I’m a married woman, so I’ve been through the whole wedding process, so I know how daunting it is. I’ve searched high & low for wedding dresses. And you are about to reap the benefits of my research. Pls be aware that I will be speaking the honest truth.Some facts: Whether we like it or not, the divorce rate is about 50% in the US. And the number 1 reason why people get divorced? Money. Realistically, it’s simply not economical to spend $7,000 on a wedding dress, but lots of women do. Remember, this is a dress you’re wearing once, and only once, & never again. If you buy a wedding dress it’ll stay in the garment bag, in your closet. (Unless you have more than 1 reception. Or give it away / sell it.) On the brighter side: the most important thing is the bond you will have with your future husband, not what kind of party or dress you’re going to have. Yes, I know people will say that wedding pictures last forever, but nothing trumps the relationship that you have with him. (Frankly speaking, No one cares about the wedding dress in divorce court.) Not everything went according to plan at my wedding. I didn’t get everything that I had dreamt of. But in the end, I knew it didn’t matter, because it’s just a party. What matters the most is my marriage. If your relationship is in shambles, you’re not going to care about the wedding.
Spoiler alert: Think Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex and the City movie. Originally she planned a big wedding, but in the end she got married in a simple dress of her choice, at city hall. Her reception was in a diner with her best friends & their families. This is what I mean! It’s not always about the wedding or the dress.
If you’re working with a wedding dress on a budget, (as most of us are) you have to think creatively on how you’re going about it. And think carefully about which dress you want & if you can afford it. Many brides are impulsive & jump at the first thing they love, but realistically you will probably try on a few dresses before you find one that fits you well. Here are my suggestions for wedding dresses on a budget, and each one has a trick:
If you don’t care to keep the dress: consider renting one. Like I said before, men rent tuxedos all the time! Why can’t women rent clothes? In big cities across America, wedding studios offer package services to couples, that include (almost) everything you need in a wedding. FYI, most of these wedding studios are going to be Chinese/Korean. But who cares? You’re in it to save money & many of them are catering to all kinds of people. This tends to be more of an Asian tradition (renting wedding clothes) so people have started their own businesses here. I live in NYC and I can honestly tell you there are at least a dozen wedding studios in our city alone.
They can offer you package services (like for mine) that include ALL photos, video, wedding dresses, tuxedos, bridesmaids, makeup, hair, wedding albums, fittings, dry cleaning & limo rental for $4000. That’s how much mine cost anyway. (There are cheaper packages) Considering how much they give you, this is a good price. For me this was great because I don’t want to hang onto a garment I will never wear again. Our wedding studio did a great job with the photos & helped make our wedding memorable. If you live in a big city, again Yelp.com is a great resource. Search ‘wedding studios’ and read the reviews. It will save you lots of money. Trick: Make sure you go with someone who does have good reviews/one someone else recommends to you. I heard one studio lost all the photos for a couple on their wedding day. You don’t want that to happen to you.
Above: Marchesa Notte dress on renttherunway.com, rental price $175, retail price $1200
Another option of renting dresses: renttherunway.com. They usually specialize in special occasion garments: cocktail, bridesmaid, & black tie, but now they have finally started to offer bridal!!! And now they have stores in D.C., NYC, and Las Vegas. The great thing about them is that they rent out designer clothes (usually) for up to a week. And you don’t even have to worry about the dry cleaning, and return shipping is free. If you would like, you can have your bridesmaids rent from there, too. You’re not going to find a wide variety of wedding dresses there as say you would i.e. in a bridal salon, but you do get to rent designer wedding gowns at great prices. You can even contact a stylist on their website for their advice! Trick: The unfortunate thing about buying/renting anything online is that there is no option to ‘try it on’. (Basically you can only try it on after you’ve paid for it) Tip: If you live near one of their stores, it’s best to go in, try it on, & reserve it yourself. What else you can do: they have option of contacting them if ‘the dress doesn’t fit’. They say that they most likely can overnight another dress to you for $13 as another option. This would be the best option if you end up not liking the dress you rented.
Above: a wedding dress that’s on lightinthebox.com, currently only $90!
