Bridal Shop of Horrors

It’s about that time again. The invites are coming, new friends are announcing, the engagement parties and showers are looming and the stagette planning is well underway.

If you’re married, you get to listen to your engaged friends ramble on about their weddings when really, you’ve been there, done that and really don’t give a shit about Aunt Bitty wanting to bring her son or the flowers that just wont match the favours. You already survived the BIG DAY. Thank god it’s over.

But really, women of our age, cannot really escape wedding talk. The ohhs and ahhs over rings, the fake inquisitions about venue details and of course, the marathon discussions detailing dresses

But hey, weddings are still fun. Open bar: need I say more. Dancing all night with old friends and new ones. Being around love and romance, whether it’s the newly wed couple or the grandparents sweetly reminded of their wedding from 50 years past.

I personally, was a little bit of an anti-bride. I thought weddings were just a symbol of patriarchy. But eventually, after 7 years of being together, we decided to have a wedding, on our own terms, and I have to say it was the best party I have ever been to. It may have involved dancing till 6 a.m. and a little game called cake jumping but trust me, it was the most pleasure a wedding cake could ever give.

Along my journey to bridedome, I was shocked and horrified by the bridal industry. Not only is it all wrapped up with a big pink bow made of sugary stereotypes, but it’s also pretty darn evil.

If you, or someone you know, is getting married and looking for a wedding dress, read on and beware: it’s a fluffy, white jungle out there!

 Bridal Shop of Horrors

Taking my clothes off in a tiny little room while a woman holding a large white puffy gown waited to “dress me” was not my idea of a good time.  Having to wear the store’s bra instead of my own “off-the-street-bra” while balancing on one foot in order to straddle five meters of material without touching it, was close to a nightmare.  Trying to figure out who designed the dress, what size it was, and what material it was made of, was impossible.  And having my mom “tsked” at for trying to draw a picture of a dress so we could remember what it looked like later, was infuriating.

But standing on a box and looking into six mirrors at the most beautiful embodiment of whimsy I had ever witnessed, was nothing short of fantastic.  So fantastic, that I never wanted to let the woman standing guard beside me remove it while I held my hands in the air to avoid contaminating the material with my fingers.

While I had done some research on wedding dress shopping, I must have missed the chapters listing the various rules and regulations.  Also missed, were chapters warning brides to beware of scams, hidden costs and miscellaneous “others”. 

Drawing on dreams and capitalizing on sky-scraping emotions, many bridal shops are engaging in borderline business practices to ensure big profits.  Brides-to-be are losing out -and not just dollars and cents.  

While the bridal industry is in the business of romance, it is also out to make a profit. 

And so brides, you need to treat your wedding and accessories like any other investment or major purchase. 

When you begin preparations for your wedding, you’ll find that you are walking into a consumer environment unlike any other.  Many bridal shops have their own rules and somehow they are able to continuously break the law and take advantage of their customers with relative ease. 

Whether shops are illegally removing labels from dresses to prevent a bride from comparing prices or finding the dress elsewhere, or whether alteration fees are ending up costing more than the dress, bridal shops are shrewd and a starry-eyed bride who only wants the best for her big day is an easy target.

But you have rights.  You don’t have to trust service providers without asking questions because they served you camomile tea and asked about your fiancée.  Don’t leave your shopping training behind.  If you drove across the city to five different shoe stores to find the best price for those sling-backs, if you sent back your cola at a restaurant because it wasn’t diet, and if you had your first car appraised before you even considered buying it, why wouldn’t you do the same for the most expensive dress you will ever own – not to mention – wear just once?

So while shopping for your wedding may be a dream, snap out of it, and into a dress that will make you a princess for a day without making you a pauper thereafter. 

Laural, Hiba and Sonia have experience with bridal shops and they will tell you that you shouldn’t be fooled by those selling dreams disguised as dresses and dresses disguised to ensure profits.

 

Laural’s Story

Married: July 7, 2001

Colours: Pale Blue and Silver 

Laural Adams started browsing through bridal magazines for a wedding dress before she was even engaged.  After Mike popped the question, she didn’t waste any time.  In one day, armed with her mother, Laural visited “a zillion” shops across Toronto. 

