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Wedding Gowns

It is possible to find the wedding dress of your dreams on a budget.

A wedding gown can be purchased at a sample sale. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
A wedding gown can be purchased at a sample sale.

Wedding Gowns

Wedding gowns are a unique and personal fashion item, as they have the power to make a woman look and feel great on a very special day. Some brides choose to wear simple sheaths while others prefer lace, volume or fancy accents. According to MSN Money, there are 2.3 million weddings held each year in the United States, costing an average of just less than $19,000 each. With all the costs associated with planning a wedding, it is no surprise that couples look for ways to save. Depending on the style, designer and material, wedding gowns can cost as much as tens of thousands of dollars. But a bride on a budget can still find the dress of her dreams -- it just may take some hunting.

Borrow a Dress

The easiest way to cut costs is for a bride to borrow a dress from her mother, a relative or a friend. While the style may not be what the bride is looking for -- especially if the dress is a vintage number with head-to-toe lace -- she can ask the gown owner if alterations are acceptable. If so, a seamstress may be able to perfect the gown to the bride's specifications and taste. In addition to changing the design, gowns can typically be altered up to two sizes in either direction.

Wear a Pre-Owned Wedding Gown

In the past, many brides would not have considered wearing secondhand dresses. But with the Internet bringing secondhand wedding gown sale websites to brides' fingertips, many more are considering it a valid way to save money. According to SmartMoney.com, the markdown for pre-owned wedding gowns can easily be as much as 50 percent less than retail prices.

Renting a wedding gown is an option for brides who are not too sentimental and don't mind giving back the dress. Some general clothing rental shops stock wedding gowns for this purpose, and there are also rental shops devoted to bridal attire. On the plus side, brides will save a lot of money renting a gown for the day. However, the selection will be limited and may even be out-of-date.

Consignment shops are another way to go for pre-owned wedding gowns. Although they are often thought of as thrift shops, there is a distinct difference between the two; while thrift shop clothing is donated and can be worn-out, consignment shops usually have higher standards because profits are split between the consignee and the shop. As a result, brides can often find inexpensive yet quality wedding gowns at consignment shops. Those located in higher-end neighborhoods are more likely to stock designer dresses. No matter the style, all will be marked at drastic discounts.

Shop Online for Wedding Gowns

There are savings to be had for brides brave enough to buy their wedding gowns online. Internet shopping is a completely different experience from buying in a bridal salon. Not only do brides not have the chance to try on the dress, but they must also endure the added stress of waiting for the gown to arrive in time for the wedding. Several bridal store websites sell wedding gowns, including new and pre-owned dresses. While some companies are devoted solely to online sales, other companies such as David's Bridal, J. Crew and Ann Taylor sell dresses online as well as in retail stores. It is a good idea for brides to check out a company's reputation before buying. There is nothing worse than paying hundreds for a wedding gown and never receiving it. Reputable, established retailers will offer quick returns or exchanges, as well as fast shipping. Experts advise brides to stay away from unauthorized retailers because the fabric and embellishments may be different from the gown pictured on the Internet. When purchasing online, brides should make sure to have wedding gowns delivered three months in advance in case alterations are needed.

Creative Ways to Save

There are several ways to save money on new wedding gowns. Instead of purchasing traditional gowns, brides can consider going for bridesmaid's dresses in white. They usually run up to $200, which is considerably less than new wedding gowns. Adding embellishments like beading and lacework can make such a dress look more expensive. Brides insistent on purchasing a traditional wedding gown should avoid those with too many embellishments, as they can easily hike up the price by as much as 25 percent.

Another money-saving route to take when buying new is to attend sample sales, which offer brides floor model wedding gowns at a discount. Yes, brides will be buying dresses that other women have tried on, but they are still quality wedding gowns offered at major savings. Sample sales are usually held twice a year: in winter and summer. Sellers are trying to get rid of their inventory of wedding gowns, so they slash the prices by as much as 80 percent. While prices are low, brides need to factor in the cost of any necessary alterations. The wedding gowns are usually sold as-is, with size 8 being the most popular. It is also likely gowns will need to be professionally cleaned.

According to The Knot, bridal outlets also offer wedding gowns at a savings. They traditionally stock dresses from the previous season or from less-known designers. Finding the perfect wedding gown this way takes some time, though, because brides may have to sort through a lot of duds before finding the right one. Brides can also wait until the end of a season to get good deals on wedding gowns. Bridal stores make way for new inventory, so they are more likely to offer discounts at that time.

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