Tips from an Offbeat Bride who works in the field: Insider secrets for bridal salons
As someone who works in a salon that specializes in bridal services, I would love to say I work for one of the cool mom-and-pop boutiques that caters to offbeat couples. Unfortunately, my profession is heavily influenced by the Wedding Industrial Complex. That being said, I do get to assist Offbeat Bride every day and offer some traditional advice on how they can survive
Make an Appointment
Booking an appointment for a wedding dress fitting is absolutely necessary. I was amazed how often walk-in brides were sent home on Saturdays due to lack of availability; larger stores may be more accommodating but it’s still risky since many salons won’t let you try on dresses without assistance from a professional because there may only be four appointments for bridal and only two stylists available at once, leaving you window shopping while your consultant finishes up. Schedule your appointment as soon as possible on a weekday instead of weekends; busy weekends may cause greater stress for brides suffering from anxiety disorders.
Be mindful of your store’s busiest seasons.
January through April are known in the wedding industry as “Bridal Christmas.” This period marks when many brides-to-be get engaged after the holidays and feel the pressure from their summer weddings. Additionally, it’s when prom-ready teenagers rush to find dresses. It can be a busy season for both small and large bridal salons; businesses tend to make sales during this period to boost traffic; new styles may even be released during wintertime! However, long lines, fewer walk-ins, and inexperienced staff may result from this period.
When planning for a summer wedding, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the ideal times to shop. As this is typically the slowest period of the year, you are more likely to find consultants who specialize in your group. Additionally, clearance merchandise can be found as stores make room for new items arriving after Thanksgiving.
Know Your Budget
Sit down with your partner or anyone else paying for the wedding to determine what budget you can realistically afford. Be sure to factor in alterations, undergarments, preservation and other costs as well. Be honest when discussing with your consultant about what items are within reach; there’s no point in buying something just because it’s “for entertainment.” You could end up falling in love with an expensive dress only to discover that cheaper options are just as beautiful!
Discover the price range for each store by researching product costs.
Nobody enjoys walking into a store only to realize you can’t afford what they have. Each salon will have different starting prices for wedding dresses, so don’t be surprised if you end up spending more than you expected. Spend $400 at a bridal salon offering David’s Bridal while Kleinfeld’s starts at $1500.
Don’t limit yourself to the bridal section
If your budget is tight or you need more color than what the bridal sections offer, don’t hesitate to explore bridesmaid, prom and mother of bride dresses. My favorite section in the store is the flower girl section; it offers serious drama without breaking your budget. Plus many dresses can be altered to fit smaller bodies – perfect for those with shorter statures who don’t mind altering a dress to suit their figure!
Discover more about payment options.
Before you commit to purchasing the dress, speak with your consultant about payment expectations. Do you need a deposit or must you pay in full? Can the dress be put on layaway? Is it possible to extend lead time by setting up a payment plan? Or can you open a store credit account and take advantage of discounts available? Many stores provide military and student discounts as well as discounts on accessories or bridesmaid dresses. Additionally, ask about other benefits like discounts for accessories or wedding gowns.
Be wary of consultants who attempt to “upsell” on their commission checks.
Add-on is the practice of upselling a $500 dress to $800 by adding shoes, veils and other accessories. However, be wary of being pressured into buying the whole outfit at once; mark-ups on accessories and shoes in bridal shops tend to be high; therefore it may be more cost effective to shop in stores that specialize in one-time use items.
To order or not to order?
If you have the money, a new designer dress is definitely worth considering. Be sure to inquire about discounts for samples from the store and if they will reimburse any damages to samples. Stores may not always carry your desired size or color; in such cases, get a timeline to see when your dress will arrive and compare it with when your wedding day will arrive. Remember, newer dresses tend to fit tighter than ones which have been on display for months or even years! To be safe, size up; inquire about petite sizes and extra lengths so as to save on alterations costs as well.
If the store offers one, consider investing in a preservation package for added peace of mind. Brides who would like to keep their bridal dress can save it. Cleaning and preserving the garment after the big day allows brides to extend the life of their investment beyond the wedding day.