Wedding Dress Shopping? You need to have Two Budgets...

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How much would you spend on a wedding dress? In recent years there’s been two opposing trends. The first is the not-so-surprising fact that wedding dresses, along with weddings themselves, have become more expensive. The second is the growing popularity of cheaper, off-the-rack gowns and wedding dresses from popular clothing stores.

In 2015, brides spent an average of $1,357 for a wedding dress. That may seem like a lot of money — and it is — but it’s only about 4 percent of the total spent on a wedding. If movies are to be believed — and they aren’t — women will spend any amount of money to get the perfect wedding dress. In fact, some people assume that the rising cost of weddings is due to blushing brides-to-be insisting on designer hand-stitched organic silk gowns costing thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s not true… Sure, many of us would love a gown fit for a princess, but even so most of us are realistic about what we can afford.

What is true, however, is that the dress is a big deal. It is the outfit you will be wearing on the most important day of your life, so you’ll want to feel good. And it is equally true that every single guest will have an opinion on it.

The perfect dress is not necessarily the most expensive dress. This is one of the reasons why the trend for off-the-rack and retailer gowns has grown significantly in the last five years.

However — and here’s the kicker — plenty of retail stores selling wedding dresses are not exactly cheap either. Stores like Ann Taylor and J. Crew are best known for their well-priced work wear, but their wedding options can be as expensive — if not more — than plenty of the gowns at David’s Bridal.

Large retailers certainly could offer more purse-friendly frocks, but once you slap the word “wedding” on goods and services, prices rise disproportionately. J. Crew’s bridal dresses range from around the $700 mark, but a number cost over $1000. Add a veil or a headpiece and you can easily double the spend.

There are cheaper dresses available online. ASOS has wedding dresses from around $100. Shopping online is convenient, which is great, but of course, you don’t get to try on the dress first, or sip champagne with your bridesmaids as you shop. Then again, you don’t have to listen to everyone else’s opinions on what you should buy, so that’s a bonus!
Another option is to look for white or pale dresses that are not designated as “bridal” dresses. It’s possible to find gorgeous gowns that will work as for your big day at a fraction of the cost of a wedding dress.

Plenty of bridal stores sell off-the-rack gowns as well, so it is worth having a look for your dream dress here too. Ideally you should have a clear idea of the style you want and find out if this is something they stock before making an appointment. Although it is possible to have an off-the-rack dress tailored to fit you, most bridal boutiques won’t do this, but a good boutique should be happy to recommend a suitable tailor to you.

To make sure the dress looks as stunning as it should, don’t be tempted to buy something that is much too big for you, even if you love the style. Taking in a dress that is more than two sizes too big is never going to be as successful as tucking in a gown that is fractionally on the large size.

Buying off-the-rack at a bridal boutique has one downside — upselling. It is not uncommon for sales assistants to try and persuade brides that they really do need a $3500 gown, or to show clients dresses which are not actually off-the-rack at all, in the hopes that you’ll change your mind and opt for a more expensive frock.

When shopping for your gown, you need to have two budgets — your stated budget, and your real budget. Your stated budget is what you tell sales assistants you have to spend; your real budget is a little higher. Sales assistants will often push clients to spend more than their maximum budget, so keeping this number to yourself is helpful.

Surrounded by a sea of beautiful gowns, you may well be tempted to blow the bank, but you need to be firm and resolute in your commitment to your budget. After all, being firm and resolute in the face of temptation is good practice for marriage!