What I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Bridal Studios in Singapore
When I first started dress-hunting, I thought that choosing a bridal studio would be a relatively straightforward experience – all studios are the same, right? Just that some are more ex than others?
I'd put so much thought into selecting gown styles, that it hadn't occurred to me that hunting for the perfect mermaid gown in Studio A would be a completely different experience from browsing through mermaid gowns in Studio B.
While pricing is important, factors like customer service, available gown styles, and terms of the trial fittings vary widely across studios, and can make all the difference when you're considering a few different places with similar rates.
Here's what I wish I'd known before I starting visiting studios:
1. Not every studio lets you take photos
Unless you immediately chance upon The One, you'll likely want to keep photos of all the possible contenders so that you can compare them in your own time.
But be warned: not all studios allow you to take photos or videos. I fell in love with a gown that I tried on at the first studio I visited, but passed it up because as good as it looked in the mirror, I couldn't be sure how it would look like photographed.
In the end, I chose a studio that not only allowed me to take photos and video, but encouraged it, so that I could better evaluate how different elements of the dresses - such as the glittery train or the sheen of the fabric - would look from different angles. Best of all, the consultant took the videos herself so that my friends would be free to examine the dress in detail.
So if photos are as important to you as they were to me, make sure you ask the gown studio if they're allowed before you visit.
2. Make sure you book your trial fitting way in advance
Now that things are opening up in Singapore, people are not only willing to plan weddings, but all the weddings that were delayed can finally go through. I tried booking a two-hour trial session at a popular studio, only to see that they had a two-month waiting list, so if you were planning to just walk in and take a look, plan again.
3. Your gown fitting trial will take longer than you expect
Speaking of time management....again, unless you immediately chance upon The One, you'll need at least an hour for your first fitting. Some dresses - especially the ones with corset backs - take time to put on. You might also want to budget some time to discuss style preferences and convey feedback to your consultant. And depending on how detailed your consultant is, she might also take a while to choose dresses that suit you.
Remember that popular gown studio that had a two-month waiting list for a two-hour appointment? Since I was rushing for time, I booked a one-hour appointment as it was available within three weeks. In the end, I only had time to try on three gowns. Thankfully, the studio offered me a two-hour slot the following week so that I could try on more dresses, so even if you don't see any long slots available for online booking, it doesn't hurt to call the studio to ask if they have any last-minute dropouts whose slots you can take.
4. Some studios also put a limit on how many gowns you can try on
While trying on an unlimited number of gowns within a one or two-hour period is ideal, some studios are a little strict about how many dresses you can try before signing a package. Some limit the number that you can try - others charge you after a you hit a certain number. Which is okay for decisive brides, but a total dealbreaker for people like me.
5. Decisive pricing - yea or nay?
Plenty of studios practice decisive pricing - as in, if you sign on the spot, you'll get extra perks or discounts thrown in.
Other studios don't offer this, telling you instead to take your time, and to come back when you're ready.
While some brides prefer decisive pricing and the shiok-ness of securing a good deal, others find the tactic a little pushy. Regardless of which type you are, just be prepared to walk away if you don't find anything you like. Some studios might try to pressure or even guilt you into signing with them, but you'll ultimately regret it if you sign before finding a dress that you absolutely love.
6. A la carte pricing versus package pricing
The first vendor my now-husband I booked was our photographer. After that, we booked our florist. A couple of months later, I commissioned a bespoke cheongsam for our wedding dinner. Only toward the end of our journey did I choose a white gown. We knew from the beginning that we wanted - and were prepared - to do everything a la carte, so I didn't bother with studios with high a la carte pricing.
However, if you would rather book all of your gowns, your pre-wedding shoot outfits, your photographer, your makeup artist, and your flowers at one studio, then it's better to prioritise boutiques that actually offer all of those services. Some even include outfits for parents or for the groom in their package! As much as you might love a gown from a small home-based business that only provides gowns, you should try to see if you can find something similar at a place that can cater to your needs when it comes to budget and style for planning.
(I say this because finding everything a la carte is time-consuming and expensive. Honestly, if I could have a redo - and if I didn't love my vendors so much - I might have just gone with a package to save time, money, and brainpower.)
7. How does the studio handle pickup and delivery?
The days leading up to the wedding will be a whirlwind of errands. And trust me, the day after, you'll need some time to recover in the hotel. If you can find a studio that handles pickup and delivery itself, as opposed to making you pick up and return the gown within a number of days, you'll appreciate it the morning after when you're snoozing in bed.
8. Don't schedule more than two studio visits in a day
These visits are EXHAUSTING. Trying on gowns, negotiating with the studios, and browsing through packages can wreak havoc on your back and your brain.
Also, once you try on 10 or more gowns in a row, all of them start looking the same. Make sure you schedule enough time between visits so that you have the mental capacity to compare packages and to remember which dress came from where.
9. Before going down, make sure you research the type of gowns the studio specialises in
Only after stepping into my first bridal studio did I realise that almost all of their gowns use corset backs, and I hate corset backs.
Meanwhile, another studio I visited mostly did mermaid gowns, which wasn't very useful to me since I wanted to try on a variety of silhouettes.
So don't just visit studios based on how famous they are or because the rates are within your budget - go through their social media in depth, or even join some bride-to-be Telegram groups to find out what types of gowns they have available.
10. Customer service may vary
A bridal studio consultant is so much more than just a salesperson - this person will help you choose gowns according to your preference, your silhouette, and to the type of event you're having.
I visited one studio where the consultant just laid the gowns on the floor and would ask me what I thought without offering much feedback. And if other brides' anecdotes are anything to go by, some consultants offer feedback that's a wee bit harsh (e.g. "do you plan on losing weight before your wedding?")
In the end, I chose my studio not only because of their gowns and rates, but because the consultant offered genuinely constructive feedback. She asked me to describe the event hall, asked what I would be comfortable in, and even suggested a neckline that I hadn't thought of without forcing it upon me.
This consultant may be with you for a few rounds of fittings and gown adjustments, so if there's one thing I'd recommend, it'd be to find a studio where the consultants help you feel beautiful and confident, not matter bloated you are that day or how silly you may feel in all of that tulle.
So that's it, y'all. Best of luck saying yes to the dress and to the boutique!