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How To Buy A Wedding Dress Online

The following is a guest post from our friends at The Budget Fashionista.

With the rise of Say Yes To The Dress, wedding dress shopping has been elevated to a national pastime—seriously, before that show, did you know the difference between a mermaid and a trumpet fit? Between silky satin and charmeuse?

And while expectations for the bridal experience are now exceedingly high, not every girl has access to—or maybe even, dare we say it, wants—that intensive shopping experience. And what if it’s as simple an issue as no bridal salon near you carries the designer line, or the particular dress, you have your heart set on? Can you really buy a wedding dress online?

Of course, we know you can get perfectly good department store and secondhand wedding dresses online (inexpensive and totally acceptable), but what if you want the actual all-the-bells-and-whistles designer wedding dress? Yep, it’s totally possible—but as with ANY major purchase, arming yourself with knowledge now will help prevent a nightmare shopping experience later.

What to look for when shopping for (and buying) your wedding dress online:

The Telltale Signs Of a Knock-Off Site (Or Worse). The bane of online wedding dress buyers and retailers’ existence is the ridiculous number of scam and/or knock-off wedding dress e-commerce sites. There ARE absolutely legit authorized wedding dress retailers online, but there are plenty of scams – which you can avoid, if you know what to look for:

Prices Are Too Good To Be True. Yes, we would love to be able to pick up a to-die-for $1,000 Maggie Sottero gown for 150 bucks too, but you can’t–period. So if the site is advertising designer gowns at department-store prices, when you order you will get one of two things – a poor quality dress (horrible fabric, substandard stitching, cheesy or non-existent beading) that may or may not look vaguely like the designer dress you ordered, or, well, nothing at all. Like “they’ve got your money and your credit card number and you are now short your dignity and exactly one wedding dress (and that 150 bucks, at least)” nothing. Look, instead, for fair prices. Good prices (even BETTER prices) are possible online, but ordering your wedding dress online will not get you a first-quality designer dress dirt-cheap.

Poor Spelling/Grammar/Syntax. This sounds ridiculous, but many of the sites trying to take your money are set up overseas, and thus the text on the site often sounds like it’s been through Google Translator (probably because it has). Forget the item descriptions (these are frequently stolen directly from the designers or legitimate websites) and look at the “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages—if you don’t feel like the text conveys expertise or professionalism, move on.

Shady Contact Information. Legit e-commerce retailers of wedding dresses will typically have e-mail that is specific to their Web site. If the contact e-mail is something like weddingdressguy@gmail.com, and if there is no toll-free phone number to reach a real person, move on.

Overpromising Delivery Times. Any time you’re purchasing a first-quality authentic designer wedding dress from either a legit website or a store, you’re going to have to understand how specialty wear works—basically, unless you get lucky and a retailer or a designer happens to have the size you’re ordering in stock (in the form of a sample dress or a cancelled, restocked dress), the designer will make the dress per order. This doesn’t mean the dress is custom made to your specifics, but simply that until a size 10 is ordered, they’re not making a size 10.

Once you’ve ordered, the dress doesn’t come from some giant wedding dress warehouse somewhere (though that’d be AWESOME), it actually has to be produced—which, depending on the brand or designer, can take up to five months, or sometimes even more. So if a site promises EVERY dress they sell can be delivered in a matter of weeks—no matter what dress you buy, when you buy it, or what size you order–you can pretty much be sure that what they mean by that is the dress will never actually arrive.

The DOs of Online Wedding Dress Shopping:

Find An Authorized Dealer. One way to ensure your wedding dress is coming from AN ACTUAL WEDDING DRESS RETAILER is to make sure you’re dealing with a retailer who is authorized by the designer to sell their dresses. Some designers will have a function on their Web site that will help you locate authorized dealers, but many will only list physical stores-wedding dress designers are notoriously cautious about selling their dresses online, and you can’t really blame them, as so many other knockoff sites will take their online info (images, dress descriptions, etc.) and steal them for their evil intentions (i.e. ripping you off). They do, however, authorize some sites to sell their gowns, and should be able to tell you via phone or email what those sites are.

Check Return/Cancellation Policies. This goes for any online shopping you do, but when you’re spending the kind of money that you’ll be spending on a wedding dress, it’s especially important. Because of the nature of special order, wedding dress retailers tend to have more stringent policies than, say, Forever21, so it’s critical to make sure you understand the return/cancellation policies so there are no unhappy surprises later.

A Brick-And-Mortar Location. Online wedding dress retailers who have brick-and-mortar stores (e.g., David’s Bridal, BestBridalPrices.com, House of Brides) are your best bet when shopping online–because they sell dresses at real store locations, they have relationships with designers and must be authorized dealers to sell the dresses they offer. A quick call to an actual store location (which will always be listed somewhere on the site), to make sure they’re really associated with the site you’re looking at can save you a lot of headache later.

Talk To A Real Human. You probably wouldn’t invest in a new washer and dryer without talking to a real person at some point during the purchase, and we suggest you don’t invest hundreds of dollars in a wedding dress without talking to a real person, either. You’re a savvy shopper—ask some questions, and ask for written proof of anything they guarantee they’ll deliver.

photo via Davidsbridal.com

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