Photo: Aesthetic Life Studio
It’s finally time to shop for THE Dress! That beautiful wedding gown you’ve been dreaming of since you were a little girl. Of course, when you were five and thinking of this time, you were marrying a prince and didn’t have a budget. But no worries- there are many ways that you can find that dress of your dreams and still stick to a budget. Plus, you’ll enjoy your big day even more knowing you scored a fabulous deal on that piece de resistance.
1. Shop around. You’ll need to go to various stores and boutiques not only to find out which styles and types of dresses you love, but also to be able to compare prices. This will also give you an idea of how certain designers fit and what size is best for you, so that if you come across that dream dress online or find a fabulous sale at a boutique, you can buy with confidence. Plus, this gives you an excuse to play princess for another day, which doesn’t hurt either.
2. Look at dress styles versus designers. This will give you more options to shop around for the best price and get the dress you want rather than being married (pun intended) to one designer and the range of prices that comes with her work.
3. Hit the sample sales. Live in or close to a city? Sample sales might be a good option for you. At sample sales, boutiques and stores try to clear out their overstock and older merchandise to make room for new gowns, which means they offer designer wedding gowns at a steep discount (sometimes up to 70 and 80% off!). These sales often occur in large cities, but more and more stores are offering online sample sales, that will ship the dress to you. How to find out about them? Join your favorite stores email lists, check out blogs and newspapers about your city’s events, and look at online event guides like DailyCandy.com.
4. Don’t neglect the sales rack. Sales racks offer steals on dresses that were on display, are discontinued, or were returned. Maybe your perfect dress is waiting for you there! And no one ever has to know your dress was on sale if you don’t want them too.
5. Look at department stores. Department stores are breaking into the bridal market and carrying their own bridal lines- either in brick and mortar stores or online. These are worth checking out! Like any store, price points may vary, but they have various styles and some gowns are hundreds or thousands less than boutiques. The best part- you can often apply store coupons towards your bridal purchase. How great would it be to snag an additional 20-40% off your gown?!? That’s the stuff dreams are made of. Check out the wedding lines at The Limited, Nordstrom, J.Crew, and Macy’s for starters.
6. Go simple- If your vision is more of a simple and elegant white dress rather than a lace ball gown, branch out from wedding dresses. An ivory bridesmaid dress or a white prom dress or semi-formal dress might be just what you were envisioning- with the perfect price tag!
7. Play Nice: Make friends with your sales representative- she may be able to offer you discounts, throw in free accessories, or let you know when the store’s next big sale is. She gets a commission on your purchase, so if it’s between you not buying anything and you getting something on sale, she’s going to go with the latter.
8. Remember your accessories! Accessories can really add up, so you need to figure in the costs of shoes, slips/undergarments, as well as alterations. If you are on a tight budget, these need to be considered when purchasing the dress. Don’t purchase a dress at the top of your price range that needs major alterations or will require custom (pricey) undergarments. Also keep in mind that not all dresses are created equal when it comes to alterations: some gowns with intricate beadwork and lace are extremely difficult to alter. Figure in these costs when you make your final decisions.
9. Go vintage. Mom’s/Aunt’s/Grandma’s dress could be the perfect match to your wedding dress vision. See if they are willing to let you wear their gown for your big day, but of course talk over any alterations with them and any other relatives that have their eyes on that gown.
10. Coupon it up. Get on everyone’s mailing lists/email list so you know sales, promotions and special discounts being offered, even if this means setting up a special email address for this wedding planning process so you don’t have to deal with the junk mail later.
11. Consider Etsy. We LOVE Etsy- it gives us a chance to support small businesses and buy quality and hand-crafted items. And believe it or not- wedding gowns are no exceptions. There are several sellers on Etsy that make handcrafted wedding dresses custom made to your measurements, for much less than you could buy a comparable dress at a store. They can make dresses inspired by current dresses on the runways, your personal style, or more unique, vintage inspired dresses. (This is also true for accessories). You get exactly what you were envisioning in a dress that was truly made for you!
12. Consider Ebay too. Like Etsy, ebay has many sellers who will custom make bridal gowns. Ebay also has new and used wedding gowns for sale which could make for some awesome deals!
13. Feeling Lucky/Crazy?!? Participate in the Running of the Brides at Filene’s Basement. Filene’s hosts several of these events in cities throughout the country each year, where hundreds of designer dresses are on sale for fractions of their wedding boutique price—think 50-80% off. But this is not for the faint of heart—read about Belles on a Budget’s Amy’s experience. Don’t think you’re up for the full experience? That’s okay! You can always go later in the afternoon, when the excitement has calmed and the dresses are back up on the racks. Then you can take your time going through the dresses, but the selection will be more limited.
14. Try the David’s Bridal’s $99 sale. This sale is famous in the wedding world, and it’s true that a few times a year, David’s does offer some dresses for $99. In addition to those, they offer significant discounts off their already reasonable prices on other gowns, so it is definitely worth checking out. And don’t forget the sales racks for possible bridal and bridesmaid dresses. Know your size in David’s dresses already? Fabulous! You can now shop for sales and outlet prices online at David’s- some gowns start at only $50!
15. Get a Custom Made Gown. What's that? You don’t associate custom-made bridal gowns with a budget? Well think again, sister- There are often dressmakers available locally that can make a dress for you based on the styles you love and the feel of your wedding. You get a unique gown, often for significantly less than you would pay at a boutique, and you don’t have to pay for alterations since it is made specifically toward your measurements. Yay!