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How to Be Sure Wedding Bliss Does Not Become a Financial Miss, Part 2

In my last blog post, I was talking about how the wedding industry likes to take unsuspecting brides and grooms for a ride and leave them with a hefty bill. Meg Schneider, author of Budget Weddings for Dummies, says “We have been conditioned since we were little children to go for the fairy tale and this is what the wedding industry is selling us. We buy from an emotional state rather than a rational state.” And that’s where they get us!

While we believe we make decisions based on logic, in fact as humans we make buying decisions based on emotions and back them up with logic. This is when we are vulnerable to overspending.

We get preyed on when we are vulnerable. Think about it: most smart, capable, hard-working women wouldn’t think to spend $3,000 on an outfit they would wear multiple times. Heck, that’s too expensive! Yet they succumb to the wedding gown mafia and will spend $3,000, $5,000 or even $10,000 on the “perfect” dress, a frock they will wear for a few hours because it’s “their” day. Seriously?!? And with TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress, I am disappointed to see women constantly throw good money out the window when they could have spent it on something they value.

Now, I plan to look as beautiful and feel as special on my wedding day as any other bride, but I don’t need to spend $10,000 on a dress to do that.

Because I had a side business for a few years that dealt with wedding gowns, I know the brands and their quality. For my wedding, I wanted a quality gown at a great price. But when you go into gown shops, those dresses are about $3,000 and up. What is a smart, frugal woman who wants a great gown to do? Turn it into a game of course!

Here are the options: buy a used gown, a previously owned (but not used) gown, or buy a sample gown. Bridal shops carry what the industry calls sample gowns. These are the gowns that brides-to-be try on in the store. Once they find the dress they want, the brides order that dress in their preferred size and it is made for them. It takes several months to order the dress, then it generally needs to be altered to fit the bride. Say the dress cost $3,5oo+tax, then the alterations are another few to several hundred dollars, especially if they are done at the shop (they have high alteration markups at the shop). So, your dress may have cost $4,500 all in. If your total wedding budget is $10,000, that is quite a big bite of the budget!

Used gowns are a great option. And forget the superstition of buying a used dress… most brides who sell the dresses they wore are still happily married (and if the marriage didn’t work out, it’s not because of the dress!!). Certainly if you want a contemporary dress, one that still sells for lots of money, you can save 50% or more by buying used. There may have been alterations made, but often brides will dry clean the dress before selling, which makes it ready for your alterations and wearing.

Sometimes brides buy more than one dress. They buy dress #1, then as time goes by they change their mind and buy another dress, making the first one obsolete. This is like buying a new dress at a discount price. These dresses are usually unworn and unaltered, and waiting for new owners to love them.

You can find used gowns and unwanted gowns on several online classified sites like Ebay and Craigslist, as well as specialty wedding gown classifieds sites.

Another option is sample gowns. Once a designer discontinues a gown, the sample gown in the wedding gown shop is no longer needed. Gown shops often have a rack of sample gowns for sale at a discount. The disadvantage to sample gowns is the limited size selection (most sample gowns are size 10, which is equal to a size 6 in street clothes) and sometimes the gowns need cleaning because they have been tried on often, and have dust and dirt marks. But, you can find amazing dresses at a fraction of their original price. You can find sample gowns for sale at gown shops, and classified sites like Ebay and Craigslist. Since I am located in Canada, I look for sellers in North America. Be sure you are buying the original gown (photos of labels help) and not a reproduction.

If you live in Toronto, there is a great little store called The Brides’ Project. They sell gowns that are used, samples and donated directly from the designers at discounted prices and donate their profits to cancer charities.

My dress is a sample gown that cost me 10% of its original list price — including cleaning! That’s right… I bought a discontinued (but beautifully classic) designer silk satin gown with buttons down to the bottom of the train, originally priced at $3,200, for only $150. I bought it on Ebay. I paid another $150 to have it cleaned. Crazy I know, but those deals are out there if you look for them!

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