Wedding dress shopping can be one of the most exciting, and overwhelming, parts of wedding planning. Before you step foot in a bridal store, it’s important to have a budget in mind because pricing will vary drastically. Sometimes the dress is something my brides have dreamt about their entire life, and they’ll set aside thousands for their dress, others don’t see the reason in spending that much and only set aside a few hundred. I’ve found that most brides are instinctively in one camp or the other, but I would strongly encourage you to consider your overall budget before you begin shopping. It will definitely depend on how important the dress is to you personally, but unless the dress is being paid for by someone else or it’s not part of your overall budget, it’s just not worth overspending on the dress and then not being able to afford the rest of the wedding. So what can you do to help save while still finding the dress of your dreams? Here are my suggestions on some of the most cost effective options:
OfferUp and Craigslist
I’ve found that OfferUp tends to be a little bit better, but there are a lot of people that post their wedding dresses online to try to sell on their own. I actually bought my own wedding dress on OfferUp for only $200. :) There’s a little bit of luck here with finding a style you like, and having it be your size, or at least close enough that you could alter it, but it’s worth taking a look!
One thing I love about Tradesy is that they have a wedding category with a variety of designers and price ranges. This is also a great way to shop online, but eliminates any bargaining that may happen directly with the bride, which may come up with OfferUp or Craigslist.
For those in Seattle, Blue Sky Bridal and I Do Bridal Too are both very reputable secondhand dress boutiques. Shopping at a secondhand shop is great because they’ll have a variety of styles and sizes and they’ll offer appointments for you to try on dresses with family and friends, giving you that more traditional “say yes to the dress” moment.
The "Not Actually a Wedding Dress" Option
The have a variety of designer dresses that you can rent, and you can search by the style of the dress, as well as the color. They have lace, sequins, full length gowns, etc. and I've definitely seen some that could pass as wedding gowns. These are only rentals, though, so if you want to keep the dress, this is not a good option. If you don't want to keep it, though, then this is an awesome option!
I had a bride this year that bought a floor length white dress from Nordstrom. They had a $25,000 budget, but she just didn't want to spend it on a dress since it was outdoors and pretty casual. Again, not technically a wedding dress, but no one will know, and really, no one will question it either... No one questions the bride's dress on her wedding day ;)
The difference between a formal white prom dress and a white wedding dress can be very little, so try searching places that sell prom dresses. Sometimes swapping out the search term "wedding" for "prom" or eliminating it and just searching "formal white dress" will give you different results and a different price point.
Traditional Wedding Dresses
For brides that prefer a traditional gown, I recommend checking out local boutique shops, as well as the big name stores like David’s Bridal. For those in the Seattle area, here are some great boutiques that I'd recommend: I Do Bridal in Greenwood, LaineeMeg Bridal in Snohomish, and MeaMarie in Kirkland. Each store may offer different designers, overall styles, and price points, so be sure to do your research before visiting. With small stores, it’s also important to schedule an appointment in advance to ensure you get assistance with one of their staff.
Expos and Trunk Shows
Finally, some of the bridal stores will have dress sales at local wedding shows. It's best to have a style in mind that you're looking for since the shows are large and can get crowded. Often times, though, wedding dresses are discounted, which makes it a great option for finding a new dress at a great price.
Phew, that’s a lot of information! So where do you begin?
If the dress isn't gut wrenchingly important to you, I’d recommend beginning with secondhand shops and non-traditional dress options first. For me, there was just an extra bit of satisfaction in finding the perfect dress for a great price that made it feel extra special to wear on my wedding day, but that could just be me, a thrift-a-holic ;) When you find a dress that fits your personality and you feel comfortable with the price point, then you know you're on the right track. And, when you look good and didn't overspend, you'll actually look more comfortable on your wedding day. Trust me, you can tell when brides are scared to do anything in the dress because it was super expensive or way fancier than their typical style. And although looking at gorgeous gowns can be fun, there's nothing worse than falling in love with something out of your price range. So, along those lines, my last piece of advice is that once you find your dress, stop searching. I've actually had a few brides end up buying two dresses because they kept looking after they purchased the first one, and they always regret it. Remember, dresses aren't returnable, and at the end of the day you can only wear one, so don't spend money on two of them. Now, go ahead and start shopping!