Wedding Wednesday || Dress Shopping FAQ

By: Ashton Cude

We're five days away from Christmas! I'm as excited as Buddy the Elf meeting Santa Claus! We know the holidays are a time when many people get engaged (yay!), so we thought it might be a good time to share some frequently asked questions about wedding dress shopping. No matter how many advice posts we do, it seems there is always more to share. Keep reading as I drop some knowledge that can help make your dress shopping experience smooth and stress-free! For questions more specific to our store, click the link at the top of the page to read store-specific FAQs.

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1) What does "special order" mean?

Special order gowns are gowns that are ordered especially for you. If you shop at a special order boutique, like our sister store, Twirl, they will have to order your dress. Once you say yes to the dress, you will be measured and compared with the designer's size chart. A dress will be ordered as close to your measurements as possible. Dresses take five to six months to come in, because they are made to order. Once your dress comes in, you will likely still need alterations to get it to fit perfectly. Most seamstresses prefer at least an eight-week window before your wedding to work on your dress.

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2) How soon do I need to start shopping for my wedding gown?

So...now that we know what special order gowns are and how long they take to come in, the next question is always, "When do I need to start shopping?" If you plan to special order, you will need to have your dress chosen and ordered eight months before your wedding. This gives the dress time to come in and get altered without there being any time crunch. If you are someone who has a hard time making decisions, we advise that you start shopping about ten months ahead of time in order to avoid any stress.

3) Do you all do alterations?

At Meant to Be, we do not do alterations. However, Michelle Meissner, a wonderful seamstress with international and custom design experience, uses our shop for fittings on the days we are closed for appointments. Michelle was kind enough to answer all of our burning alterations questions in this post.

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4) What does "off the rack" mean?

In contrast with special order gowns, off the rack gowns are sold just as they sound, off the rack. At Meant to Be, we sell exclusively off the rack. This means that we cannot place special orders for other sizes, colors, or styles. We have a uniquely curated collection of dresses from many different designers. The dresses are discounted from their retail price, sometimes by thousands of dollars. It also means that you can take your dress with you the day you say yes. This is really important for our brides to keep in mind. If you are shopping at Meant to Be, you need to be prepared to find and pay for your dress that day. If you find the dress of your dreams, make sure you're able to walk out the door with it!

5) Can I find a dress I love and then take time to think about it?

Something we hear over and over again from our brides as they're standing in a dress they love (and may have even shed tears over) is, "I didn't think I was going to find a dress today!" I cannot stress enough, if you are walking through the doors of a bridal shop, expect to find your dress. At the very least, be open to the possibility. We see a lot of stress take place because brides have come in with really negative expectations and then don't have a game plan when they find a dress they love. If you are coming shopping at Meant to Be, you need to be prepared to make a decision that day. This is because we only have one of each dress. In many cases, the dress is a discontinued style, so we are quite literally the only place you can buy it. For our brides who have circumstances that require them to leave the store before they can buy the dress, we do offer a hold policy which we explain to our brides if they express interest. So the short answer is, yes, you can take time to think about it, but make sure you come in with an intentional mindset in order to save yourself a fitting room panic attack. :)

We hope these nuggets of wedding dress wisdom will empower you to have a stress-free shopping experience. And...we wish you a Merry Christmas!

P.S. Photos in this post are from my wedding, shot by Heather Todd Photography.

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