She found it in the window.  There it was on display, ready to fulfill its purpose of magnifying the matrimonial moment.  When Laural tried it on, to her surprise, it fit. 

“It was absolutely perfect,” she says.  After having tried on many dresses that had to be pinned up in the back to fit Laural’s body, this dress was just right.

Wedding dresses are sized differently than other dresses.  And someone who is a size 4 or 6, generally fits a size 8 or 10.  The people in the shop take a woman’s measurements and then consult a book from the designer of the dress which specifies which size would be appropriate.  Because the dress Laural tried on fit, the store assured her that she should order that size.  The size, Laural was told, was 8. 

Laural paid a cash down payment for half the cost of the dress.  The store would now order it from the distributor and Laural would return later for fittings and possible alterations.

“I remember I had loved the store,” says Laural.  “They were so nice to you, so sweet when you were trying stuff on.” 

But when Laural returned, now with both of her parents, ready to show off her dream dress, she found that the disposition of the staff had significantly changed.

Her dress had arrived, but this time, there would be no trying it on.  No trying it on, until she paid the remaining 50% of the price. 

“Half the cost of my dress is not something that I had in my wallet,” says Laural.  “I didn’t even have enough on my credit card.”  Laural had thought that she would pay the balance when the dress was finished but now she had no choice.  Her parents made the payment. And the dress? 

It didn’t fit.

“You’ve obviously gained weight,” the staff told Laural. 

But Laural knew otherwise.  She had been paying attention and she knew her weight – exactly.  She couldn’t understand how a dress, purportedly the same size, now fit very differently. 

“I mean I got into it,” she says “but it was smaller.”  “I definitely would have gone for a bigger size.  It was too small for my body shape.  It needed a lot of work.”

The staff at the store helped outline the alterations Laural’s dress would need:

The bodice of the dress was too tight – $400

The hem was too long – $150

Under the arm pits, needed fixing – $60 – per arm 

“With tax and everything, we figured it out, it was going to be like a thousand dollars,” Laural says.  “That’s how much I paid for the dress. I was 23 years old.  I didn’t have thousands of dollars so I was like, screw you, I’m not going to pay for it. I’m going to the gym.”  “They were mad.”

The staff proceeded to tell Laural why she had to have the alterations.

“Well you know you really should,” they told her.  “You’ll look so much better on your big day.”  Laural said she didn’t have the money but they told her it would be worth it.  “Think of all the wedding pictures,” they urged, “You’re making the wrong decision.”

“My mom said, ‘She will look fine in the wedding pictures,’” remembers Laural.  “But then they actually started picking at my flab (saying), ‘This is going to show.  This won’t look good.  This is too chubby.”

But Laural wouldn’t have it.  She decided she would figure it out on her own and she told the staff her decision was final. 

“You leave (the store) thinking, I’m supposed to feel beautiful, but I felt pretty ugly,” Laural recalls.  Instead of providing an important service, Laural says the shop’s staff was mean and insulting.  She had trusted them to order the right size but now she felt betrayed.

Laural took her frustration and applied it to her exercises.  She joined a gym and worked with a personal trainer.  She joked with him about working on problem dress-fitting spots.  And after all her hard work, the dress fit.

“After I’d worked out, and hadn’t eaten in a couple months,” says Laural.  “It was hard and I got frustrated.  But to be honest, I now go to the gym regularly and it forced me to go.  So it’s not like it was the worst thing in my life.  It was just insulting.” 

In the end, Laural loved her dress.  She remembers thinking at the reception “does it matter anyway?”  During the second dance of the evening, her mother accidentally stepped on her hem and ripped the bottom off the dress that had required so much sweat and tears to wear. 

“And to me,” says Laural, “it was like, I’m never going to wear this again, so who cares?  It’s a dress.  It is important, but there are more important things.”  And that says Laural, “put it all into perspective.”

Laural couldn’t have predicted that her dress would arrive in the wrong size.  She didn’t even know what the actual size was.  When she tried the dress on, she doesn’t remember ever seeing a label.  Most likely, there wasn’t one.  It has become common practice in bridal shops to remove them. 

