If there is one piece of advice I could impart on future style-obsessed brides, it would be this – find a dress you love. Then, find a way to make the dream dress a reality. ‘Making it a reality’ does not mean breaking your budget – it just means that you should be resourceful and have to have patience until the perfect opportunity and price point comes along.
Three of the best ways to make a pricey dream dress fit into your budget are:
1. Shopping Wedding Dress Trunk Shows
2. Shopping Wedding Dress Sample Sales
3. Shopping Second Hand Wedding Dresses
Shopping Wedding Dress Trunk Shows
The lowdown: During a trunk show, the designer brings their entire latest wedding dress collection into a store, along with a representative from the company – who is sometimes even the designer of the gowns – to consult with brides on which dress suits them best.
Why Wedding Dress Trunk Shows Save: Trunk shows are great on many levels – first and foremost, the bride has a chance to see the entire collection, which she would usually have to hunt around multiple cities to find. Secondly, the designer or representative is on hand and can let you know which alterations would be possible, or if you can make a semi-custom gown by combining elements from multiple designs. Many times they even do these changes free of charge, or for a minimal fee, which can be a huge saving.
The biggest savings at a trunk show, however, come from the 10 – 15% customary discount on the dresses during the week of the show. If you are in love with a dress but it’s out of your budget, let the representative know – they have a certain amount of power and flexibility in the pricing, and most would love to help a bride afford her dream dress.
Keep In Mind: Though you can land your dream dress at a discount during a trunk show, the maximum discount is usually 15%. So if the dress is far out of your budget, consider shopping wedding dress sample sales or buying an already worn gown.
Shopping Wedding Dress Sample Sales:
The Lowdown: Wedding dress sample sales happen usually twice every year – once in winter and once at the end of summer. During a sample sale, the previous year or two’s sample wedding dresses are sold at a huge discount to brides.
Why Wedding Dress Sample Sales Save: Buying a sample wedding dress is one of the best ways to find your dream gown at a hugely discounted price. The sample dresses are slashed in price anywhere from 50% to 90% off the retail price. Finding your $5,000 dream gown for under $1,000? Priceless.
To find your dream gown at sample sales, focus your hunt on last season’s wedding dress collections, which are usually still available for viewing on the designer’s website. Then, find the nearest bridal store locations that carry the designer’s gowns, call them up and ask when they have their sample sales. If possible, sign up for their email lists so you are the first to know when the dresses are going to be discounted.
Designate a new Gmail address for this (and all wedding related marketing emails) to avoid your regular inbox getting jammed, and check weekly for any sample sale updates. Also, shop for your dress early if you want to snag a gorgeous wedding gown at a sample sale – they only come around once or twice a year, so if you missed the last one you might have to wait months for the next.
Keep In Mind: Always assess the condition of the sample wedding dress with a keen eye before buying. It might be 80% off, but if delicate lace is torn in multiple areas, it might also be beyond repair, or could require pricey alterations. A general rule of thumb is to avoid buying more than 2 sizes above your usual wedding gown size. Any larger than that and the alterations can impede the original design of the dress (and will also be very costly). Since most sample dresses are a size 8 or 10, sample sales work best for brides who fit into a size 6 or 8 wedding gown (street size 4 – 6).
Shopping Second Hand (Already Worn) Wedding Dresses
The Lowdown: Many brides sell their once-worn wedding dresses after their wedding to recoup costs, and future brides can snap up their dream gown for a fraction of the usual price.
Why Shopping Second Hand Saves: Once a wedding dress has been worn by a bride, its value immediately drops by 40 – 60%, depending on the designer (the more in demand designer dresses might not drop in value as much). A second hand dress has usually been ordered brand new and only worn once, and for this reason is usually in better condition than oft-abused sample sale gowns.
Another great benefit to buying a second hand wedding dress is that your dream wedding dress can be found in a range of sizes instead of the standard sample size 8. This means a better chance of the gown fitting you to a tee as well as lower alteration costs. Second hand gowns, unlike sample sales, can also be shopped online from brides across the country, increasing the pool of gowns you can choose from.
Another thing to consider is that sample sales will only happen with gowns that are at least one or two seasons old. But many May brides order the latest year’s collection in January, meaning that you can find this season’s dream gown for half the price. To locate your gown check websites like Once Wed, which have a plethora of dresses – both sample sale gowns and once worn gowns.
The final benefit (and potentially the biggest benefit, for budget conscious brides) to buying a second hand wedding dress is that it can usually be sold again after your wedding for almost exactly what you paid for it. A once-worn dress is only worth about half its original cost, but a twice-worn dress is nearly the same as a once-worn dress. This means that even if you go over budget with buying a second hand dream gown, you can rest easy knowing you will be able to recoup almost all of the purchase cost if you can part with it after the wedding.
Keep in Mind: The value of the gown is only as good as how the last bride took care of the dress. Make sure to find out if the dress has been cleaned immediately (within a week or two) following the wedding, since this means that most stains should have lifted from the fabric. Also ask for detailed pictures of any stains that might still be on the dress, and decide if you can live with them or camoflauge them in the fabric.
Finally, be sure to find out the exact measurements the wedding dress has been altered down to – just becuase you might fit into the designer’s size 4, does not mean you will fit into the size 4 gown another bride ordered and took in several inches as she lost weight before her wedding. If possible, the best way to buy a wedding gown second hand is to find a local bride selling it who will allow you to stop by and try the dress on – then you can be absolutely sure of its condition and fit before buying it.
Hope you and your loved ones are enjoying a wonderful holiday season! Check back next week for more tips from The Stylish Soiree on finding your dream wedding dress.
Warm Wishes, Yelena