Another dress on lightinthebox.com, currently $180
Buying the least expensive wedding dresses: on sites like lightinthebox.com that are based in China. Like I mentioned before, they sell everything from evening gowns, bridesmaids, to wedding dresses. I also mentioned before that 1 of my bridesmaids got her dress off lightinthebox.com, so I know it’s a trustworthy site. Their wedding dresses start around $80; you can find big ball gowns for around $200. You will also find similar sites like jjshouse.com, & milanoo.com. The trick: These dresses are coming to you all the way from China so DO NOT wait til the last minute. Think AT LEAST a month. The shipping time varies greatly from dress to dress; at lightinthebox.com a dress could be shipped to you the next day or it could take a month to get to your house. I looked at jjshouse.com, their wait time is about 1 month, whereas milanoo.com takes 30-40 days. It all depends on the availability of their dresses. Also the key to wedding dresses is trying them on, & this is made more complicated the fact that it is coming to you from overseas. They do offer options on ‘made to fit’ measurements, but I don’t think this is a wise idea because then it is difficult to return. (that is, if you need to. If you don’t like the dress then it’s VERY difficult to return) You can enjoy the low prices there, but what it lacks is the ability to try on more than 1 dress at a time. Tip: Think about what silhouettes flatter your figure & go from there. If you think you look fabulous in an A-line dress, or ball gown, then let that be your starting point.
Above: a Melissa Sweet dress that’s currently on Tradesy.com for $275
If you want to keep the dress & don’t mind buying used: Tradesy.com. They sell lots of wedding dresses used, & you can search by your size. You can buy a used wedding dress for a couple hundred dollars. i.e. a wedding dress that cost $7,000 might cost $2,000. And you can find all kinds of designer label wedding dresses! Some are expensive, but you get a big discount. And you can sell yours off when you’re done with it. I myself bought a wedding dress off Tradesy.com for only $100!!! The trick: Returns are complicated with wedding dresses on Tradesy.com. Each dress is being sold by individual people; they’re being shipped to you directly from the seller, & they each have their own return policy. READ the fine lines before you buy. If the seller is unwilling to return, you just bought the gown, & have to keep it whether you like it or not. It will be a big headache if you bought it, tried it, & don’t like it. Now it would be your turn to sell it off on the site. Tip: try on a few dresses on in a bridal salon near you, and THEN search for it on Tradesy.com. i.e. if you love a dress you tried on by Monique Lhullier, search on Tradesy.com for her dresses, & see if they have your dress & size. (Or a size close to you) Hey, people read books all the time at Barnes & Noble, only to buy it later on online for a cheaper price. Why can’t you do the same?
Above: White by Vera Wang, at David’s Bridal, $400
Above: Truly by Zac Posen, also at David’s Bridal, currently $400
A David’s Bridal collection gown, only $100!
If you want to keep the dress: the best thing for the budget bride: David’s Bridal. David’s Bridal has changed a lot recently, now offering a more affordable lines like White by Vera Wang, and Truly by Zac Posen. Sometimes they have sales & wedding dresses under $100!! (And the prices go up from there) The great thing is that you can go in person & try the wedding dresses on. The trick: they offer alterations but the cost is NOT included with the price of the dress. You can try bargaining with them on the price of alterations, & if not, bring it to your own tailor for fixing. At least you are more familiar with your own tailor & do the bargaining there. I find it always better to trust your own tailor. (My husband had a bad experience with alterations at Men’s Wearhouse & their suits.)
Above: Wedding dress by Adrianna Papell, Macy’s, currently $183
Other sources for the budget bride, if you want to keep the dress: Macy’s. Check your local Macy’s if they have a bridal department & what they offer, for not all Macy’s carries them. The great thing about David’s Bridal & Macy’s is that you can pick out your wedding dress, & your bridesmaid dresses all at the same place! Another great thing is that you can also open a registry at Macy’s, but that is entirely up to you. Trick: Again, price of alterations not included.
