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Things To Consider When Purchasing Your Bridal Gown

What is the most important element of a wedding for the average bride? 70% of brides throughout the country unequivocally say selecting the wedding gown of their dreams. Here are some helpful tips on how to choose the most flattering dress styles and what the latest trends are in wedding gowns being shown by fashion designers.

Purchasing a wedding gown is an emotional experience and can be one of the most significant purchases of a bride's life. Early on the bride and groom need to first discuss what kind of wedding they want. Will it be an elegant affair or an informal beach wedding? Has the bride always envisioned herself as Princess Diana or would she prefer creating a 'do-it-yourselfer' like Ali McGraw in "Love Story"? Whatever the dream, selecting the gown is a very critical decision in planning the wedding because the style of the dress will set the tone for the entire affair. The decision will reflect the location chosen for the ceremony and reception and will influence all elements of the event including the attire for the bridesmaids and attendants, color schemes, types of flowers chosen and even what kind of invitations will be selected.

Today brides have many available resources to help with the process of wading through thousands of different bridal creations produced by almost 300 nationally recognized designers plus hundreds of additional local and regional designers. At the start of her search, brides should read bridal magazines and visit bridal designer web sites to learn about the variety of bridal gown styles available. Brides should also research popular bridal web sites such as,, or to explore wedding gown designer directories and find designs she finds appealing. Working with a bridal salon or a bridal consultant who is knowledgeable about the latest fashion trends can offer invaluable guidance to help with this important purchase.

The search for a bridal gown usually begins right after a bride becomes engaged. Statistics show that the average bride devotes approximately four to six weeks searching for her gown, visiting about three to four bridal stores and trying on approximately twenty gowns before selecting her perfect dress. The shopping process varies but generally brides should try to purchase their gown at least six months before the wedding date to allow for shopping, ordering the dress, shipment and fitting. If a gown is purchased from a bridal salon, the gown will be ordered and then custom-fit and it will take approximately three fittings before the dress is ready. (Smart brides will include an additional month added onto the preparation time to allow for fittings.) Of course, every woman's experience is different and many brides have found the perfect gown in much less time. However, it's important to emphasize that the time to order and custom fit a bridal gown is usually much longer than first anticipated and it's always best to allot plenty of time to allow for last-minute delays or needed changes.

Bridal Gown Styles

When a bride first looks through a bridal magazine or walks into a bridal salon, she can be overwhelmed by the variety of selections fashion designers are creating today. However, all designers make wedding gowns in five basic styles - the ball gown, the A-line gown, the empire style, the sheath or the slip dress. Each dress falls into one of these design categories whether it's a floor-length formal gown with a long train or a modern above the knee suit or dress. While any bride can select any style, each silhouette compliments different body styles best and each bride should first determine which style is most flattering to her particular figure.

One of the most popular styles that symbolizes many brides' vision of a 'Cinderella wedding' is the classic ball gown or princess gown, which is distinguished by a tight, form-fitting bodice and full skirt. This style is very complimentary for most body shapes and sizes and is admired for its ability to hide figure flaws. A similar style is the A-line gown, which also features a tight bodice that tapers into a skirt that's wide but not as full as the ball gown. This style also works for a variety of figures and is a great choice for petite brides because it elongates a silhouette making a diminutive woman appear taller. Designs with elegant, classic designs and vertical pleating are also very complimentary to petite brides.

Women that want to camouflage a thicker waistline could choose the empire style. Empire gowns feature high gathered waists just below the chest that flow into long slimming skirts. Full-figured women should look for styles featuring V-necked bodices and long sleeves - but try to avoid bows, gathered material or ruffles, particularly around the waistline. For those brides that are thin or very shapely, try choosing a sheath. The sheath or mermaid gown is very form fitting and tapers narrowly to the floor, frequently featuring a train. Finally, the slip dress is a very sheer body-clinging style that is usually worn by those brides blessed with a tall, thin and flawless figure. The latter two styles are great choices for brides that want to evoke a sultry, chic and self-confident image rather than a more traditional profile.

