Tips for Last Minute Brides

Bridal season starts in January so I’m starting a series of articles on altering wedding gowns. I get calls all the time asking if I can do alterations on gowns for the next month or even the next weekend. “Last minute brides” are a problem with other alterationists I talk with, too, but we expect a certain amount of this. After all, things happen in life we can’t always foresee. Take military families, for example. A young couple wants to get married and they have very little say about when they can get leave. We also deal with many pregnant brides who wait until the last minute because they don’t know how the dress will fit on their wedding day.

Some brides are just impulsive, of course, and while that‘s always been an issue in our business, there’s been more of it over the last few years. In the 30-plus years I have been in the alterations business, I have met few brides who DON’T have a lot going on at the same time. Many are finishing school, searching for a job (or just starting a new one), expecting a baby (or just had one), combining households or moving to another state. And it has always surprised me how many families must deal with a wedding and funeral at the same time because grandma or grandpa don’t quite make it to the wedding day.

I understand all this but a wedding gown is the most expensive and elaborate garment most women will ever own. Do you really want someone to rush through the fitting and construction? Most wedding professionals book weddings at least two months ahead of the big day. Some years, I have booked as much as nine months in advance. I’m not a perfectionist but I do expect excellence in my work and I hate to be rushed. I know other alterationists feel the same way because we are always “venting” to each other by email.

If you know you will be a last-minute bride, here are some tips. It’s always a good idea to alert your alterationist ahead of time. Many of us will charge a “holding” fee for brides who know their dress won’t be ready to fit until close to the wedding date. This fee is non-refundable but almost everyone needs at least one alteration on their gown so usually the deposit is applied to the final cost. You want your alterationist ready and waiting.

Keep in mind, too, that bridesmaids and other members of the wedding party often need alterations. Be honest with your alterationist about what you might need so they can be on alert and allow enough time. If there are no last minute alterations, we can always find something else to do!

Another way of dealing with last-minute weddings is to buy a simple dress or suit instead of a full-on wedding gown. The alterations are much easier and less expensive. Try looking for a white or ivory bridesmaid dress. Remember Pippa Middleton, Kate Middleton’s sister and maid-of-honor? Her bridesmaid dress is now a very popular style for the wedding dress.

Don’t take a chance of not getting an appointment in time for your wedding. There is no shortage of weddings and good alterationists turn down work all the time because they are simply booked up.

Next: Do-It-Yourself wedding gown alterations.

Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or
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5 Responses

  1. Avatar `AJacoby says:

    The general public (brides and mothers of brides) frequently have NO idea of the time line required if you want to have a smooth running, and therefore enjoyable, event. Many bridal magazines publish time lines of what to do when. And yes, they usually include getting dresses and seeing to alterations. I would suggest that other than extenuating circumstances (military deployment, pregnancy, etc. as mentioned above), GET ONE AND FOLLOW IT! Over some fifty-plus years of being involved with the music end of the wedding business, I would say that a great many of the bloopers could have been avoided with a little foresight and planning.

    Good article, good advice!

  2. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Great article Barbara. People think sewing is easy. Anyone can pick it up in no time. How hard can it be?

    I have a sewing machine in my (math) classroom. I repair kids clothing and show interested kids how to sew. What I've learned is that something I've done since I was 8 is a foreign world to most kids. Let's start with threading a needle..

    An article in Threads magazine about the design of an inaugural ball gown let me know that I am, after all this time, a newby. Working with the kinds of fabrics that you do, and dealing with the structural and design aspects of an important gown put me in awe.

    This article should be part of every wedding planner's presentation to a bride and her family.

    • Thanks, Everyone, for the positive thoughts! Having been a professional sew-er for over 30 years, I think I've seen everything…oops, did I just say that? I still get projects that have me scratching my head. And keeping up with the new fabrics and styles keeps me interested!

  3. Avatar Canda says:

    What I love about you, Barbara, is that not only do you alter gowns to perfection, but also hem those favorite (and/or expensive) jeans. I'm so happy to have you as my "go to" person for alterations.