Wedding dresses are notoriously expensive.
The average bride spent $1,509 on a wedding dress in 2017, according to The Knot — and some spend much more than that.
But there are several ways to keep this particular wedding cost low.
Renting a gown, opting for a shorter dress, and scouring sample sales and wholesale stores are some of the ways you can save on a wedding dress.
Here are 12 hacks to to keep from blowing your wedding budget on a dress.
1. Rent a dress.
You can get major bargains on designer wedding gowns by renting.
“Renting a dress can be a great option,” Megan Velez from Destination Weddings Travel Group told us. “You can get a designer dress for a fraction of the cost, and with multiple companies offering the option, it is becoming more and more popular. It might seem a little strange but that way you don’t have a dress hanging in your closet that you aren’t going to wear again.”
On the wedding gown rental website Borrowing Magnolia, for example, dresses rent for up to 85% off their retail prices, according to The New York Times.
2. Opt for a short dress.
Who says wedding gowns have to be floor-length?
“Short dresses are typically less expensive than full-length gowns and lend themselves well to an easy-breezy destination wedding in the tropics,” Velez told us. “Especially in the case of last-minute elopements, where you might be hopping on a plane while donning your wedding attire.”
3. Choose a lightweight dress for hot temps.
Usually less fabric means a cheaper dress.
If you’re getting married in warm temperatures, you don’t want to be weighed down by heavy fabric.
“For tropical destination weddings, it’s best to have a lightweight, breathable dress,” Velez said. “And typically, the less fabric, the more affordable the dress. This is a win-win for destination wedding brides.”
4. Know what you want before going shopping.
Some dress shops will offer a 10% discount if you buy your dress that day
Do your research before going dress shopping and you might be able to get a discount, Eric Cmar, founder of Cmart Celebrations
“Check out designers and styles you like and see if the styles you are wanting to try are available at the boutique you are going shopping at,” Cmar said. “If you’re pretty sure you know what you want when you go in, not only will you save time, but often boutiques and dress shops will offer up to a 10% discount if you buy your dress that day. So if you go in already having an idea (or even an exact designer/style) you could end up saving a bit by buying on the first visit.”
5. Scour sample sales and wholesale stores.
Lily found her wedding dress at a sample sale on “How I Met Your Mother.”
If you’re patient, sample sales can be your best friend.
“Keep an eye out for sample sales and wholesale shops, as well as resell sites where you might be able to snag the dress of your dreams for half the price,” Velez said.
6. Buy a simple dress and splurge on custom alterations.
Sometimes simple is best.
You can save money by purchasing a simple dress and having it altered to fit your personality.
“What I did was buy a beautiful simple dress and am having custom alterations done to it,” Tara Angelopoulos, founder of New York event planning company, Dream Makers “This way I get the best of both worlds — a dress by a beautiful designer — but with my own style and nothing anyone else will have.”
“I’d rather put the money into the alterations to make it how I want than buying an already made more pricey dress that I see all the time,” she added.
7. Choose your fabrics carefully.
Synthetic and blended fabrics are the cheapest.
Silk and lace are pricey fabrics that are commonly used for wedding gowns. But, as Davis said, “there are many less expensive fabrics that look gorgeous and cost a lot less.”
Synthetic and blended fabrics are usually the least expensive, Davis said, but even taffeta and chiffon will cost less than silk or lace.
“If you find a dress that costs too much, you may be able to purchase a cheaper but similarly textured fabric and have a seamstress make the dress for less,” she said. “Consulting at a seamstress it is important before buying any fabric to make sure it will work with the bride’s style, season and wedding style (more or less formal).”
8. Shop in the winter or summer seasons.
When you shop can make a big difference in price.
Another trick is to strategically time your shopping.
“Designers usually get ready to distribute their new lines during winter and summer seasons and retailers often have to make room for these new dresses, and they do that by selling their old stock and store samples at reduced prices,” Tassia Davis, founder of Beautiful Bride Events. “Discounts can go up to 80% off but you will need to visit these stores in person.”
9. Shop at mass retailers.
Wedding dresses at Dillard’s sell for $895 or less.
“Specifically, Dillard’s, JC Penney, BCBG, Ann Taylor, and Anthropologie all have bridal lines, and most of the dresses they offer cost less than you would pay at a bridal boutique,”. “Many of these dresses are simple, and you might want to add some details of your own.”
You can then personalize the dress by adding a bejeweled head piece, a sash, a long veil with adornments, a show-stopping wedding bouquet, a lace parasol, or statement heels, Davis said.
At Dillard’s, wedding gowns range from about $85 to $895.
10. Have your gown custom made.
A local seamstress won’t have the markup between manufacturer and retailer.
This might sound like a pricey option, but that’s not necessarily the case.
“I recently worked with a bride that had a totally custom-made gown and I was impressed on the cost and quality of it,” Davis said. “Custom-made dress might not be as expensive as it sounds and I learned because a local seamstress doesn’t have the markup between manufacturer and retailer — you pay only for the fabric, embellishments, and the seamstress’ time and expertise.”
Davis suggested checking Etsy and other local listings.
“My client only sent all her measurements, reviewed pictures for changes and then received it in the mail,” Davis said. “It was perfect, and if you’d like to I can share a professional picture of her dress on her wedding day. Of course, I would recommend to always check seller feedback before committing and paying. Looking at reviews and pictures from past brides to make sure it is a reputable seller.”
11. Don’t even try on dresses that are over your budget.
Once you try an expensive dress, you won’t be satisfied with a cheaper option.
It might be tempting to try on those extravagant designer wedding gowns — “just for fun!” But it’s a bad idea if you’re tricking to stick to a budget.
“One tip for not going over budget, is do not try on dresses a dollar over your budget,” Carly Witzburg, founder of Milk Glass Productions. “Once you try on something that is more expensive, you most likely will like it and will then never be fully satisfied with the cheaper option. I would be careful to talk with your dress consultant and make sure you are on the same page price wise so she doesn’t bring you something over.”
12. Buy a bridesmaid dress instead.
You can find white and ivory bridesmaid dresses for much cheaper than wedding gowns.
“As counter-intuitive as it may seem, a lot of designers will have bridesmaid dresses that come in ivory and white tones, and they are significantly cheaper for almost the exact same aesthetic,” Grace Freeman, founder of Lionhearted Events. “Take BHLDN for example — most of their bridal gowns are around $1,000 but you can steal some great lookalikes from their bridesmaid collection for under $300.”