You’ve made your salon appointment, done your research and taken off work to shop on a slow Tuesday morning. Now what? Here’s a list of important questions to run by your consultant before, during and after your appointment to make sure everyone’s on the same page.
1. Does my wedding date present any limitations?
Why you want to know: You should be aware of how your wedding date will affect your gown shopping experience. Most gowns take four to six months to arrive and require an additional two to three months for alterations. If you’re shopping close to your wedding date, you may be limited to samples or off-the-rack gowns. And keep in mind that smaller stores may not be able to put in last-minute orders. It’s always good to know your limitations up front.
2. What do you think will look flattering on me?
Why you want to know: Even if a gown doesn’t look amazing on the hanger, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t look amazing on you. Be open to what an experienced consultant thinks will flatter your figure—it might be different than what you pictured. Bottom line: Your wedding gown should be the best fit for your body type.
3. How customizable is this dress?
Why you want to know: Before you make up your mind about a gown, you should know if you can change its construction, color or fabric. For instance, blush-colored dresses usually come in white, so don’t hesitate to inquire about specific changes that will suit your tastes. If you really don’t like something about a gown, it can probably be changed. At the very least, it will help point a consultant in the right direction. You may be describing another dress they have in the showroom that would be perfect for you.
4. Are alterations included in the cost of my gown, and what do they average?
Why you want to know: Most salons don’t include alterations in the cost of your gown, so factor them in before committing to a dress, especially if it’s on the higher end of your budget. You need to know the total price to make sure you aren’t going over what you intended to spend.
5. Are any trunk shows coming up?
Why you want to know: Trunk shows give designers the opportunity to display gowns that aren’t regularly available in store. If you really like a certain designer, ask if they have a trunk show coming up in your area. These events also allow the rare opportunity to talk one-on-one with designers. You can discuss the gown you like and any changes you may want to make to it. An added bonus: Most trunk shows discount your purchase (usually 15 percent!).
6. If I decide to buy this dress in the coming months, will it still be available?
Why you want to know: After you’ve found “the one,” you really should stop looking. However, if you need some time to sleep on your decision, make sure your dress will still be available in the future. Designers discontinue styles all the time, and salons usually have very little notice. Some salons also offer incentives if you buy on your first visit. It never hurts to ask, and it might help you make up your mind.
7. Can I buy the sample?
Why you want to know: If you’re on a budget and have an open mind, a sample gown could be a great deal—but they’re usually heavily discounted due to wear and tear and may not come in your exact size. If the sample is in good shape and fits you within three sizes, it’s worth looking into.
8. What accessories would look good with this dress?
Why you want to know: This question gives your consultant an opportunity to play with accessories and style your dress in ways you might not have considered. Even if you’re set against a certain accessory, like a veil, it never hurts to try it on, just to see how it makes you feel. Shopping tip: The earlier you ask about accessories, the better, since more elaborate orders, like custom headpieces, take longer to arrive.
9. How many fittings will I have?
Why you want to know: Most custom gowns require three rounds of alterations, so it’s important to know if your salon offers alterations in-house, and if your gown will require additional fittings. If you’re planning on losing weight, start alterations later, so changes to your body won’t compromise the fit of your dress. Your consultant can help you plan your alterations or locate a trustworthy tailor outside of the salon. If possible, try to schedule a fitting a week or two before your wedding for the most accurate fit.
10. Do I have to wear undergarments with this gown?
Why you want to know: Depending on the construction of your dress, you may be able to add bra cups and boning during your fittings. The benefit of these alterations? They’ll save you the time spent searching for the right strapless bra or corset. You also don’t need the heat or bulk of extra garments if you can avoid it.
11. What will happen if I change my mind?
Why you want to know: Wedding gowns are usually custom orders, so most stores will not give you a refund, but it’s good to check. If you change your mind about your dress after you place your order, it’s important to know what the return policies are—it might even help you feel more confident in your decision.
12. When do I pay the balance?
Why you want to know: Salons have different expectations when it comes to payment, so you’ll need to be clear on when the full balance of your dress is due. Sometimes stores require full payment up front, while others expect the full balance when your dress arrives in the store. Make sure you know all the details to avoid confusion.
13. Will the dress be steamed at pick up?
Why you want to know: It’s an easy step to forget, but you don’t want to walk down the aisle in a wrinkled gown. If your dress won’t be steamed when it arrives, bring a steamer to your venue or ask if one will be provided. The last thing you want to worry about on your wedding day is pressing your dress at the last minute.
14. Will this look be functional in a real-world setting?
Why you want to know: You want your wedding dress to fit perfectly, but you have to take into account how alterations will affect your ability to sit, dance and use the restroom. If you lower the back of a dress too much, it will compromise the support of the bust area. If a dress is hemmed to the floor, if may not work with some outdoor venues. You should understand how your gown will perform on your wedding day. If you’re getting married on a golf course and you’re requesting a hem that won’t work well on grass, you should ask what your options are.
15. How do I put on my gown?
Why you want to know: It may sound like a silly question, but if you have a dress with a hidden zipper, corset or an elaborate skirt that needs a bustle, you’ll want to ask how to put it together properly to save time and frustration on your wedding day. Have a friend or bridesmaid with you during the fittings to take notes on how to help you get dressed.
16. What’s the best way for me to store and transport my gown?
Why you want to know: Your dress will most likely be pressed and packed when you pick it up. But once it’s out of the salon, you should know how to store it and transport it to your venue. If you’re storing it outside of the salon, keep it in a protective opaque garment bag, so your partner can’t sneak a peek. If you’re having a destination wedding, travel with your dress in a garment bag (preferably as a carry-on, so you have it in your sight) and steam it once you arrive.
17. Am I missing anything?
Why you want to know: You have the dress and the accessories, but there might be other items you haven’t thought of. Ask your consultant if you’re missing any necessities, like crochet hooks for functional buttons, or any fun extras that will make your wedding day more memorable. (Who knew you’d need that monogrammed hanger for photo ops?)