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Bridal Club Magazine

Dressed to Impress

Once you are ready to begin shopping for your 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 prudent 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, and 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.

"Make sure the quality of the gown is what you're expecting compared to the price," suggests Kathy Leaf-Bordner Leaf, owner 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."

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.

As a final step, check to see if the salon has a reputation for service as well as expertise. Look to see if the bridal 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.

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.

When you get to 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. If anyone tries to talk you out of or into something or makes you feel uncomfortable about your decisions, remember that a good consultant will never push you to buy something you're unsure about.

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!

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