This way, a bride has no idea what size the dress is, what material it is made of, or who made it.  Without this information, she has to trust what the store tells her, have “faith” in the size and price they are proposing, and trust that the dress really is a so-and-so.

If they say. 

Most often a store will not divulge that information until a bride has paid for half of the dress and it has been ordered.  Why do they do this? Simple.  This way, a bride will be encouraged to purchase the dress where she finds it because she may never be able to track it down elsewhere.  This is also why pictures and drawings are often frowned upon, if not outright banned.

Not knowing what size a dress is, can lead to the ever-popular alteration scam.  A dress will arrive, the size ordered by the store, and it doesn’t fit.  The bride must have it altered, if she can’t go on a fitness binge like Laural.  Once half the dress has been paid for, most brides aren’t about to opt out on the additional costs that would prevent the dress from cutting off circulation or falling off a bride as she walks down the aisle.  

Jeff Ostroff runs a website (www.bridaltips.com) that provides consumer tips for future brides and grooms.  Jeff started the website after experiencing first-hand, with his wife Nancy, the kind of things that go bump in the nights before the wedding.  Based out of Fort Lauderdale Florida, his website posts complaints and compliments sent in by newlyweds from Canada and the U.S.  About half a dozen comments arrive daily.

“People don’t realize, because they’re all in La La Land that these (wedding) businesses are putting the ruse on them,” says Jeff.  “(Businesses) take advantage of this once in a lifetime thing and you have to pay the price.  Some of them will even make you feel like crap for not paying the extra money,” he says.

But when he thinks about labels, he gets angry.  “They shouldn’t rip the tags out.  I mean, I go to buy a camera they don’t scratch Nikon or Cannon off so I can’t see what brand it is.  To me it’s very anti-trust because they are trying to prevent you, the customer, from shopping around.  How they can call that customer service is beyond me.”

Store owners see it differently.  They don’t all cut out labels, but most understand the forces behind the scissors.   

Holly Tataryn owns a bridal shop in Alberta.  The 33-year-old does not partake in the illegal cutting practice but she feels the pain.

“Personally, I think the biggest reason why it is done, is the Internet,” she says.  “People come into the shops.  They try on the dresses, find the size they need, the designer and everything and then they go and buy it off e-bay.”

Holly explains that storeowners invest thousands of dollars in their stock and hundreds of hours in their service.  Having spent evenings, long after closing time, helping brides in and out of dresses, providing advice and suggestions, it is very frustrating for Holly to learn that a bride was using the service to test drive dresses purchased elsewhere. 

“I’m comfortable enough with my service and my pricing,” says Holly.  “But I can’t compete with e-bay or the discount Internet bridal shops.” 

“I think it all boils down to customer service,” she says.  “And maybe people will realize, if they buy off the Internet, there are a lot of things that can go wrong.”  A dress could look very different from the picture, Holly explains, and people don’t factor in shipping and alterations.

“Hopefully the Internet will be its own worst enemy, but for us, we just have to wait for that to happen.”

Holly says that when shop owners order a dress, they can’t send it back.  They have to keep it.  That is why they want a deposit before they place the order, she explains.  Dresses are often made for an individual’s measurements.  The hems will be cut according to height.  If a bride decides not to take the dress, shops are stuck with a dress that may never fit anyone else. 

“I have dresses downstairs I’m holding for people for $20 down.  And I try to be accommodating but that was a year ago.  How long do I keep it for $20?”

So what should a shopping bride do?

Holly urges brides to educate themselves.  “Girls should maybe check out the shop they are dealing with.  Everyone has friends who are married.  Find out the good things and the bad things.  If someone came to me for references…I would love to give them references.”   

 

Hiba’s Story 

Married: June 28, 2002

Colours: Cream and Green

Hiba Al-Habib** used the Internet to help find her dress, but she stopped short of ordering it online. 

“I started searching,” says the 22-year-old, “and I found the dress that I loved, like, I fell in love with it.” 

Hiba decided to try and track it down.  She called the American company that designed it to see if the dress was sold in Canada.  She was very pleased to find out that, yes, – there was a Canadian distributor near her Mississauga home, in Toronto. 

