The wedding dress is one of the most important decision most brides will make during their wedding planning. It can also be one of the most difficult decisions to make, especially if you are a Green and Frugal bride. It was definitely a decision that I struggled with!
When I first started planning my wedding my Mom said she would be buying my wedding dress. I made an appointment at David's Bridal (they carry the Vera Wang White Collection, which I love!) right away. Technically, I was not given a budget and I honestly believe that if I wanted a $3,000 dress she would make that happen. But if you've been following my blog you will know that I find it hard to justify spending any large amounts of money on anything! But, I went into my dress shopping experience with an open mind and an open budget.
Ultimately, though, my frugal self just could not justify spending thousands or even hundreds of dollars on a dress I will wear once. I also couldn't justify buying for a large chain bridal shop, even though I will say that the Duluth, MN David's Bridal gave me excellent service! I decided to set my own budget of $300. Yes, it's more than I would spend on a dress normally, but this IS my wedding day and I do want to make it special. I also decided to support a local business and shop at a locally owned boutique instead.
A few weeks later I was back in California and went by myself to a locally owned bridal boutique here in Chico. I had a 2PM appointment but got downtown a little earlier than planned so I went window shopping. I stumbled upon this great little dress boutique called Betty's on Broadway. In their window display was a beautiful dress, so I went inside just to see what they had as far as wedding dresses. This was not a typical bridal store, it was a dress boutique that offered a small selection of 5-6 wedding dresses sold off the rack. The dress I eyed in the window was way over my budget at over $500, but it got my into the store where I immediately spotted another great dress. I walked up to it and eyed the price tag- $250! PERFECT! The sales woman was wonderful and helped me find my size then led me to the changing room. Next to the changing room was the rest of the wedding dresses they had and she pulled out another one that she thought I might like.
I tried on the first dress and loved it! It was made out of a crinkle fabric, which would be perfect because my fiance and I have decided to have a destination wedding (more on that soon!). Because it would probably be shoved in a suitcase at some point the crinkle fabric would mean not having to get it pressed before the ceremony and money saved! It was perfect... that was, until I tried on the second dress that she had pulled for me. It was love at first sight! I tried it on and immediately felt like it was "the one". I know many people say they have this feeling when they find their wedding dress and it's true! It perfectly covered the part of my shoulder I wanted to hide (the other dress was a strapless so I'd have to cover it some other way), and it was so flowy and fun. I asked what the price was and was SHOCKED when she read it to me. $160. I had found "The One" for under $200!
I had to be sure, though. I took the dress off and said I loved it, but I had an appointment at a bridal store that I wanted to keep. The saleswoman was wonderful. She understood and offered to set both dresses aside for me until closing so I had time to think about it. I went off to my appointment knowing I had found the dress to compare all others with. Ultimately, I was back at Betty's on Broadway to buy the $160 dress after my appointment. I knew I loved the dress and I probably wouldn't be able to find one I liked as much anywhere else and for that price. The best part was, it was off the rack and fit me perfectly! No waiting 6-8 weeks for my dress to come in and no paying for 3-4 alterations to make it perfect. I walked out of Betty's on Broadway with my dress in hand, ready to go! Now, to stay the same size for the next 5 months!
Oh yeah... 5 months! Did I mention we set a date? March 1st, 2012. But more on that later. This is a dress buying guide!
I managed to find my dress in the perfect place- a small locally owned boutique. By purchasing my dress there I did my little part to stimulate my local economy. I also found the dress well within my $300 budget and will use the $140 I saved to buy a birdcage veil (still on the hunt for that!) and accessories to round out my completely wedding look!
Are you a Green bride on a budget? I have a few tips and tricks to offer you to help you find the perfect dress on your wedding day, too!
1) Remove the words "Wedding" and "Bridal"
You will be amazed what happens when you are no longer searching for a "wedding dress" but instead a "formal white dress". While I did enjoy all three of my bridal store shopping experiences, I never did find anything I liked within my budget. If your budget is closer to the $1,000 range (or even as low as $500!), you may find luck in bridal shops. Otherwise, check out local dress boutiques and look for while formal dresses. My dress is listed on the Nordstroms and Macy's website as a formal dress, not a bridal dress.
A few dresses I like that are formal white gowns are:
Sears.com. You really cannot beat the price and no on would ever guess that it's not a "bridal gown". Available in all sized between XS and XXXL. Plus size ladies- you will not pay more for being plus sized! Even the XXXL dress is still just $85. The dress is available in Ivory and White. Had the strap covered the right shoulder instead of the left this dress would have been a strong contender in my search! (Click to enlarge image).
This Dalia MacPhee Strapless Taffeta Mermaid Gown is nearly identical to a dress I tried on during my dress hunt, but at just $298 on Nordstroms.com, it's a fraction of the price! It is available in sizes 0-12 and you won't pay extra for ordering a larger size. This would make an amazing beach dress!
Amazon.com. As a bonus it's also US made! The downside is that it appears to only be available in X-Small and Medium at the time of this posting.
2) Check out Etsy!
You all know my extreme love for Etsy, and wedding dress shopping is no different. In fact, before walking in to Betty's on Broadway I was *thisclose* to purchasing a dress on Etsy (no longer available and I can't seem to find the shop again or else I'd share it with you). The options on Etsy are numerous and you should be bale to find something that fits your budget and style. A few warnings- pay attention to where you are ordering from! Some knock-off China companies list on Etsy. While I don't think they are that horrible, if you prefer to keep your business within the US and/or Canada be sure to limit your searches to those. The downside to Etsy, of course, is that unless the dress maker is local to you and allows this, you won't be able to try on your gown ahead of time. And since they are usually custom order, they aren't returnable, either.
A few Etsy dresses that I love are:
CGHeaven on Etsy. At only $195 you really can't go wrong with the price! This talented dress maker lives in the Los Angeles, CA area and offers a wide variety of gorgeous dresses for all occasions.
esewell. It is a one-of-a-kind creation and fits size 6-8 (description says it can be altered). Definitely an eye catching dress and very eco-friendly!
Cynrgyarts, based in Charlottesville, NC! At only $175 the price is great and with convertible dresses you can choose whatever style you'd like on your wedding day. Maybe play around with a few styles and have a different on for the wedding, portraits, and ceremony. It's like having 3 (or 7) dresses in one!
This concludes Part 1 of my dress guide, but stay tuned! I am coming up with other ideas for Part 2 and hope to have that up soon! In the meantime, if you know of an eco-friendly and frugal dress maker or website for wedding/formal dresses I would love to hear about them! Please share your experiences in the comment section.