By Blake Kritzberg
When little girls spend their math classes daydreaming of
weddings (instead of winning the World Series -- not to say
can't do both), what do they dream of first? The perfect
dress, of course: a gown in white satin with a bustle and
sweeping train, the perfect embellishments, and the perfect
There are few occasions in our modern world where a woman
herself in a position to wear a no-holds-barred ball gown,
less a crystal tiara, and all too many where she's called on
wear to a neutral suit or uninspiring "biz-caz" combo. No
that with so many brides, their wedding plans start with the
Many of these brides are lucky. They may search high and low,
braving chilly department stores and pushy bridal shops, but
eventually they come face-to-face with The One. They know this
is The One because they start crying, or their mother or
friends all start crying at once. Suddenly the rest of the
planning ... the theme, the tone, the right kind of venues ...
it all springs to life.
Other brides aren't as fortunate. They've searched just as
hard, working their way through shops across three or four
states, but they haven't found The One. Instead, they've found
three or four Contenders, all of which are serviceable and
nice, but not earth-shattering enough to tell them that now is
definitely time to stop the searching and get on with the
planning. These brides have it harder.
Even if you're the first kind of bride, buying the dress is
such a momentous decision that you run a risk of falling into
that wallet-skinning category known as the Two-Dress Bride.
Here are some tips for picking the perfect dress and avoiding
that awful fate.
1. Bring the entourage, but don't buy. It's fun and useful to
bring your mother, friends or sisters on the dress-shopping
expedition. It gives you a buffer against an overbearing sales
staff, and it's fun to see if your impressions of perfection
are shared by your loved ones, not to mention how they'll love
being part of such an important decision. But no matter how
enthusiastic everyone gets over a certain dress, don't buy in
the heat of the moment. Give yourself time to reconsider and
buy with a cool head later, alone. The vast majority of
are non-returnable, so when you've bought it, you've bought
2. Don't buy too early unless you must. Bridal gowns can take
four to ten months to come from the manufacturer, but there's
no reason to buy over a year ahead of time, unless your chosen
style is going to be discontinued. Give yourself some time to
sit on your decision. Once you pick a gown, you'll see a
hundred others nearly like it. You'll become a walking
encyclopedia on that style of gown. All the better if you
have room to choose.
3. If you've bought "The One," stop shopping. Any more
window-shopping at this point will only lead you down the road
toward the dreary land of Two-Dress Brides. What you need to
instead is remember that blissful feeling of having tried on
One. Go get The One out of the closet, put it on and stand in
front of the mirror. You'll remember exactly why it's The One.
4. If you've bought "The One" and can't stop shopping, get a
second opinion. Show your first and second choices to other
brides. Be honest -- tell them you've already remortgaged your
condo for the first dress, but you think this second dress
might be It. They'll be truthful, too -- the first one was
better. You'll feel reassured.
5. Don't tell yourself "I'll sell the old dress and choose a
new one." This old saw of the Two-Dress Bride just won't work.
You'll never get more than a fraction of what you paid for
first dress if you bought it new.
6. Don't be afraid to aim high -- no matter what your budget.
Some brides knew from the start they wanted a designer label,
but life just didn't cooperate by making them heiresses. Yet
all is not lost if you're willing to shop courageously. At any
given moment, a better-heeled bride is selling her once-used
St. Pucchi or Ulla-Maija on eBay. She paid thousands upon
thousands, but you, smart shopper, will pay half that or less.
To take this road, you must shop earlier than other brides so
you'll have a choice of gowns. Always pay with a credit card
you'll have recourse if the dress doesn't arrive in acceptable
condition, and again, shop early so you can buy another if
necessary. Shop courageously, but not recklessly.
7. Shop online, but never send a check. Bridal gown businesses
sometimes have a way of disappearing overnight. No matter what
the proprietor tells you, never make a purchase as large as a
wedding gown without the chargeback protection of a credit
card. If they say they can't take plastic, move on.
8. Don't hold out forever for The One. Some brides never find
The One. What they do find is a few dresses they look
in. If you're this bride, try starting your planning from the
theme instead of the dress. You'll probably eventually get
to death of dress shopping. When that happens, "good enough"
really will be good enough. Concentrate on other aspects of
wedding that mean a lot to you, like the venue, the food, or
inevitable adoration of your soon-to-be husband.