This is a public service announcement! Calling all 2021 brides and beyond: we have the 411 on everything you need to know before you shop for the dress of your dreams. Ashley Child, owner of Nyanza Bridal in Kirkland, WA is taking over the Perfectly Posh Events blog to share her tips she wants our 2021 brides to know before venturing out to find their wedding dress. Here’s what she had to say:
The Impact of Covid-19
Few industries were left untouched by the suddenness and seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, and the bridal industry was no exception. Immediately following the outbreak, we started getting calls: NY bridal market was cancelled- there would be no new collections, people were cancelling their appointments- unsure if they should be out shopping, and our brides were postponing or canceling their spring/summer weddings as it became clear that a full lockdown was imminent. When we closed our doors on March 20th, 2020, I had no idea what the pandemic meant for our brides and the operations at Nyanza. While some designers were reassuring us, others went radio-silent; everyone was doing the best they could, but no one really had any answers.
Now, seven months later, I feel like the bridal industry has a better grasp of how to assist brides during these unprecedented times. We’ve had to become creative with how we connect and work with our brides- whether it’s in helping her shop for her wedding dress, or in offering guidance as she deals with a postponement. The last several months have taught us a lot. We now know how to better serve our brides during these challenging times. And since it’s become clear that this pandemic will be with us for a while, I want to take that knowledge to help prepare 2021 brides who are currently shopping for their dress.
4 Things to Know When Wedding Dress Shopping
Like most aspects of life these days, wedding dress shopping during a pandemic is nothing close to normal. Because of COVID-19, Nyanza Bridal looks and operates a little different: hand sanitizer is everywhere, fewer people are in the store, and everyone is wearing a mask. The result is an altered shopping experience. This requires brides be a little more prepared before heading out to shop. Before shopping, I recommend brides know and/or do these four things:
#1: Contact the Store
When you contact the store to schedule an appointment, be sure to ask about their health and safety protocols. This should include things such as guest limits, cleaning procedures, social distancing measures, and policies regarding PPE. Inquiring about these things will allow you to be prepared for the appointment and determine whether you (and your guests) feel safe and comfortable visiting the store. The boutiques that are taking this seriously will have clearly established measures to ensure that their store is and remains a clean and healthy environment for both their customers and their staff.
At Nyanza, all brides and their guests are required to have their temperatures checked upon arrival and wear masks inside the store. Most bridal shops will require you do the same. Fitting rooms and all high-touch surfaces are wiped down and sanitized after every appointment, and every gown that is touched and/or tried on is steam sanitized before returning to the floor, for the next bride to try on.
#2: Do your Research
Whether you’re shopping during a pandemic or not, I always encourage brides do a little research before venturing out shop. This is all the more important right now. Because of Covid, stores are having to alter the shopping experience- not just to protect customers, but to also comply with state and federal mandates just to remain open. For example, some stores have had to shorten the normal length of their appointments so as to allow time to fully clean and sanitize in between each bride. Other stores are limiting the number of dresses that can be tried on during an appointment. And almost all stores are having to reduce the number of guests that a bride can bring with her to an appointment. (It’s important to note that since the number of people a store can allow in at one time is based on a percentage of their occupancy limits, policies regarding guests can and will differ from one shop to the next.). As such, it’s important to do the research and be prepared for the various changes stores have had to make.
Clothing retailers have the added challenge of being required to keep items that have been tried on, off the sales floor for at least 24-hours. Since bridal boutiques tend to only have one sample of a garment, this is not a feasible option. As such, any dress that is tried on, must be sanitized before it can be returned to the sales floor. We do this with steam. (Research has shown the virus cannot survive at a temperature above 197*, and clothing steamers operate at a temperature of at least 212*- thus making them an effective tool in killing the virus and sanitizing garments.) Every gown that is touched and/or tried on is thoroughly steamed (both inside and out) before it is made available for another bride to try on. Needless to say, this is a lot of work!
Therefore, brides can really help stores by coming in with an idea of what they like. This give you and your consultant a place to start and means you’ll be focusing on dresses that are most in line with your vision. Even if what you think you want doesn’t end being the one, your consultant should quickly be able to pivot and point you in the right direction. Either way, by coming in with an idea of what you’re interested in, you’ll truly make the most out of your appointment!
At Nyanza, we’ve chosen not shorten appointment times- brides sill get the full 90-minutes they’ve always had. However, to allow time for cleaning in between appointments, this does means we can’t see as many brides in one day as we would during normal times. We are also not double-booking and allowing there to be two appointments in the store at once, as we normally would. This means we are booking up faster because there are fewer appointments available. In other words: if you want a weekend an appointment, it’s best to book in advance!
