Top Questions to Ask Your Bridal Boutique Before Making a Purchase

The Fall 2019 Ines Di Santo collection during Bridal Fashion Week. Photographed by Kathy Thomas Photography

The Fall 2019 Ines Di Santo collection during Bridal Fashion Week. Photographed by Kathy Thomas Photography

It’s so hard to find good information out there regarding wedding dress shopping. We all know about Instagram and Pinterest and how to search for pretty dresses. What about how to purchase a wedding dress? Money conversations with a stylist you just met can be awkward. I get that. The questions below can help you when deciding what store to shop at and where to invest your money. Even if you don’t ask these questions, the information below can help guide you down the right path. I’ve done my best to keep this unbias and provide information that can be useful in any city that you live in. Of course, I would love to take care of you at my boutique, but the truth is, we are not the right store for every bride. I hope this helps. Interview your boutique before you book an appointment and then you won’t have to drag all your girlfriends around to so many stores. Trust me, they will love you for it!

What is your return policy?

Every boutique is different; however, most boutiques operate as “final sale”. Whether it be an off-the-rack dress or a special order gown, “final sale” is a standard. Most designers do not have a storage facility to hold onto returns. Bridal designers are in many ways very small businesses unlike our go-to ready-to-wear online boutiques. From a bridal boutique end, it could take a store owner months or years to find another bride for the dress. There are a handful of online bridal sites offering returns, but the challenge is they may hold onto your money for up to a month. Look at the final sale policy as a positive. You have to know when to stop shopping and enjoy the dress you found.

Do you have an in-house seamstress?

Every boutique operates differently when it comes to alterations. Often bridal boutiques hire seamstresses as full-time employees while others have partnership agreements. Occasionally you will see bridal boutiques not offering in-house seamstresses. Instead they provide their clients with a list of recommended seamstresses in the area. If the dress you are considering needs extensive alterations or custom changes, it may be best to work with a full-service boutique offering an in-house seamstress option. If it is just a hem and strap adjustments, then interview the seamstresses on the recommended list before buying the dress. You need to know what you are getting yourself into after the purchase.

What does “special order” mean?

When we hear special order, we think custom. Special order in bridal does not mean the dress will fit you like a glove when it arrives. You will still need alterations. Your bridal boutique will measure your bust, waist, and hip. They will plug these measurements in the designer’s size chart to determine the closest size. You should still expect alterations. Designers do offer custom gowns for additional fees. When you hear a stylist say “special order”, this is the perfect time to ask what they are meaning by the term.

Where is the dress made?

This question is all for those needing peace of mind. If you are special ordering a wedding dress, knowing the location it is being produced in is incredibly important. Dresses made in the U.S. or Canada tend to not run behind as there are less parties involved and shipping is quicker. If a dress arrives with a flaw, the resolution time is quicker given it doesn’t have to be shipped overseas. Depending on your wedding date, this question can have more value. Peace of mind is everything when you are weeks away from your wedding. If the boutique is not sure where it is made, you can often find this on the manufacturer’s tag. I believe in some states it is required by law to have a tag stating where it was made.

Is it possible to order extra material from my dress?

Whether you are looking to add a capped sleeve or create a flower girl sash, having the option to order extra material is incredibly helpful. Some designers do not sell the fabric from the gown. This is a concern when it comes to alterations. There are many reasons why a seamstress may need additional fabric. For example, when the crossfit trend started, we saw brides getting toned while gaining inches of muscle. In this case, a seamstress may need to replace a panel to give you more room.

How long has the designer been in business and do they have reputable stores?

We have all seen the horror stories of bridal boutiques closing without notice. What we don’t always hear about are the designers. There are new bridal designers entering the market every week. Unfortunately, not all of them will make it. Check to see how long the designer has been in business and who their other retailers are. If they are carried in established boutiques that is always a good sign. If you do not see at least one boutique carrying the line per state, I would look into the designer further. I love independent designers, but when it comes to your wedding dress, experience is everything.

I would love to answer more wedding dress shopping questions. Please comment below with a question or concern. Thank you! Tali

Ines Di Santo models walking the runway at Bridal Fashion Week. Photo by Kathy Thomas Photography

Ines Di Santo models walking the runway at Bridal Fashion Week. Photo by Kathy Thomas Photography