How to Buy Your Wedding Dress Safely and Securely Online

You have probably heard of some brides making off like bandits by buying a cheap wedding dress online. It is definitely possible to shave a good amount off your dress budget by doing some wise comparison-shopping online. That said, it seems for every successful online bridal shopping experience there is another bride with a horror story.

First, some context: I recently spoke to two brides who ordered their dresses from less-than reputable Internet retailers. One bride ended up with a dress eight inches too short. Not exactly a minor detail! The other bride is not happy with her dress overall: essentially it does not match the picture provided on the Web site.

Here is some advice to heed BEFORE ordering from an Internet retailer so this does not happen to you:

* If the price sounds too good to be true, it is. Beware!

* Find and print the return policy. (This was however no help to one of our brides. Despite having a return policy, the retailer is not honoring it!)

* Realize that by paying with PayPal your protection as a buyer is limited to receiving the item or not. If the item is not as described, your recourse is with the vendor, not with PayPal. If you pay with your credit card, many issuers have “Dispute Departments” that can assist you if need be. Check with your financial institution first.

* Make sure you are seeing the retailer’s own photo of the dress in question, or pictures of other dresses that they have made at the very least. I can’t stress this point enough! Many new companies use other manufacturers’ pictures to describe the product that they supposedly make. Aside from being a copyright violation, this does nothing to show what their actual dresses look like. You could be in for a real surprise!

* Order a fabric sample. There is no better way than to see it in person. If they do not want or encourage you to buy a sample, there could be a good reason for it. Substandard fabric will always make even the nicest design look cheap.

* Only order from people you can communicate with easily, preferably by phone. Communication is so important when explaining the details of your dress. An e-mail description is fine to start the process, but a live conversation is must before you finalize everything. This conversation will also give you a good sense of who you are dealing with. Are they responsive to your concerns? Are they articulate? Do they seem trustworthy and competent? If you don’t have a good feeling after your discussion, trust your instincts and shop elsewhere.

* If your dress design is a combination of two or more dresses and otherwise hard for you to visualize, it is best to have a designer sketch it out for you so that you are sure that 1) you like the way the elements look together and 2) you know what you will be getting. This is your chance to see their skill level. If they can’t draw it, they can’t make it.