Most people become engaged between November and February; you know the given Holiday season where couples are with family and friends. Those Holidays being Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day. Then right after Valentine’s day teenagers are fighting to get into a formal dress store to purchase their Winter dance dress and/or Spring prom dress. This creates a very busy time for retail stores and some have even named the months between January and April as their “Christmas Bridal” season because the store are just crazy busy.
In order to maximize your time at these bridal shops and to relieve stress for you (because it can be stressful) I have put together a Bridal/Formal dress shopping code of ethics. This 101 etiquette list will ensure that your shopping time will run as smoothly as possible. It can also be used as a tool for those assisting you with shopping (parents, friends, etc.) as well as employees who will assist you at these bridal stores. Believe me, I know. I’ve been working in a Bridal store for some time now. I have some stories I could share but instead, I’ll just share my tips.
- Know your budget: When you know your budget your stylist will be able to pinpoint you to the dresses that falls within your budget. A budget will immediately wipe out the frustration of picking out a dress that you cannot afford. You will become extremely disappointed if you try on a $1500 dress with a $300 budget. Knowing your budget is important!
- Don’t let the size of the dress bring your spirits down: Ladies. These are designer dresses. They run small, smaller, and smallest. Don’t let the size get you down. Often times you may have to go up two or three sizes and still need alterations for hemming, etc. Different designers use different metrics and measurements when creating these beautiful show stopping dresses. It’s not you….it’s them!
- Have an idea of the style you want but also be open to try others; especially if your styles doesn’t look right on your body: When you know the style of dress you like you take the guessing game away from the stylist and they are able to cater to you a little better and faster. BUT, the style of dress you have always dreamed of may not look good on you. This is just the hard facts. You will know once putting on the dress if it’s “The Dress”. It is at that point when the stylist may recommend other styles for you. Be open to trying them on. You honestly never know how it will look on you until you give it a try.
- Make sure you are clean: This should be self-explanatory but sometimes it is not. You may have moments when you feel like you’ll just stop by after the gym or after walking the dog or while running an errand. Ladies, these are very expensive dresses that multiple women will eventually try them on. Having good hygiene while trying on bridal/formal dresses is very important. Due to the size of the dresses and often the difficulty of trying on wedding gowns, stylist will often have to be very up close and personal with you. I should also mention that wearing decent underclothes is important as well.
- Don’t wait until the last minute: If you are getting married in June and you think you’ll going to get your dress in April, that may not be likely. Unless you are able to buy the dress right off the rack, which means it’s your right size, color, price, etc. There are some cases where it may take up to 16 weeks for your bridal dress to come in. There are also cases where you will need alterations. Alterations is usually booked months in advance. So you always want to take that into consideration whenever you are shopping for formal wear.
- Bring one or two people with you but not your whole family or bridal party: I wish I could put up a sign that says only two extra people allowed. Honestly, it’s all you need. When you have too many people with you to watch you “Say yes to the dress” things become very overwhelming very fast. It’s very hard to get 10 people to all agree to the one dress and it only prolongs your time finding a dress, making it even more frustrating for you. On top of that, most stores aren’t equipped to handle so many people at one time. It’s just something to be mindful of.
- Don’t allow your mother to become a Momzilla: People always ask me if I see a lot of Bridezilla’s. Honestly, no! I see more Momzilla’s. Moms who want what they want for the bride or moms who feel like a dress should come in a certain bag or they don’t understand why they can’t find all of the bridesmaid dresses they want. Moms talking their daughters out of dresses that they truly love. I see a lot of frustrated brides and moms trying to have things their way.
- Don’t say yes to the dress and then don’t buy it: There is nothing more frustration than for a stylist to work with you one on one for an hour and a half or more, to have you to say, “Yes to the dress” and to get to the counter and then you decide not to purchase? Like why? There is nothing wrong with looking or even trying on a dress but to say yes and to get to the counter to not buy the dress is ridiculous. This is where open communication is key! Create a relationship with your stylist, don’t be afraid to be honest with them. Besides, all of this is for YOU!
- Make an appointment: When you have an appointment you can almost guarantee that you will be assigned to a stylist who will be able to give you that one-on-one special attention that only a bride deserves.
- Make a separate appointment for your bridesmaids: You do not want to take away from the time you have selecting your bridal dress and you probably also do not want to be at the bridal store for hours and hours and hours. This is why a separate appointment is encouraged. Each bridesmaid should be measured once selecting the style of dress they will wear. Again, do not let the size deter you or your bridesmaids.
- Remember that most places don’t have dress check: Now I don’t know any place that does this but I’ve had several teenagers come to me and ask me if we had a “dress check?” A dress check is when a prom dress is purchased you notate the school the teenager goes to so that no other person will buy that same dress and wear it to prom. Perhaps this is something new, but just know that most places do not have a dress check.
- Before you leave, be sure you are aware of the return/exchange policy: This is probably most important. A lot of bridal stores only have an exchange policy. They do not take returns and alterations are extra. It is IMPORTANT that you know the return/exchange policy when you are purchasing your dress BEFORE you walk out of that store.
So the next time you’re out shopping for a dress for your special occasion, whether it be your wedding gown, a formal dress for your next event, or helping your high school teen find their prom dress, remember this etiquette 101 course! You can thank me later!