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The search for the perfect wedding dress can be the most fulfilling part of planning the wedding, and also the most frustrating. With most brides dreaming of their wedding since their childhood, and fantasizing about what their dress will look like, searching for that perfect dress can be a very stressful experience. The wedding dress is certainly at the top of the bride's list of priorities. If it wasn't so, why spend hundreds (thousands?) of dollars on this dress you'll wear for, at most, four hours? So, we contend that the bridal gown is much more important to brides than just about any other part of the wedding. Flowers? They'll be dead by morning. Invitations? Just paper. The cake? No one eats it anyway. That established, a recent survey of "Things Likely to Drive Brides Insane" ranked buying a wedding dress second, right behind having a root canal the day before the ceremony. For some reason, the bridal dress industry has decided to turn the process of procuring a gown into some sort of sick torture test. Here are some tips to help the process of buying the gown a little easier.

The Six Rules of Bridal Gown Shopping.
As you head out into the world of bridal gown retailers, be sure to remember these six rules of bridal gown shopping:

1.Demand excellent service. This ain't a cheap dress and you have a right to expect top-notch customer service. Unfortunately, some bridal shops have yet to learn this concept. If you believe you're being mistreated, take charge of the situation and go to another shop that values you as a customer.

2.Plan in advance. Most bridal gowns have to be special-ordered, and it can take up to six months to order certain dresses. Then you have to leave time for alterations. A word to the wise: start shopping for a gown nine months to a year before your wedding.

3.Keep an open mind. It is easy to fall in love with a certain style you see in a magazine. Yet dresses look much different in real life on real brides. The best advice is to keep an open mind and look at a wide variety of styles.

4.Take along only one trusted "shopping partner." Whether it is your mom, a close friend or your fiance, it's always helpful to get a second opinion. On the other hand, shopping with an army of well-meaning friends or relatives is usually a mistake.

5.Do your homework before going shopping. Check with your ceremony site on any dress restrictions. Bring shoes that will be similar in height to what you plan to wear for your wedding day.

6.Get it in writing. Make sure all the details of your gown order (and any promises the shop makes about delivery, sizing, etc.) are in writing BEFORE you place your deposit.

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