Every week, the production crew of TLC's Say Yes to the Dress travels to Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City, where the store's crew of highly-trained bridal consultants shepherd their customers through the emotionally-fraught minefield of wedding dress purchasing. On the show, dresses generally range from $1,000 up to $30,000 or more, and some would-be brides buy two or more, just to cover their options.
While there's certainly much to be said for spending 60% of the average American household salary on a single garment that will only be worn once, it's also worth asking if there might be other, more reasonable options out there. After all, with the average cost of a wedding topping $20,000, shaving off a few hundred (or thousand) on the dress could translate into a nicer reception, more guests or a longer honeymoon.
Part of the problem with paying thousands of dollars for a single dress lies in the fact that -- the claims of bride mags and dress designers aside -- bridal styles don't actually change all that much from year to year. In many cases, they have hardly evolved since 1950, when Walt Disney released Cinderella, and even many of the sleeker, less traditional styles on the market have barely changed since the days of Jean Harlow and Lana Turner.
With this in mind, one way to save a few hundred on your wedding dress is by buying last year's styles. Because there is such a big premium on having the latest looks from the most impressive designers, dresses that are a year old or older often end up hanging in the back of the store. Two of my closest female friends mined these slightly-out-of-date racks for massive 80% discounts, and the push for the latest looks meant that they had plenty of dresses to choose from. Another option that many brides use is buying sample dresses from the bridal shop. While these have been tried on a few times, they are often still in mint condition, and may be priced well below the suggested retail.
If you aren't too sentimental, you could even consider buying a wedding dress off of eBay or Craigslist. Many companies sell dresses directly on the online auction site, often at prices that are a fraction of what they would be in the store. Admittedly, there is some danger in buying a dress without trying it on, but many retailers have liberal return policies and will even tailor their dresses free of charge.
Ultimately, though, the biggest savings come from previously owned dresses. While some of these have already made one trip down the aisle, many have barely been worn. As Say Yes to the Dress demonstrates, many brides buy more than one dress, while others buy their dresses far in advance of the wedding, only to discover that they have gained weight and are no longer able to wear their first pick.
As with anything on eBay or Craigslist, previously owned dresses could be a big money saver...or a big disappointment. However, with their prices discounted by 80% or more, these bargains could have you saving on the cost of your wedding...and skipping down the aisle!