Secrets to Wedding Gown Shopping For Less

by Justin Davis

 Secrets to Wedding Gown Shopping For LessIf you or someone you know is planning a wedding soon, do you know how much of your/their wedding day budget is actually going towards your wedding day look? Well, the average wedding dress in the U.S. cost $1,289 in 2011, up 20% from 2009. When you factor in the additional $581 that brides are spending on wedding day accessories, it starts to get pricey.

So, before you say yes to the dress, here is a cheatsheet on what every bride should consider before buying the most expensive piece of clothing you may ever own.


Be Faithful to Your Budget

Know how much you want to spend on that dress — and stick to it. You don’t have to be Kim Kardashian to look fantastic on your wedding day, as you'll see below. Make sure you also factor in the cost of alterations. Almost every dress needs to be altered, the price of which is rarely, if ever, included with the dress.


Shop the Unexpected

Unique spots like The Bridal Garden in New York offer one-of-a-kind designer and couture dresses at up to 75% off retail prices. Located on the fringe of the city’s garment district, the salon features hundreds of dresses, most of which are donated by internationally recognized designers, such as Angel Sanchez and Ulla Maija. Proceeds of all sales are directed to the benefit of area school children.


“Off the Rack” Steals

While half the brides surveyed are buying gowns at independent, local bridal salons, doing so doesn’t have to equate to high prices. If you fall in love with a dress you try on at the salon, ask if you can have that particular dress, as opposed to placing an order for a new gown from the designer. Yes, others will have tried on the dress before you, and in addition to alternations, you will have to pay for cleaning. Still, choosing to buy “off the rack” will save you at least 50 percent off retail prices.


Second Time's a Bride's Charm

Sales of previously worn gowns have exploded on the Internet, and e-commerce has only made it easier. Consider this: 1 in 10 brides this year will sell their dress, give it to another bride, or remodel it into another style so that it can be worn again, according to the BRIDES survey. Sites like Recycled Bride, Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses, and Once Wed offer thousands of dresses from designers such as Carolina Herrera and Monique Lhuillier for as much as 90 percent of retail prices. The sites, all of which are free to buyers (Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses charges sellers a one-time $25 listing fee), are a place for buyers and sellers to connect. It’s a similar concept to ebay or craigslist, only it’s specific to bridal dresses. While prices vary, you can reasonably expect to pay 50 percent of today’s retail price for a dress in good condition that has been worn once in the past two-and-a-half years. Terms of the sale, such as shipping, insurance, and returns are set by the seller, but can be negotiated by the buyer.


The Morning After

The honeymoon is over- now what? Almost half the brides surveyed said they will pay a specialty cleaner such as Hallak Cleaners to preserve their dress in a museum-quality box. Depending on where you live, however, this service can cost $500 or more. My favorite idea? Refashioning your wedding dress into beautiful outfits for your children yet to come.



[Courtesy: Heather Bandur,]

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