Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Have a Great Bridal Experience: Part 1

As you all know, I've been working in the bridal industry for a little over two years now. I can honestly say that the vast majority of the women who walk through our doors are nothing but a pleasure to work with. I love my job mostly because I get to help other women look and feel beautiful during a very special time in their lives. Every now and then, there will be a less than pleasant day at the store, and often the circumstances involve a bride or other bridal party member who are unfamiliar with the policies and procedures of our store or the bridal industry in general. It's a tricky industry to navigate, but I want to share a little bit of insider information that may help you have a more successful experience as a bride.

Most recently, we had a bride who made an appointment at our shop under false pretenses. On the phone, she acted as if she was genuinely interested in purchasing a dress from our store. Once in the appointment one Saturday afternoon, she made it clear that she was only there to use our inventory to get ideas for her dress that she planned to have a family member make for her. For the record, this is an incredibly rude and inappropriate thing to do, particularly in a closed- concept bridal shop like ours. Aside from the minor grievances including that salesperson working with her with no hope whatsoever of earning a cent in commission or the fact that the designers whose dresses we carry certainly wouldn't want us to merely act as a showroom for copycats, the biggest issue in this situation is that this particular bride used an appointment that could have gone to a bride with an true need to purchase a dress. With a waiting list of about 6-10 brides nearly every weekend, our appointments are highly coveted. The worst part is that the offending bride felt that our store was sub-par because we failed to live up to her expectations, when in reality, her expectations of what services we provide were dramatically skewed.

One could argue that if we gave her a good experience despite her intentions, that she would speak highly of us to her friends and family or that she might come back for future purchases such as bridesmaids, tuxedos, or accessories. One could argue that we missed an opportunity in that appointment. I disagree. First of all, I know for a fact that despite her rude intentions, her bridal consultant was nothing less than polite and professional. Letting her down had nothing to do with how our store operates. It had to do with the fact that she wanted our store to operate differently just for her. In addition, I believe that when she chose to lie to us about her intentions in order to secure an appointment, she destroyed any trust we may have had in her. And to be perfectly frank, we have had brides who have the same intentions, but who are honest with us from the beginning. In those situations, we help them in any way we can, including helping them find the best silhouette and fabric and even allowing them to consult with our highly skilled seamstresses about the best method to make the dress. We point them in the right direction, offer what advice we can and we wish them well.

I want to be clear that this story is the exception in our store. But I tell it because it really fired me up and got me thinking. The brides who walk through our doors are some of the kindest, loveliest people I've ever met. The difficulty lies in the fact that most brides are first-time (and hopefully only-time) brides. This is hopefully the one and only time in her life when she will be planning a wedding. Because it is a first-time, there is quite a learning curve and the bridal industry is very different from just about any other industry in a lot of ways. And because it is an only-time, there's a tremendous amount of pressure on them to get it right, or better yet- perfect. In the interest of helping you understand the bridal industry a little more, I've put together some basic information and advice to help you as a bride when you are shopping for your wedding gown.

First of all, despite my obviously frustrated feelings about the bride I mentioned above, if you are in a similar situation and you have a friend or family member who plans to make your dress for you, it's ok to call your local bridal shop and ask for advice. Simply be honest right away. Explain your intentions and ask if there is anything they can do to help you. In most cases, they will be happy to help! If you want to meet with a bridal consultant to discuss the silhouette that works best for you, to see and touch the various bridal textiles and perhaps try on some dresses to get a stronger idea of what you like, that is fine. My only advice for you (aside from being honest in the beginning), is to be willing to come in during the week, preferably in the morning or afternoon. Since you do not have the intention of being a customer, try to be respectful of the brides who do intend to purchase and try not to take an evening or weekend appointment from them.

This advice holds true in regards to alterations as well. I remember well- two summers ago, there was a local bride (she hadn't purchased her dress with us) whose mom had offered to alter her dress for her. It was two weeks before the wedding and the mom was beyond stressed out because she had no idea how to install a bustle. She assumed the dress came with one and when it didn't, she didn't have the first clue as to how to install one. Many seamstresses who are friends or family of brides offer to alter the gown as their wedding gift, only to discover that bridal gowns are constructed unlike any other garment  out there. Before they know it, they are overwhelmed by the process. In the case with the bustle, the mom was simply calling for advice, but instead I offered to have her bring the dress down to the store and I could teach her how to do it. I showed her a similar dress and how its bustle was installed. I pinned her daughter's dress to show her the best way to bustle it. I even offered to have our seamstresses install the bustle if she took it home and still found it to be an overwhelming task. I was more than happy to give this mom expert bridal alterations advice. All I asked of her was that she come down to the shop at a time when I wasn't already occupied with other brides. My point in all of this is simply that most people (and shops) are willing to help you if they can. Don't be afraid to ask. But when you are asking a store to provide you with a service they don't typically offer, be understanding if and when they are unwilling or unable to do what you ask. No bridal shop in the world wants you to walk through their doors and have an unpleasant experience. However, no two bridal shops in the world are exactly alike, so give your local one a call to ask whatever questions will help you to have a positive experience.

Next week, I'm going to cover some more inside bridal advice and information, but it will be geared specifically towards to bride who is shopping for her gown rather than having it made for her. Shopping for a bridal gown is different from shopping for any other garment and navigating the industry is tough to do on your own. I hope you'll look forward to learning a little more about the industry and that in the long run it will help you have a more positive and effective bridal shopping experience.

Have a great day and as always thanks for reading!


Beth said...

What a thoughtful post. It's wonderful that you all do what you can for brides who might not even be shopping for a dress.

Renée T. Bouchard said...

Thanks, Beth! Glad you liked it. The way I see it, if I can help someone, then why not try?

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