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Wedding Dress Alterations Timeline (What To Expect?)

Updated December 26, 2022
Wedding Dress Alterations Timeline (What To Expect?)

One of the most common wedding planning mistakes is not considering the wedding dress alterations timeline.

Some brides neglect it unknowingly; others hope that their gown will fit flawlessly without any alterations.

The sad truth is, nearly any wedding dress must be altered to some extent. Sometimes, brides wish to change the design drastically. In other cases, the only necessary adjustment is basic hemming.

You should consider the timeline and follow wedding dress alterations etiquette to avoid stress and disappointment on your wedding day.

After all, months of tailor’s work and numerous fittings always pay off when you see yourself in your dream dress in the mirror.

Major Customizations

The timeline of wedding dress alterations, for the most part, depends on the work amount and complexity.

Sometimes, brides like the general style of their wedding gown but may still want significant customizations to make it their dream dress. Such complex alterations are known as bespoke customizations.

If you wish to make bespoke wedding dress customizations, such as adding sleeves to a strapless dress or changing the skirt style, expect the alterations to take 3-6 months.

This may vary based on your seamstresses’ workload and your specific requests.

Furthermore, such significant changes may sometimes affect other elements of the dress. For instance, if you customize the skirt, the waistline may also change, and the seamstress would have to spend additional time fitting it.

Bespoke customizations always take place before any minor adjustments. And since significant alterations don’t exclude minor alterations, you should ensure that your seamstress has sufficient time to finish all the required work.

Brides must attend multiple fittings throughout the bespoke customization course – typically, up to five. Depending on the customization type, the fittings may be scheduled once in two weeks or once a month.

Never neglect fittings if you request bespoke customizations to avoid paying a lot of money for a big disappointment.

Consider the wedding dress alteration and fitting timeline in advance to ensure you can fit it into your schedule.

Complex Alterations

Some wedding dress alterations are not as advanced as changing the neckline or incorporating a contrasting color insert into the skirt but still require much time.

Complex alterations may include taking in the waist, shortening the hem, or replacing the dress closure.

These alterations don’t change the dress style but significantly impact how it fits your body. That’s why this process is also known as wedding dress fitting.

Even a seemingly minor change can majorly affect your final look. Don’t forget to bring your wedding undergarments and shoes along to the fitting, as these elements may change your posture, height, and overall body shape.

Most brides will need to get their wedding dress altered to fit their figure, and this usually takes 2-3 months.

However, it’s best to schedule the final fitting about two weeks prior to the wedding to allow enough time for unexpected changes.

You may wonder – how long does a wedding dress fitting appointment last? On average, the first fitting lasts about an hour, and each subsequent appointment lasts less as the dress gets closer to the perfect fit.

An old wedding dress alteration timeline deserves special attention. If you’re planning to get married in your mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown, allow more time for any type of alterations.

The older fabric, the more fragile it is. Seamstress may have to reinforce the stitches and come up with creative solutions to complex problems when working with a vintage gown.

Minor Adjustments

Although that’s an extremely rare case, some wedding dresses don’t need to be fitted to look flawlessly on the bride. But even if your gown fits impeccably, you may want to make small changes that also take time.

For example, you may want to add a train loop to move around after the official ceremony comfortably. Or you may want to fine-tune the sleeve length. Such alterations may take under a month.

However, bear in mind that even minor adjustments shouldn’t be left for the last moment.

Each alteration is different, so discuss them with your seamstress in advance to let them professionally assess the complexity and advise on the timeline.

Final Check

Your final alteration check, known as the final wedding dress fitting, is the last moment you can address your fit concerns and make changes.

It typically happens 2-3 weeks prior to the event to allow enough time to address potential issues.

No one wants to find out their dress doesn’t fit as expected on the wedding eve, so the final wedding dress fitting timeline is vital.

Don’t forget to mention your wedding date to the seamstress, though they will likely ask you about it themselves.

In the best-case scenario, after the final fitting, you take the dress home.

But it isn’t always that simple – for instance, you may lose weight from all the stress involved in wedding planning or decide to wear shoes with a different heel height.

Never omit the possibility of last-moment changes. The success of wedding dress fitting doesn’t depend solely on your seamstresses’ professionalism.

Most Popular Alteration Timeline

You now know that bespoke customizations may take up to 6 months, regular fitting takes about 3 months and minor adjustments under a month.

But how do you categorize the changes you need to make to your dress if you’re not a professional?

Well, the best way is to talk to your seamstress directly – they will be able to advise on your wedding dress alterations timeline considering their workload, work complexity, and other factors.

However, talking to a sewist is not always possible. Knowing the most popular wedding dress alteration types and their timelines can help plan your schedule.

While basic clothing hemming, such as casual dress or trousers, can take 3-5 days, wedding dress hemming tends to be more complex.

Wedding gowns often have intricately layered skirts from delicate materials, so the hemming may take up to two weeks.

Furthermore, some fabrics are more temperamental when it comes to alterations than others. You may think that a silk slip-style wedding dress hemming won’t take longer than 5 days.

But silk is a delicate fabric that must be hand-stitched rather than machine-stitched, which takes more time and requires high tailoring skills. Thus, allow about 2 weeks for hemming regardless of your wedding dress style.

The wedding dress waist alteration timeline is more complex. If you need to take the waist in slightly, this can be done in under a week.

However, the process may require more time if the dress has an intricate silhouette or embellishments in the waist area. Any decorations will need to be taken off before alterations and sewn back on – yes, every little bead.

If you need to let out the waist slightly, this can often be done equally quickly. Many dress manufacturers add fabric inserts to their gowns specifically for this purpose.

But if your wedding dress doesn’t have such an insert or you need to make the waist significantly bigger, the alteration may take over 6 weeks. The seamstress may need to insert a corset back or find a matching fabric to make side panels.

The same applies to dress chest and hip alterations. They take a week at the very least and much more if you need to make the dress bigger by a few sizes or if it features intricate detailing.

Another popular wedding dress alteration type is adding a waist or chest stay. It’s a ribbon inside your dress that helps to keep it in the right place. That’s one of the easiest alterations that can be done in a couple of days.

If your wedding dress has long sleeves and you’d like to make it sleeveless, your seamstress will likely be able to do it in no time. Generally, removing sleeves takes no longer than 3 days.

However, if you want to replace the sleeves with a different style, expect to wait for over 6 weeks.

The tailor will have to take measurements to make new sleeves, sew them to your dress, make a fitting, and, possibly, make additional alterations.

When Should You Alter Your Dress?

To sum it up, your wedding dress alteration timeline may vary depending on numerous factors. However, generally, bridal experts advise purchasing your wedding gown no later than 9 months before the event if you get it online.

This will allow enough time for gown shipping and potential returns. If you get your gown offline, you may wait until 7 months before the wedding if you plan bespoke customizations and 4 months if you’re happy with the design.

The standard wedding dress fitting timeline is 2-4 months before the event. You will need to schedule at least three fittings during that period, with the last fitting taking place no later than two weeks before the wedding.

Keep in mind that you can’t know in advance whether your dress will need significant alterations to fit perfectly. Thus, don’t postpone its purchase hoping for a flawless fit.

Finally, last month before the wedding is the time for any small changes.

By that time, your dress must be already fitted, and the seamstress will be able to safely make small changes, not fearing that more extensive customizations will affect the look.

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