Happy Valentine’s Day! The day we celebrate l’amour, in all its forms. And today I’d like to discuss one of the great loves that every bride-to-be (hopefully) feels. No, not for her betrothed- for her wedding dress!
Ah, the pressure brides feel over finding the perfect dress. Maybe they place it on themselves, dreaming of their wedding day since they were little girls, imagining what they would wear. They search high and low, online and in every bridal store, seeking “the one” that will fulfill that fantasy. Or maybe the pressure comes from media, as we see celebrities in visions of satin, tulle, organza, lace… And the choices! So many styles, fabric selections, designer names. It’s enough to make you dizzy. Or give you a stomach ulcer.
Personally, I never really thought about what kind of dress I’d wear at my wedding. In fact, I never really daydreamed about getting married much at all, so I didn’t have my expectations built up too high. In truth, I do drool a little over medieval-inspired dresses, like in Lord of the Rings. But a quick internet search popped that bubble pretty fast- that kind of couture is WAY beyond my university student budget.
But last week, I fell in LOVE. With a dress. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I went back to the bridal shop a second time, and I felt… that feeling. That feeling brides-to-be talk about when they find the one. (cue happy sigh)
Wait a minute, didn’t I already buy a wedding dress?? Yes, it’s true. I did. I am officially (gasp!) a two-dress bride.
I have learned a lot in the wedding planning process. So I’d like to now share
My Top 5 Pieces of Advice to Budget Brides In Regards to The Dress.
1. Don’t buy your wedding dress online. Well, to be more specific, do not buy your wedding gown without trying it on first. Trust me, you really don’t want to skip this step (my first mistake). Remember, this will likely be the most expensive and most photographed outfit you will ever wear. I thought I was saving money by purchasing during an online sale, but with all the extra I paid in shipping and border tax, not to mention the extra I’ve now paid to buy a second dress, I now realize that it wasn’t a smart move and I didn’t save anything. I’ve read many a sad tale of brides who tried to save money by finding a dress they loved in a shop, and then buying online from a discount retailer, or some Chinese knock-off site, only to receive a dress that did not live up to their expectations. So, buyer beware.
2. Take your time. Ok, if your wedding is a few months away you should probably get on it, but with the average length of engagements being 12-16 months these days, you have time. Time to browse (online and in bridal stores), time to save money, time to decide what dress you really want. Since I knew I had to buy a cheap dress (in the wedding world, anything less than $500 is considered “budget”), I rushed one of the most important decisions. I was excited, I was eager, I was naive. So be patient, young bride-to-be. You’ll be happy that you did.
3. Try, try again. You may think you want one style of dress, but find that on your body another is more flattering. A-line, Ballgown, Trumpet, Sheath… keep an open mind during the process. The lesson here is that you should try on LOTS of dresses before making your decision. ‘Nuff said.
4. Be thrifty. There are a lot of ways you can save. Peruse your local Craigslist or ebay ads for pre-owned gowns; it’s a great way to get your dream dress at a fraction of the original cost. Find out if there is a bridal swap being organized in your city, or local bridal shops having a trunk sale, blowing out last year’s styles at steeply discounted prices. Buying “off the rack” from a shop is another great way to save (and how I could afford my second dress), since the “floor model” can’t be sold at full price. Or go the custom route. Can you or someone who loves you sew up a storm? This is a great way to save money AND get a unique wedding gown that fits you perfectly.
5. Just be yourself. If you’re a budget bride, you already know that your wedding won’t be chandeliers, chivari chairs and limo chauffeurs. Don’t get caught up in what you think you “should” wear on your wedding day. Whether you wear a short cotton summer dress, or a white linen pant suit, or a 30-pound satin ballgown- you will still be the center of attention and you will still achieve the same goal (marriage). Remember, it’s your day, your way. Vintage romantic, spunky rockabilly, edgy Steampunk, or trendy and modern… your wedding should reflect who you and your partner are. Express yourself!
Your guests will be your closest family and friends anyway, right? So why stress over trying to impress those who already love you? It’s not the dress (no matter what it cost) that will make you happy on your wedding day- it’s all the love you will feel as you marry your beloved, and sharing that moment (ideally, at least. If a dress makes you happier than your future husband/wife, well, that’s another situation altogether).
So, to re-cap my mistakes lest you repeat them: I bought online, thinking I was saving money. I didn’t try on enough dresses to know what style looked best on me, and I didn’t check out my options in the local bridal shops. Months later when I realized I was very disappointed in the dress, I shopped locally and found a lovely strapless, sweetheart lace with a sweep train, on sale “off the rack” for $200. Here she is!
If I could turn back time, I would have waited, and saved myself the expense and hassle of buying two dresses. Hopefully, I will be able to re-sell my original dress, or else it will end up being the most expensive Hallowe’en costume. Ever.
To other budget brides that have walked the aisle, what advice would you add to this list?