CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
Like many women, I imagined my wedding day as a little girl: the church, the flowers, the handsome groom, and the dress. I remember being fascinated by my aunts’ and cousins’ dresses when I went to their weddings as a girl. They looked so beautiful and princess-like, even in the 80s and early 90s when the bridal gown trends toward puffed sleeves and hats with veils attached left something to be desired.
As I grew older, my taste changed, but my desire to look and feel beautiful on my wedding day did not. Even if you’re not a “girly girl” or particularly into fashion, you probably want the same thing. Your wedding dress is something you'll wear while you and your husband-to-be confer the sacrament of marriage on one another, so it makes sense to put some time and thought into it, even if you’re not sartorially inclined. (Note: There is nothing in Catholic tradition or teaching that stipulates that brides must wear a fancy dress, a white dress, or any particular garment on their wedding day.)
But what about the cost? As Catholics, we are called to be good stewards of our money, and anyone who has ever gone to a bridal salon knows that even the lower-end wedding dresses can be priced in the thousands of dollars. If you’re concerned about sticker shock, are on a tight budget, or just can’t stomach the idea of paying more than X amount of money for a dress you’ll only wear for one day, I have good news for you: you can still find a beautiful wedding dress that you love without breaking the bank. You just have to get creative! Below are a few tips and tricks I learned while shopping for my dress, which was a sample dress that I got at a consignment bridal salon, and from friends and family who found their dresses in unconventional places.
Go to a Fancy Salon First to Get a Feel for What You Like
A nice bridal salon is a good place to get a feel for different wedding dress styles, what’s flattering (and not) on you, what materials and fabrics you like, etc. There is no law that says you can’t go to a nice bridal salon, try on a few dresses, and then leave empty-handed. Plus, it’s just fun to go to a nice salon with your girlfriends/sisters/mom and try on pretty dresses.
Know Your Budget, And Stick To It
This is a tough one, but it really makes a difference in the shopping process. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, but if you have a clear idea not only of what styles you like, but what price points you can afford, everything will go more smoothly.
Visit Consignment/Sample Dress Shops in Your Area
I found my dress at Second Summer Bride, a consignment bridal salon where most of the dresses are marked down at least 50% from the original price. I went expecting all of the dresses to be pre-owned, but was pleasantly surprised that many of them were sample dresses that were past-season and hadn’t been worn before. Since I wasn’t looking for anything trendy, I didn’t mind that the dresses were from previous seasons, and I ended up finding my dress (which I loved) in less than an hour. The best part (aside from the price): I was able to take the dress out of the store that day, instead of going back to the salon multiple times for fittings, which you typically have to do if you go the fancy bridal salon route.
Purchase a Pre-owned Dress Online
After going to several bridal salons, including a couple of consignment stores, my sister found her dress at PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com. The bride who originally wore it had it designed to look like one of Kate Middleton’s dresses, and although it needed alterations to fit my sister, the beauty and price point of the dress was too good to pass up. Other sites, like eBay and Craigslist, also have pre-owned and sample dresses available, but be sure to double-check the return policy before purchasing anything.
Look into the Possibility of a Custom Dress
Believe it or not, a custom made dress can be less expensive than a store-bought dress. If you find a good seamstress in your area (or even online), you can save money and get exactly what you want. Win, win.
Consider Borrowing a Dress from a Family Member or Friend
I know more than one bride who borrowed a friend/family member’s dress for her big day. Obviously, this is a big money-saver, but it can also be a beautiful way to honor your mother, grandmother, or sister at your wedding. If the thought of wearing the exact same dress as someone else is unpalatable to you, remember that your choice of accessories and some minor alterations can make a dress feel brand new.
Regardless of where you decide to purchase your dress, I hope these tips encourage you to think outside the bridal salon box. And if you purchased a dress from an unconventional source, please share with us in the comments!