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Brides beware: Shop for gowns wisely after company files bankruptcy

The Better Business Bureau encourages couples to follow a few tips to ensure that wedding dress shopping goes smoothly.
The Better Business Bureau encourages couples to follow a few tips to ensure that wedding dress shopping goes smoothly.

For many brides, selecting the perfect dress is one of the most important parts of their wedding. But like many purchases with a big price tag — and high stakes — there’s a lot that can go wrong. Earlier this month, Alfred Angelo Bridal Company filed for bankruptcy, leaving many brides scrambling, uncertain they could claim their dresses or if they would get a refund.

Hopefully, if you or a loved one are planning a wedding, you won’t have to deal with anything like this. But, unexpected expenses, delayed dresses and surprise policies can leave brides stressing about their dress more than any other detail leading up to their wedding day.

Better Business Bureau encourages couples to follow this advice to ensure that wedding dress shopping goes smoothly:

• Start shopping early: Wedding experts recommend ordering your dress between six and nine months ahead of the big day to ensure enough time for delivery and alterations.

• Be clear about your budget: You don’t want to fall in love with a dress, only to find that’s way over your budget.

• Factor in alterations: Dress alterations can be costly, so talk to your salon about their policy in advance. Some offer alterations for a flat fee or cap expenses at a certain amount.

• Don’t pay 100 percent upfront: Most salons ask for a deposit of about 50 percent of the dress price. You should not be pressured into paying the entire cost up front. If possible, pay by credit card for added protection.

• Check the cancellation policy: Ask your salon about the cancellation policy for your specific order. Each contract is different, and custom orders may have a strict cancellation policy.

• Be clear about your schedule: Brides have complained to BBB that their dresses arrived too late for alterations. Be sure to remind the shop of your schedule in advance and ask for typical delivery times.

• Take your dress home: After your alterations are finished, promptly pick up your dress. You can’t control what happens at the store. Hang on to all paperwork and receipts.

• Check BBB: Research wedding dress shops on BBB.org before making a purchase.

Some online sellers offer gowns that look like designer dresses for a fraction of the price. Brides order these dresses expecting a low-cost replica, but BBB hears way too often from brides who have received an ill-fitting gown constructed from poor quality materials.

If you decide to buy a dress online, beware of counterfeit gowns. Many designers do not sell their gowns online, or only allow authorized retailers to carry their dresses. Keep in mind that very low prices may be a red flag.

Double-check delivery promises. It’s vital that your dress arrives in time, so be sure the seller clearly states its typical delivery times.

Understand the return policy. Review the guarantee, return and refund policies before purchasing. Know if there is a way to return your dress (and how much it will cost) if you are not happy with it. Make sure there’s a way to contact the company in case of problems. An absence of contact information on a website is a big red flag when shopping online.

Emily Valla, emily.valla@thebbb.org, is the Idaho marketplace director for the Better Business Bureau Northwest. To check a business or report a scam, go to www.bbb.org or call (208) 342-4649.

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