At last -- you've chosen your wedding gown. Unless you're among the lucky few who had theirs made at a Paris couture house, you probably purchased it at a department store or wedding dress boutique. If so, the chances that the dress fits you to perfection directly off the rack are slim, which means one (or both) of two things: fittings or alterations.
Fittings. Most wedding gowns require at least two fittings, but be prepared for more, if necessary. If you are having your gown made from scratch, expect three or more. Take note: If your gown swallows you, fittings are imperative. If the seamstress takes your measurements and tells you to pick the dress up in three weeks, be wary.
In House Fittings vs. Taking It Elsewhere. If you've purchased your gown from a department store or bridal boutique, they will offer alterations -- at a price. While their price is often higher than independent seamstresses, there are advantages to getting it done in-house. Remember that old adage, "a penny wise, a pound foolish?" Unless you are very careful in your selection of an outside seamstress, this could apply to you. On the other hand, if you decide to take your dress elsewhere, you can certainly find someone who is qualified -- just do your research. It's fine to take your dress to someone who has been fitting wedding gowns for years; just don't drop your gown off at your dry cleaner's alteration guy and hope for the best. The best won't happen.
Alterations. Your gown may fit almost perfectly, but perhaps the hem is a bit long, or the sleeves need to be taken in. For light alterations, you can usually go to any trusted tailor. Again, if you have doubts, leave it to the in-house experts.
Finding A Seamstress. The best way to find an independent seamstress or alterations person is through word of mouth. Chances are, you have a friend who has a great wedding gown seamstress. If not, your bridal shop, alterations specialist or even an upscale fabric store may be able to give you recommendations. If all else fails, there is always the Internet or the phone book. If you choose to go this way, make sure you see samples of previous work before you entrust an unknown seamstress with your precious gown. Again, when in doubt, stick with the in-house alterations people.
Timeline. Whether you require several fittings or a simple alteration, give the seamstress a clear deadline. To avoid last minute stress, it is a good idea to tell her or him that you need the dress about four weeks before your wedding. This will give you time to request any last minute changes, especially if you happen to lose weight right before the wedding.
A Word About Doing It Yourself. So you can sew very well yourself, thank you very much. That doesn't necessarily mean you should fit your own wedding gown. Unless you really have the time and stomach for such an undertaking, we strongly recommend you leave it to the experts. After all, why add to your stress?
Now that your wedding dress fits you to perfection, you can relax. You're going to be a beautiful bride!