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Brides often have questions about gown packages – and the dream gown. Most questions centre on the look, but there is more to your gown than that. How it feels, works, or gels your wedding theme together is as essential. Here are our list of must-ask questions before confirming your package.

1. What are your packages like, and what are the differences?
Generally, there are two types of packages: off-the-rack (OTR) and made-to-measure (MTM). Both packages, each comprising a day gown, an evening dress and a groom’s suit, are priced differently for rental and sale; the latter being higher by about $800 to $1,500. An OTR package offers ready gowns whose sizes can be altered to fit; an MTM package has your dream gown sewn from scratch with design, size and details already worked out between you and the designer. A la carte items, such as another evening dress, can be added at extra cost. Some designers allow you to rent the second evening dress, others may prefer to sell it outright.

2. What kind or style of gown is suitable for my wedding theme?
Brides invariably ask what suits their bodies – but forget that the total look, one that gels with the wedding theme and feel, is what matters.

3. Does my idea of a dream dress suit my body type?
Nearly every bride wants to be a princess in a ballgown. Unfortunately, not everyone can wear that look. The design may need to be modified, and the result can be a dream – or an utter nightmare. So have an open mind when you ask this question – it’s possible for a designer to create a gown you love that also suits your body type.

4. Does a sleek, modern design mean the gown has to be plain?
Sleek. Modern. Slinky. These words describe a gown style/cut or feel; the ydon’t mean that the gown is without embellishment or presence. Ask this question to make sure you and the designer are on the same page about what sleek and modern is.

5. Does the designer (who did the sketch) also cut the paper pattern and fabric?
Yes, if time allows or if a designer is particular. It’s more likely though that he designs, sketches, and then works closely with another expert who cuts the paper pattern and fabric.

6. Which fabric works for the design I want?
While you may not like a designer’s choice, you still need to trust that he knows best which fabric will work for the design. Be upfront with him and discuss the options – you can work out the pros and cons, and compromise where necessary.

7. Is the gown comfortable to wear?
Some brides love the idea of a big gown, but seriously, do you need to win the heavyweight title? You may love the grand or romantic vibes of a big gown but don’t forget the practical aspects either – how the gown moves with your body, if it even moves, and how you’d handle the sheer volume of fabric. One bride we knew suffered bruised shoulders – her gown was so heavy that the dress straps dug “grooves” into her shoulders.

8. Is my budget enough for the gown I want?
Brides are practical people with budgets, and that is fine with many designers who understand their constraints. But you’ve got to admit, it’s unrealistic to want a two-metre-long train yet not park the money for it.

9. What happens if the gown turns out different from the original sketch/agreement?
Most gowns won’t differ too much from their original sketches. But it is important that you take detailed notes during the discussions. Ask for fabric swatches or detail samples if available, take photos if not, and literally catalogue what you and the designer have agreed on. This includes the specific recourse or backup plans should problems arise. Once you confirm your package, have this information down in the contract to be safe.

10. What happens if the changes I ask for during the first fitting are not done by the second fitting?
Unless the changes are drastic or unncessary (the designer usually lets you know on the spot), most designers will accommodate, and have them done by the time of your second fitting. However, it is good to negotiate for an earlier second fitting during the initial discussions. This buys you time, if the gown isn’t coming along as planned.

This article was originally published in Her World Brides Dec 2011 – Feb 2012.