Wedding Planning: Procuring "The" Dress

This post is part of an ongoing series about “procuring” a wedding, Spend Matters-style. See previous posts here:

…and thank you so much for all of your advice and congratulations so far!

Oh, the wedding dress. I didn’t think I’d spend what I spent. But before we get to that, here’s some background:

I was going to get some minor alterations (shortening to cocktail length and then cutting the sleeves off) to my grandmother’s gorgeous lace wedding dress from 1955, get it professionally cleaned, and be done with it. After some research, I found a shop that specializes in refurbishing vintage dresses (Silver Moon Vintage - they were amazing). They said they could do the slicing and dicing I wanted for $179 and that a thorough professional cleaning would set me back around $300. Not bad.

…but then I went “real” dress shopping. I thought I’d try it because every bride should get a champagne-soaked day where her bridesmaids oooh and ahh, right? Our first stop was BHLDN (that’s “beholden” for those who prefer vowels in their words), a bridal boutique associated with the Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters conglomerate. Their dresses were pretty. REAL pretty. And expensive. Expensive at the level that if I were to buy one, it would be a full quarter of our current wedding budget - and that’s before tax and alterations. But trying on “real” wedding dresses made me realize that I needed one of my own, and that while beautiful, my grandmother’s dress wasn’t the one for me.

The value of going to the fancy store and trying on all styles of dresses came from figuring out exactly what I feel good in and what flatters me most (tall, column dresses, bateau neckline, low back) versus what I look awful in (everything else). Armed with this new information, I put my sourcing hat on and began my official search.

A week and a million hours on Google later: I found it. A dress by a Spanish designer, carried at exactly one hoity-toity bridal shop in Chicago. I grabbed two trusted friends, traveled downtown, tried it on, fell in love and talked the store into letting me buy the sample dress (which was still in plastic, with no stains, rips, or damage) for 25% off the asking price. The store then had the audacity to let me know that their (extremely basic, like hemming) alteration services begin at $750, but having already sought similar services for my grandmother’s dress, I actually laughed out loud.

Ultimate sourcing lessons learned:

  • Go vintage. My grandmother’s dress wasn’t the one for me, but I am still having it altered and wearing it to my rehearsal dinner, saving me the cost of buying yet another dress for that. Another option? Go used. I found a ton of viable options on OnceWed.
  • Learn the lingo. From A-Line to princess to Sabrina necklines, figure out how to communicate with the Wedding Dress People. It's like learning Dothraki, but with more beads and sequins (and less horses).
  • If it’s not broke, buy it. Did the sample dress fit me perfectly? No, but it was close. Did saving a large chunk of change by buying it and getting it altered make me a happy bride? You bet. It’s also currently hanging in my closet, rather than having to wait 4-6 months for an ordered dress to come in.
  • Shell out some dough. It’s your wedding dress. Don’t be swayed by the Chinese sites that claim to be able to make your dream dress for $300.
  • Shop around. I haven’t had “the perfect dress” in my mind since I was little, but I had some ideas. Turns out that my ideas all looked awful on me in person. Drink the champagne and find out what looks good on you specifically - then be smart about sourcing it.

In the next installment: booze and blooms!

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First Voice

  1. Courtney Porcella:

    Love the series, Sheena! And congratulations!

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