Brides on a budget can still get the dress of their dreams without breaking the bank if they do a little grunt work and planning.
The average cost of a wedding dress in the U.S. is around $1,100, but experts say fiscally-savvy brides can save 50% or more on their gowns if they know where to look.
“Plan in advance,” says wedding expert Linda DiProperzio. “The sooner you start looking for a dress, the more time you'll have to bargain shop. You'll have the time to search for sample sales, trunk shows and other bargains in your area.”
Budget Saver No.1: Buy Used
Rewind just a decade, and most brides would balk at the idea of buying a used gown. But the downturn in the economy has ushered in an era of “chic frugality” which has eliminated the stigma of purchasing used.
“After the economy crashed girls realized they could get their dream dress that was worn for maybe five hours,” says Josie Daga founder of PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. “Brides are realizing how smart it is.”
Websites like HustleYourBustle.com and PreOwnedWeddngDresses.com allow brides to sell their used dresses and enable soon-to-be brides to get a deal on a gown. According to Daga, brides can save 50% on used gowns on her site as well as buy sample dresses for 25-35% off. “We’ve seen dresses go for up to 90% off. There’s a lot of money to be saved.”
Brides who paid full price for their gown can save money by selling it after their big day. Although there is a lot of nostalgia associated with preserving a dress in hopes of future generations walking down the aisle in it, selling it guarantees it won’t sit unopened in a box. “We hear from bride after bride that the dress is too beautiful to sit in a closet. They want someone to love it,” says Daga.
Budget Saver No.2: Frequent Sample Sales
Brides that want to see a dress in person before buying it should check out sample sales to snag their dress at a discount.
Wedding retailers and designers hold sample sales discounting their dresses to make room for new inventory once or twice a year and are prime grounds for finding a big-named label on the cheap.
There are websites dedicated to listing trunk shows and sample sales across the country to help brides plan accordingly. According to Kim Forrest, editor of Weddingwire.com, dresses at sample sales are typically sizes 10 or 12, which is size 6 or 8 in regular clothes. Trunk shows, where a store features a particular designer’s collection, can also include discounts, says Forrest.
Whether you are at a sample sale or in a store, Forrest recommends avoiding gowns with lots of beading and embellishments because they tend to be more costly. “Instead, buy a relatively simple and unadorned gown and add a beaded sash or brooch to amp up the glam factor,” she says.
Budget Saver No.3: Rent a Dress
The groom and groomsmen typically rent their tuxedos for the big day so it’s not a stretch for the bride to do the same.
More websites are popping up that allow brides to rent their dress for the big day. “It sounds weird, but if you're really short on cash, you can rent a designer gown for the big day,” says DiProperzio.
Budget Saver No.3: Buy Last Year’s Style
Wedding dress style do fluctuate from year to year, but the basics tend to stay the same: long and white.
According to DiProperzio, buying from last season can save you up to 30%. “Unless you have a guest that is in the bridal gown industry, no one is going to know if you're dress is this season or last,” she says.