All too often we hear horror stories from brides who purchased wedding gowns or bridesmaid dresses online only to have a garment arrive that looks nothing like the photo that was advertised. While ordering from online retailers or large department stores might seem convenient and cost-saving, brides-to-be and bridesmaids often end up having to splurge on extensive alterations, find replacements, or go back and forth in an attempt to get a refund — and that’s if the gowns arrives in time.
Real Bride and Expert Insight
One recent email from a Bridal Guide reader details the bride’s stressful online experience, saying the dresses that arrived were of “horrific” quality, and had stitching marks all over the bodice. When she followed the process to get a refund, the company refused. “I have now sent back and forth over 25 emails and they have told me they will not issue a refund,” she says. If you’re interested in hearing more stories like this from real brides, head to Bridal Guide's Facebook community, where the in-store vs. online shopping debate is always a hot topic.
Traditional bridal salons aren’t just for your mom or grandmother. In fact, they’re arguably the best way to purchase your bridal party’s dresses. Erica Cohen, co-president of Bari Jay Bridesmaids explains it best, "traditional brick and mortar stores sell an experience; they provide swatches, work with you on customizations, and offer a larger selection of styles, colors, and fabrics than department stores. They care about making your wedding beautiful and special.”
Photo courtesy of Bari Jay
And Steve Lang, CEO of Mon Cheri Bridals and President of the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association (ABPIA) shares, “today’s bride should be extremely cautious when ordering wedding attire from a website she is unfamiliar with, as there are numerous counterfeit sites that display designers’ images as their own but do not deliver products of the same caliber. The best thing to do to ensure that the gown is authentic is to visit a local authorized retailer where she can see the dress sample in person and try it on before she places her order.”
Having mixed feelings about which way to go? Here, we rounded up our favorite reasons to stay traditional in your shopping experience!
Photo courtesy of Bari Jay
When you walk into a bridal salon, you’re guaranteed to feel special. Bridal consultants are there to ensure your shopping experience is flawless. Not sure what style you’re interested in? Have five ladies with complete opposite body types? Just find out your maid of honor is pregnant? No problem! Your consultant is trained to guide you in finding the perfect selection. If you ever have an issue with a dress or need immediate alterations, most salons have a seamstress on hand who can help in a time crunch and is familiar with the materials. And, they can guarantee all dresses are ordered from the same dye lot so you never have to worry that colors will look off in wedding day photos.
Shopping online can often seem like a black hole. You’re 10 pages in and you still haven’t found anything that appeals to your wedding vision. And, if you do find a winner, you head to checkout and see there’s only four dresses left and they’re not even available in your color of choice. Ugh! Leave the stressful logistics to the professionals at a bridal salon. They’ll work directly with the manufacturer to ensure everything from the color dye to the fabric is the same for the entire bridal party batch. And, you won’t be limited to just a few designers available. Salons offer the largest selection of styles and designers so you’re never missing out on something!
Bridal and bridesmaid sizing are very different from streetwear sizes. To find the perfect fit for each person, you’ll want a professional at a reputable store measuring everyone. Since consultants work with these designers on a daily basis, they’ll know if you need to go up or down a size so your alterations are kept at a minimum.
Photo courtesy of Bari Jay
Many traditional bridal salons run sales throughout the year so all you have to do is call to see when the next one will be. And, one of the biggest benefits of in-store shopping is that you get personalized service. Ask about a group discount as many salons will offer one when the entire party purchases bridesmaid dresses at the same time. This can save everyone money!
In-person salons offer brides a seamless bridal experience — purchase your wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses, veils, shoes, undergarments, and more in just one place. Avoid those long, frustrating phone calls with a customer service representative who can’t fix your issue by having a storefront you can walk into. Inside Tip: Some of the best local salons are known to permit you to pop the bubbly and are happy to help plan a shopping soiree for you and your girls. And, if your bridal party doesn’t live near you, don’t fret. Places like Bella Bridesmaids and David’s Bridal, have locations all over the country so all your bridesmaids have to do is find their nearest location.
(Unfortunately, no one can prepare you for the unexpected: popular bridal retail chain Alfred Angelo closed its doors as of 7/13/17, leaving customers panicked and unsure where to turn if they are still awaiting their gowns. Thankfully, David's Bridal stepped up to the plate and is offering discounts upon presentation of an original branded Alfred Angelo receipt. Stay tuned as Bridal Guide reports back with additional details.)
The stores will be able to match everyone’s order together. “When you buy from a traditional bridal salon, you not only support your community, but small businesses mostly owned by women, which is a great added bonus,” says Cohen. Wedding planning can be a long and stressful process, but shopping the bridal salon route can help save you and your squad, stress, and money down the line.
- Kaitlyn Russell