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The secret to getting your wedding dress for less than $500

Updated on May 4, 2015

Surprise, weddings are expensive!

Everyone knows that weddings can be astronomically expensive. It doesn’t make sense to purchase a $2000 wedding gown when your total wedding budget is tapped out at $10,000 or less. One of the best and easiest ways to cut costs for your wedding is to spend less on your wedding gown. With the power of the internet you can now search new, used, and rent-able gowns for a fraction of the cost. A wedding dress is important but realistically you will only wear it for one day before it is tossed into storage.

Statistically speaking, those who spend $10,000 or less on their wedding are 3.5 times less likely to get divorced. However, any bridal gown shop worth its salt is going to tell you that you need to spend at least $1,000 to get a quality wedding dress. Fortunately for you, you’re reading this article.

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Buy online

Pros

There are many practical options to get your wedding dress on the cheap. The most obvious one is to buy online. This can be a great option for many reasons. For instance, you will have a wider variety of dresses to choose from, you can shop at your convenience, and if you pick the right site it will be loads cheaper. Most sites offer the option to purchase the dress with custom measurements.

Cons

While some sites are legitimate and you can get a great dress for pennies on the dollar, there are other sites that will send you an off-white sack that looks nothing like the picture. You need to be meticulous when shopping online. Before picking a dress you love and hitting “order” you should research the site. Does it have an alarming number of complaints? Can you find reviews with actual pictures of the products received? Some sites are buy-at-your own risk such as dhgate.com which is an e-bay like site that is based in China. There are other sites with mixed reviews such as jjshouse.com. I personally had a good experience with jjshouse, but there are certainly people who haven’t.

Rent

Pros

Some local bridal shops will offer you the ability to rent a wedding gown rather than purchase it outright. This can save you up to 85% on your wedding gown! That means you could get a significantly nicer wedding dress, think designer, for a fraction of the costs. There are also websites that cater to this trend. The site borrowingmagnolia.com allows brides to select up to three different gowns to try for just $99. Once they select the gown they want to wear they can put that $99 towards their total cost. They even tailor the dresses to fit you exactly right.

Cons

The clear con is that you cannot keep the dress after your wedding. This can be hard for sentimental brides who want to be able to pull it out from time to time and reminisce. However, if you plan on just letting it sit in a box for the next twenty years it may be worthwhile to simply rent.

Another con of renting the wedding dress is the potential for late fees or damage charges. The more expensive the dress is the pricier the fine will be. You’ll need to be extra clear with your groom that he is not allowed to smash the cake in your face, lest it hit your beautiful dress!

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Buy Used

Pros

Buying used can be a great way to cut costs AND keep the dress. Heck, you could even sell it again if you wanted to! Wedding dresses are one garment that is sure to have been handled delicately. If you wanted further peace of mind you could (and probably should) pay a little extra to have it cleaned professionally.

Cons

No matter how much money you save on the dress, you’ll most likely need to shell out for alterations. You also have to spend more time searching for “the one”. There is no stocked style or guaranteed size when you buy used. However, there are sites that offer services matching wedding dress sellers and wedding dress buyers. Examples include oncewed.com and tradesy.com.

Tips for buying online

The number one complaint I see on dress site reviews is that the dress didn’t fit properly. Buying online is a bit like traveling the world. Each country has a different set of measurements; so a size 8 in the United States does not equate a size 8 in the United Kingdom. I personally recommend paying the extra fee to have it custom tailored, but if you’re going to use a standard size make sure you read the sites sizing chart. Additionally, you should take the time to get measured by a professional seamstress. It may seem simple, but more often than not we measure our own sizes incorrectly.

You should also take the time to try on a several different styles of wedding dresses at a bridal boutique. Dresses always look better on the models and a mermaid cut or an A-line dress may not be the right fit for you. Figure out your style BEFORE you commit to buying a dress offline.

Buying online is not a quick process, particularly if the dress is being made to order. You should plan to place your order at least two months before you require the dress. This will make certain that your dress arrives on time, and if any alterations are needed, you’ll have time for that too.

It's also very important to double and triple check the validity of the site you're buying from. The last thing you want is to have a wedding dress horror story where you ended up paying hundreds of dollars for a cheap Halloween costume. Personally, I recommend using sitejabber.com. You can see what experiences other people had and if there is a common complaint such as small sizing or poor quality. The site I ordered from wasn't upfront about an additional shipping cost, but I was prepared for it because of the review site.

Lastly, always, always, always know what the sites return policy is. For instance, jjshouse’s policy is that every dress is made to order and will not accept returns unless the dress is faulty (they do offer minimal refunds). Other sites, such as David’s Bridal, will accept returns so long as it wasn’t a clearance item. This is an often overlooked but deeply important step to take. There is absolutely nothing worse than blowing your budget on a dress you can’t wear.

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