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Monday, March 22, 2021

Staying safe while shopping for a wedding dress

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Bridal salons are taking strict precautions during the pandemic

Wedding planning has taken on a whole new feel since the pandemic began, and dress shopping is no exception. Buying that once-in-a-lifetime gown is a vastly different experience today than it was before the coronavirus struck.

Bridal salons are serious about keeping their staff, stores and customers safe and healthy.

A typical scenario: When a woman and her guests arrive for her appointment, a store employee stationed at the front door checks that everyone is wearing a mask (no mask, no entry). The moment the group steps inside the store, they’re greeted by another staffer with a friendly hello as a touchless thermometer is aimed, one by one, at each forehead; if someone’s got an average temperature, they go inside; if someone’s got a fever, they go home. Everyone who’s in the store is instructed to stay at least six feet apart from one another.

Then, finally, the shopping and the fun can begin. If you’re planning to look for a wedding gown anytime soon, here are more COVID-related details you should know: Store hours are shorter While the coronavirus is thought to be spread mainly by infected air-borne particles, bridal salons are taking no chances.

At David’s Bridal, the national ready-towear chain for brides on a budget, all of their 330 retailers are scaling back on store hours to have more time to sanitize every fitting room, surface and door handle. Kleinfeld Bridal, the luxe New York boutique that’s featured on the TLC reality-TV show “Say Yes to the Dress,” takes disinfecting a step further.

“Each dress that’s been tried on gets sprayed with a special sanitizer before the next bride is allowed to try it on,” says Lisa Fuhrman, a Kleinfeld bridal consultant and cast member on “Say Yes.” “Keeping the dresses clean is a top priority for us.” There’s a similar store policy at the White Dress By the Shore bridal salon in Clinton, Conn., where staffers steam the dresses and wipe down zippers and hangers after each try-on.

The bride can’t bring an entourage

To follow their state’s capacity quotas and social distancing guidelines, many bridal salons are restricting how many people can accompany the bride to her appointment. At Savvy Bridal, a small boutique in downtown Kansas City, Mo., weekday groups are limited to the bride and six guests; on the weekends, that number drops down to four. At Ultimate Bride, an upscale Chicago dress retailer, the bride can only bring two guests.

Social distancing is taken seriously

Many retailers limit not only the number of guests but also the number of groups that can be in their store at the same time. Savvy Bridal, for example, permits only five groups at once. There are private rooms for each bride, so the different groups never have to interact. If a bride wants even more privacy, Ultimate Bride offers the Platinum VIP Experience, which, for an extra fee, entitles a bride and up to eight guests the entire boutique to themselves for an extended time on a Sunday.

How consultants are making it work, safely

At some salons, the consultants prefer not to get close to the brides—or vice versa. That’s when one of the bride’s guests gets put to work, helping her get in and out of the dresses, as the consultant stands six feet away, coaching the guest. Other consultants, like Furhman, briefly get closer. “I tell the bride to put the dress on, then I’ll zip her and clip her and I’ll move away,” she says, being extra cautious by wearing gloves and never standing face-to-face with a bride or guest. David’s Bridal cautions brides that “there will be moments when the alterations specialist will need to be in close proximity to you.”

Zooming in on the dresses

Whether the bride is in the store or at home, technology plays a pivotal role in dress shopping these days. If she doesn’t feel comfortable shopping in person, David’s Bridal will chat with her in a oneon-one virtual video appointment; moms, sisters and grandmas often join the chat. In case a bride who’s shopping in person doesn’t have an iPad, Kleinfeld will set up one for her to video-chat with offsite loved ones as she tries on dresses. “It becomes a celebration, a Zoom party,” says Fuhrman.

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