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How To Shop For Your Wedding Dress (On A Budget)

How To Shop For Your Wedding Dress (On A Budget)

For all my brides to be (whether you have a ring on yet or not) I want to take some time to talk about shopping for your wedding dress! I also want to share my experience with you, in hoping I can help you to have the most magical time of your life.  Here are my tips for how to shop for your beautiful dress… on a budget.

1.) It’s Not Magic. Contrary to what you see on Say Yes To The Dress (which I may or may not have watched every episode of…Sorry Shane), wedding dress shopping is not always magical.  It can actually be very stressful. Now, I don’t wish that on you.  I truly hope you try on one dress, it’s the one, and everyone cries and rings the bell.

Now back to real life.  I’ll start with my personal experience.

I feel like I actually got pretty lucky with my experience.  I went shopping two times total.  The first time I went with my sister to David’s Bridal. Ahhh, what I like to refer to as “the Walmart” of bridal shopping.  Now that being said, I have got bridesmaid dresses there easy-peasy.  Wedding dress shopping, however, was a whole different story.

I really just wanted to get a good idea about what I wanted.  I had a general idea (aka Pinterest) of what I wanted but I had only tried on wedding dresses once for a modeling gig I did.  It was terrible, nothing fit and everything was heavy and slid down on me.  I really needed help.  We walked in and no one was able to greet us.  We were dirrected to shop the showroom, where I found a dress I was interested in and pulled it off the rack.  Finally after going through over half the dresses our consultant finds us.  She quickly tells me I’m not allowed to take off the rack, only she can do it.  Mind you there are A LOT of dresses, and I really had no set style in mind.   She told me I could pick three and try them on.

I picked my three, and headed to the dressing rooms.  There were people EVERYWHERE (it was the sale week).  I tried on dress, one, and two, and three.  They were all very similar in style.  She pulled a couple more from the sale rack, all in the same style.  She was very pushy with the sale.  When I realized these styles weren’t for me, she said we had pulled everything (obviously not true) and pretty much told me to make a decision.  My budget was $500, and I felt very pressured to choose one of these $400 dresses.  Once my time frame was up she literally just left me and my sister and told us to come find her when I made my choice.  I was so stressed to the point of tears, mostly because I knew none of them were right and I felt very pressured to “say yes to a dress”.  We went to brunch to think on it (with mimosas) and never went back.

I hope others had a good experience there, but mine was trash.  They also were trying to add in extra cost with expensive alterations, belts, head pieces, etc.

My second experience was at a bridal consignment shop.  I went with my best friend since I was 6 years old.  This was the place I had initially wanted to go to with my sister.  This experience was so different.  We were the only ones in the store.  I tried on the first dress, loved it.  I ended up having three contenders, but I kept going back to the first dress.  It was so me.  Things got complicated, however, when my BFF cried (in joy) at my second choice.  First, it was out of my price range.  Second, it just wasn’t ME.  But you start to want to please your entourage so bad and have that “magical moment” that it can sway you.

In the end I knew I wanted the first dress.  You know what? She loved it to! She was so supportive.  In the end she wanted what I wanted, and I told her and the (super nice) consultant I was saying yes to dress #1! It was still a special moment, but far from what you might see on tv.  Definitely fun, definitely an amazing memory, but also very stressful.

I don’t want to scare anyone, but just please be prepared that it is stressful to have all eyes on you, and that people will want different things for you than what you want.  Both times my entourage picked out dresses that I know are more their style than mine.  That’s ok, just stay true to yourself and you will be ok.  Also know alot of people will be looking at your body and that can be stressful too.  I would recommend taking as few people as possible and taking people that you trust their opinion.  As much as I wanted all my future bridesmaids and family to be there, I’m glad for me I kept it small and we can have a special moment together on something else.

2.) Keep An Open Mind. You hear that all the time on SYTTD, and it is true.  What you pin on pinterest may not be what you want in the long run.  Alot goes in to what is cut right for your body, is in your price range, and fits your wedding theme.  Try on one of each and you may be surprised! I know I landed far from where my Pinterest boards led me.

3.) Stick To Your Budget.  It is very easy to get caught up in the land of P’Nina Tournai.  There are alot of very beautiful dresses out there, at alot of different price points.  Just like you need to stay true to who YOU are and your style, you need to stay true to your budget as well.  If you have reservations on price, keep looking.  If you have reservations on style, keep going.  It may take some extra effort to find it, but it will be worth it on your soul (and your bank account) in the end.

4.) Don’t Settle. While this point is kind of redundantin this post, it’s so important. Do not buy your dress until you know it is right for you.  If you need to sleep on it’s that’s fine.  It will be there when you come back if it’s your dress.  Also, do NOT let price point keep you from what you want for your special day.  With that being said, here’s my next point:

5.) Shop Smart. I can honestly say I bought my dream wedding dress for $100 ($108 with tax).  My budget was $500, so this left money for shoes, accessories, and well, a lot of other things.  Do not be afraid of bridal consignment! I feel like sometimes people picture a musty shop filled with 80’s horror wedding dresses but that was definitely not the experience I had.  The consultant was so nice and helpful.  They had plenty of veils and accessories as well.  I had a great selection to choose from, and some actually still had the tags on.  I also love the idea personally that someone else had the best day of their life in this dress and were kind enough to pass it on to me.

If you absolutely can’t handle the thought of second hand, or just don’t have access to it, definitely try shopping the sales and shopping in unexpected places.  I have read quite a few blogs on girls budget wedding days and some found their dress at a department store, or online.  Like I said earlier it may take more effort but the result is so worth it.

6.) Don’t Forget Alterations. If you find a dress you like at a great price but something isn’t JUST right, don’t forget it may still be a better deal to buy the dress and have it altered.  I have a friend who bought her BEAUTIFUL wedding dress on sale because it had a rip.  She took it in for a $50 alteration and looked amazing.  Also, I strongly recommend NOT letting chain stores (like Davids Bridal..Sorry DB) because the upcharge is so much higher than a locally owned shop.

7.) Have Fun. While this post may make this whole experience seem scary and out of reach, it’s not.  Stressful? Yes.  A memory you won’t forget? Yes.  I would rather not admit how many time I scroll back to pictures of MY dress as well as the rejects to relive this special time.  Another reason  I have watched EVERY episode of SYTTD is because even though it’s hard, that moment where you find your dress is absolutely worth all the effort.

I hope this helps you my sweet readers! For more wedding goodness check out my wedding goals and my engagement story! Do you have a special wedding dress story? I would love to hear it through email or in the comments below!




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