Even if I wasn't engaged, I would still be a fanatic of the TLC show "Say Yes to the Dress." It's one of the most soothing reality shows out there -- it doesn't make you feel depressed about humanity, like "Jersey Shore." And the setting -- a 69-year old bridal boutique in downtown New York -- is a beautiful white showroom that makes you want to sing the Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune "I Enjoy Being a Girl."
I first learned about "Say Yes to the Dress" from the New York Times magazine feature on starlet Megan Fox. She said of the show, which helps brides find their perfect dress at Kleinfeld, "I don't know why I love it, but I do ... It's really confusing to me, so I study it. They all cry when they find the dress. I don't understand why they all cry."
I grew to love the show too, just as I was in the market for a wedding dress. Here is my Kleinfeld experience along with other options for finding the perfect, affordable wedding dress in New York.
Going to Kleinfeld was my first appointment -- I had one hour. As soon as I walked in, I requested the saleswoman Keasha, one of the stars of the show. Keasha has made her claim to fame as a bridezilla-handler. Some of these brides or their mothers can be indecisive, hyper-critical, and unreasonable, like the mother going through a divorce who kept trying to get her daughter to buy the most expensive dress possible -- to get even with her husband -- even though the daughter found her dream dress at an affordable price. (Okay, so there definitely is some humanity-crushing drama). Keasha always manages to keep her cool and has a great track record of finding her brides their dream dresses.
We met in a large dressing room, my mother, camera-ready, by my side. I clearly explained to Keasha the look I was going for -- I had three! -- and my price point. "If the price is right and I look fabulous, I will buy today," I told her. She responded with a totally Keasha reaction of, "Good girl." Did I mention I was star-struck?
Forty-five minutes later and narrowing my search down to two favorites, I finally decided on a dress that blew my mother and friends in attendance away. It is $600 below my already thrifty dream price and manages to combine every element of the styles I described to Keasha. Like I said, Keasha knows how to work miracles. So on my first try I found my dress, saving myself lots of time and money.
Here are some options for a bride who hopes to be so lucky:
Kleinfeld: This one-stop-shop bridal depot is always having sample sales. And there's a notorious closet of deeply-discounted dresses, but the offerings are, obviously, slim-pickings -- those dresses are in there for a reason. Though I found my dream dress here, the veil they put on me was half the price of my dress! (Who knew those things could be so expensive?) Keasha arranged for a more affordable version of the veil I fell in love with and on top of that, a discount. Score again.
Bridal Garden: This is New York City's only not-for-profit bridal boutique. Top designers such as Lazaro and Vera Wang donate their sample gowns. The merchandise changes daily and can be up to 75% off the retail price with all proceeds benefiting education for children in New York.
J. Crew: The classic prep store offers affordable bridal gowns and bridesmaids dresses. Shop online or set up an appointment with the bridal department at the J. Crew store in SoHo.
David's Bridal: While hosting a clothing swap, I heard an incredible story from one of my guests -- an architect here in New York -- who bought her wedding dress at David's Bridal for around $400. She had tried every boutique and her sister finally dragged her into this warehouse of gowns. It paid off.
There are also a lot of great options for beautiful dresses at gorgeous prices from SimpleDress.com; Michael's, The Consignment Shop for Women and Brides (Though it no longer buys/sells wedding gowns you can still buy designer gowns and dresses by Oscar de la Renta and other high end designers but beware of the 30-minute dressing room limit. This consignment shop is also great for accessories.); Oncewed.com is a website that sells pre-owned dresses; RK Bridal has 11,000 square feet of gowns and will match the price of a dress if you find it cheaper elsewhere.
Wedding dresses for cheap in New York City