I didn’t have a traditional wedding — you know, the type where you spend about the cost of a down payment for a house — so, every so often, I fantasize about what I would have done. (It’s also my chance to muse on “this is what I would do if we were going to have a renewal ceremony.”)
Here are a few views of the dress I bought for my wedding nearly nine years ago. Guess where I bought my dress? The now-defunct Robinson’s May. Guess how much I paid? The dress was less than $20 because it was on clearance. You know, for a last-minute wedding overlooking the ocean, I think it turned out pretty well.
It’s not popular among wedding bloggers to say such a thing, but I’ve never been one to just parrot the party line — wedding dresses do not have to cost a lot. In fact, I’m the type of person whose pleasure in a thing diminishes as the cost goes up. I think you’ll find that you will enjoy your wedding day much more if it doesn’t keep you in debt for the next 10 years. So, let’s start with the dress and where you could possibly get it for less than, say, $500.
In 2012, the national average spent on a wedding dress was $1,211 — that’s up almost a $100 from 2011. That’s a lot of money for a dress you’ll probably only wear for one day. So here are a few ways to save on that Big Day Dress.
Local Consignment Stores
Los Angeles has a wealth of consignment stores, so you Angelenos are lucky. You’ll pay through the nose when it comes to location and food, sure, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on your dress. Plus, we have the benefit of Hollywood studio cast-offs.
Online consignment and trading websites
As with books, movies, CDs and pretty much anything else, the internet is a money-saving boon for budget brides outside of the big cities. There are sites like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, Encore Bridal and Tradesy that sell previously worn wedding dresses for a fraction of the retail price. For example, on PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, there’s an Oleg Cassini gown that retails for $1,000 — and the asking price is $475. On Encore Bridal, there is an adorable David Fielden gown that retails for $900 — but the asking price is $400. And personally, if I were having a big wedding, I would snatch up this Alfred Angelo gown on Tradesy — it was originally $957, but you can have it for just $320.
Women’s clothing retailers
I absolutely love looking at the clothes on Ann Taylor and Loft, even though most of them are out of my price range, but on the flip side, the wedding gowns a store like Ann Taylor offers are likewise beautiful and affordable (compared to most wedding dress boutiques). The gowns pictured above? None of them are more than $550. Sure, that’s more than the $500 limit we said we were aiming for, but these are brand new. Plus, if you go out to one of their retail stores or even an outlet, you can probably comb their clearance racks for a bigger deal. Also, make sure to check out Macy’s — they have some nice options when it comes to less formal wedding gowns and dresses you can wear at your reception to be more comfortable and they are all super inexpensive.
Don’t forget your bridesmaids
Weddings are famous for breaking friendships between brides and bridesmaids. One way to prevent this from happening is to give your bridesmaids more flexibility when it comes to their dresses — either by finding them an inexpensive option or allowing them to choose an option that fits their body best in a color you specify. Both Target and JC Penney have some nice options for bridesmaids dresses for under $100.
Your wedding day is your big day, but make it a fun celebration, rather than an opportunity to recreate some vision you saw in a magazine. You will enjoy it more, your husband-to-be, in-laws-to-be and parents will be grateful and your bridesmaids will be happy to not have to go into debt to participate.