Wedding Dress on a Budget

So while some wedding plans are underway during the longest pre-engagement ever, at least in anna-time (PST), I started perusing wedding dresses.  I’m loving the fit and flare styles (note to self: ramp up squats workouts), but taking into account the overall wedding budget, the dress is pretty much on the bottom of the list.  I’ll probably post my list of priorities at some point, but my main reason for not wanting to spend too much on the dress is because I can’t wrap my head around spending hundreds, let alone thousands, on a dress I’ll only wear once in my life.  So, in an effort to curb this cost as much as possible, I thought of a few ways that I’m looking into before paying full price.

1) Renting a dress – a couple of my friends tried this route and apparently there’s some stores around SoCal that have great deals with rentals.  There’s some where they tailor and dry clean it for you, and it’s a fraction of the cost than outright owning a dress.  I did ask for figures, though, and it’s still a little pricey since I have a friend that rented a new dress for a thousand though the retail was double that, so I suppose fraction of the cost is relative.  Still, I’m not much for the newest trend or fashion, so if I’m able to rent a dress from a few seasons ago at a great price, then perhaps it’s still an economical way to pay for it.

2) Buying a dress on Ebay – I’m a big fan of selling stuff on Ebay, so I searched for new or pre-owned dresses and discovered there’s a lot out there for way below the retail value.  If I go this route, I’d definitely want to make sure I try a certain designer and style first so I have my sizing right, and also take into account shipping costs, sellers’ ratings, any damage to the dress, etc.  I’m not gonna lie, there’s a small part of me that thinks “bad joujou,” like what if the person I bought it from is selling it because she’s recently divorced (kind of like pre-owned engagement rings), but it’s not such an overwhelming superstition that I would kick this idea to the curb.

3) Shopping around for sales – when I mentioned renting a dress to a few friends, more often than not they would tell me that their dress was only $100-200, and to just go to sales at the popular mainstream wedding dress stores in the area.  Though I instantly feel lazy when it comes to this since the stores’ parking lots are always packed and I don’t want to deal, it’s something to at least try a couple of times to see what I find.  Besides, like most of my grocery or errand shopping, I go first thing in the morning to beat the crowd and avoid the riff-raff, so I’ll most likely do the same thing if I go this route.

4) Buying a dress and then selling it – if I find a dress that I truly want but it comes with a hefty price tag, maybe I’ll have a YOLO moment and buy it, but then sell it aftward.  This is probably the least viable option, though, since 1) I can’t imagine loving a dress so much where I’d spend a ton of money on it, and 2) I’ll probably have to tailor it like I do with 96.45% of my clothes, which would make it tougher to re-sell.

If you have any ideas to curb the wedding dress costs, I’d love to hear them!

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38 thoughts on “Wedding Dress on a Budget

  1. I rented when I got married. I rented 2 dresses, one for the ceremony and one for the reception for $900.00. They alter and dry clean for you, so you just need to go in for a fitting couple of weeks before the wedding and just drop it off afterwards. Korean people usually rent instead of buying, so you’ll be able to find a lot of wedding shops owned by Koreans that rent dresses. Since you’re in SoCal, I don’t think you’ll have problem finding shops. Check them out and see if they have good selection and price.
    Oh, they usually rent accessories such as tiara (if you want one), necklace and earrings without extra charge, so ask them about it if you do decide to check it out.

    • Oh, I like hearing stories of others who have rented, so this was interesting to read – thank you for the feedback! That’s pretty awesome about the accessories, too, it definitely seems worth it to check out. That’s funny, one of the two is, indeed, Korean. This makes me more motivated to go the renting route, thanks Michelle!

  2. My sister-in-law bought a beautiful gown off eBay and she looked amazing! She spent less than $200 on it though I’m not sure if that included alterations. I agree that spending hundreds of dollars on a dress you wear once is ridiculous. Maybe you could find a style that you could alter afterward into an everyday dress?? Perhaps that’s a pipe dream. When you go to the big-box wedding shops, visit on a weekday afternoon/evening. They’re always slammed during the weekends so I would avoid them at all costs during that time. Happy shopping!

