Prep - The Gown (Ep. 1 Bridal Shop Hunting)

1:41:00 PM

First and foremost, we would like to apologize for churning this post out late. It's quite common that most brides-to-be would start off their wedding planning with either sourcing for venues or bridal shops. For us, we did it both quite hand in hand actually. As we attended wedding shows and researched on venues for our wedding, we also started to shortlist some bridal shops that we had intention of visiting to view gowns and packages.

In our first "Wedding Prep Begins" post, we did mention that we were not keen to sign up for a bridal package because we might not need all the items offered in a wedding package. However, after much consideration, we eventually found a bridal shop that met all our requests, hence we took up a few packages there. In a few days time, we will be heading to the head office to meet up with our co-ordinator and discuss on our pre-wedding photo shoot and actual day logistics so we thought it was timely that this entry gets published now. We will reveal the shop that we have chosen in the next part of this series, but in the meantime, here are some pointers for couples who need help when shortlisting and picking out a bridal shop and also some tips on what you can request for or replace in your packages.

1. Do some homework!

We've stressed this a few times now that it's always best to do some research prior to signing a package anywhere, be it for the actual day venue, bridal packages or other vendors. There's so much reviews that you can find readily online through forums, blogs or word-of-mouth from friends and relatives.

Do not make a haste decision to sign up at wedding shows or roadshows because of the attractive prices offered. 

We're pretty sure that bridal shops who take pride in their work and are sincere about guiding you through your wedding preparations wouldn't mind giving a discount to you at any time during the year when you visit their shop. (Actually, we don't really believe them when they claim that "you can only enjoy this price if you sign up on-the-spot today!". It's probably one of the ways that they can get some money from you since you will have to leave some amount of cash deposit to "secure" that price). Don't fall into these traps.

In actual fact, 6 years ago when we were both only about a year into our relationship, we were pulled into a booth at a wedding fair where a vendor successfully took $100 from us and made us sign some documents for one of the packages, which had no deadline by the way. Which means if you are in your 70s and would like to take some pretty albums for your Golden Anniversary, they might still entertain you if the company is still around by then. Haha. We still have the receipt of our purchase, but I doubt we would ever be engaging them.

Another reason we chose to read reviews and visit some bridal shops first before signing off at wedding shows or fairs was because we wanted to have a feel of the gowns and experience the kind of service that will be offered to us. Many times, vendors would bring only 2 - 3 gowns for display purposes at wedding shows and even if they had an actual showcase with models strutting down the aisle in their designs, these gowns might well belong to their "premium" or "designer" series only. In other words, they might not be offered in the cheaper packages and a top-up will be needed if you intend to rent that particular design.

We've read about many couples who signed for a package at wedding shows but decide to sell off their package online because they did not fancy any gowns after visiting the bridal shop. It's okay if you're able to find someone to buy the package from you but it will be such a waste if you end up having to sign for another package at a different bridal shop. That is something we try not to land ourselves into, so do take "safety precautions" and do your homework!

2. What's usually included?

Each shop would have a few price range of packages that you can choose from. Quite commonly, they would ask you to top up about $1,000 more to get your pre-wedding photos taken locally by their in-house photographer. It's quite a worth-it top up if you're not intending to engage an external photographer or take an overseas pre-wedding photo shoot package. However, do look through as many albums as you can at the bridal studio to see the works of their in-house photographers. You wouldn't want to engage one who has a totally different idea from yours.

Here's what's usually included in most basic bridal packages (2014):

Actual Day
Bridal Gown x 1
Evening Gown x 1
Tea Dress / ROM Dress / Kua x 1
Actual Day Make-up + Hair
Trial Make-up + Hair
Jackets for Groom x 2
Jackets for Fathers x 2
(Pants for Groom)
(Jacket for Best man)

Bridal Car Decor
Bridal Bouquet
Bridesmaids Corsages
(Bridesmaids Dresses)
(Gowns for Mother in laws)

Local Photo Shoot (quantity depending on bridal studio)
Bride + Groom Outfits usually x 4 - 6 sets
Album (size of album and no. of poses differs)
Canvas Portrait
Tabletop Portrait

Additional charges
Ampoules (rate varies)
Transportation for outdoor photo shoots (if you do not have a car)
Night photography (rate varies)
Early call time surcharge for make up artist (rate varies)
For extra photos / poses

* Some common acronyms used would be OTR: off-the-rack and MTM: made-to-measure for gown rentals.

