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The Belle of the Ball: Full-Service Bridal Salons

Selecting your bridal gown: Take time to try on the various styles available. Most importantly, pick the dress in which you feel most comfortable. People may try to influence your preference one way or another. Remember, you're the one wearing it and your fiance is the one for whom you're wearing it!

Bridesmaid dresses: Several factors become crucial when selecting bridesmaid dresses. Colors and fabrics vary with the seasons. Their style should complement the bridal gown and have the appropriate formality for the time of day. Choose a dress color and style that will flatter all the bridesmaids, and remember that the main focus may be on the backs of the dresses during the ceremony.

Reserving alteration services: As soon as you select your gown, make an appointment to reserve services for alterations. Many bridal alteration specialists are booked months in advance. Your bridal shop will have someone on staff, or can refer you to a reliable seamstress with whom they have worked. Include this service in your budget; it's never included in the price of the gown.

Guideline for dress lengths: The bridesmaids' dresses should never be longer than the bride's gown. Your mothers' dresses should never be longer than the bridesmaids' dresses.

Looking good all day long: As you choose fabrics for your dress, consider how long you will be wearing it. Some wrinkling is inevitable, but certain fabrics wrinkle more easily. Here are a few suggestions for keeping it smooth: Eliminate travel by dressing at the ceremony site. Bring a stool to rest on at the ceremony site. If you have a long train, make sure there is an aisle runner. A detachable train and/or veil will enable you to travel about comfortably at the reception.

Picking up your dress: Consider leaving your dress at the bridal shop or designer's studio, even if it's ready far in advance of the wedding day. The bridal shop may be better equipped to store the dress and keep it fresh and pressed.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The following recommendations are for your protection: (1) Be careful where you buy your wedding dress; ask your friends and family about their experiences; (2) make sure the delivery date of your dress is well in advance of your wedding; (3) obtain a copy of the order or receipt with a guarantee of delivery date to keep with your wedding records; and (4) if a contract is used, read it carefully (even the fine print) before signing! If you have any questions or concerns about the company, consult with appropriate organizations.

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