Hiba contacted the distribution company which was made up of a mother daughter team.  The daughter told Hiba that they distributed that dress to a store nearby.

Hiba recalls that the woman was very friendly and chatty.  In fact, says Hiba, “she told me her whole life story.”  But at the end of the conversation, the woman did something strange.  She asked Hiba to contact her after she went to the store.  She wanted to hear about Hiba’s experience.

Off to the store Hiba went.

The dress was there.  She tried it on.  “I loved my dress,” she says.  “You know how they say when you see it and try it on, you know that’s the one?  That’s literally what happened.  I didn’t even want to look at any other dresses.  That was it.  I made up my mind.”

Hiba was persuaded by the saleswoman to try on a few others but nothing could taint her relationship with her first true textile love. 

Nothing, except perhaps the $3,300 price tag.

“You should see the dress,” she says.  “It’s so so simple.  It has nothing on it.  It’s a strapless, A-line dress with lines of beads going from the top to the bottom.  There was no lace or anything like that.”

So Hiba asked if the price was final and the woman offered it to her for $200 cheaper.  On top of that, Hiba would need alterations.  The alterations, were not included. 

Hiba left the store.  She fulfilled her promise and called the distributor and spoke of her disappointment. 

“They were nice and everything but I felt like they were taking advantage of me.  I didn’t think that that price was a fair price for that dress,” she explained.

“How much,” asked the distributor….“Really,” she exclaimed. 

And then.

“Why don’t you come to my company and maybe I’ll be able to do something for you,” Hiba remembers being told.

So off Hiba went to see the distributing duo. 

After some polite conservation, the daughter distributor informed Hiba that she could give her the dress for $2,100.  This was quite the difference.  Hiba was now confident that she was getting a good price.  She was also promised a flat fee of $100 for the alterations.

Sold.

But the story doesn’t end there, warns Hiba.  Soon after purchasing her dress, Hiba found the same one in a shop in Detroit.  The Price? 

$800 U.S.

“So imagine the mark-up they’re charging on dresses,” says Hiba with the matter of factness that comes after the fact.

Frustrated that she had paid more than enough for her dress, Hiba warns other brides to compare prices.

“Retailers charge higher prices just because they can and they’re aren’t many people who complain about the higher prices for wedding items,” argues Hiba.

She recommends using “price locators” on the Internet.  A future bride can look up the approximate price of a dress she is interested in and then have some idea when she sets out on her marriage-making missions.

Hiba also suggests that a bride not associate cost with quality or with joy.  No one should have to go into debt to pay for a dress she wears once, she says, as she recalls her own fantasy frock, now forlorn, in a closet, in her parent’s house. 

It can happen to anyone.  You buy it and then find a cheaper one next door.  But over-spending by a thousand dollars, on something used only once, can be avoided.  Even though shopping around in bridal shops is difficult, it is possible.  Approximate prices can be found online and a little self-education about costs of fabrics, lace and beads can be helpful.

If a store will not reveal the details about the dress, keep walking.  Keeping secrets is not a good way to go about starting a relationship with a customer.  

Shop owner Holly says comparison shopping is the American and Canadian way.  She devotes a lot of her time to researching prices and she feels satisfied that her mark-up is fair. 

Dresses are marked up in stores but there are also good reasons for it.  A dress may be a certain price in the U.S. but if it is ordered in Canada, a shop owner must pay shipping fees, and taxes.  This significantly adds to the cost. 

Bridal shops also have a staff.  Someone cleans the shop and keeps it looking bride worthy.  The tea and coffee offered to brides and friends is not free for the shop owner. And those leather couches and fresh cut roses, they aren’t free either.

Also, by booking appointments, many shop owners hope to give women the best service possible.  They devote an hour or more of their attention to an individual.  This differs widely from other shops who may serve dozens of clients in an hour. 

The dresses in the shop also need to be cleaned, steamed and pressed.  After a dress has been tried on, the lipstick, deodorant and cover-up left behind by future-brides must be removed to preserve the purity of the white gowns.

In addition to this, Holly has seen a bride or two in a dress or twenty.  She has some ideas about what might look good.  And though Holly says most brides don’t want to listen, she says “nine out of ten times, the last dress (the bride) will try on will be the best.”

