Advice to Brides & Salon Workers
I've been altering bridal gowns for over 25 years. During that time I have had many experiences that made the process either easier or harder. I have learned that there are many things that both the bride and her alteration specialist can do to make the process go smoother.
I understand that it is every bride's dream to have her wedding day be special, the most wonderful day of her life. Insisting that it be "perfect" is unrealistic. We are all human and stuff happens. That man you are marrying is not perfect either. A good indicator of whether your marriage will stand the test of time is that you and he both stand the test of planning and executing the wedding ceremony by overcoming any imperfections that occur with grace, by avoiding negative attitudes and not going ballistic when little things don't go exactly as you wanted. The day is not lost when your darling flower girl spills punch on her dress right before the ceremony. There is always something that can be done to overcome any mishap.
So it goes with your gown's alterations. The Alteration Specialist you work with is limited by the gown's design and construction. You may want the gown to do a certain thing, but the fabric it is made of may not be able to do exactly what you are wanting. Avoid being narrow minded in insisting that the gown do as you command. Be willing to see the options the Alteration Specialist offers you and see that there just may be one in there that you like better than what you originally envisioned.
I highly recommend to any bride to go to your nearest bookstore and buy "It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It" by Robert Fulghum. It's my favorite book of short stories. All of them are great, but read the stories on page 7 and 143.
All brides need to be calling around to find an alteration specialist as soon as they order their gown NOT as soon as the gown arrives. Please do not call us and say, "I just picked up my gown and am now calling around to schedule an appointment". We know you ordered that gown months ago. There's an old saying that goes, "Poor planning on your part does not create an emergency on my part". So much can happen between the time the gown is ordered and you receive it. Dresses often come in late. You need to be on the alteration specialist's schedule in case anything does. We can better help these special situations if we have as much notice as you can give us.
I am often booked up to 3 months during wedding season. I do not take on more gowns once I have my quota for a given week. Some professionals may squeeze you in but I would be very weary of the quality of workmanship I would be getting if I had to be added to someone's already fill schedule.
As outlined in What to Expect at Your Bridal Fittings, it takes several weeks to alter a wedding gown. I ask for up to 12 depending on what needs to be done. So, you need to be on my schedule early enough to get the time I need to do your work well.
I can better make your vision of your dream gown come true the better you can communicate to me what that vision is. Even if you don't think you are expressing yourself well, try. You do not have to use the proper terms to get me to understand what you want. If you at least try, I can ask questions that will give me the best understanding of what you are wanting.
I find as I learn more about bridal gowns that I start getting narrow minded about my procedures. I do have strong rules that I have stated on this site and they have very good reasoning behind them, but all things must stay flexible when dealing with brides. Thing always happen. Wedding Salons screw up. Manufacturers send the gowns later then promised. Moms get upset over things the bride would rather she not mind. Brides and maids get pregnant. Weight gets lost and gained whether it is desired or not. People change their minds. It's good to have rules and follow them as much as possible, but also stay flexible to the changes that weddings always seem to encounter.
I think the best thing a Alteration Specialist can do is listen carefully to her bride to discover what it is she is wanting and then you can take that and match it up with all your education and experience to figure out what procedures you can use to alter the gown. If you insist on starting with your experience and education and try to force the gown to conform to what you know how to do, you won't give your bride the good job she is paying you for. Every gown is different and each bride's figure needs are different. Showing your bride that you are listening to her not only helps you understand what she wants but it helps her to listen to you when you explain the limits of what the dress will let you do to reach her goals.
There is never only one way to do anything. Brides get antsy when you say it has to be done a certain way. Brides often get insistent that it be done that certain way and can turn into a bridezilla because you didn't take the time to offer options. I have found this to be so useful with dealing with strong willed brides. Stating options of what you can do and why is so helpful in avoiding a showdown of wills. If she asks for something you do not know how to do, give options of what you can do.
Don't forget that you are here to do her bidding. She is paying you to get it her way. If she asks for something odd that you can do, just do it. I once had a bride who brought me a lime green dress that had obviously been used and asked me to add an lacey ivory train to it. I was sure she could not afford much and though I would not be caught dead in that costume let alone go to my wedding in it, I did as she asked and made the prettiest train I could for her.
You may never understand her or why she wanted something that way, but you can know that you helped to make someone's dream come true. You may think her gown is the ugliest thing on planet earth, but you can appreciate her love for it and see how making it fit her well will make her feel like the princess she deserves to be. I have often told folks that the most expensive gown I have ever worked on is also the homeliest but I know that bride loved that gown and she lit up with she put it on. That's what matters, not your opinions.
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