Is My Wedding Dress a Bait-and-Switch?

I ordered a wedding dress but when it came in, it didn’t seem like the same one I orginally tried on. What can I do? I don’t want to cause hard feelings.

— Cindy


Dear Cindy:

This is a tough question to answer, because there are so many variables. What exactly does “it doesn’t seem like the same dress” mean? The fact is, more than a few brides experience buyers’ remorse when they get their gowns. Sometimes the let-down stems from valid problems, and sometimes not. Here are some common examples:

“I loved the one I tried on, but it was too big/small. When I got the the dress in my size, it didn’t look as good as I thought.” Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about that one. Bridal salons usually have a no-refund policy for that reason: brides tend to order dresses imagining they will be so much better in the right size … and any dress has a tough time living up to the fantasy.

“I really loved the beading….. this one’s similar, but not the same.” When you get the gown, the beading and embroidery should be similar (same color, same pattern), but may not be 100% the same — especially if it’s hand beaded, or the dress is much larger or smaller than the one you tried on. If the pattern’s not the same or the colors differ, then you have a valid complaint.

“I loved the fabric on the first dress … this one doesn’t feel as nice.” First, ask to see the one you tried on, so you can compare. Sometimes, the anticipation and excitement may cause the bride to remember the dress being a little nicer then it really was — but a side-by-side comparision will tell you in a flash.

If you’re fairly sure your dress just isn’t the same as the one you tried on, have a friend visit the same salon and “try on” the same dress. They can then come back and compare it to yours. While they’re there, ask them to double-check the tags on the original dress for the model and manufacturer information. If possible, sneak in a camera and take some pictures of the dress, and the tags too. Then, you can use these to check with the manufacturer/designer of the original dress you tried on to see if the salon you purchased from is even licensed to carry their products. If they aren’t, chances are you have a replica instead of the real thing.If you do discover that your dress is, in fact, a replica, it’s time to confront the bridal salon. Most likely, they’ll show you their “no refund” policy and the door. Let them know that you’d like the situation fixed (either the right dress, or a refund) immediately or you will be taking your case to the local BBB, Chamber Of Commerce and the local news media. This may get their attention — if not, then do exactly that. If you paid by credit card, you can also look into filing a complaint with your credit card company.

So basically, you need to decide if your disappointment is based on the heightened expectations many brides experience, or actual problems with the dress. But if the problem’s the dress, then take action. In the bridal industry, there are too many vendors who’ll simply walk all over a bride because they can. If the salon was dishonest with you, there’s no reason to worry about hurting their feelings.

The Expert

Crystal Unrau is an experienced wedding planner who specializes in ettiquette, wedding decor, wedding fashion, wedding planning and most importantly, dream weddings on a budget. She posts fabulous finds almost daily on her popular bridal blog White Lace Wedding.