Preparing for a wedding is stressful enough, so don't let shopping for your bridal attire take an unnecessary toll on you. Take the stress out of shopping for a wedding gown and accessories by following a few simple rules. Here are 5 helpful "dos and don'ts" when shopping at the bridal salon:

1. DO plan your budget before you go shopping so you will have an idea of how much money to spend at the bridal shop. By planning out your budget ahead of time, you can ask the associate or bridal counselor to show you a wedding dress that fits your budget and skip over the scores of gowns that you really cannot afford. Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for a major letdown by falling in love with the "perfect" wedding dress that comes with a not-so-perfect price tag. While planning your wedding attire budget, don't forget to consider the cost of alterations, accessories, and undergarments.

2. DON'T shop at a "fly-by-night" establishment. Doing business with a seller that has no reputation or good standing is risky. Without expert consultants on hand, you might not be making the best choice. Also, you need assurance that if your purchase is damaged or doesn't fit, you can get an exchange or a refund. In addition, you might want to buy your wedding dress from a business that offers preservation services for storing your gown after your wedding.

3. DO ask questions. What should you be asking when shopping for wedding attire? Here are a few important questions:

  • Is this bridal boutique an appointment-only establishment? Don't assume any bridal shop will welcome walk-in customers. You might need a reservation several weeks or months prior to your wedding date, so inquire about this.

  • Does the bridal shop offer consultations? If so, will the consultation be brief (30 minutes, perhaps) or will it last up to 90 minutes or longer? You won't want to feel like you are bring rushed while making this important decision.

  • Will alterations be offered? If so, is there a separate charge? It is very possible that you may need a few adjustments made to the gown of your choice. If that's the case, you'll appreciate the convenience of having the bridal shop perform this service as part of the final cost.

  • What are the boutique policies? You'll want to know about deposits that are required as well as any cancellation fees. How much advance notice is required for special orders? Will you lose your deposit if you cancel a special order?

4. DON'T bring the entire gang of friends and relations when shopping for your wedding dress. It may seem like a fun idea, but it may end up causing more confusion and indecisiveness in the long run. While one friend may offer a suggestion, three others may have ideas of their own. It's probably best to bring along one or two close friends or family members for opinions, but ultimately, the decision should be yours to make. If you don't feel good about your wedding attire, it will show, which is why you shouldn't choose a dress to please others.

5. DO consider the wedding locale when selecting your gown. A casual outdoor wedding down by the seashore may not call for an elaborate gown, while a sleek and sexy strapless dress may be inappropriate for a formal, cathedral-style wedding. By the same token, the weather should also be considered when choosing your attire. You might choose chiffon or organza for a warm climate or for summertime weather, while heavier materials such as velvet or satin may be best for winter weather.

Start looking for the bridal shops you'd like to visit by contacting representatives from establishments like Bridal Elegance, and keep the previous advice in mind.