Holly recommends keeping an open-mind.  She also recommends bringing only one or two people with you, whose opinion you really value. “Not the whole family,” she says like she has met them all.

So even if the dress is not the exact replica of the one you saw on Monica when she married Chandler on Friends, suggestions and advice can be very useful.  Sometimes a dress that would never catch your eye, catches everyone else’s at your wedding.


Sonia’s Story 

Married: August 10, 2002

Colour: Hot Pink

Sonia Han, 29, didn’t want to try on dresses.  She knew exactly what she wanted.  She found it in a magazine – a Vera Wang – very plain, very straight, fitted v-neck with no sleeves, made of 100% silk. 

She went to a very chi-chi store with an admirable reputation and at the bridal boutique she made inquiries.

“They looked at the picture and said no problem and they showed me the fabric, a silk crepe.”  The cost, $2,500.

The boutique would produce a prototype of her dress, made of a different material for the first fitting.  Once Sonia approved of that, the dress would be made of the silk.

When Sonia returned for her first fitting, she tried on the sample.

The results?  “Really horrible,” says Sonia.  They would have to try again.  After a three week delay, another prototype was available.  “It was really nice,” says Sonia, “the remake was perfect.”

Now satisfied that the dress she had envisioned could really come to fruition, Sonia felt comfortable giving the go ahead for its production. 

But when Sonia came back for the first fitting of her dress, made of the actual material, she was shocked.

“It looked nothing like the prototype,” she says. 

“I think whoever made the dress for the first fitting made the wrong dress,” says Sonia.  And in addiction to the dress not looking like the prototype, the material did not feel at all like the original material the boutique had promised.

“It was supposed to be 100% silk but it didn’t feel like silk to me.  It felt like cheap polyester,” she explains.

Angry and suspicious, Sonia asked her friend who is a designer to come look at the dress. Consensus. Not silk.

“I was freaking out,” remembers Sonia.  “I only had five weeks left ‘till my wedding and (the dress) was so ugly and so horrible.  The store owners were so belligerent and rude.  And I told them, this isn’t even silk.  And that’s really really bad if you’re going to start ripping your clients off on the fabric.”

The store denied the accusations. 

“The dress didn’t even look like a grade seven home economics project,” says Sonia.  “That’s how bad it was.” 

Sonia had been with the store since April.  She would be leaving for British Columbia to be married in August.  But after several complaints all the store would do was offer to give Sonia her deposit back.

“For them to say here’s your money, here’s your deposit back and leave me high and dry and get away with it when they were trying to scam me – that was so insulting.” 

Sonia wouldn’t have it.

She approached the managers of the store and they told her that she had no proof that the dress was not silk.  She decided to have it tested.  Sure enough:

85% Polyester

15% Silk

Now with proof, Sonia approached the managers.  After avoiding her for some time, they settled by giving her a large gift certificate for their chi-chi store.  

With only five weeks until the wedding, it was a mad dash to the finish.  While the store compensated Sonia for trying to scam her, the damage had been done.  

“I had to scramble like crazy to find something.  I had to leave work.  It was so awful.  It was so stressful,” recalls Sonia.

Even buying a dress off the rack would have been impossible with that little time, she says.  But Sonia eventually found a woman, who worked out of her home, to make the dress.

Sonia’s experience stained her impression of the bridal biz.

“They know it’s for your wedding so they jack up the price.  But when something goes wrong, it’s not like you get increased service.  They don’t expect that you are going to be a return client.  So the incentive for them to count on repeat business is zero.  They know they can get away with it because most brides are so excited, they leave their brains behind.”

Though Sonia had to frantically hunt down another dressmaker, she had protected herself by having a contract.  On her contract it said her dress was 100% silk.  After she had the dress tested, she then had a case because the shop had not fulfilled its agreement.

The salespeople at the store argued that the faux dress was what the manufacturer sent them, says Sonia, but she asks, if she as a layperson could tell it wasn’t silk, wouldn’t you assume that the people in the bridal business would know as well? 

