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Monday, June 14, 2010

I got the ring! Now what?

Congratulations you are engaged!
Now what!!!

There are so many things to plan for a wedding, where do you start? Most people would probably say, pick a date. I think you need to do some research before you set the date. Many brides are not aware of what goes into selecting and purchasing a wedding gown. That is one of the reasons I started this blog. To give brides an idea of where to start looking for a gown and what to expect once they have started the process.

So here are some suggestions of what to do after you have the ring.

1. Do some research. This can be in a magazine or online. See what types of styles are available and which ones appeal to you.

2. Set a budget. Give some serious thought about the amount that you are willing to spend on a gown. If you have done your research or watch the bridal reality shows, you may not think that you will be able to have the gown of your dreams. Most of the magazines and shows feature gowns with price tags over $5000. Be assured that gowns are available in all price ranges. Most bridal stores fall into one of three categories: 1. Moderate (prices $300-800) 2. Mid-range (prices $800-$2000) 3. Couture (prices over $2000) . There are many more stores in the 1 and 2 categories than the 3.

3. Research the stores you would like to visit. Determine which bridal lines they carry, what price ranges are available, if you need an appointment to try on gowns and how long it takes to order a gown. The amount of time to order a gown is very important if you are thinking about a short engagement.

Once you have done your research, then you can start thinking about a wedding date (and wedding gowns, bridesmaids, flower girls, tuxes, invitations, unity candles, veils, shoes, catering, cakes, ........)

Just remember this is a once in a lifetime experience. Make the most of it!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Troubles in China

For those of you that do not know, almost all wedding gown companies have factories in China that produce their gowns. This includes wedding gowns, bridesmaids, mothers and flower girl gowns. This has been the case for many years. The Chinese factories have been able to produce great gowns at great prices which have allowed thousands of brides to have the gown of their dream without breaking the bank. Gowns from China which retail in the $500 range would easily be in the $2000 range if made in the United States. And since there were not workers in the United States that wanted these types of jobs, going to China was a good deal for the bridal industry.

But now the workforce is changing in China. The unemployment rate in China is almost 0%. If someone is working at a factory in China and is not satisfied with the hours, pay, management, or anything else, they simply move to the next factory down the street. All the factories are competing for a record low number of people available to fill these jobs. One reason for the low number of workers is the restriction on Chinese families to have only two children which has greatly reduced the number of people entering into the workforce.

What does this mean for imports into the United States? With the shift in the workforce, some factories are scrambling to keep enough workers to fill orders placed for goods to be shipped to the United States. Some factories are almost completely empty and will not be shipping out product as expected to several companies in the United States or the orders will be very slow coming out of the factories.

How does this affect the bridal industry? This question can only be answered by the company from which you are ordering a gown. Many bridal companies have well established factories with loyal workers and are having no difficulties keeping workers and fulfilling orders. Others are struggling to keep pace. I know of some bridal salons with orders that are over one month late with no clear date of when the order will arrive in their store. This is a very scary situation for an industry that is so date sensitive. Clearly if your wear date is close to the ship date and a company is running several weeks behind, you will not be getting the gown of your dreams for the wedding.

So what are your options going forward? This depends upon your situation.
1. You have already purchased a gown that you are waiting to arrive at a store.
a. Check with your salon for the approximate ship date of your gown. Please remember that the dates given to you are only APPROXIMATE. Although many factories will do everything possible to make sure your gowns arrive on time, they will not consider themselves to be LATE until 2 weeks after the original date of delivery. The ship date also does not include shipping time to your store. So if your ship date is July 1 and the designer you ordered from is on the opposite side of the country from you, you will need to add another 5 to 7 days to have the gown in the store.
b. About one week before the approximate ship date, contact your salon to see if the shipment is running on time. Some factories are better than others about letting stores know if they are not running on schedule. So don't blame your salon if they say they will have the gown as scheduled and it does not arrive. Most stores will do everything possible to ensure a timely delivery but cannot do so if the factory is not truthful with them.
c. If your ship date is within two weeks of your wear date, have a plan B! In the past I would have said this was not necessary but with the current situation in China, it never hurts. Talk to your salon to see if they have something on the rack that you can trade for the gown you ordered. Again, all salons want to see a happy bride in the gown of their dreams but don't be unrealistic about a replacement gown. The biggest difference with bridal, is that it is special order. Once a gown arrives in a store, whether special order or for stock, the salon has to pay for it. The factory will only take a gown back if it is damaged. So if a store works with you on a replacement gown, they are still going to be paying for the gown that you special ordered because they cannot cancel the order. Every store realizes this is a terrible situation for everyone involved but with everyone working together, you can still have a beautiful wedding day.

2. If you are just beginning your search for the perfect gown, what should you consider?
a. PLAN, PLAN PLAN! Since this column is already pretty long, I am going to write the next one on time lines for purchasing a wedding gown. I think the major key is going to be to purchase a gown far in advance of the wear date. So if a salon tells you 10 to 12 weeks, plan on 18 to 20. If you do not have that much time before the wedding, find a designer with shorter ship times or opt for a rush cut. It may be a few extra dollars but worth not having the hassle of making a plan B.
b. Don't look at everything as the cup being half empty. There are still plenty of designers with great factories in China that are meeting their ship dates or are even early! So once again, make sure you are working with a salon that you trust to tell you the truth. I have two current companies that have been great with shipping over the past two months, so would never hesitate to order from them on a close wear date. Another company has stopped taking some rush cuts, so that concerns me a little, but they have not missed any ship dates to this point. I will watch them closely.

So wherever you at on your journey to a beautiful wedding, I wish you the best of luck. And as always if you have any questions or concerns, please let me know.