Finding a Wedding Dress for Less

by Rachel Shreckengast

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I really love a lot of the dresses I've found in the bridal shops, but refuse to pay the price that the shops are asking for them. Is there any way I can get a wedding dress for less?

Where there's a will, there's a way. It all depends on how much work you're willing to do to find the dress you want at a price you're willing to pay. If you're simply looking for the same dresses you find in a bridal store for a discount, one option is to contact a DBS (Discount Bridal Service) representative who's either in your area or takes orders either by postal or electronic mail. Shop around between the representatives if possible as one may be willing to do more of the legwork (or have better connections) and get you a better price on the same gown. I'd say that the savings, on average, are between 10% and 30% off the retail price.

Another option, which is a bit harder to execute, is to contact the manufacturer yourself and see if you can negotiate a price break on the dress. The only problem is that it's hard to find out how to contact them unless you're in the business. If you're looking for more substantial savings and are willing to look at last season's gowns rather than this season's. A bridal outlet store may be what you're looking for. If you're not sure if an outlet is in your area, check out Outletbound and search their database by store brand, store name, or location. Their database contains over 12,000 outlets and 390 outlet centers, but unfortunately it only allows you to search for them in the United States and Canada.

If you don't mind a used gown and one that is usually older in style than anything in the retail stores, you can start looking to save a lot of money. Consignment shops usually have the most current gowns, and you can normally find them for 50%-75% off the retail prices. Thrift shops often have gowns, usually older than those in consignment shops, and usually around 80%-95% off of retail prices. If after all of this checking around you still haven't found what you need, there are still options available to you. Check your local newspaper, look for ads selling gowns, and often you can get the veil thrown in for free. Look into costume rental stores and evening-wear rental stores. You may decide that it makes more sense to rent than buy. You can hire a seamstress to make the gown...or find someone who would be willing to sew the gown as a wedding gift. If you are lucky to find someone though, make sure that they have either a lot of experience sewing different garments (with different fabrics) or that they have experience sewing wedding dresses in particular.

Perhaps the least expensive option concerning wedding gowns is to borrow one. Whether it's your grandmother's, another relative's or a friend's gown, it will have special meaning and will be a special memory that both of you will share. If it needs alterations, my advice is to have it altered, (with permission of course) but to alter it back the original size when you are finished using it. Finally, your wedding dress can be any dress of your choosing. It used to be that brides wore their best dress for their wedding. It's only recently, as history goes, that brides wear the wedding "gown". You can wear a nice suit, a dress from a department store, an outfit that fits in with a theme - or even jeans if you so choose. Hopefully, these tips will give you a starting point which will allow you to save money on the wedding attire of *your* dreams.

Between the months of January through March is usually the best time to find an inexpensive wedding gown. Sometimes the discounts allow you get a gown that competes with thrift store prices, so it's worth checking out especially if you have a wedding dress outlet store in your area.

Rachel is the author of Say I Do to Saving Money on Your Wedding. © 1996

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