Bridal Gown Shopping Tips

Getting the most out of your visit to the bridal shop, saving money, avoiding scams

The best way to save money on your bridal gown is…

Buy it used from the eBay! Many brides realize they wasted too much money on their bridal gown, so they sell it on eBay. You should check there first, with typically over 3000 wedding dresses for sale, I’m sure you’ll find a bargain in your size, and it’s only been worn once! Pick one close to your size, and for minimal cost, you can find a local tailor to make minor changes if needed.

The wedding center on eBay is perfectly categorized into bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses, groom attire, ring boy outfits, accessories, wedding rings, and more. Catch the latest wave of power shopping for brides to be.


If you have questions or want to tell us about your bridal shop experience, please let us know, we like to keep track of current events.

This article gives you advice from a bride’s point of view and offers money saving tips along the way. You’ll get better service from a well known established full-service shop than most bridal warehouse type stores. Not all brides care to save money at bridal stores nor do they want to haggle over pricing, and that’s OK too.

Keep all of these bridal tips in mind as you shop for your wedding gown, veil, wedding invitations, toasting glasses, and more. You don’t have to be an expert to know it’s a violation of FTC rules to remove labels from wedding dresses in the store unless it’s replaced by the shop’s label. We still get nastygrams from industry insiders telling us to shut up and that we are “just whining,” but it’s important that you know many shops are “pulling the veil over you.” Some people don’t mind this practice, while others do.

We don’t approve because it’s misleading, and you have the right to full disclosure on what you are paying hard earned money for. This is only our “stupid, uninformed, whining” opinion, as “industry experts and insiders” email us to crawl back into the hole we came out of. You are free to make your conclusions.

Most of the shops you encounter will be very good. But as in any business, mixed in with some very classy, reputable shops are some real dungeons of doom. If anyone thinks that it’s Walton’s Mountain out there, think again. Some shops don’t let you take photos in the store with your dress; some stores don’t even allow pen & paper to be brought in.

Monitor the newsgroup for a few weeks before shopping for your wedding gown. This will give you a great snapshot of what brides are currently experiencing in their quest for a fairytale wedding dress. Brides are passionate, and if they were treated right, they’d let others know. But if they were treated wrong, the boy will they let others know:

Tips when going to the bridal stores

Do not go into a bridal shop with a chip on your shoulder; we want you to go dress shopping feeling confident and knowledgeable, not confrontational and paranoid and be aware of what can and does go wrong. You must be aware of your rights and speak when you need to.

Make sure you have your copy of the Bridal Gown Guide with you. Once the shop owners see you with this book, they know you did your homework, and they cannot pull any tricks on you, and you have the prices right there.

Now is the time to get your Official New Bride Name Change Kit with easy to use forms and checklists to help you change your Social Security records, drivers license, vehicle title, voter registration, passport, credit cards, banking, insurance, medical, and employment records. Most agencies want to be notified within 30 days of your wedding.

This third strategy above is very effective for visitors – as same as car buying-enter the car dealer with “The Folder” of car prices, research, and free competitive quotes from the car buying sites. Many visitors report that once traders see “The Folder,” scams go away, and the deal proceeds on your terms, not theirs. You should carry this strategy forward into anything you buy. Once salespeople see you’re educated, they cannot pull the veil over your eyes.


We got this note from a former bridal shop employee:

“The last bridal shop I worked at started practicing the “Free alterations” sham. We took an average price of alterations required for every wedding dress we sold in the past year & added that average to the cost of the gown. So, a dress that should have cost $500 would cost 600 or more. The same applies to the bra,”Free” shoes, & slip rental with purchase of a gown. The shoes and bra are usually of the lowest quality. The shop usually tacks on an additional $100 or more for all those Freebies.”

And from a shop owner:

I am the owner of a small bridal shop in Canada, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. There were some points I did disagree with. However, I think it’s quite normal to have different perspectives from different people. I would like to find the Canadian Laws on this because I am very much opposed to Label ripping.

I feel it is the most unethical thing a bridal shop could do. After all, what do they have to hide by taking out the labels? I am comfortable and confident in my pricing and most of all customer service that I think that kind of practice is entirely unacceptable. I will be telling all of my brides to refer to your article and web pages. Thank you so much.

