Patrice Catan knows wedding dresses inside and out.
More than 3,000 dresses are sold each year at her destination wedding salon in Strongsville, Catan's Fashions by Patrice, part of Catan Bridal and Fashion.
A designer by trade, Catan created the 54,000-square-foot store to meet a bride's every need. Now, 2,000 bridal gowns hang at the store that also holds a restaurant and full-scale runway for fashion shows.
With 18 years of experience, Catan shares her wisdom on the most important things to consider when searching for the dress for the big day.
Know Your Budget
"The first thing we ask the girls when they come is €˜what budget are we in?' €VbCrLf says Catan, whose inventory ranges in price from $250 to $7,000 couture dresses. "The reason we do this is that we do not feel that it serves us or the client any purpose to show them any gowns that are not in their budget. Because, what if she sees something that she really can't afford. Why go there?€VbCrLf
Keep an Open Mind
"A lot of girls come in with pictures. They have a vision that this is the dress of their dreams, and a lot of times once they put it on, it's nowhere close to what they assumed it would be,€VbCrLf she says. "We use the luxury of 2,000 samples and we say, €˜Now this is where you need to start, you need to try on several different styles.' So right out of the box we can eliminate the ones that don't fit your personality, because basically a wedding gown is just like you buying everyday clothes.€VbCrLf
The dress should also complement the bride's bone structure, hair color and skin tone. "What girls need to do is be open, open to different styles, different fabrics.€VbCrLf
Don't Forget You're the One in Charge
"The problem I think girls have today is they have a need to bring the world with them when they shop for their dress,€VbCrLf Catan says. "When you bring the world with you, you are going to get a world of opinion. The problem when there is a world of opinion is that you never come to a decision because everybody is looking through their eyes and really the eyes that should be looked through is the person wearing the gown.€VbCrLf
Trust your instincts, Catan says, because at the end of the day, whose wedding is it?
Give Yourself Some Wiggle Room
Considering 90 percent of the wedding gowns need some sort of nip and tuck somewhere - unless you're that envious 5-foot-10-inch, 115-pound frame - you need to order your dress nine to 12 months before the wedding, Catan says.
"Unless you are going to buy off the rack, and we will sell off the rack when the weddings are quick,€VbCrLf she says. "In some cases the girl doesn't end up getting what she wants because she waited too long and that process should be started earlier,€VbCrLf she says. Most dresses take 12 to 16 weeks to come in, at which time they have to be inspected, fitted and added to the altering lineup.