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Canceling a gown can be difficult

It's unlikely, but it does happen.

What if your wedding gets called off? Will you be able to return your dress without forfeiting your money?As they say on Wall Street, timing is everything. If you tell the store before your dress has been shipped, you may be able to get some of your money back. But in many cases, once you order a dress, it's yours.

"We keep girls under contract to keep their dress," said Pam Dew, owner of Danielle's Bridal Salon. "Only 2 to 3 percent of our girls cancel their weddings, and in most cases it's a good thing they did. Most girls will keep the dress for later or they'll sell it themselves."

Millie Bratten, editor in chief of Conde Nast Bride's magazine, told the Deseret News in a telephone interview that return policies vary from store to store and the bride is subject to the store's policy.

"Know before you sign what you're agreeing to," she said. "If you don't see a cancellation policy, ask what it is. Get everything in writing."

If you need a "rush" order, find out how much that will cost. Also, there is a cost for alterations. "It might be $100 or $300," said Bratten.

Other things to make note of in writing:

Special requests, such as putting sleeves in the dress or altering the neckline and how much they'll cost.

How much money you have to put down and when the balance is due.

The date by which the store will receive your dress, your veil, your shoes and whatever else you ordered.

If the store doesn't live up to the agreement and the dress isn't in when it's supposed to be, the store should refund your money if that's what you want.

"If you cancel it, that's a different story," said Bratten.

Bratten recommends that you start shopping for your dress as early as possible. "The more elaborate the dress, or if it needs significant alterations, you have to plan plenty of time to have the alterations done."

Ask about the qualifications of the seamstress who will be working on your dress. Does she specialize in wedding gowns? Does she work on site or does the store contract with someone who is an expert in bridal dresses?

Contracts are important not only for your dress but for anyone who will be providing a service. That includes the caterer and the florist. "Everybody has contracts or terms of agreement. It's important to read them. You never know when you'll have to make a change," said Bratten. -- Kathryn Clayton