A traditional Magazine published an article in 9/98 stating bridal shops should divulge the manufacturer’s name when asked. We’d like it to go one step further , & just leave the tags on there. But some shops still remove the labels, leaving nothing at all, which is illegal, & immoral. Bridal shops are the only retail stores that do this practice. We soapbox this issue because we get a lot of emails from brides who complain about this.

If the dress is not made with the shop’s label sewn in, it better has the manufacturer’s label with the required FTC info on it. Some stores try to be lawyers and nitpick through the law to prove that it is legal, but they are missing the boat. When you go to the store to buy a camera, they don’t scratch “Nikon” or “Canon” of the camera.

You wouldn’t purchase the camera. So why purchase a wedding dress with no label. We are not slanted against all bridal shops, just the ones who cheat.


Scam Alert: Is it Something Old, or Something New?
The latest scam that seems to be everywhere now, is bridal shops selling used dresses as new.  This is not anecdotal evidence, I get emails all the time from our visitors who bought a dress that the shop swears is new, the buyer waits 6 months for it, picks it up, and it’s obviously worn and has stains on it, all the while the shop owner is pulling their Jedi mind trick on the buyer, telling them, the lipstick stain on the dress is not a stain and the dress has never been worn. Here is an email I received from a formal bridal shop employee:


“After working in our local shop for several years, I left not only because I’m a very honest person, but because the horrible lack of ethics gave me an anxiety disorder!  The removal of tags was not only performed on a daily basis, it was required of staff!  Brides were promised new gowns would be ordered, but old try-ons were spot checked and passed off to these unsuspecting brides time and time again.  If a bride complained that the dress was dirty or used, she was told she had no choice but to accept the dress or forfeit all of her money.  Time and again brides were late to their own weddings because alterations weren’t ready. Brides were constantly lied to, cheated and refused information about manufacturers information.  This shop is the most unprofessional and unethical business I have ever come across. The only reason it is still in business is because it is the only one in town. 

Here is an email we got from one of our visitors who got taken when she went to pick up her dress:


“The lady assured us it was new but as we inspected it we found black marks on the dress. The lace was coming apart from the satin, the beads were loose to the point of falling off.  She repeated it was new, until we spread the bottom of the dress then you could clearly see this was not a new dress .  It had been tried on or worn.  Since I had paid by check I asked for it back which she gave to me.  She then agreed it was dirty, had been worn.  My problem is they still have the 1/2 down I gave them in June of 2000.  The lady at the store is saying it’s the designer’s fault, they shipped a used dress.  I question both how could you ship something like that and how you could check it in and then try and sell it.”

This is why you should have them specifically state on your invoice that the dress is brand new, not used before, and will not have any stains, or you will be entitled to 100% of your money back.

Many stores tell us they remove the labels because they invest a lot in their operation and don’t want a bride to waste three hours of their time trying on dresses, then go order them from an 800 number or some internet store. 

One store write to us “How do you suggest the store handle the customer who clearly states “I can’t afford your prices so I brought my Aunt who sews and my camera to try on your samples and take pictures so I can have my aunt make my gown.” The other version is that the “customer” is not forthright and takes hours trying on gowns with their seamstress so she can copy the gown.  That’s a good point as well.  Maybe stores can post a sign telling shoppers cameras are not allowed until a purchase is made.  Brides should also learn to be more scrupulous when shopping for a gown.

But shopping around is the American way. Bridal shops are not the only ones who suffer like that, stereo and TV shops have been victims of customers shopping their stores then buying mail order for years.  You can’t stop it, you just have to minimize it and deal with it. Instead of whining, these complaining store owners should read The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People and get with the program. Heck, look at car dealers, they work with probably 30 customers a day and sometimes don’t even sell a single car that day.

That’s life in America. But remember, the shops are too quick to blame 100% of the brides for going online to get it cheaper.  God forbid they ever admit to the fact that they just did not have the gown that the bride was looking for, or she did not like the dresses she tried on after 2 hours, or as is the case with 50% of the emails we receive, she was treated rudely or ignored by shop employees.

While overall there are some absolutely wonderful bridal shops out there, the industry suffers from a severe customer satisfaction problem, and they can blame in on the brides until the cows come home, or they can tackle the problem head on.


