Discount Wedding Dresses 101


Image Gallery: Wedding Gowns The author in her showstopping steal of a gown. See pictures of wedding gowns.
Image courtesy The Long Farewell

Ever since you were a little girl, you've daydreamed about the magnificent dress you'll wear on your wedding day. But back then, you didn't know you might need a small fortune to pay for that gown!

When the average wedding in the United States costs $28,082, and the average cost of today's wedding dress is $1,075, brides have got to think of ways to find the perfect dress while staying within a realistic budget.

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When I began the arduous task of finding my dream gown, I fell in love with a strapless satin Melissa Sweet dress in a fancy boutique downtown. I was shocked at the dollar amount listed on the price tag; for that amount of money, my husband and I could finance our entire honeymoon! After a little online research, I realized that I could buy the same dress -- worn only once by another bride -- for a fraction of the price. I wasn't just elated about finding the gown, but also thrilled to realize I could save a ton of money -- money I could put toward other details of our wedding. In the end, I ended up choosing a different dress (still a steal!) that I loved even more.

Never fear, budget-conscious brides! With the right attitude and a little perseverance, there are many ways for you to score your own wedding dress at a discounted price.

I Thee Web

Get a great dress at a glorious price online.
Get a great dress at a glorious price online.
Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

One of the most popular destinations for bargain-seekers is the Internet.

Ebay and Craigslist are just two Web sites that let you bargain and bid with sellers to find your ideal gown. Other bride-specific sites, like Encorebridal.com and Woreitonce.com, allow you to buy barely worn gowns by the world's most popular, sought-after designers.

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If buying used isn't for you, then consider renting your wedding gown. More than likely, you're only going to wear your wedding dress once, so renting it at a reputable site such as Weddingdressmarket.com or Renttherunway.com can save you hundreds -- if not thousands -- of dollars.

Of course, with the money you save, you can accessorize your dress with the feathered flair pumps you spotted on Zappos.com, or the frilly bib-style statement necklace you tagged as a favorite item on Etsy. The possibilities are endless!

Dresses for the Persistent Bride

A bride at the Bethesda, Md., Filene's Basement clings for dear life to designer wedding dresses.
A bride at the Bethesda, Md., Filene's Basement clings for dear life to designer wedding dresses.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Are you willing to get a little competitive to find the wedding dress of your dreams? If so, lace up your sneakers and prepare for crowds of equally determined, feisty brides!

The annual Running of the Brides event hosted by Filene's Basement is a great time to get a gorgeous dress for an unbeatable price. Just remember to wear a sports bra or swimsuit so you can easily slip in and out of wedding dresses fast.

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If a vintage dress is more your style, begin your hunt at consignment shops and antique stores. I know a girl who went shopping at a consignment store in Canada while she was on vacation. Poking around, she spotted a large hat box in a dusty corner. She opened the box to uncover a fluffy white wedding gown, well-preserved and without any major flaws. She ended up buying the 1960s-style wedding dress for only $10.

Moral of the story: You never know what deals you might find if you've got a little time and patience.

Get Serious About a Seamstress

A talented seamstress can create a dress worthy of a designer label.
A talented seamstress can create a dress worthy of a designer label.
Hemera/Thinkstock

If you've fallen in love with a gown that comes with a hefty price tag, don't despair! With some satin, lace and a similar dress pattern, you can hire a seamstress to recreate the gown of your dreams.

Maybe choosing textiles and beads isn't for you. OK, so you don't have to start from scratch. Just be creative!

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Many bridesmaid dresses come in white; why not choose a really beautiful one for your wedding dress?

Major department stores and boutique retail shops also carry white formal dresses that aren't considered "wedding gowns," but could certainly serve the purpose (given a few alterations). Add a satin sash, or ask a seamstress to sew extra beading around the bust. If you have the luxury of time, wait for post-prom sales in the spring for even better deals on formalwear.

Depending on how you style it, virtually any white dress (or pink, peach or ivory one, for that matter) can look like a wedding dress. Even if you choose a pistachio gown or a black one, if you're walking down an aisle carrying a bouquet, no one's going to question that you're the bride.

Think Outside the Trunk

Carolina Herrera hosts a trunk show to showcase her 2009 bridal collection.
Carolina Herrera hosts a trunk show to showcase her 2009 bridal collection.
Matt Petyon/Getty Images for American Express

Trunk shows are another way to score a designer dress for a discounted price. Call the boutiques and wedding dress shops in your area, and ask what events are on their calendars. Don't be afraid to inquire if they'll be scheduling any sales or specials in the months before your wedding.

Similarly, bridal gown outlets always feature fabulous wedding dresses for only a fraction of the retail prices. These stores carry hundreds of gowns that have been recently discontinued or purchased at wholesale prices, and brides can often find wedding gowns priced as low as $99.

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As a last resort, test your negotiating skills. If the owner of a bridal salon wants to make a sale, he or she might throw in certain extra details for free, such as buttons down the back of the dress or extra length. You never know unless you ask!

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Sources

  • Bourne, Leah. "The World's Most Fabulous, Most Affordable Wedding Gowns." Forbes.com. July 14, 2010. (July 14, 2010).http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/budget-weddings-bridal-gowns-j-crew-ann-taylor-forbes-woman-style-designer-clothing.html?boxes=Homepagechannel
  • Filene's Basement. "Helpful Tips." (July 15, 2010).http://www.filenesbasement.com/running-of-the-brides/
  • Kandel, Bethany. "With This Dress I Thee Wed and Wed and Wed." The New York Times. Jan. 30, 2009. (July 14, 2010).http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/01/fashion/weddings/01fieldnotes.html?_r=1
  • Schultz, Jennifer Saranow. "For Sale: One White Dress, Yet to Be Worn." The New York Times. July 1, 2010. (July 14, 2010).http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/fashion/weddings/04FIELD.html