For the sake of efficacy, I will divide this post into two sections: 'How to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Gown' and 'How to Tell When You've Chosen the Wrong Gown.'
Credit: Vera Wang
How to Avoid Choosing the Wrong Gown
1. Never purchase a gown without trying it on. All gowns look amazing on models. All knockoffs look amazing in eBay pictures. But this is real life. You may love a gown in a magazine, and hate it on you (this happens a lot). Never, ever, ever buy a gown sight unseen.
2. Go ahead: post your potential gowns on an online forum and ask for opinions. I say this because, well, I know you're going to do it anyway. Even though you'll never meet these people and their opinions shouldn't matter, they will. Don't wait until after you buy a gown to post a photo and have everybody 'nay' it. If you're considering a few gowns, post them and see what people think. If your selection is reassured by others, you're more likely to stay in love with your gown post-purchase.
3. Only bring constructive critics to your bridal salon appointment, and choose the gown you like. This appointment should be a happy one in which you choose your dream dress. Not your mom's dream dress. Or your grandmother's dream dress. If your guests in tow are very influential people in your life, make sure you don't choose a gown just to appease them.
4. Picture yourself walking down the aisle. Are you wearing this gown? Gowns are like men; if you're committing to one and dreaming of another, it will never last. If you've had your eye on your dream gown, but you're settling for another, it's never an easy situation. If you know in your heart that you'll never get that dream gown out of your head, leave the salon without making a purchase. Look into buying your dream gown used, or just take a few days to ponder whether or not you'll be happy with the other gown.
5. Remember: Alterations change everything. When you try on a sample gown, it's a size 8 or 10. Oh, what's that you say? You're a 4? Too bad. The 8 is (usually) what you're trying on. Though your salon consultant will use clips in the back to pull the gown snug to your body, the gown you order is not going to look like that. If it's a sweetheart neckline, the cut of the bust will be different on a smaller gown than the larger one you have on, and so on. Your real dress will be altered to show your best 'you'.
Credit: Vera Wang
How to Tell When You've Chosen the Wrong Gown
1. Do you generally try hard to please the people who accompanied you on the appointment? If so, there's a chance you chose a dress just to make your mom cry, or your grandmother smile. I'm not going to say you have to have 'that moment' where you cry and exclaim, "This is the one!" (I didn't have that moment... in fact, I initially chose the gown my mom liked on me), but you do need to know in your heart that it's the one you want. Ask yourself: "If I came alone today, would I have still ended up with this gown?"
2. Did you know this gown existed before your appointment, or was this an impulse buy? If the bridal consultant brings out a few random dresses you've never seen before, tread with caution. On one hand, the consultant does know what gowns look best on your body, and she may bring out some great contenders based on what you told her you wanted. However, there's a fine line between falling in love with one of these gowns, and just falling in love with the experience of trying on wedding gowns, period. My advice? Don't purchase a Random that day. Ask the consultant to take photos of you in it, and go home and sleep on it. If you wake up in the morning in love with that dress, then it really could be The One.
3. Did you immediately have that 'bad' feeling upon walking out of the bridal salon? Usually, when you choose the wrong dress, you just know. Immediately. When I left my salon appointment, I felt mixed feelings: I was elated, with tears in my eyes, at the experience of getting to go to Priscilla of Boston in Manhattan with my mom and sister. It was a true bonding experience for us, and my mom was genuinely happy with the dress I initially chose. But underneath the elation, there was doubt. I wasn't crazy about the gown I had just purchased. I hadn't been stalking it online, and I didn't even know it existed before my appointment. It was the one my mom loved, so I bought it. But I knew right away that I wanted to try on one of the other dresses one more time. That other dress was actually The Dress, and I realized it within a few hours.
4. Twenty four hours have passed since you purchased the gown; do you still feel that 'bad' feeling? If that little birdie in your head keeps telling you there might be another dress, that little birdie is usually right. If 24 hours pass and you're still feeling that 'oh no...' feeling, pick up the phone and call the salon. Tell them your situation, and take action. Perhaps all you need is another chance to go into the salon (alone this time) just to try on the sample once more to verify that it is, indeed, The Dress. Maybe you need to try on another contender, just to make sure you made the right choice. The sooner you address this, the better... and no need to tell anyone in your family that you did this, if you don't want to.
5. Are you still looking at gowns, even though you have one already? Don't. That's all. Just don't. Will you still look for husbands after you're married? No, silly. Once you've found the one, you've found the one. Now: my advice to you is to NOT hang your gown in your own closet. Stop looking at it. You could be the proud owner of a brand new Vera Wang, but if you look at that baby every morning and night, you're going to grow sick of it. Zip up that garment bag, and transport the dress to hang in your mother's house (or similar location). Let that gown be 'new' to you on your wedding day!
If, after reading these tips, you feel you've chosen the wrong gown, call your bridal salon immediately. Don't consult with your family, don't cry about it, just call the salon. Ask them if they've ordered your gown yet, and what your options are given the situation. (Then talk to your family.) Most bridal salons will be able to work with you if you give them enough notice, but if they can't and you're stuck with the dress, there's a chance you will learn to love your gown. Once it comes in, and you get to see your gown all clean and new (and altered!) and yours, you just might fall in love all over again.
Kristin at Bella Bridal Consultants
for Bona Fide Bride