Places online that also carry wedding dresses: hautelook.com. If you haven’t heard of it by now, they are online exclusive website that you have to sign up for membership. (don’t worry, they’re free) Their specialty is selling designer clothes at a discount. Usually they operate by week long sales, and then it’s over. Hautelook.com quite often has sales on evening wear, and occasionally you will see a white evening dress in there. In general, they sell clothes & accessories at GREAT prices. And their evening dresses usually start around $80 and can go up in the hundreds. They won’t have ballgowns, however, but I feel both places are worth looking. If not, you can also get your accessories on there. Trick: Read the fine lines before buying. Some sales are ‘final’ and the items are not returnable. Double check before you buy.
A dress from ASOS.COM, that’s only $112!
A new source for wedding dresses: ASOS.COM! They have finally started their own wedding dress section! This popular British shopping site, now offers wedding & bridesmaid! And they ship all over the world!
Another tip: Buy a white dress that’s not a wedding gown. That will save you thousands of dollars! I read stories about how some brides went with a white bridesmaid dress, instead of a wedding gown. Think of all the money you’ll save! There are women who are quite crafty & end up altering / embellishing their own dress. It’s up to you to be creative!
If you bought the dress: (Pls also look on my post for evening wear) THIS is the time to invest in a good tailor. It’s also wiser to buy the dress in a size that slightly larger. You can always get a larger garment, & have it taken in. You can NEVER make a smaller dress bigger. Go around to your dry cleaners, talk to the tailors, & ask them how much they charge. You can shop around, & bargain with them on the prices of alterations. You will be spending a lot of money on your wedding & this is NOT the time to be shy. If your fiance, groomsmen, & bridesmaids are ALL buying their garments, this is where you can negotiate. (Give me a lower price, because I will be bringing in business for you.) A tailor can make your dress more fitted, hem it, or fix your zipper if it breaks, etc. A tailor can save your life (really, your dress) on your wedding day.
Important: Never buy a wedding dress far, far in advance. (Think like a year) Our weight fluctuates all the time. I don’t know about you, also my taste changes. There might be something I loved last year, but I don’t love anymore. Weddings are stressful affairs, & you may gain or lose weight with the impending day. Also there’s another trick that there are some places that are making the dress from scratch, & the garment making process takes time, on top of time to make alterations. Buy it maybe 6 months in advance.
Fashion no no: Don’t wear sneakers under your dress. *sigh* This was made popular by the film, Father of the Bride starring Steve Martin. This is super tacky & people WILL see your shoes. They will peek out when you walk, & they will DEFINITELY see your shoes when you’re ready to throw the garter. It’s best to buy a comfortable sandal or even flats that you can stand in for hours. If it’s a high heel, wear it around the house the day before to break them in.
Above: Alicia Keys & her beach side wedding
Important: Take into consideration where your wedding is going to be, along with the dress. If you plan on having a beach side wedding, sorry, you won’t be able to trek a ball gown there. Packing it will be a nightmare & you will get sand all over the train.
Important tip: BUY the dress before you buy any accessories. I went into a bridal accessory store once & the sales lady advised me it’s better to pick the dress first & then buy the accessories later. Which makes sense, but most women don’t stop to think about it. She told me that some women buy the accessories first, & then buy the dress, & they end up not matching. So basically they’ve just wasted their money. (That is, unless you can return them)
Tip: If you do get a ball gown with a train, it would greatly help if the dress “hooks” in the back. Many ball gowns with trains give you the option of taking a loop (usually hidden in the lining) and hook it onto one of the buttons, making the train shorter & allowing you more freedom to move during your wedding.
If you want to go with the something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: This is where you can utilize your accessories. You can get some nice high heeled shoes in a light, light blue, that can also match your dress. Or wear something blue in your jewelry, or even mix in some blue flowers into your bouquet. (I recommend light blue flowers) Something old: I still find that jewelry is the best way to go. Borrow something from your mother/grandmother that you can wear for the day. That could be something borrowed and old. Doesn’t have to be anything big, maybe just a ring, earrings, or a hair pin. Something new: I think the wedding dress & the engagement ring is enough for the ‘something new’, no?
I hope this has helped you in your search for the dress of your dreams! I will write in a future post, the planning of the wedding. (I felt that it was all too much for one post) Good luck & hope you have a great wedding!
Other articles in my wedding series!