Sunday, 24 September 2017

WEDDING PLANNING: How to not spend a fortune on your wedding dress

How to save money on your wedding dress in the UK

I’ve already done a blog post about choosing my wedding dress, but I wanted to touch on the cost a bit more because in all honesty, it freaked me the heck out. I originally set a budget of about £1500, which I thought was plenty, but when I started to look at dresses online and find out what they cost, a lot of them were £2k+. Panic set in. And then I started to question why the hell I was even willing to spend a grand and a half on a dress. That’s more than my monthly mortgage payment! That’s the booze budget for the wedding! That’s a damn nice holiday! That’s… too much. Too much.

So I started to look around and see what was out there, and I actually found that there are various options if you can’t or don’t want to spend that much. And not all of these are options I’d seen listed elsewhere, either. So let’s get to it, shall we?
Shop the sample sales (you don’t need to be sample size!)
I always thought sample sales meant size 10, but they don't. I’ve not been a size 10 since I was 17, and while I have lost a little weight this year, I’m not about to set unrealistic goals for myself. Also, wedding dresses come up SMALL. So no, I’m not going to advise that you starve yourself here. Most bridal shops will hold sample sales a few times a year – in fact, there seem to be lots on during the summer (the end of July - when I was looking - was a hotbed of them). They define samples as the dresses they have on their racks that you try on, and those are a mixture of sizes because, well, women are a mixture of sizes. I tried on a couple of size 16s that fit me almost perfectly, which were 50% of the original price – so around £700, to give you an idea. Still a lot, but if you want a fairly traditional dress it’s a much cheaper way to do it. They sell these samples for various reasons – they’re trying to clear space for new stock, they no longer stock those lines, the dresses are discontinued or they no longer want to stock that designer (which isn’t necessarily negative – one shop explained it was because she was promised that she’d be the only supplier selling that designer in the area, and the designer changed their mind). The dresses are usually spotless – and if they aren’t, the shop should tell you. You’ll probably need to make a decision quickly (because someone else might take it), you’ll be buying the actual dress you tried on (so can’t order in a different size without paying full whack), and you might need to take it away with you on the day (especially if the shop are short on space). All things to bear in mind, but none of them are too controversial, right?
Buy from one of the high street ranges
This is the option that everyone suggests, and I want to include it to keep this list complete, but I also wanted you guys to know there are other options out there. But there are some great high street ranges – try ASOS, Chi Chi, Whistles and Topshop for a start. They’re much cheaper – usually under £200 – and some of them are lovely. For me, none of them had the look I was after (I wanted a big skirt and some corsetry), but it’s great that this option exists.
Buy preowned
You wear your wedding dress once and then what? I am seriously considering selling mine afterwards. There are lots of preowned sites out there where you can get a specific dress at a fraction of the price. Sure, it’s been worn before, but only once and you can get it professionally cleaned if the seller hasn’t already (I’d generally expect them to). It means you can go shopping, fall in love with a dress, then try and track it down. I know a few people who’ve done this and then paid for alterations afterwards.

Find somewhere that specialises in cheaper dresses
There are a few bridal shops out there that specialise in dresses that aren’t sold at full price, and I got my dress from one of them. Amelia George in Tring sells mostly ex-samples and a few pre-owned dresses. They’re all in beautiful condition, and they’ll do the alterations there for you, too. I’ve also found Wed2Be and House of Oliver (which The Prince’s Trust helped to set up). Look out for their sales, as they need to clear space for new stock a couple of times a year.
Look in the charity shops
I must confess I was a little snooty about this, but then I started to look – really look – and had to slap myself on the hand. There are some stunning ones out there, and some charity shops specialise in them. Oxfam have dedicated bridal shops and I’ve been reliably informed that there’s loads in the British Heart Foundation shop in Marlowe but actually most shops sell at least a couple. I’d recommend getting one too big so you can get it altered to fit you perfectly, but if you find one that already fits you like a glove, go for it!

Go non-traditional
Have a look on sites like Net-a-Porter and ASOS for their maxi dresses, or even prom shops – you can find an incredible dress for much, much less than a wedding dress usually is. And you don’t have to go for white dresses either – I was coming very close to ordering one from Chotronette, because their long dresses are colourful and intricate and incredible, and so are their short ones. If you don’t have your heart set on a long dress (which I unfortunately did), there are tons of options for you out there. Chotronette, Chi Chi, Vivien of Holloway, Joanie… there are oodles of lovely short wedding dresses out there. This Chi Chi one is like £45!  
Buy abroad or online (or both!)
There’s a roaring trade now for buying dresses from other countries and having them shipped over, because it’s much cheaper to make clothes outside of the UK. I know friends of friends who’ve ordered made-to-measure dresses from China and Japan (for a long time I was considering ordering this one), and my mother and I were getting really excited about a trip to Romania to go to Chotronette’s shop. I’ve mentioned online a fair bit in this list already, but there’s more out there than just the likes of ASOS and Net-a-Porter. I’ve had friends order beautiful dresses from Etsy and other independent dressmakers.

Shop around for alterations (or, ideally, have none)
I keep mentioning alterations because, guys, I’m 5’1. No long dresses are ever short enough for me, and I tried on a couple of samples that would need around 2 foot lopping off the end. But you don’t have to go with the people in your bridal shop – have a look around, as some smaller seamstresses will be much cheaper. We asked about alteration costs at all 4 shops we went to, and the prices went from about £150-350 depending on who we asked.

Don't buy your accessories from a bridal shop
Shoes, hairpieces, belts, veils... they all carry a premium in a bridal shop. You can get your wedding accessories online or on the high street for a fraction of the price, and there's loads of choice, too!

How to save money on your wedding dress in the UK

I haven’t mentioned getting a dress made for you, because it was an option of mine for ages, but when I looked into it, didn’t find it much cheaper than buying it new. And I would say that if you really don’t know what suits you, it’s a good idea to go round some of the professional bridal shops and try on some different styles to get an idea, which is just what I did. I don’t wear maxi dresses, I don’t wear pastels, so I wasn’t sure about fit or colour or any of those things (it turns out that blush dresses do nothing for me).

In the end, I’d decided that if I found one that was expensive which I adored, I’d make it work – because I’m lucky enough to have that as an option. But the one I fell for in the end was half price, and it was genuinely my favourite – not just because it was cheaper. It won’t be quite as low as I thought as I’ll have alteration costs, but it’ll still be a lot less than my original budget, which I’m happy with. I’m excited about it, whereas if I’d spent £1500, I’d probably be feeling a bit sick, too.


My biggest advice is just go for it – I overthought it for ages and got a bit freaked out, but ultimately I quite enjoyed it. These dresses are all designed to be gorgeous, and whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll look banging.

~+~

How to save money on your wedding dress in the UK
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3 comments

  1. Good advice. I got my dress made but because it was almost a prom dress (sweetheart neckline, strapless, full skirt, ballerina length), it was only £125, exactly what I wanted and fit like a glove. I still have it too.

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  2. I now want to order every single dress from Chotronette, just for casual day to day wear. ALL SO BEAUTIFUL ��

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  3. After many disastrous trips to traditional wedding dress shops, I ended up buying mine in the Lindy Bop sale for £16 and it was exactly what I'd wanted. This list, however, is really handy as I'm now hunting for a dress to wear to our legal ceremony in January!

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