Bridal salons are offering virtual appointments that allow brides to try on wedding dresses at home

Bridal salons are offering virtual appointments because of the coronavirus. Wendy Rivera/Ally Ernst
  • The wedding industry has been at a standstill as a result of the coronavirus.
  • But bridal salons have found a way to adapt, offering virtual appointments that allow brides to work with experts from a safe distance, and even try on gowns at home.
  • Insider spoke to Wendy Rivera, a bridal expert and the founder of Ava Laurénne Bride and Do You Speak Bride, and Ally Ernst, a bride who bought her wedding dress through a virtual appointment, about the new shopping process.
  • "We don't want them to settle for less than the experience they should have," Rivera told Insider.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Ally Ernst never pictured herself trying on wedding dresses in her mom's living room.

But because she got engaged on March 21, 2020, the 22-year-old wouldn't be able to go into a store to shop for her gown.

The coronavirus meant salons across the country would be forced to close, making it impossible for Ernst and millions of other brides to have their "Say Yes to the Dress" experience.Advertisement

The Colorado-based bride assumed she would have to buy a dress online

Ernst plans to marry Tyler Fox, 27, in September 2020. With the wedding date less than six months away, Ernst doesn't have time to wait to get a gown.

Ally Ernst virtually shopped for her wedding dress. Ally Ernst

The idea of ordering a wedding dress online unnerved Ernst.
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"I am super tiny," she told Insider. "I'm like 4-foot-11 and I barely weigh 100 pounds, so ordering a dress online is super scary because I don't know how it's going to look on me. I don't know how it's going to fit."

But luckily, Ernst didn't have to buy her dress online, thanks to the virtual bridal appointment she scheduled with a nearby boutique, Something New.

Bridal boutiques around the country are setting up virtual appointments for brides

Virtual bridal appointments offer the care and expertise of an in-person experience with a consultant on hand, as Wendy Rivera, a bridal expert and the founder of Ava Laurénne Bride and Do You Speak Bride, explained to Insider.Advertisement

"Brides deserve everything," Rivera said. "They deserve the best experience and the best story because they are in the middle of the most full and beautiful and colorful points of love that they've ever experienced."

"We don't want them to settle for less than the experience they should have," she added, which is why virtual appointments are becoming increasingly important when brides physically can't go into stores.

"Despite facing unprecedented challenges to their businesses as a result of COVID-19, we have seen so many of our small business partners working tirelessly and selflessly to help each other — and their couples — through this crisis," Kristen Maxwell Cooper, editor-in-chief of The Knot, told Insider.Advertisement

"The good news is that weddings will happen again," she said. "In fact, our research shows that 96% of couples are postponing their weddings or not making any changes at this time, with only 4% actually canceling celebrations," which means brides will still need to buy dresses.

"We love that bridal salons are adapting their businesses during this time and still prioritizing creating a personalized, memorable experience for brides," Cooper added. "It's a true testament to the attention and care that bridal salons put into making the dress shopping experience the most unforgettable planning moment for brides."

Most brides aren't canceling their weddings, according to data from The Knot. Bogdan Kurylo/Getty Images
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Experience aside, Rivera also said working with a consultant gives brides a better idea of how a gown would actually look.

"Brides come in all the time with pictures of ideas," Rivera said, but she noted that they rarely leave with the gown they imagined when they see how the dress looks in person.

She added: "We as boutiques deal a lot with people who will come in like three weeks before their wedding in tears saying, 'I bought something online. It was only $300, so I just bought it and it's horrific and I just can't even make it work.'"Advertisement

"Once they see dresses moving up close and personal — that's when they really see what the dress looks like."

Rivera told Insider that virtual appointments typically have multiple stages

The first step is usually an introductory call between a bride and a consultant, which is what happened to Ernst. "I talked to a consultant and we kind of just got a feel of who I am and what I wanted," she said, and Ernst then sent her some photos of what she envisioned.Advertisement

Next, a consultant will call a bride through FaceTime or Zoom from a boutique, physically walking her through the salon so she can see how dresses move in person.

An Ava Laurénne Bride consultant shows a bride gowns virtually. Wendy Rivera

The consultant is typically the only person in the salon, and if anyone else from the staff is there, they're social distancing to be safe.Advertisement

Rivera said the stylist can show brides what dresses look like in reality, how they might encumber them when they walk, and what alterations could be made.

The stylist may even model the gown in some cases, giving the bride an idea of how the dress would look. If a bride likes a gown, the stylist will then instruct her on how to measure herself, and they can order the dress for her.

Brides can also bring gowns home to try them on

"Some stores are doing in-home try-ons," Rivera told Insider.Advertisement

After going through a virtual appointment, a bride will pick three to five gowns she wants to physically try on.

"Normally, there's a deposit per dress for them to be sent to you, or you can pick them up through a no-touch pickup where you pick the dresses up and try them on in your home," Rivera said.

"There's different processes to disinfect those dresses when they come back as well," she added, as to ensure the consultants aren't put at risk of exposure.Advertisement

An Ava Laurénne Bride tries on wedding dresses at home. Wendy Rivera

Ernst was able to try on three gowns at her mom's house after her virtual appointment, and she paid a $150 deposit for two of the gowns and a $50 deposit for the third. The deposits all went toward the price she paid for the gown she purchased. Ernst was able to try on each gown around four times, and she told Insider she loved that she didn't feel rushed.Advertisement

"It was so amazing and they made sure that it was so effortless," Ernst said of the experience her stylist created.

"I actually did feel like a bride cause I had my mom there, my future mother-in-law there, my sister, and my maid of honor," she said. Ernst also scheduled a Zoom call with the other bridesmaids so they could be part of the experience, too.

"I had all of my girls with me helping me try on my dress in the comfort of my mom's house," Ernst said. "It was awesome."Advertisement

Ally Ernst picked her wedding dress at home. Ally Ernst

Ernst ordered her dress the next day, and it will arrive in July, giving her ample time to get alterations done if she needs them.

"It was the first dress I tried on. I just fell in love with it," she said of her gown.Advertisement

Rivera hopes that the option of a virtual appointment prevents brides from taking risks with online retailers

"It's not something you want to take a risk with," she said of wedding dresses. "If you've got, you know, $1,500 just to throw away and it won't matter, then go ahead and buy something online sight unseen."

But Rivera warns that it's unlikely a gown will fit you as you're expecting, which could mean you have to buy an additional gown or that you have to pay more for alterations.

Working with a stylist can save you money in the long-run. Wendy Rivera
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She also encouraged brides not to rob themselves of the experience of buying a wedding dress if it's important to them.

"There are no other garments out there really that when you're buying that garment, it's also a life moment," Rivera said. Rivera told Insider that "even though this is a pandemic and it's worldwide, there are still life moments happening totally separate from it," and boutiques want to help you enjoy them to their fullest while staying safe.Advertisement

An Ava Laurénne Bride celebrates finding her wedding gown through a virtual appointment. Wendy Rivera

She also noted that virtual appointments give brides access to a more personalized experience than they can normally have.

"There are people states away who want to be an Ava Laurénne bride," she said, and a virtual appointment allows them to be one without traveling.Advertisement

"Or there are brides who may be a little more introverted, and they would feel more comfortable at least starting the process in this way," she added. "Or maybe their mom can't get out of the house."

Virtual appointments enable brides to be safe and have the shopping experience they want.

You can find out more about Do You Speak Bride here.Advertisement

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