One of the first things brides do after they pick a date is start planning their time line: when to book the photographer, when to buy the dress, when to send out invites and save the dates. There are a lot of opinions on when to buy your wedding gown. Most say 9-12 months before your wedding or if your engagement is shorter, purchase it first thing. That’s because gowns can take upward of 20 weeks to get to the shop after you order it.
There are so many factors, including designer, customization, location of the designer factory, size, color, etc etc etc. Then you have alterations and pictures, maybe you need to travel, maybe you gained/lost weight and now your alterations are more extensive or you have to reorder your gown. There are just so many moving parts that your best friend when ordering a gown is time. That’s why the standard is 9-12 months before your big day.
This is GREAT advice, but there’s a catch. Here in Utah it is quite common to have very short engagements; many are in the 12-20 week range from down-on-one-knee to down-the-aisle. So, as a designer bridal shop in Utah, we tend to operate a little differently and are a bit more accustomed to working miracles. However, sometimes it’s just not possible. You cannot fit 20 weeks into 12.
This post is aimed at brides with shorter engagement times. I’m going to break down the variables in dress ordering so you can decide for yourself when the right time is to order your gown.
Types of Gowns
A reorder gown is a gown you have tried on in the boutique and are now ordering from the designer in your correct size and color.
It is YOUR gown. You will be the only one to have ever worn it and depending on the designer, it may be cut to order for you.
Sample gowns are the floor models at designer boutiques. They are what is tried on in store before ordering from the factory.
Once or more a year bridal shops will hold Sample Sales. Select floor model gowns will be sold straight from the rack at (usually) a significant discount. You may be able to get a $3000 gown for under $1500. You would take these gowns home day-of and as-is.
Most shops only carry one of each gown so if you are looking into a sample gown be sure to ask what size their samples are.
This is what you get at a store like David’s Bridal. Every gown in the store is technically a sample gown but they are all sold at full price.
Off the rack gowns are usually under the $1500 mark, with many options under $1000.
Often I have brides who get a little frustrated in the discrepancy in what they hear on order times. This is why.
** Note: order times are the time it takes from the day the order is made to the day it arrives at the designer’s facility. It still has to ship to your specific boutique. Unless you are buying from an Off-the-Rack store where the store is their facility so shipping time is built in.
This gown will be made and shipped from the factory in their normal time. For most designers this sits between 12 and 16 weeks.
Some designers have gowns that are ready and waiting to be ordered. We call that “stock”. Expect it to be the most popular dresses in the most popular sizes. In stock gowns can be requested to ship immediately so, depending on where the designer is based, you are looking at roughly a 10 day wait. To secure these dresses and minimize your wait time, be prepared to pay a rush fee, just like with a rush cut gown.
If you don’t have 16 weeks to wait for your dress to arrive, don’t worry because the vast majority of designers offer a rush cut service.
Price and availability will depend entirely on the designer and sometimes it varies between dresses. However the basic guidelines for rush cuts are below.
** This is referring to gowns unable to be ordered from stock
*** There are a few designers who will do rushes as quickly as 4 weeks for as little as $50. However this is not very common.
10 week rush – Widely available – cost: free – $250
8 week rush – widely available – Cost: $100- $400
6 week rush – offered by some designers – $200 – $400
4 week rush – offered by select designers – $250 – $500
Alterations can be a lengthy process. Our seamstress can be booked for what we call weekend alterations: where all the work is done in a matter of days because the seamstress works on your gown and only your gown. Usually you are looking at 4-8 weeks if you don’t want to pay the seamstress a rush fee.
The more complicated the alterations (i.e. modest build up) the longer and more expensive they will be. So build that time into your schedule.
If you have a quick engagement then you are looking for a designer who can rush a gown in 4-8 weeks. Schedule your alterations for the week your dress arrives and look into the possibility of a quick alterations process by paying the seamstress a fee to only work on your gown for a weekend.
If you can’t afford the rush fee for a 4-8 week ship time or you have even less time than that, look at sample gowns. Sample gowns are sold directly from the floor of the showroom and are sold as-is, usually at a very steep discount.
Be very straightforward with your stylist when you go in for your consultation. She will know which designers can get dresses to you and how to guide you without getting either one of you in hot water.
Short engagements can just compound the stress but don’t forget that you’re getting married and this should be a wonderful experience. What ever you do, don’t get pressured into buying a dress you don’t want because of time constraints. There is always something for everyone.
Until next time,