Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Green and Frugal Wedding Guide : The Dress Part 2

I saved this great post for this week because of a wonderful event I got to experience over the past weekend that I think will greatly interest you!  This post will cover my three highest preferred and recommended methods of obtaining a beautiful wedding dress at an affordable price (and in an eco-friendly manner).  One of these is also how I became a two dress bride over the weekend.  *blush*  I didn't mean to be but it's happened.  I'll explain later.

3) Bridesmaids Dresses... Not Just For Bridesmaids!

I shot a beautiful wedding on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MN over the summer.  The bride was stunning and I loved her dress.  It had pockets.  POCKETS!  Love.  We got to talking about the dress during the portrait session and she laughed and confessed "It's a bridesmaid's dress!".  I never would have guessed!  It was beautiful, was white with a blue sash, and looked very bridal dressy to me.

I then started noticing this more and more.  With bridesmaids dresses get nicer and nicer they start to closely compare to bridal gowns.  I've even spent time on wedding boards where brides have flaunted their beautiful "bridesmaids wedding dress".  And since the word "bridal" was removed from the title, they are a fraction of the price.  I looked at many bridesmaids dresses and no matter how fancy they got I was hard pressed to find one priced over $300.

A few dresses I love that are bridesmaids dresses, but if ordered in white/ivory could make a beautiful bridal gown are...

This White by Vera Wang bridesmaids dress looks very similar to a White by Vera Wang bridal gown that I tried on during my dress hunt and loved.  It's a bit more form fitting but still very gorgeous.  The downside to this dress is that it's NOT available in white or ivory through David's Bridal.  However, the Champagne and Blush colors offer viable alternatives, especially if you are going for more of an off-beat look!

At only $168 (and frequently going on sale) from David's Bridal, this beautiful dress is a steal and would definitely be a head turner on your wedding day!

If you are looking for a dress that really says "Wow" on a budget then check out this WToo Bridesmaids dress.  Unlike the Vera Wang White dress above, this one is available in off-white and dark ivory (on the website, they look pretty "white" and "ivory" to me, but you may want to find them in a local bridal boutique and look at the swatches!), as well as "frosting" which looks like a light blush color.

This beautiful floor length dress is not only stunning, it's also only $148 at House of Brides!

This Eden Maids dress caught my eye when I was dress shopping.  It's gorgeous, flowy, and fun!  Available in White and Baby Pink (similar to blush) and just looks like it would be a fun and comfortable dress!

I found a great deal for this dress online at Ella Park Bridal (a shop located in Newburgh, IN) for only $180!  The dress (and price) are hard to beat!

4) Charity Dress Drives

This is my #1 recommended way to obtain a wonderful bridal gown at an affordable price... while also helping out a great cause!  There are numerous charities that will do a dress drive where they resell donated gowns.  The most popular one that I'm aware of is Brides Against Breast Cancer.   Brides Against Breast Cancer is an organization that takes donated dresses and resells them for a nominal fee and the proceeds go to the organization.  Usually how they work is they will set up in a building (a hotel or similar place) for a couple of days and you can make an appointment to come in and try on dresses, just like in a bridal shop.  The dresses are name brand (Maggie Sottero, Jasmine, Eden Bridals, Mori Lee) and even high end designers.  Prices usually range from under $100 up to a few hundred.  Usually no more than that.   Read to the end of this post to hear my recent experience with a Brides Against Breast Cancer event.

Another charity that I was turned onto just today, actually, is Church Street Bridal.  Run by the YWCA of Central Virginia, Church Street Bridal has racks and racks of donated dresses for sale.  The sales go to support the various programs offered by the YWCA of Central Virginia which include Domestic Violence Prevention Center, Permanent and Transitional Housing, and Racial Justice Program.

Their website is fun to explore as it featured dresses as they get them in.  The prices seem to range from about $200-700 depending on the dress designer and original price.  The pictured Herve Leger Bridal dress is the most recently posted dress on the blog and is for sale for $400.  It's original price was $3600!

