Throughout the ages, the perfect wedding dress has captured the imaginations of women and girls everywhere. That makes it all the more heartbreaking when a wedding is ruined and a dream shattered because of a scam. Today, tight budgets and technology have led more and more women to look online for deals on wedding dresses. And to be sure, there are deals to be had. You needn’t go to a store to find the dress of your dreams. High-quality custom-made dresses can be found online. However, among the deals lie ill-fitting replicas, hideous counterfeits, and callous fraudsters who will steal your money and put your happy wedding in jeopardy.

Sitejabber reviewers write in year-round with horror stories of impossible customer service, getting the wrong dress, receiving shoddy-looking replicas, and/or not being able to get a refund on a supposed “100% money back guarantee” – all cases surely leading to tears and stressful scrambles to find a replacement for what was supposed to be your dream gown. Hundreds of online dress-sellers have received negative marks from Sitejabber reviewers, including Fashionlande.com, Milanoo.com and Dresstimes.com, among scores of others. Before you find yourself in the same predicament, be aware that plenty of replica websites claim to sell high-quality replica wedding gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses. These are some red flags to watch out for.

The Chinese Seamstress

The general consensus from our users’ reviews seems to be – if you’re going to order online from a Chinese retailer, you’re much more likely to be in for a miss than a hit. Oftentimes, even if you want to avoid a Chinese shop, the location of the online retailer can be hard to determine from the website–it could be written in English and even say it’s based in the US when it is, in fact, based in China. If you inspect further, though, in the FAQ or “About Us” sections, you may be able to detect spelling and grammatical errors such as “You are about to embark on a fabulous journal in choosing the wedding dress of your dreams”; professional, English-speaking businesses should not make these mistakes.

Lindsay H., a Sitejabber reviewer, tells us an all-too-common story about her experience: “…I had recently gotten engaged and found this amazing Mon Cheri dress that had (of course) been discontinued…I had almost given up hope on my ideal wedding dress when suddenly a glimmer of hope….I found my dress on a online bridal store called Shop Of Brides. I couldn’t believe it!! I immediately grabbed my credit card and ordered it. Not only was it (the) dress that was discontinued, but it was incredibly inexpensive. Now, I know at this point I truly should’ve know better than to trust this site but I was just so thrilled that I had found it again. So I bought it and paid extra to have it shipped as soon as it was finished. Thank god I did…The dress showed up about 6 weeks later, it was delivered to me through UPS, in a small gray plastic bag. When I opened the bag this poor little helpless gown was balled up and tossed in a bag like it was a dust rag. I pulled the gown out to look at it…Not only was the gown NOT the one I had ordered, but was not even remotely close. The best part of the whole dress was that the dress wasn’t even completed!! There were several holes in the dress from where the seamstress had apparently forgotten to even sew them up. I even tried this awful thing on and of course to no surprise it didn’t fit at all. I ordered a size 8 so that I could have it taken in if need be. I couldn’t get this dress over my head. I have tried several times to contact this company, but they refused to talk to me. The only response I got from them is that it must be my fault….Well, I agree…I never should’ve thought that they were a reputable company.”

Virginia L. went through a similar experience trying to order a gown for her daughter on Beautifulbridaldress.com last month: “Bought a dress for my daughter, got a totally different dress than the one we picked and she loved, it smelled of fish, wrinkled beyohd belief! And they sized it wrong, I have pictures of the dress I picked versus what I got….My daughter is so upset and her wedding is June 11. This is close. Never again! These are the type of companies that ruin it for others!”

While it is possible to have a wedding gown custom-made for much cheaper is Asia, you’re less likely to get scammed if you actually fly to China or Hong Kong and get it done in person. However, if you’re going to do that, you may as well shell out the dollars to get the dress in the United States unless you’re looking for an Asian vacation.

√ Our advice: Before taking the plunge, check reviews of the website on Sitejabber to see what other consumers might be saying about the site. Even if there aren’t reviews of it, you can ask the community to help you evaluate it. Because it’s your wedding dress, be sure that there are ways to contact the company by phone, email and physical address. Make sure to contact the business using the listed phone and email. Ask the business specific questions regarding the dress you’re admiring, and be mindful of the business’s making what sound like unrealistic promises (for example, the dress will be exactly like the Vera Wang you like; that’s just not possible). If there is no other contact information other than a “live chat” or a contact form, it’s best to look at another place for your dress. Finally, make sure to pay with a major credit card to ensure that you can dispute any erroneous charges.

The Second Hand Dress

Not only are the buyers of wedding dresses in peril from scammers, it seems that con artists lurk in the darker corners of Craigslist and eBay as well. In addition to selling bad secondhand dresses, they also want to buy your old and used wedding gowns – for more than the asking price. All you have to do is ship the dress to them in Nigeria, and then they’ll make the payment. This is unlikely to happen. You won’t get your money, and they’ll profit on your old wedding gown.

Final Words of Advice

It’s your wedding day–do look for bargains, but don’t take on too much risk. If you’re going to chance it and get a dress from overseas make sure you can either get your money back (via your credit card) or be okay with losing that money if something bad happens. And please please, check reviews first. With the many factors that can cause you stress, your wedding gown should not be one of them. Also, if you want to keep it local, check bridal stores for discontinued dresses. Or you can try department stores like Filene’s Basement, which has a special day of the year referred to as “Running of the Brides”. In the end, you’re paying a little extra for peace of mind, and a guaranteed dress might be the smartest investment.

Do you have a wedding story to share? Help future brides to be by sharing your good and bad wedding dress experience in the comments below or by reviewing it for the community.

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