Sometimes it’s harder to commit to the dress than to the groom.
For Cortney Burns, finding her wedding dress was one of the most exciting aspects of the wedding planning. However, she had no idea where her dream dress would be.
“It seemed like there were thousands of stores,” Burns said. “I had no idea where to start.”
A Google Maps search for “wedding dress” brings up more than 1,500 results for different bridal vendors in the Salt Lake area. The stores range from designers who sell dresses out of their basement to nationwide chains. The process can be overwhelming, but by considering and researching options, talking with friends, asking questions and having an open mind, any bride can find the store that has her perfect dress.
Consider your options
Although it’s important to go into dress shopping with an open mind, thinking in advance about what you want is smart, according to Melissa Blackburn, a designer who makes custom gowns out of her home.
“I think brainstorming beforehand is very helpful,” Blackburn said. “Fill your mind with all sorts of options and you will come up with something wonderful. Don’t just limit your looking to bride blogs and magazines. Look at couture, fashion, history and even just a Vogue magazine or two.”
If you can’t seem to find a gown at any store, there are other options available, such as wearing your mom’s wedding dress or having one made by a seamstress. Blackburn has been making dresses since she was in high school for girls who want one-of-a-kind dresses.
“If you find the perfect gown in a store, get it,” Blackburn said. “However, I work with brides who can’t find what they are looking for in a retail setting. It is a great experience to have a dress created just for you.”
Every bride-to-be knows someone who has gotten married. Talking to them about different stores might direct you where to find your own gown.
Burns visited the store she purchased her dress at after hearing a friend rave about a boutique in Salt Lake.
“A good friend told me [about where] she had the best experience,” Burns said. “I had seen advertisements for the store everywhere, so I figured I should check it out.”
Blackburn also emphasized the importance of networking when finding a dress.
“Get recommendations from friends and family,” Blackburn said. “If you loved a dress that a certain bride had, don’t be afraid to ask her where she went.”
Do some research
The Internet makes researching stores easier than ever. Customer reviews are available for most stores, and most boutiques have a website, blog or Facebook page. Rachael Almeida, who got married in May 2012, found the store she wanted by perusing the Internet.
“When I was looking at different websites, I fell in love with a dress at a local store and knew I had to go there,” Almeida said. “I found the address and my mom and I went there. It was the first place we went — only one store. I feel like that never happens.”
If a store has a reputation for poor service, despite how great their dresses may be, the bride may leave feeling disappointed.
Danielle Johnson, store manager at The Perfect Dress in Cottonwood, said she trains her consultants to alleviate as much stress as possible.
“This is the most important dress you will ever wear,” Johnson said. “Service is by far the most important thing. If the bride buys a dress here, the consultant is responsible for her until the bride is married.”
Bridal fairs are a great way to scout out different stores without even setting foot inside them. Seeing samples of what a store has to offer in person, without the pressure of trying anything on, can help narrow the search significantly.
Calling a store ahead of time makes the appointment smoother for the consultant and the bride and ensures a more personal experience. It also gives the bride a chance to ask questions about the store, dress styles available and upcoming specials.
“It’s always helpful to ask questions, like if they have something they are specifically looking for,” Johnson said. “It’s important to talk to a bridal shop before coming in so the bride knows exactly what she is getting into and if they can provide that option.”
Start the search with an open mind
The initial search for your gown has to begin at some point. Take your mom or a few friends, get some lunch and dedicate the afternoon to checking out the stores you’ve researched.
Johnson said a lot of brides don’t know much about bridal gowns, so having an experienced consultant by your side is crucial.
“You have to be open-minded and trust your consultant, because dresses look totally different on than hanging on a hanger,” Johnson said.
Even though it is important to have an idea of what you want before you go in, don’t be afraid to try different styles.
Burns found this to be true as she searched for her dream gown. She thought she would spend her wedding day in a mermaid-style dress, but after talking with her consultant, she realized another style fit her better.
“Try on all types of dresses that your consultant shows you, even if you feel hesitant,” Burns said. “I got a dress completely different in style and shape than I thought I would love.”
Give the stores a chance, but leave if you have to
Even if all the options seem intimidating at the beginning, you should stay at a store long enough to see what they have to offer.
“Sometimes if a bride doesn’t know what she is looking for, she might be overwhelmed and not think it’s going well,” Johnson said. “In the end, it usually turns out well because we try to customize the appointment. It’s hard to know how something is going to go by the first five minutes.”
However, not every store is going to meet your needs. It’s okay to leave if you feel overwhelmed, or to cancel an appointment if you find “the one” at another store first. Burns left a few stores because she felt uncomfortable with the atmosphere.
“At one of the stores I went to, there was only one worker and she was arguing with a customer when we came in,” Burns said. “When we tried to call back the next day, they put my mom on hold for over thirty minutes and then hung up. If they don’t treat you well at the store, don’t buy the dress from them because then you will probably have issues dealing with them in the future. ”
Live happily ever after
Almeida said the quality of the store and consultants make a difference in the experience, and it is worth it to research stores beforehand.
“I walked in during a time when all the consultants already had a client, so the owner of the store helped me,” Almeida said. “She found me a place that I could change in and walked through the entire store looking for dresses that fit into my price range. She didn’t force anything on me, was open to my ideas and helped me find the perfect dress. It was truly the best shopping experience I have ever had.”
Whether the dress is rented or costs thousands of dollars, custom-made or more classic, every bride deserves to have the time of her life finding it.
“With every girl that walks through our front door, we are going to do everything we can to help them,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of beautiful dresses, but we want to make sure we find that perfect dress for her.”