Also consider donating your dress post-wedding.  I will be doing a post later on about things you can do with your dress after your wedding, but I figured this was a good place to mention donation.  Donating your dress can go to a great cause and really help people out, plus give another budget bride the dress of her dreams!


When C and I set our date I realized that our engagement was only going to be five months long.  This didn't leave much time to order a dress to be made and altered.  So I knew I'd have to buy off the rack.  My mind jumped to the Brides for Breast Cancer organization immediately and I jumped to the website.  There I learned that on October 22nd they were coming to Chico to do a dress dash!  I had always wanted to participate in a dress dash (yes, I've seen "Say Yes to the Dress"!) and since it was for Brides Against Breast Cancer I though that was even better.  I also noticed on the website that they were asking for volunteers.  I decided to volunteer for Friday afternoon to help set up.  I figured I could scout out the dresses and maybe even hide the ones I wanted to try on so I could have a little advantage during the dash!  Hehehe!

In the meantime, I found my dress at a local boutique.  But the day before the Friday I'd signed up to volunteer for I got a reminder email that mentioned that they were still short handed for Friday.  I decided to still volunteer even though I already had a dress as a way to give back to my community a bit and still be involved in this fun event.  So on Friday, I went in.

You can probably guess what happened next.  I found a dress very similar to a dress that I've been eyeing for a long time but could never afford.  Erin, the woman coordinating the dash, asked me at one point if I'd found a dress I was interested in.  I point at two (the one I had been eyeing and another that caught my eye) and she invited me to try them on then and there!  Part of me was screaming "DON'T DO IT!" but I couldn't resist.  The other dress didn't quite fit but that first one... like a glove!  Perfect.  Of course.  Erin said I could set it aside and she'd hold it for me as long as I showed up the next day.  All dresses, no matter the designer or dress condition, was selling for just $150.  It was a GREAT deal.

I called my Mom because I was torn.  I already had my dress and I was happy with it.  However, I'd always had this impression that my Mom was not happy with it.  During our conversation she pointed out that by buying this dress the money was going to a good cause AND I was still well within my dress budget if I were to buy this one.  And this way I could have two dresses in case something happened to one on the way to Haiti (oh... shoot... I haven't mentioned that we're getting married in Haiti yet, have I???  Hehe!).

So at 5:30AM I arrived at the gates of the dress dash.  A truck full of girls had been parked there overnight in order to be first in line.  They were great!  I spent about 45 minutes chatting with them.  Of the five I believe three were engaged and there to buy dresses and the other two were there for support.  For both of my engagements I've been planning alone since none of my local friends are/were engaged.  I kind of wish I had a group of friends like that, where we could help each other plan and have someone to sit in the back of a truck for 12 hours with.

Anyway, at about 6:30 I approached one of the volunteers and mentioned who I was and they let me into the dash half an hour before it opened.  Erin found me and said I could go ahead and buy the dress as soon as they were up and running, so I went inside to try it on again one more time, just to be sure.  It still fit.  I decided to wait until the dash started so I could see that first rush of girls and feel the excitement involved.  At 7AM the doors opened and they let in the first 50 people.  The ladies from the truck were the first in.  I'd scouted a few dresses I thought they'd like and pointed them to them and they ran around grabbing more.  The rest of the 50 dashes in and it was on!  Dresses were being grabbed off the rack and it was very exciting!  I really hope that every bride found her dream dress that day!

I paid for my dress and left, happy that I had my dream dress and happy that I was able to contribute not just a few short hours of my time but also a little money to a great cause.  I think that even if you are not going to buy a dress that volunteering to help set up or organize an event is a great experience.  I wish I could have stayed longer and seen if the girls from the truck had actually found their dresses, but I had a busy day and had to go.

So now I am a two dress bride.  I know I will wear the Brides Against Breast Cancer dress for my ceremony, without a doubt!  The other, since it's more casual, I may wear for the rehearsal or maybe wear it for dancing after dinner.  Because I hope to preserve the great condition that the dream dress is in so that I can donate it back and pass on the love to the next bride.

And I have searched high and low and have yet to find a picture of my dress!  So I figured when the fiance is out of the house next I'll take some nice shots of it for everyone.  Until then, that's my story!

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