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How to shop for a wedding dress: Part 1

You want to find the perfect dress for your wedding day.
Here are a few things to look for when shopping.

Your wedding day has been set and now you're eager to order invitations, contact caterers, select a location for the ceremony, and look for the dress of your dreams. Perhaps you've collected the latest magazines and earmarked styles that you like. You've surely surfed on-line to get an idea of the latest trends.

You are now ready to round up all your friends and family members and start making the rounds of printers, churches, chapels, cake decorators, and catering companies. Right?


This special day is about you and the dress you choose sets the stage. All other activities revolve around this decision - shopping for your dress should be the number one priority on your list.

How much time do you have to shop for a dress? Months? Or just a few weeks? Don't panic if you're working within a brief timeframe. Some stores will allow you to purchase directly off the rack. You will pay for rush alterations, if needed, and be set.

Even if you have several months to plan your wedding, you still have a few immediate considerations, such as time of year for the event, color choice, and your budget.

The color, shade, and style of dress you choose will influence everything else about your wedding: bridesmaid dresses, boutonnières, mother-of-the-bride dress, invitations, cake, and all accompaniments.

Even in today's traditional weddings, dresses are showing up on the aisle in a wide array of colors, from black to pink to shades of ivory. You may also find dresses in traditional shades that have color accents. Candlelight, or diamond white, is a popular ivory shade, as opposed to the yellowish ivories of years past.

Consider making the first shopping rounds alone. You will gain a good idea of styles and price ranges without having to try on every dress in the store. Remember that with each additional person you bring, you're adding another opinion. Once you have narrowed the choices to half a dozen or less, then you can consider letting the troops come along. They will help eliminate those last nuggets of self-doubt.

After the flurry of holiday proposals, January and March become busy months for bridal shops. If you are in this group of wedding planners, try to schedule your shopping during the week, as Saturdays are the busiest days for nervous brides-to-be. Daytime is best, but if you cannot go until after work, call ahead to confirm a store's hours. Many close early during the week.

With the glut of wedding shops, competition is fierce, so it does pay to study the ads; definitely make personal visits to each store. If you are looking for a bargain, keep an eye on sales, but do not expect to pay next-to-nothing for a designer dress. If you do find a true bargain, the dress may be straight off the rack and sold "as is."

Each shop will be different, of course, but here are some basics on what to expect.

-Wedding consultants should be available to walk you through the selection process. They are experts and are there to answer your questions.

-Some stores may ask you to register with them. Do it - they will learn more about you and your wedding requirements and will always be able to contact you.

-Most stores will provide shoes and a veil to try on with the gowns, as well as proper undergarments. When you go for alterations, be sure to wear all of these, including the same undergarments, to assure a proper fit. Stores will not guarantee the final fitting if you do not wear these items at each visit.

-Ask about in-house alterations, but expect a fee. If you feel more comfortable with your own alterations shop, that should be all right, too.

-Most stores, with the exception of some discount chains, do not carry all dresses in every size. You will try on a sample dress - that may or may not fit - and your consultant will order the correct size.

-Your final decision is just that - final, so choose wisely. Most stores have the same policy: all sales final on all merchandise.

Shopping for a wedding dress will take some time. Relax, enjoy the attention, and relish each moment that leads up to your special day!

Go to Part 2
or Return to Main Wedding Section



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