First comes love, then comes marriage. Then comes the mountain of wedding debt you’ll have to pay.
Last year, couples spent an average of $35,329 on weddings and nuptial-related events, according to TheKnot.com. While the venues, the engagement ring and even the entertainment can cost thousands of dollars, the wardrobe isn’t far down the list of top expenses. The average cost of the dress: more than $1,500.
If you’re looking to dress for less while still wearing a spectacular gown, there are plenty of places to look, starting online. There are dozens of websites selling new dresses that cater to a wide spectrum of tastes and budgets. We’ll start with those — they’re great for surveying all the different styles as you begin to decide what suits you best.
One of the largest wedding sites you’ll find, just sign up at the free website to browse thousands of dresses. They offer a custom search that can browse popular collections and sort by price. You can also search for dresses for other members of the wedding party.
House of Brides claims to be “the world’s largest online wedding store,” which seems plausible. Just the wedding dresses in the Sale section — with discounts of up to 75 percent — go on for a dozen pages. It also offers dresses for bridesmaids, mothers and flower girls.
While its search function isn’t as user-friendly as the other sites above, BestBridalPrices offers more options for dresses that cost $200 or less.
Amazon has everything, even wedding dresses. Both traditional and nontraditional, and including many plus-size options, Amazon has dozens of different designers, cuts, colors and styles for every type of bride.
The online store for custom-made crafts and goods has hundreds of options by designers who may not have big-name brands but are making one-of-a-kind wedding gowns. Prices range from under $100 up into the thousands.
The thing about wedding dresses is that they typically don’t have a chance to get worn out. As a result, looking into used gowns can pay off big time. OnceWed specializes in used designer dresses at much less than designer prices. I found at least 12 Vera Wang dresses here for under $500.
This is another great source of pre-owned dresses, including deeply discounted designer gowns. Right now you can get a Carolina Herrera dress for less than $600. Note that sellers pay a one-time $25 fee for posting the listing. There’s even a wedding dress calculator to help you determine how much your dress is worth as a resell.
This site offers options in clothes, handbags, accessories and shoes along with wedding dresses, including authentic designer fashion.
Narrow your search by price, size, and color. For some, you may have the option to bid or “buy it now.” Check out the groovy vintage dresses in your search. If you’re an Ebates user, you can save even more money by getting cash back on your eBay purchase.
Some bridal shops that sell dresses also rent them, although there are also specialized boutiques that offer rental-only dresses. While renting eliminates the hassle of trying to sell a dress you bought, look out for a damage deposit — often a $200 upfront fee. If you’re browsing online, try Rent the Runway, which offers nice variations for nontraditional settings.
11. Consignment shops
Keep a lookout for consignment shops that specialize in wedding dresses. Many women who buy new, high-end fashion sell their old goods through consignment.
12. Thrift stores
This may take some extra digging, but secondhand stores carry all kinds of treasures, wedding dresses among them. Use The Thrift Shopper to search for a store near you.
13. Discount department stores
If you’re looking for a nontraditional dress, browse Ross, Marshalls, T.J. Maxx and even Target for less expensive dresses that aren’t strictly wedding dresses. A less formal dress can be perfectly acceptable, depending on the ceremony setting and your personal taste.
14. Frocks from family and friends
Does your mother, grandmother or sister have a wedding dress she kept? What about friends who have tied the knot? You could land a dress for only the cost of dry cleaning and a bit of tailoring. Ask around to see who is looking to part with their wedding dress. You’d be surprised at what people have stashed away at the back of their closets.
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