    • That’s encouraging to know someone bought one on Ebay, as well, though I’m sure it’s still a buyer beware situation (like most things!). Thanks for the tip on going on a weekday – I know what you mean about weekends, I went a couple of times with girlfriends and it was frustrating just to find a parking spot, let alone dealing with the chaos inside the store! Thanks for stopping by and offering great tips 🙂

  3. We got married on a boat, so my dress was just a $35 white sundress that I picked up from the Anne Taylor loft outlet. I still have it and usually bring it out to wear once or twice a year for a special kick. I think I get more enjoyment wearing it now than I did on the day we gor married since it reminds me of everything else that was awesome about that day that I can’t relive in the same way.

    • You constantly amaze me with the great deals you get – I love Ann Taylor Loft! That’s awesome you’re able to relive and have nostalgic moments wearing your wedding dress. 🙂

  4. A close friend of mine is currently shopping and mentioned that there are flash sales that infrequently happen, but you really have to be in the right place at the right time to hear about them, then drop everything to get there. In the end, she just went to the standard, very expensive shops and bought a standard, very expensive (though admittedly beautiful and beautiful on her) dress.

    I’ve no idea though… it does seem silly that there’s not more of a market for used ones, bought for you to buy from and then sell to. Maybe it’s a cultural shift that has to happen, or maybe it’s just a market that’s waiting for one entrepreneur to jump into the fold

    • I think a couple of my friends have gone to flash sales, I wonder how they get the heads up (actually, they’re really fashionable, so I’m sure they get the inside scoop somehow). I was trolling on the internet last night and there does seem to be a lot of pre-owned wedding dress sites (though I had to Google, wedding sites don’t really advertise them), so there’s some hope besides Ebay that finding a pre-owned dress at a reasonable price still might be in the future! 🙂

  5. If it was me, I would probably go with option 3. Ideally, you only get married once, so don’t become too concerned with saving money that you buy a dress that you aren’t 100% happy with…but then again I’m a bad PF blogger so don’t listen to my advice 😛

    • Haha, I know what you mean – I’d like to get the best bang for my buck, but still be 100% in love with it. But, I’m definitely not crazy enough to spend tons of money on a dress… hopefully I’ll find a great dress on sale like some of my friends have if I go that route!

  6. If your mom/grandma/aunt/cousin or any family or friend has an old dress you might fit into, then you could always alter the dress or do some reconstruction to make it more suited to fit your style. This would be a lot more work but it might turn out really beautiful.

    • It’s funny that you mention that, because B’s dad offered his mom’s wedding dress. I thought it could be a nice tribute in a way for her, since I never got a chance to meet her… we’re visiting in August so I’ll check it out then. I definitely wouldn’t mind putting in extra work. Thanks for the tip and for stopping by, Vanessa!

    • I agree, I think even if I were to buy, I’d still resell it since I don’t see myself keeping something I wouldn’t use again. The best rental places seem to be in LA, so if I head up I’m inviting myself to your hood to meet up for lunch! j/k (maybe :))

  7. Don’t forget it’s not just a dress. My dress on sale at David’s Bridal was $299 but then you have to buy the hoop-esqe skirt slip and the corset as the dress is kind of see through. With the veil and shoes added, my total came to $550. The veil was the most ridiculous price ($75! and I didn’t know the price which is the only reason I got it)

    I also recommend a GOOD thrift/vintage store. Go to a store that is clean inside and organized… sometimes they have beautiful dresses. As someone who is tall and not the thinnest, however, my luck was reduced in that method so I went with a sale dress at David’s Bridal.

    • David’s Bridal is exactly where people told me to go for the #3 option – it sounds like they have really great deals. I think I could probably make do with some shoes I already have, but wow, I didn’t know veils cost that much. That’s ridiculous! Thanks for the advice on some extra costs to take into account, that helps reassess how to budget for things!

