Don't be blushing bride: Warning over risks of buying gown for big day on internet
Brides-to-be across Northern Ireland have been warned to be cautious when buying their 'dream' wedding dress online and not be left with a fake or damaged gown.
Internet and auction websites are popular with women across the province searching for a bargain, but it has emerged there are hundreds - if not thousands - of fake bridal outfits being sold.
And wedding experts warn that by using unauthorised sites the big day could turn into a nightmare as the dress may arrive damaged, faulty, the wrong colour, not the correct dress or even a counterfeit copy of a designer brand.
Belinda Hanks, from wedding website confetti.co.uk, said buying online does open up a number of possibilities, but it was important brides shop on legitimate sites.
"You can access designers from all over the world and if you're looking to save money, then searching for second-hand dresses is a great option," she said.
"If you decide to go down this route, always make sure it's from a reputable vendor with credible reviews and treble check that there is a flexible refund/exchange policy."
Ms Hanks, however, said customers do not get the "all-important" personal touch when shopping online.
"You can't try before you buy, which for most brides would be a really alien concept," she said.
The warning comes as the Wedding Journal has launched the Bridal Awareness Campaign.
The magazine has been monitoring well-known auction websites.
They found sellers will use a designer image on their auction listing to reel in the bride, who thinks she is going to receive that particular designer dress at a fraction of the recommended retail price - sometimes for as little as £5.
Ireland's Wedding Journal has now set up a page on weddingjournalonline.com where brides can share their experiences of purchasing online and ask for advice.
The campaign is launched as The Wedding Journal Show returns to The Kings Hall in Belfast today.
Wynn Penton, the show's director, said: "We felt that it was imperative that someone address the issue of online buying and its dangers, while at the same time championing a medium for brides, designers and bridal stores - who have experienced any disastrous online purchases - to share this information.
"This will always be available to warn unwary brides of the dangers and we hope that this will become the first stop for any Irish bride before purchasing a gown from the internet."
Local designer Mary Rose McGrath,wedding dress designer at House Of Fraser, said: "Although a dress may look beautiful online, brides should realise that these images are not necessary true to the actual garment when seen.
"To avoid unnecessary stress and disappointment, I would urge all brides to research in depth before buying online."