Sonia did all she could under the circumstances.  She took precautions and demanded service, but even though she was dealing with a reputable store, someone was cutting corners.  Getting a contract for services and products is the most important thing for a bride to do.

And while it seems that putting it in writing doesn’t always guarantee justice, it is an important tool to protect yourself.  If a shop refuses to put something in writing, you have to wonder, why not? 

Jeff says he receives complaints on his website all the time from people who get ripped off.  But if you try to take a shop to court, you have no recourse without a contract.

Everything should be included in the contract.  Get the size, the designer, the price, the alteration costs and the date of arrival on the contract.  Ten months from now, no one will remember what they promised you.

Jeff advises, “The minute you get any resistance to putting it in writing, just leave.  You’re in control, not them.  They are taking steps to not protect your rights by doing that.”

In addition, your payment should also be on the record.  Don’t deal with a shop that doesn’t take credit cards.  If a shop goes out of business, or loses your dress and there is no record of payment, there is nothing you can do.  “I don’t care how much the storeowner whines, taking credit cards is a part of life,” says Jeff.

But shop owners aren’t the only ones who break promises. 

Customers can back out of expensive deals after the shop has invested a lot of money.  Many shops make it a policy to have contracts.  “I think sometimes a lot of the nightmare stories from brides aren’t always the bridal shop,” says Holly.

“In this industry,” she says “it’s perfection or nothing and sometimes, perfect isn’t good enough.  Brides get very rude.  Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, there’s no making them happy.”

Dealing with brides is highly stressful as well, says Holly.  And though she loves her job, she finds the unappeasable difficult to dress. 

I asked Holly why bridal shop owners have to be so intimately involved with the dressing process.  I told her all about my own experiences of being ordered around and disrobed and treated like something dirty.

She says that stems from a lack of respect for the dresses.  White gowns, costing thousands of dollars and she has seen them gravely mistreated.

“I’ve had wedding gowns thrown on the floor and stepped on.” 

Holly tries to be helpful by standing at the door, helping lace up and zip up difficult designs but sometimes people shut her out, as they bring in all their friends.  As a storeowner she is concerned about her dresses and she hopes to keep them in good shape.

But the worst says Holly like she’s going to tell a secret.

“What,” I say.

“We’ve had girls come in here and try on dresses wearing no underwear at all.” 

“No way,” I respond.

“I know,” she says.  “Who goes to try on dresses wearing no underwear?  But it totally happens.” 

“Wow,” I say – suddenly understanding a little bit better what all the fuss is about but now preoccupied with picturing a woman going commando to try on a wedding dress.

 

 

***So your big day is coming.  And you’re about to enter the bridal shop jungle.  Don’t be afraid, it can be successfully navigated.  A bride-to-be just needs to be prepared with the right tips and tools and dos and don’ts to make it out of the jungle in one perfect, fitted, reasonable priced, white piece. 

 

Do

Don’t

Start Early: Dresses take a long time to arrive and you may need to undergo several fittings. Start looking 6-8 months in advance of the wedding, if possible.

Wait till the last minute: While you may want to wear the latest fashion, unless you fit perfectly into the dress on the mannequin, you’ll have to allow some time for the dress to be ordered, delivered and fitted.

Research: Flip through some magazines or browse the Internet for dresses that you like. When you find some styles that appeal to you, check a price locator and find out approximately how much the dress costs.

Expect to find the dress you fell in love with in a magazine: There are many designers. Some dresses aren’t sold in Canada, some have been discontinued and some are only for runway models.

Ask for advice: Ask married friends about their experiences with shops. You might just get a great recommendation.

Ask all of your friends to come with you: Bring one or two people whose opinion you value and trust to shop with. Bringing a stampede of people into a shop is disruptive and counterproductive. 

Check with the Better Business Bureau: If a bridal shop has any unresolved complaints against it, it will be listed on the BBB website.

Assume that the well-known shops are the best ones: Some of the smaller shops have more intimate, friendly service. You may find them more enjoyable.

Make an appointment: Most bridal shops require appointments but a phone call in advance never hurts. This way you will be guaranteed service and undivided attention.

Walk in off the street: Many bridal shops frown on walk-ins. If a staff member is involved with a customer they will not be able to help you.

