I recently went wedding dress shopping with a friend of mine at a small boutique full of gorgeous gowns that looked way more expensive than their price tags. When I said as much, the shop's proprietor told me about a bride who'd recently fallen in love with a dress, then decided not to buy it when she learned it was "only $1,500." My jaw dropped.
If you love the dress, shouldn't a lower price make you love it even more? Thankfully, finding the perfect gown doesn't require spending a month's salary (or way more) or elbowing other brides out of the way in Filene's Basement's annual running of the brides sale. For seven ways to shop for wedding dresses on a budget,
- Seek out samples. Each season, bridal stores buy a selection of styles in sample sizes (usually 8 or 10) for brides to try before they buy. If the dresses are in good shape, the salons will often resell the samples, either in their stores or through special sample-size resellers, so check the bridal boutiques in your area. You can also buy sample sizes at the assorted trunk shows held during wedding season.
- Go to off-the-beaten path boutiques. Big cities boast designer boutiques from the usual suspects, but you can also find smaller shops carrying gowns from designers whose names you may not recognize but whose dresses are just as lovely —and lower priced. Bonus: shopping at these smaller-name stores can be a much calmer experience!
- Brave the superstore. If calm isn't your concern, save time by stopping by bridal superstores, where you can try on many, many dresses at a variety of price points all at once.
- Browse preowned options online. Most brides wear a wedding dress once, so even a used gown is only gently worn. The web is full of preowned dress sources, like Preowned Wedding Dresses and Save the Dress, where brides sell back their gowns, almost good as new. You can also check Ebay and Etsy for preowned and vintage dress deals.
- Wear an heirloom. Wearing a family heirloom as your "something old" not only saves money, it also adds meaning. If your mom didn't wear a dress you love, consider dresses worn by other friends and family members, including aunts, cousins, and your mom's friends. Many people will be honored to lend their dresses.
- Buy vintage. If you don't have a good vintage option in your family heirlooms, shop vintage shops and used clothing stores. Be sure to check both the wedding dress racks and the vintage formal wear and party dresses. Often with vintage, you'll get the expert craftsmanship of designer wares at a fraction of the price. If you find a dress you love that's not quite your style or size, stores can recommend a tailor who specializes in vintage finds.
- Skip the wedding dresses all together. Brides often joke that as soon as you say "wedding," vendors automatically up the estimate. Especially if you don't want a white gown, or even if you do, shop the formal wear and party dress selections at department stores and boutiques, as well as the bridesmaids' offerings from wedding dress designers.
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Source: Flickr User Yiqun Ding