For many brides, selecting the perfect dress is one of the most important parts of their wedding. But like many purchases with a big price tag – and high stakes – there’s a lot that can go wrong. Unexpected expenses, delayed dresses, and surprise policies can leave brides stressing about their dress more than any other detail leading up to their wedding day.
Follow this advice to ensure that wedding dress shopping goes smoothly:
- Start shopping early: Wedding experts recommend ordering your dress between six and nine months ahead of the big day. This ensures there’s enough time for delivery and alterations.
- Be clear about your budget: Be up front about your budget, so your sales person shows you dresses in your price range. You don’t want to fall in love with a dress… only to find that’s way over your budget.
- Factor in alterations: Dress alterations can be costly, so talk to your salon about their policy in advance. Some offer alterations for a flat fee or cap expenses at a certain amount.
- Don’t pay 100% upfront: Most salons ask for a deposit of about 50% of the dress price. You should not be pressured into paying the entire cost up front.
- Check the cancellation policy. Ask your salon about the cancellation policy for your specific order. Each contract is different, and custom orders may have a strict cancellation policy.
- Be clear about your schedule: Brides have complained to BBB that their dresses arrived too late for alterations. Be sure to remind the shop of your schedule in advance and ask for typical delivery times.
- Take your dress home: After your alterations are finished, promptly pick up your dress. You can’t control what happens at the store – it might even go out of business – so the safest place for your dress is at your home (or the place you will be dressing on the big day)
- Check BBB: Research wedding dress shops on BBB.org before making a purchase.
Some online sellers offer gowns that look like designer dresses for a fraction of the price. Brides order these dresses expecting a low-cost replica, but BBB hears way too often from brides who have received an ill-fitting gown constructed from poor quality materials. If you’ve decided to buy a dress online, keep the following tips in mind:
- Beware of counterfeit gowns: Authorized retailers are the only stores allowed to sell a designer’s gowns. Anyone else claiming to carry them is likely selling counterfeits. In fact, many wedding dress designers do not sell their gowns online at all.
- Shopping for a deal? Be realistic: As much as a budget-conscious bride may want to find a $5,000 dress for $350, it’s probably not going to happen. Many designers don’t allow their dresses to be discounted below a certain margin. In fact, an in-person sample sale, not online, may be a bride’s best bet for finding a discounted grown.
- Double check delivery promises: It’s vital that your dress arrives in time, so be sure the seller clearly states its typical delivery times.
- Understand the return policy. Review the guarantee, return, and refund policies before purchasing. Know if there is a way to return your dress (and how much it will cost) if you are not happy with it. Make sure there’s a way to contact the company in case of problems. An absence of contact information on a website is a big red flag when shopping online.
- Be wary of overseas sellers: Purchasing a dress from an international seller may seem like a good deal. However, U.S. and Canadian laws and consumer protections will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.
- Read BBB tips for shopping online: Although a wedding dress may be an extra special purchase, much of the general advice for shopping online applies here too: bbb.org/shoppingonline/
Last Reviewed: July 20, 2017