  8. My sister bought a beautiful vintage dress. If fit her like a glove without alterations and was $200, what luck! My other sister paid a lot more and the dress was beautiful, but not that memorable. I say go with whatever “speaks” to you if dresses are important to you. I don’t care as much about the dress as I do the food and drinks and reception. I’ll probably go with something simple and inexpensive. The loft dress that Mrs. POPs mentioned sounds my speed 🙂

    • I’m totally with you on the food and drink at the reception – I’d like to make it festive and fun as possible, since I don’t get a chance to see some of my friends as much as I like. The dress is around the priority of flowers (i.e., not as much emphasis).

  9. I typically have nothing to contribute to wedding related fashion question, but I’ve actually got an interesting story. One of mu best friends bought her wedding dress for $30 at goodwill and had it tailored to fit her. She loomed amazing. I didn’t think it would work but it was awesome.

  10. Hi Anna
    I like your suggestions for your well-priced wedding dress hunt! I found a lady that sold wedding dresses through her home that she bought through the internet. I bought a beautiful dress for $300 – the only problem was it needed some TLC from a seamstress. It wasn’t the greatest quality.

    Fortunately, my friend was a good seamstress and became an instant sweat-shop a few days before my wedding! So some pros and cons!

    Good luck with your search!
    Cheers
    Lindsey

    • LOL at instant sweatshop… do you know if the lady still has her site up? I’d be interested in looking into it… thanks for the tip!

  11. My mum actually rented her dress, and pushed me to consider doing the same.

    I don’t know if you know any good seamstresses who might do something tailored for you for cheap?

    Otherwise I’d definitely look into sales, and perhaps even buying a pre-loved dress (after all they’ve only been worn once!), obviously one that’s been drycleaned!

    • I’m definitely lucky in having a tailor that I go to for everything – most places charge $20 for jeans to be hemmed, but they charge $5, plus they’re awesome! Aww, I love the concept of pre-loved! You might have already wrote about it, but what did you end up doing (rent or buy?)?

  12. We actually got married at the courthouse so we saved a lot by not having to get a dress at all thanks to wifey. Seems like a waste but I did feel bad for the Mrs. Seems like everyone wants that expensive dress buying one and selling it could be an option.

    • Yeah, if I don’t rent I would for sure buy then sell, because I don’t really understand keeping it when someone else out there might be able to get a use out of it. A couple of my friends did the courthouse thing, it definitely seems more economical that way!

  13. I think they can all be viable options, though I would likely lean towards #3. The dress was the big thing my mother in law helped with and thankfully she did not send us over the budget we had. It was a good chunk of money, but for something that will likely only be worn once it was a lot of money to unload.

    • Agreed – I don’t really think I would go crazy on spending money for the dress, though I’d still like to find a beautiful one! Thankfully both sides are also helping out, though I’m taking responsibility for the dress.

  14. Wedding dresses are tough. They can be outrageously expensive, and yet – you want to look fabulous at your wedding too! 🙂 The other option I’ll throw out – is to do something non-traditional. You’re getting married in laid-back SD and outdoors (by the water, I can’t remember? sorry!) and there is no rule you have to get married in a big white dress.

    • Ooh, no longer by the water anymore (though it’s not yet booked so don’t want to jinx it), but I definitely don’t want a princess ballgown or anything. I want something I can move around and get my groove on with my guests in! 🙂

  15. My wife got hers at a flash sale. She looked beautiful and it didn’t cost much. Those sales are out there, but they can be hard to find.

    • I’m actually still not sure what a flash sale is – I’ll have to ask my friends who are better shoppers than I. Thanks for the tip, Grayson, I’m sure your wife looked gorgeous in her dress!

  16. I know wedding dresses are important but boy are they expensive for just one day of wearing and then you can literally never wear it again haha.

    I’m gonna fwd this article to my fiancee asap since she’s been watching a little too much say yes to the dress lately haha

    • Haha, oh my – I can’t tell a lie, I love that show, too! And Four Weddings… but yeah, for me personally, I just can’t imagine spending like 6 months’ worth of food on a dress I’ll only wear once. Hopefully one of those options work out since I’d much rather spend on food and drinks.

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