I have a better idea for bridal shops who hate brides that don’t buy from them.  Why don’t they open a Burger King, where every person who walks in the door buys something! They need to turn this situation around and under their control. 

Analyze the underlying reasons for success of any business, and 100% of the time, it’s the customer service that brings you the business.  Brides don’t mind paying a bit more to the guy who was the most honest, and looked after her interests, and gave undivided attention.  But removing labels, legal or not, breeds mistrust and contempt, which results in a no sale, no matter what the shop’s justification is.  

Brides are paranoid about whose going to over charge them.  If you spook them, they’re history.

Here it is right from the FTC web site:
Non-Compliance: Any violation of the Textile Act regulations or the Care Labeling Rule is considered an unfair and deceptive act or practice under the FTC Act. As a remedy, the Commission may issue an administrative order prohibiting the unlawful behavior. Violations of an administrative order can result in a federal district court action for civil penalties up to $11,000 per violation.

Businesses not subject to a previous administrative order also can be subject to monetary civil penalties, an injunction, and other remedies — including consumer redress — in a federal district court action for knowingly engaging in practices — such as mislabeling garments — that the Commission has determined in prior cases to be unfair or deceptive.

Brides email us all the time that they hated the snooty attitude of some employees. We are not saying all stores do this so don’t misread us. One shop owner sends his clients to this article, and I bet that honesty results in more sales for him.  It’s up to the store to make the bride want to buy in their shop by emphasizing they have better service than the warehouse or online stores, and by giving them the customer care they need. 

If brides don’t buy from a bridal shop, the owners blame everyone in the world except themselves, they even blame

You don’t have to be an expert to know if a store is overcharging when another store has the exact item for much less.  Again, some brides don’t care about that, so you decide where you want to save money. You don’t have to be an expert to know whether you are happy when you have dealt with a store, or that a shop is ignoring your repeated attempts to call to find out why it’s been 6 months and your dress still is not cleaned. 

Educate yourselves thoroughly, asking numerous questions at every stop of the way from the industry insiders, learning more about each industry, to enable you to make a more informed decision. Don’t just rush out and buy from the first shop you visit.  Use this article as your guide while you are shopping for your special day.  Many stores will be fair, and give you proper customer care.  But there are also ones who will not, just like in any business.


Sample Complaint From The Newsgroup
“They have not delivered my wedding dress and refuse to refund my money. They are not answering my questions about where the dress is and they keep giving me the run around and my dress is OVER 4 weeks overdue from the time that was agreed upon on the contract. They have LOUSY customer service and they LIE about their prices and tear out the tags from their wedding dresses so that you don’t know if the dress you are getting is a genuine dress from the manufacturer. They have had complaints filed against them at the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Affairs office.”

This is not just one piece of anecdotal evidence, this happens all the time, every day.

One bridal shop emailed this advice for brides:

Honestly tell the owner the price you will pay for the gown, and then go from there.  You will get honest delivery and service.  If those stores were not in existence, brides will not have anywhere to try on designer gowns, and look at designer gowns all that they will have is the David’s who copy every gown they think brides would like, in an inferior manner. They represent Armageddon to the bridal industry.”


Angry Email We Get From Bridal Industry People
Check out this nastygram we got from a “professional” 

“You are not “irreverent”, you are a disrespectful antagonist, writing poorly written, disjointed paragraphs about things you are obviously not an expert on.I genuinely believe it is individuals like you who help to create an innate animosity between stores and brides.  It is people like you who begin the destruction of a bride’s joy during her pre-wedding days by insisting to her that there are scores of businesses out there clamoring to rip her off.  Oh, yes, you do add later that there ARE some good, honest stores out there – but it is off handed and unconvincing, and leaves one believing that they are few and far between.  Because of your inflammatory writing, many brides will walk into a bridal shop already feeling suspicious and full of animosity.  Shame on you. To presume to emphatically state …”don’t wear this kind of veil”, “don’t waste your money on that” etc., etc., etc., smacks of an arrogance and an ignorance to the huge diversity in brides and their preferences.  Who cares if your priority was to skimp on mail order invitations and spend $500 on jewelry?  This entire page seemed like a contrived method for you to ramble on about your own wedding, which is of incredibly little interest.You ridiculously contradict yourself over and over, claiming that a bride will reward good service with her spending dollars, and then describing over and over how you went for where the “baaaaagans” are.  You didn’t mention good service ONCE when you talked about slips, glasses, invitations, etc., preferring mail order (where is the service in THAT?) over the shops.  You’re right, mail order is cheaper – they have no overhead.  Do not, however, imply that customer service has much of anything to do with a bride’s purchasing decisions when a mail order alternative is available.  Nearly every bride I’ve ever known will go to extraordinary lengths to save a few dollars. 