#3: Know Your Budget
Okay- this is a simple but important one that holds true whether you’re shopping during a pandemic or not. You need to know your gown budget before you walk into the store and begin shopping. This helps us find you the perfect gown and it also saves you a lot of heartache.
#4: Accept That The Experience Will Be Different
Everything is different right now, and that applies to dress shopping as well. And that’s not easy for bridal boutiques. We don’t like having to change the way we do things, especially when it comes to creating a magical experience for our brides. But, it’s important brides recognize that shopping is going to be different because businesses have to be safe- for their staff and for their customers. This means you’re going to have to wear a mask, the number of guests you can bring with you is going to be very limited, and social distancing measures will be in place.
At Nyanza, the shopping experience has had to change. We are keeping our doors locked to control foot traffic and the number of people coming into the store. As such, we are asking brides to call or knock upon their arrival, at which time they’ll be welcomed into the shop for a quick temperature check before being shown to the bridal suite. All visitors are required to wear masks upon entering and must keep them on for the duration of the appointment. We also have hand sanitizer placed throughout the store and in the fitting room and are practicing social distancing measures when we not assisting brides in and out of the dresses.
As mentioned previously, nothing about wedding dress shopping during a pandemic is normal. This includes the time it takes to order a dress: because of the pandemic, brides should not rely on the typical production timelines.
For those who don’t know, gowns take between 4 and 6 months to produce and bring in, with additional time needed for alterations. As such, we normally encourage a bride to have her dress ordered 6 to 8 months before her wedding. But these are not normal times. While most designers are caught up from the delays they faced during the lockdowns earlier this year, some are still working at a reduced capacity or waiting on Covid-related delays within their supply chain. This has resulted in ordering timeframes that are a little longer than normal. With this in mind, I’m encouraging all 2021 brides to order their dress sooner rather than later.
Additionally, there’s real concern of a second (and potentially bigger) wave this winter. If this happens, I expect we will once again see delays in production. Depending on the designer, these delays can and will vary. (For example, we had some designers who had to completely shut down production, while others were able to remain open, albeit at a reduced capacity; this meant the delays we faced were not consistent across the board.) To plan for these delays and proceed with the “better-safe-than-sorry” mentality, I’m encouraging all brides to shop and place their orders sooner as opposed to later. Right now, I’m recommending brides build an extra month into the timeline and plan to have a dress ordered at least 7 to 9 months before the wedding. While, this doesn’t mean that a dress cannot be ordered faster, it’s important to know that getting a dress on an accelerated schedule may not be possible, or will result in rush fees.
Finally, while we know this is a difficult one given all the uncertainty in the world, it’s best not to begin the shopping process until one key detail is in place: the wedding date.
As your dress consultant, knowing your wedding date allows us to best guide and advise you in your shopping process. From our perspective, your wedding date not only determines the availability of the dress itself but it’s price. Every designer, and in some cases every dress, will have its own production timeline. As your consultant, we know the standard production timeline for every dress in store- we know which styles can be made faster, and those that cannot be rushed. Additionally, we know that the gowns that can be rushed will come with additional (and sometimes, very high) fees. To avoid heartbreak, we want to focus on showing you dresses that we know we can get in time for your wedding and that are also respectful of your budget.
If your wedding date is up in the air, it’s important to at least come in knowing the earliest possible date. We want to focus and plan on meeting your most immediate needs, first. The reason for this is that the two dates you could be shopping for, may come with very different dress options. For example, we’ve seen brides recently who have said they’re looking at two different dates: their first, and most ideal wedding date, is 2 months from now… the second is 12. This is incredibly difficult for us. It also makes it very challenging for us to advise. A wedding in less than 2 months means we wont be able to order anything new; you’ll be limited to dresses available off-the-rack. Whereas a wedding 12 months out, means you wont face any shopping restrictions because everything can be ordered in time! In other words: the dress options are radically different.
In these scenarios, when your wedding date is up in the air, we’ll encourage you to shop for and focus on dresses that we can get for the earliest possible wedding date. It sounds harsh, but there’s no real way to shop for both. The reason for this is simple: we don’t want you to risk the heartbreak of falling in love with a dress we can’t get in time. (Just like we don’t encourage brides to try on dresses outside of their budget, we wont suggest that you shop dresses that can’t be done in time for your wedding.) So, it’s best to shop for the earliest date first. If you end up deciding on the later date, then your dress options only increase and you get to go shopping again!
If you’d like to book an appointment with the Nyanza Bridal team, you can Schedule an Appointment here or you can call the boutique at
(425) 629-3781. You can find the boutique at 123 Lake Street South, Suite #102, Kirkland, WA 98033.
Many thanks to Ashley for being our guest writer and for sharing her knowledge and professional experience navigating Covid-19 with us and our readers. We hope this helps!