So what differentiates the many shops from each other and would probably make your life easier when hunting for the right shop would be one or some of the following points you could consider:

  • Price,
  • which comes with Affordability too of course!
  • Price v/s Quality (Don't go for something that is cheap but not necessarily good. We don't always agree with the phrase "good things don't come cheap" because we do find many useful and good quality items at Daiso, for instance. Which brings us back to the first point on research, asking around and knowing what you're in for by walking into your shortlisted studios to browse, feel and clear all your doubts.)
  • Accessibility (Which is not a problem if you have a car. But for us, we can foresee ourselves heading to choose outfits quite often so as to find our ideal outfit, and it wouldn't be convenient if we had to travel very far each time before or after work.)
  • Freebies

Mel created a spreadsheet listing down shops that we have heard people praising before and also shops that we wanted to check out for ourselves. With the list, we first headed to the stretch of shophouses at Tanjong Pagar, which Mel was very familiar with because she used to work nearby, and went in shop by shop to check out the different packages offered. 

It is better to go on a weekday and during the day as there will be less crowd and the salesperson will have more time to attend to your questions. Be prepared to hang around between 1 - 2 hours per shop to look through albums, view gowns and enquire as much as you want. Well, of course if the first impression of the place was a turn off, you wouldn't need that much time there!

Not all studios will allow you to try on the gowns, so don't have too high hopes on that. Also, photo taking is strictly prohibited unless you've signed a package with them (we think that's the usual case).

For brides-to-be, if your fiance isn't able to accompany you, bring along a close friend, sis, or mum who has similar tastes as you have. It can be quite difficult to make decisions on your own if it requires a huge sum of money.

Take your time though, never hurry and end up making a haste decision. It doesn't harm to ponder over it for a couple of days and continue asking around before making up your mind :)

3. The Negotiation Process,

which is a nicer term for "the bargain process" actually. Haha! Well, who doesn't like some freebies or discounts? We all love them!

Don't go overboard though, you might end up getting a discount on the discount as well!

For most shops, it is a plus if you have been referred by a friend to sign up with the same bridal shop. Friend referrals will allow you to enjoy discounts for both parties, whether it is a couple hundreds off your final bill or additional photos to your album.

But if you don't happen to have any name to pen down, you might want to try your luck in asking for more of the following:
  • More photos to your album + More poses to include in the album
  • In worst-case scenarios, discounts for additional photo purchases
  • Evening Gown for Maid-of-Honor (or you could also try your luck and ask on behalf of your bridesmaids as well. Erm... provided you don't have that many of them! Don't. Go. Overboard.)
  • Wedding Bears/Dolls for Car Decoration, Wedding Ring Pillow
  • More Gowns & Suits for pre-wedding photo shoot
  • Jewellery to match with outfits on actual wedding day and photo shoot
  • Waive of early morning surcharge for make-up artist or photography/videography team
  • Transportation for pre-wedding photo shoot

Most shops are quite accommodating when it comes to swapping something out of your package to something else you might want instead, as long as the value is quite similar. For instance, for us, Mel probably does not need to rent a "kua" because she will be wearing her mum's (yes, it's still in quite good condition!), nor a "tea dress", nor an "ROM dress" and requested for something else in place of this item in our package. Hence, our co-ordinator have listed a few other options for us (e.g. an extra evening gown for Mel, or an evening gown for Maid-of-Honor etc.) to choose from.

For the both of us, we are rather sensitive to over-pushy sales co-ordinators. Especially if we do put across our ideas and indicate what we do not want for our wedding, yet getting forced into "believing that it will work out", we find that quite a turn-off. 

So another advice for couples who get easily swayed during the process and pressured into signing something which they are not too interested in, it will be best to do a background check on the history of the bridal store and get some reviews prior to visiting the stores. Also, it wouldn't harm to tell them nicely "let me decide on this, I'd need more time to consider" and make your way to other stores to check out other packages to compare as well.

While we always believe the notion of "Ask and you shall be given", sometimes we don't have the cheek to bring ourselves to ask for discounts blatantly. So, one technique that Ben has used over the years of subtly pushing for discounts would be to show interest but you are unable to make the final decision because the price is not right yet.

Do read one of our popular Wedding Prep posts on: Getting Discounts for your Wedding

Planning and financing a wedding is no easy feat for young couples these days. While we can always choose to have a more simple wedding, invite less guests and do away with extravagant decorations or overseas wedding photo shoots, money is still one of the bigger concerns in the planning process. Especially for a happy occasion like such, while couples try their best to save up as much as they can, it can be quite upsetting to receive unsatisfactory service from vendors whom they had trusted most to ensure them a smooth wedding journey. We've read and heard of many such cases and as we hope that nothing of that sort would happen to us, we also hope that others would not land up in such scenarios as well.

So do share this blog post with your friends who might need help in their Bridal Shop Hunting process and feel free to comment below or email us at if you have any questions for us! Otherwise, stay tuned for other upcoming episodes on our wedding preparations!

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