Fashion Trends

Recently top designers unveiled the newest fashions for 2005 offering brides a spectacular selection of distinctive elements for every gown style. Some of the hottest trends include detailed embroidery, as well as highly stylized ruffled and asymmetrical treatments that are additionally highlighted by shirring, pleating, shredding and bold geometrical patterns. Hollywood continues to be a major influence on the runway with gowns that feature dramatically low-cut necklines and plunging backs in sleek satins and sheer fabrics. Renowned for her classic ball gowns and A-line designs, Vera Wang showcased some very sophisticated mermaid designs in her recent show. Following the trend to accent the back of gowns with elaborately gathered material and ornate bows, Carolina Herrera showed her mermaid design in tasteful pastels accented by bows streaming down the back.

Ball gowns are being shown with a more classic, pared-down chic approach and A-line gowns are being worn with fuller skirts. Designers continue to herald tradition and romance with ornate lace accents, ribbons and abundant beading and sparkling appliqués. In response to the rising trend toward destination weddings, designers such as Reem Acra are showing more and more above-the-knee, tea-length dresses. Monique Lhuillier's striking mini skirts are proving very popular with brides traveling to urban destinations. Designers are also answering the call by designing pant suits in shades of white, as well as a variety of pastels and prints.

Of course, additional factors will help determine the choice of the perfect wedding gown. The bride's gown should match the tone of the wedding - for example a more formal gown is generally chosen for formal affairs. Brides must also consider the date or season of the wedding when selecting the type of fabric worn or whether to choose a dress with sleeves or high necklines. Personal comfort should also be taken into account. A gown should fit properly, allowing ease of movement. Brides should practice sitting, bending down, hugging, dancing and moving their arms around during fittings and are encouraged to wear the shoes and lingerie that will be worn at the wedding to test for comfort and length.

The Cost of Bridal Gowns

The cost of wedding gowns varies. The average bride spends between $600 to $1,500 for her dress and designer gowns can cost thousands of dollars more. There are many ways that brides can save money when purchasing their gown. Bridal salons offer sample sales throughout the year. In order to liquidate fashions from previous seasons or to sell dresses worn in fashion shows, salons hold sample sales offering dresses at drastically reduced prices. Brides should contact their favorite bridal salons and ask for the date of their next sample sale. Brides usually wait on line hours before the store opens so be prepared to arrive early. It's also recommended that brides shop in salons prior to the sale to determine their desired style and size dress. Once doors open to a sample sale, women armed with this advance knowledge can immediately snatch up the dress they want before the inventory runs out.

Other cost-saving ideas include shopping for second-hand bridal gowns through consignment shops or on the Internet. Brides can find great savings on E-bay or through discount bridal web sites such as,,, and more. Bridal outlets offer wide selections of bridal gowns at reasonable costs and frequently offer discounts for the additional purchase of bridal accessories, bridesmaid dresses, groom or attendants' attire. Finally, brides can sometimes find wedding gowns previously worn by their mother, family member or a friend. These treasures can be worn for free or for the nominal cost of an alteration.

Most bridal salons or retailers usually require a 50% deposit on custom ordered gowns and ­ buyer beware ­ deposits are usually not refundable. It is highly recommended to purchase the gown with a credit card so you'll have some leverage in case of any problems or disagreements. Be sure you understand and pre-determine all the terms of your purchase before signing your contract. Although this is an emotional shopping item, don't succumb to sales pressure for this critical purchase. Have your wedding consultant or lawyer review the transaction before signing the contract. These professionals are familiar with contractual agreements and will be able to negotiate equitable provisions or recommend better terms.

The final selection of a bridal gown will be influenced by financial considerations, timing factors, personal style and taste and perhaps the preferences of the groom, family or friends. Without some knowledge about the bridal gown industry and advance preparation, the process can be overwhelming and stressful. However, with a little research, purchasing the dress of your dreams can be a wonderful experience that will truly reflect the love you will express on your wedding day.

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