You make profoundly insulting remarks about shops that code dresses with their own store numbers.  You base this entire premise on the fact that a bride is too stupid to judge the quality of a gown based on an inspection of its’ appearance.  She needs, you suggest, to know who the manufacturer is so she can judge her value.  This argument is preposterous and you know it.  Later you tell the truth… a bride wants to shop around for price, and this is why brides prefer to have the manufacturers tags left in.  You immaturely call people who complain to you about this “whiners”, which leads me to conclude that either A. you are nothing more than an antagonist, or B. you do not grasp the levity of the situation for bridal stores.  A store can spend tens of thousands of dollars meeting minimums to carry any one line in their store.  A store who never invested a dime on a line will promise a bride that they can get her that dress (via drop shipping), they just need the manufacturers number. 

This happens a thousand times more each day than a bride getting “ripped off”. They have less operating overhead, because they don’t invest much in samples, and shoot this bride a price that is difficult to compete with. 

She just has to find somewhere to try the dress on.  Worse yet, a bride can take nearly any manufacturers number to the internet and mail order the dress for a price that is impossible to compete with.  A store might try to be competitive on dresses, hoping to make up some sales on accessories, invitations, etc., but not if people like you have your say, because that’s all a “rip off” too.

The fact of the matter is this – you are as detrimental as David’s Bridal to the institution of bridal wear vendors.  Quality stores are closing at an UNPRECEDENTED rate, because they not only can’t compete with the sweat shop prices of David’s, they can’t compete with mail order and drop shippers. 

Eventually, if everyone left manufacturers information in the dress, there would be nowhere to try on the dress, because no business would carry samples.  How could you afford to?  Do not kid anyone by even suggesting that a bride would spend $75 more for her dress because she “loved” her experience in the store.  Those brides are a rarity, and if you have spent any time at all near this industry, you know it.  They are like you, they go where the “baaaaagans” are. 

With the advent of the internet, those bargains simply are not in a retail outlet. It is unfortunate that you can’t equip brides to be buyer savvy without trying to be the boogie man – scaring the heck out of them and making them intrinsically dislike bridal stores. 

Don’t kid a kidder – you are not doing them a service.  I have seen the cast-offs of your school of thought… they generally have a miserable time planning their wedding and in the end were no better off than if they had assumed the vendors were actually trying to help them, not cheat them.  Yes, there are bad stores out there, but it is THEY that are few and far between.  Unhappy brides are out numbered 10 to 1 by happy brides, but it is unhappy brides who often speak the loudest.  Do not misjudge the bridal industry based on a message board.  Your readers deserve a more honest version than that.”


Gee, that’s funny.  I heard that David’s Bridal shops don’t remove the designers name tags off the wedding gowns, yet somehow they still seem to be in business.


This email from another shop owner is a lot nicer:
“As a gown designer and shop owner, I must tell you that I think your web site is most interesting.  Before opening my own couturier 11 years ago, I worked for both a gown manufacturer and also a regular shop. Both were highly disorganized and guilty as charged.    At my store I have spent many hours to deserve the trust of my customers and on a number of ocasions I have bailed out a bride who has come to me after having lost her money at a shop such as you’ve described.  Anyone in the industry who says this sort of thing doesn’t happen is either lacking in knowledge or integrity.”

I should point out, that bridal stores were closing long before we wrote this article. It’s funny, she says we are not doing anyone a service with our tips, yet everyday we get emails from brides who did quite well.  She also proves what a fool she is by stating “Unhappy brides are out numbered 10 to 1”.  So that means 10% of all brides are unhappy?  That’s a terribly unacceptable number.  That’s a customer service nightmare, for anyone in the customer service field.



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