding dresses. Some of the names of fabrics mentioned are satin, taffeta, tulle, chiffon, lace, peau de soie, organza, georgette, chameuse, silk, and the list goes on and on. Many of the wedding dresses can come with what is called a bodice styling, kind of a see-through netting material that makes the wedding dress look elegant and may including lacing material, pearls, pewter bugle beads, sequins, and seed pearls.

The wedding specialist/coordinator might review wedding designers, hopefully only the wedding designers that have allowed their dresses to be sold in the bridal boutique or store. Some of today's big name designers include Jenny Peckham, Oscar De La Renta, Caroline Herrera, Badgley Mischka, Monique Lhuiller, Angel Sanchez, Vera Wang, Lela Rose, Jessica Iverson, Morgan Baszilkow, Adele Wechser, and Nicole Lenzen. There is a tremendous competition on wedding dresses and the designers try to outdo each other and today there are hundreds of fabulous wedding dress choices to select from.

The wedding specialist/coordinator may take a quick measurement and inform you of your personal body shape and from your body shape will recommend the type of dresses that go with your personal figure. Some of the feedback you'll hear; if you have an hourglass figure we recommend either a two piece or corset type of dress: if you are pear shaped we recommend an a-line princess dress; if you are petite we recommend you wear a trumpet, sheath, or modified a-line dress; if you are tall we recommend ball gowns, princess line, a-line wedding dresses, straight bridal dresses or mermaid dresses; if you are fuller waisted we recommend princess line or drop waist wedding dresses.

So what are these style dresses; first there is a ball bridal gown or a full skirt gown (this classic and elegant style gown has a fitted bodice with a traditional full skirt); next is the a-line/princess wedding gown (this dress is a very classic silhouette, this type of dress resembles the letter A); then there's the trumpet or mermaid silhouette wedding dress (this dress mimics the shape of a mermaid, typically fitted on top and wider out at the knees); also the sheath bridal dresses (sheath dresses are closely fitted dresses with hems that traditionally end just above the knee); and finally the empire waist (this dress is tightly fitted around the bust line, the rest of the bodice falls straight). There are a number of other dress styles but these are the more common.

There are some other things associated with the wedding dress that the bridal specialist/coordinator will review also. First, do you want to wear a veil with the dress (veil types include birdcage, flyaway, blusher, elbow length, fingertip, ballet, chapel, and cathedral)? What type of neckline do you want (neckline types include jewel, scoop, square, v-neck, patera, sabrina, spaghetti straps, queen anne, off the shoulder, portrait, sweetheart, strapless, high, and halter)? What type of waist (natural, drop, basque, and empire); What type of train (sweep 8" - 12", court - 3', chapel - 4', cathedral - 6' - 9', and royal - 3 yards or more)? and finally what type of sleeves do you want (sleeveless, cap, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, fitted, fitted point, pouf, juliet, bell, poet)? Ahhh decisions decisions.

Finally the bridal specialist/coordinator has presented their education and recommendations on dresses, has taken your size measurements and gets back from you the budget you have to spend for the wedding dress and brings you a number of dresses for you to try on. It's time for your companions that came along with you to help you out as you try on dresses, give their opinions and take pictures (if allowed) of you in the different gowns. The bridal store staff will wait on you more closely than what you are accustomed. It's their responsibility to find you the dress of your dreams and to protect the store's delicate expensive merchandise. Remember, it's your special time, enjoy the attention.

Remember, stick to your budget, resist the temptation to try expensive samples just for the "heck of it", you only waste the store's staff's time and you may find yourself falling in love with a dress that is out of your price range and your heart gets broken because you can't afford it. As you comparison shop in different bridal shops, make sure you understand all the services that are included in the purchase price. Prices and sizing can be deceiving from one bridal business to the next.

After visiting a few bridal stores, trust your own instincts and ask yourself a number of questions? What dress do I feel pretty in? What dress accentuates my best features? What dress am I most comfortable in? What dress most fits my personality or style? Don't stress, seek advice from your companions, your mother, your maid-of-honor, your bridesmaids, your sister, or best friend. Look over the photos if you have them and trust your instincts to make a final decision.

When you go back to purchase the wedding dress of your dreams, again take somebody along with you and make sure you focus on the contract and the contract has everything agreed to. Remember when you buy your dress it's a final sale, there is no turning back. Remember designers will only guarantee their gowns through an authorized full-service bridal salon. The store you purchased the dress from is the store that should look after you.

The wedding dress contract should also include the following. It should include everything you paid for, including accessories, it clearly states who the manufacturer and model your dress is, the dress style, the color, the size, any alterations that comes with it, the veil if any, shoes if any, the fabric, the bodice if there is a bodice, the necklines, the train, and the sleeves, etc. If the store refuses to include everything that you agreed to, you are best to refuse to buy. Also make sure they have a guaranteed delivery date is written in the contract. You should specifically state in the invoice that the dress is brand new, not used before, and the dress will not have any stains, or you will be entitled to 100 percent of your money back. You should pay by credit card for extra protection! Do not ever pay by check or cash to a bridal salon, ever!

The reason that you pay by credit card and not cash or check is, if the store does not keep its commitment of getting you your wedding dress by when it's specified, you are insured of getting reimbursed and that's important because wedding dresses are expensive and if something should happen you are not out a lot of money. You are protected from the store if your dress does not arrive in time, protected if the store goes out of business or goes bankrupt, or if the store or the place where the dress is located has a fire or flood. You should have a backup plan thought out, just in the event something should go wrong, but the odds are everything will go smooth because you are doing things right.

Your wedding dress might take anywhere from 3 weeks to four or six months from when the wedding dress is   sent from the manufacturer to the store. You next want a professional seamstress who is an expert at alteration of wedding dresses and make one or two alteration appointments. You would like the dress to be ready and pressed and picked up 3 to 4 days before the wedding.

Look for accessories at the bridal salon to complement your wedding dress but remember bridal salons tend to charge more for accessories. Shop around before deciding on accessories, you may save a bundle by buying accessories in other places. If you are thinking of buying dresses online, it's very risky, dresses will often come with loose or missing beading, come with spots or stains, come in the wrong size, and may look different than the picture. You may end up spending a lot more for the dress to fix it up if you order it online. Accessories are fine to buy online, but you are better off though on working with a professional in your quest for your dress.

One tidbit, if you absolutely love a dress that you can't afford, maybe you can find a seamstress that can recreate the look of the dress you loved, with a lot less money. Check with some seamstresses in the area. Also if the bridal salon seamstress does not have at least 5 years of full time hemming wedding dresses, find a local seamstress to go to instead, your dress has to be perfect. Also it's easier and cheaper to make a gown smaller than making the gown bigger (called releasing the gown), it's more difficult and more expensive and still may not look better. If you are planning on going on a diet before the wedding, err on the bigger size of caution.

Whew, that was a lot to cover but that is the story of researching and ordering your wedding dress! This is the highlight of your wedding planning, an exciting time for you! Enjoy this time of your life! I will see you on the other side!


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