Respect the Dresses and rules of the shop: Wedding dresses are very expensive and shopkeepers have rules in place to keep them looking good for brides-to-be. Even if you don’t want a salesperson seeing your flashy red underwear, it often takes more than one person to get in and out of the copious amount of material.

Pick dresses off the rack and march into the change room: Salespeople will most often bring the dresses to you. Just point out which ones you like.

Be open to suggestions: Salespeople in bridal shops have lots of experiences with brides and gowns. Listen to their advice and try on some of the dresses they suggest. You may just be surprised.

Be convinced that happiness and style go up with the price tag: You will only wear this dress once. If you can’t afford it, you will find a dress you love that is within your budget. And you might just have money left over for a new bikini to show off on your honeymoon.

Check for a label: Look and see if the size, price, designer, and fabric are listed on the dress. If they are not, don’t be afraid to ask for the information.

Expect a label to be there: Many stores won’t release that information. It is up to you: walk, try and remember the dress the best you can to compare prices later, or discuss the situation with the shop owner. You may be able to negotiate for the information.

Realize that some alterations will be needed: Most dresses won’t fit everyone perfectly.

Expect the dress to fit in the shop: Shops carry large sizes to accommodate the most women who want to try them on. They will pin the dress at the back and you will get an idea of what it will look like on you.

Take Pictures or make drawings: If the shop allows it.

Take pictures or make drawings: If the store does not allow it.

Compare prices: If you find a dress you love, compare the price at different shops. Keep in mind all of the fees that are added to the price and respect that it is a for-profit business.

Shop in a store to buy on-line: It is not fair to a shop owner to use their resources and staff to do research for a dress you plan to purchase on-line or have made.

Get it all in writing: If you decide to purchase a dress, draw up a contract, even if it isn’t usually done. On the contract get the size, designer, price, date of arrival, alteration details – including how many and for how much. Also state what will happen if any of the agreements are not met.

Shake on it.

Expect to pay for half of the dress: This is common practice. The shop has to pay the full price and so they want to guarantee that you are serious about your decision.

Pay the full price: You shouldn’t have to pay for the whole dress until it has arrived, safe and sound at the shop.

Pay with a credit card: This enables you to have a record of the transaction and recourse if the shop goes out of business.

Pay cash or check.

Check over the dress when it arrives: Make sure that the dress is the one you agreed upon. Double check for stains or tears. Some women have been sold sample and used dresses.

Be sad if it isn’t exactly what you remembered in your dreams: Some alterations may need to be made and the dress will look beautiful. Don’t look for every flaw on your body and long for a different dress. You made a commitment, make this one work.

Go for up to three (or sometimes more) fittings: The dress will most likely need some alterations to make it fit just right but feel free to go outside the bridal shop to get them. Most shop owners will allow this and you may find a better price. Remember however that altering a wedding dress is not the same as having your pants shortened.

Make changes to the style of the dress or make alterations you don’t think you need: Changing the style of the dress, by adding sleeves or lace, will cost a fortune. Try and get a dress you are happy with as is. If you don’t think you need to have the underarms taken in, then don’t. You will look beautiful in the pictures.

Let perfect be good enough: Be kind, courteous and honest to shop owners who give you good service and care. Shop owners and staff are people too. No matter how stressed or frantic you become as the day draws near, don’t forget your manners. The staff is usually doing the best it can. 

Let the shop owners bully you: You are in charge. You have rights. Get what you want and deserve for a fair price. If you feel good, don’t let anyone tell you that you look too fat, too short, or too puffy in your dream dress.

Enjoy your wedding: Remember a dress is just a dress. If it is a little wrinkled or dirty on the bottom after the first dance, no one will notice. Dance the night away and enjoy your special day.

Drink red wine on your wedding day: Nerves plus red wine may lead to a polka dotted wedding dress before the first course. Maybe stick to white wine or champagne.

Wear underwear when you go to try on dresses.

Go commando. (to try on dresses)

 ** the name has been changed at the request of the interviewee.

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2 Comments

Filed under Bad Business, Important Information, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Bridal Shop of Horrors

  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

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