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Sure, the “Say Yes To The Dress” moment might be the ideal for some brides-to-be. But for others, traveling with your best gal pals to a bridal gown boutique might not be in the cards. If you’re planning on purchasing your wedding gown online, there are a few things you should know before clicking “check out.”

Perhaps the most important place to start is finding the right online boutique. Do extensive research and read all the reviews before you start thumbing through a web shop’s dress options. You can always play it safe and work with mainstream sites like David’s Bridal and BHLDN, both reputable companies with years of online retail experience under their belts. But if you find a gown from a lesser known site, be sure to browse the web for others who have shopped there and had great experiences before you commit.

Let’s say you did you homework and found a trustworthy website that offers a beautiful selection of bridal gowns. What are the next steps to ensure you’re getting the dress of your dreams? We’ve created a thorough checklist to help you navigate the realm of online wedding dress shopping. Hopefully, by following our lead, you’ll end up with a gown so perfect, people won’t believe it wasn’t custom made for you by Vera Wang/Pnina Tornai/Reem Acra herself.

1. Take your measurements, and take them accurately.

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Besides your fiancé, you’ll soon realize that your soft measuring tape (like this one from Amazon) is your one true love after making the decision to take the plunge and shop online for your wedding gown. To make sure you’re getting your exact measurements, we recommend that you phone a friend, and better yet, a friend who has tailoring experience and/or has taken body measurements before.

As stated in the instructional video below, wearing form-fitting clothing while being measured is key for accuracy, as is wearing similar undergarments to those plan to wear on your big day.

When shopping for a gown, your bust measurement (taken at the fullest part of your chest with your arms down), your hip measurement (taken at the widest part of your hips/butt area), and your waist measurement (taken at the smallest part of your waist), are all vital numbers you must know.

Keep in mind, if you’re looking for a gown with sleeves, your arm measurement (the length from shoulder to wrist), and shoulder measurement (the width of your back from shoulder to shoulder) will also be necessary. Writing down your inseam (crotch to ankle) is also important if you’re shorter or taller than the average bride.

Compare your measurements to those listed on the bridal website to make sure you won’t need an excessive amount of tailoring once the dress arrives.

2. Speaking of which, include the cost of tailoring in your overall budget.

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Perhaps the biggest downside about buying a dress online is the fact that you won’t necessarily get to try it on before you buy. Even when brides do get the opportunity to slip into a dress before they make their purchase, tailoring and alterations are expected steps in the bridal gown process.

Leave some wiggle room between the cost of the dress and shipping fees for tailoring. We also recommend consult with your intended tailor before you purchase to make sure alterations are reasonable and doable with your selected dress. Your tailor might also instruct you to size up or down depending on the dress’ style. It’s always best to ask the experts before you say yes to any expensive dress.

3. Compare and contrast fabrics.

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Because you’re selecting a gown based on a picture alone, you’re unable to feel the quality of the fabric, which, in our opinion, can really make or break a gown. Before you purchase, we recommend becoming well-versed in bridal fabrics. Learn the differences between chiffon and organza, polyester satin and silk satin, and the different styles of laces.

We also recommended taking a field trip to your local fabric store to physically feel the fabrics you’re browsing through online. Collect a variety of swatches to refer to while online shopping. Some sites like David’s Bridal even sell color and fabric swatches for $1 each, so it might be in your best interest to select a whole bunch (color doesn’t matter as much as texture in this case) and figure out which fabrics are your fave.

Again, if you’re a stickler for high-quality material, shopping with a reputable online boutique who knows their fabrics is going to save you a lot of worry.

4. Search for the online store’s return policy.

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You can find yourself in a very real dilemma if you buy a dress from a shady site, end up with something completely different, and then notice the online shop don’t accept returns. Rather than finding out too late that you’re out of both options and hundreds of dollars, make sure the site you’re buying from has a valid return policy and sorry, but you should also read the fine print.

You might even want to try to call the site’s headquarters or get confirmation of a return policy in a written email in case things get, you know, ugly.

5. If you can, try before you buy.

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If you’ve found your dream dress tucked within the jungle of the interwebs, try to locate a store that carries it or other wedding dresses in the same style or by the same designer. Being able to physically put a version of the dress on before decide to purchase can give you a little extra comfort in knowing that you’re making the right choice — or, alternatively, send you back to the drawing board.

Buying a wedding gown online is totally doable. As long as you stay vigilant of questionable websites and know what you’re looking for, there’s nothing stopping you from purchasing your perfect dress.

Written by: Olivia Harvey

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