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Jan 10, 2023

How to Spend Less on Your Wedding Dress

By Nancy Mattia

Buying at the right time and place will make a huge difference on your budget.

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Truth: A custom wedding dress fitted to your exact measurements can cost a lot of money. (The average price falls between $1,800 and $2,400 as of 2023, according to Brides.) The fabric, embellishments, design, and craftsmanship all play a role in the price. 

Whether you love the look of a big ball gown or prefer an elegant sheath, what can you do if your vision doesn’t quite match your budget? Don’t pay full price. Here are some of the best ways to save:

Shop early to avoid extra fees

Bridal salons suggest shopping for your dress nine to 12 months ahead of the wedding. That may sound insane but, unlike off-the-rack options, each dress ordered at a salon is custom made to fit your figure, and that can take time. When you shop early, you can avoid any potential rush charges. 

Sample sales offer deep discounts  

Where can you find a $2,000 dress that’s selling for $299? At a sample sale. Bridal stores hold these special events to clear out their inventory and make room for new styles, according to Brides. You may have to wait in line for a few hours before the bridal salon hosting the event opens but to get a dress that’s a fraction of the cost may be worth it. ​A sample dress may need repairs done by a seamstress, such as replacing a few buttons or fixing tulle, or dry-cleaning, according to Annalise Bridal, a dress shop in Richmond, Virginia. You can put a few hundred dollars into repairing the sample and you’ll still be saving a bundle.

Trunk shows tempt with giveaways

While a trunk show doesn’t offer big discounts like a sample sale, your budget will still come out ahead. The shows, which take place in bridal salons throughout the year, let a designer show off their new dress collection to an intimate group of brides and guests. At Bridal Reflections, a New York bridal salon, if you decide to buy a dress at a trunk show you will receive special pricing only available during the event. At other stores, designers may offer giveaways like adding buttons to a train or sewing a lining into the dress at no extra charge.

Your fabric choice will impact a dress’s price.

Here’s where you can save considerably: Go for a less-expensive dress material. According to the Knot, a fabric like polyester will be a savings over a luxe fabric like silk.

Invest in a pre-owned dress

Buying a dress online from Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace or at a thrift shop can save you a ton. Many times the seller is a bride looking to recoup some of the big bucks she spent on the dress or a bride who decided the dress wasn’t to her liking and bought another one for her wedding. (Before buying online from a stranger, research safety guidelines.)

The price usually goes up when you customize

You may think changing a detail on a dress, such as removing or adding sleeves, taking off or putting on beading, or altering the neckline is no big deal but, as the Knot reports, it could cost up to $300 per adjustment. Instead of creating a dress that fits your vision, keep looking for a dress that already does.

Buying the right “stock” could pay off

What does a store do with a dress that’s damaged but still wearable? Or one that was never picked up due to the wedding being canceled? It may be sold as a stock dress, and the savings could be substantial. A store may only have a few but if you find one you love, it’s yours to take with you that very day. Like sample sale dresses, stock gowns are purchased as is.

Follow the money on social media

The best way to find out about upcoming savings opportunities is to follow your favorite wedding dress designers, bridal shops, department stores, and bloggers who post regularly about trunk shows, sample sales, promotions, and pop-up shops.

Think about borrowing a dress  

Paying nothing for a dress is the ultimate way to save. This works well if your budget is tiny and you’d rather put less emphasis on the dress and more on another wedding detail like the flowers or the cake. Ask friends and family members who wear the same size as you if they’d like to see their beautiful gown take another walk down the aisle. Make sure the dress is still current—a racerback neckline, for example, screams “1998!”

Bet you didn’t know there were so many ways to save? With some flexibility, patience, and a commitment to keeping on top of sales, you’re on your way to walking down the aisle in the dress of your dreams.

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Written by

Nancy Mattia

Nancy Mattia is a freelance writer who covers lifestyle topics and lives in the New York City area.


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