Spend Less on Your Wedding Dress

by Shaunna Privratsky

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Congratulations, you are getting married! Now you need to find a wedding dress. Every bride wants a flattering, fabulous dress, yet she should not have to max out her credit card or take out a loan to purchase the dress of her dreams.

Dozens of women told me that their number one regret was paying too much for their wedding dress. Several confessed that they were still paying the bill two, three or even five years later. If you need to purchase a dress, here are a few innovative ways to spend less on your dress.

The first step is to get an idea of your favorite style and establish your budget. Page through bridal magazines or go window shopping with family or friends. You may decide that you desire a traditional full skirt with petticoats and a long train or you may settle on the simplicity of an unadorned gown of exceptional style.

Now you can begin searching for your ultimate dress. In a typical bridal shop in Fargo, North Dakota the average wedding dress costs $630 to $850. The couture or designer dresses run much higher, in the $1,100 to $3,200 ranges. Even the "discount" dresses are only marked down 20%.

A smart alternative is to check out your local thrift or second-hand store. Virtually every city has one or more thrift stores and most carry wedding dresses at extremely low prices. The dresses have been professionally dry-cleaned and repaired. Some have never been worn: bridal shops frequently donate gowns if the line has not sold well or if it is considered "dated".

I browsed eleven thrift stores in the Fargo/Moorhead area and found a plethora of wedding dresses, ranging in style, size and price. All of the dresses were under $80. One striking dress had a five-foot, flowing train, a sweetheart neckline with a delicate lace overlay and dazzling pearls and gems scattered throughout. The price tag: $75.

One store offered six brand new dresses with the tags still attached in assorted sizes. The same store had a rack of new bridesmaid's dresses in soft shades and neutrals. Another store was running a "bag sale" - all the clothes you can fit in a large paper grocery bag for $4. I saw a woman stuff two wedding dresses in a bag. She told her friend, "My daughter is getting married and if she does not like either of them I will just sell them at my garage sale for $20 each."

Another place to find tremendous bargains is in the classified ads. Almost every day there are wedding dresses for sale, usually described in exquisite detail, for up to 75% off of what the bride originally paid. Here is an actual ad from The Forum:

"Cream colored crepe wedding dress, sheath style, short sleeves with pearls & beading, never worn, size 14, $250. (701)-555-5555." A single phone call could help you acquire the perfect dress.

Often-overlooked sources for wedding dresses are garage sales. I once bought a pretty wedding dress and veil for $.50 for my three-year-old daughter to play dress-up with. I even wore it one Halloween when I took my kids trick-or-treating, to the amusement of our neighbors. If you find a dress at a garage sale, you have to be more careful. The dress might need costly repairs, cleaning or alterations.

If you just cannot bear the thought of wearing a gently used dress, consider the clearance racks at department stores. Many social dresses are as elaborate as a wedding dress and a surprising number are white, shades of cream or cafe `au lait. The dresses run the gamut from classic minimalist styles to fanciful creations fit to adorn a luminous bride. Depending on the season, you might find an incredible bargain for 50%-80% off the original price.

When you find the most spectacular wedding dress in the world within your budget, you will look as radiant as you feel on your wedding day. The money you save can be used for the rest of the wedding or your honeymoon. Best of all, you will not regret spending too much on your wedding dress as you start your new life together.

Shaunna Privratsky became an expert in personal finance out of necessity. Between writing, reading and gardening, she is always on the lookout for bargains. Please sign up for the free newsletters at The Discount Diva. You can also visit Shaunna on Google+.

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