I think every bride has the same struggle with their wedding dress…
I want to find the PERFECT dress for the biggest day of my life but I don’t want to break the bank for a dress that I’m only going to wear for a few hours and only once!!!
This was the story of my life for the last three months until I finally bought my dress! I had set a budget of $1,200 for my wedding dress including alterations. It is a feasible budget but choices are definitely more limited. I was open to either renting or buying a dress because I do not intend to keep the dress afterwards; I do not have space in my condo to store it!
There are various studios in town (i.e. Bello, Lovely Wedding, HN, Charlie) that provide rental services which includes dry cleaning and alterations. The prices range from $300 to $1,200 depending on the style. It is much cheaper if you get it with their photography package. If you decide to rent, I would definitely go for a package as on average, their basic package costs $2,100 which includes engagement shoot, wedding dress and evening gown rental, make up and also a photo album. Although their wedding dresses can be altered to fit different sizes, if you are a bigger size, you definitely have very limited options. I did try on some rental dresses but they were not the style I was looking for. Nonetheless, rental option is good for brides who do not intend to keep the dress and wants to save some time on dress shopping.
Purchasing a wedding dress does not necessarily mean you will have to pay more than renting. If you are able to find a wedding dress on sale, you could actually pay less than a rental, keep the dress afterwards and wear your dream dress! If you do not want to keep the dress, there is always an option to sell it online. Most people are able to recoup 50% of the cost of the dress. There are many wedding fairs and dress sales held in the Lower Mainland with dresses discounted by 40%-60%. Most of them are advertised on Facebook and are free to attend. Just make sure you arrive early because the line ups can get very long; they only allow approximately 20 brides in at once due to limited space. Also, sizes and styles are limited so the earlier you go, the more choices you have. Make sure you check ahead of time to see whether they accept credit cards and if make up is allowed (make up will stain the dresses).
There are also many bridal stores in Lower Mainland to visit. There are a few in Richmond, an entire block in New Westminster, and a few on Main Street. David’s Bridal in Langley definitely has the largest selection. You may even consider driving down to the David’s Bridal in Washington which is said to have even more selection than their Langley branch. Make sure you make appointments ahead of time as most stores do not accept walk-ins. Appointments are free and are approximately 1.5 hours each. Since they are on the same block, you should make back to back appointments for the ones in New Westminster so you can hit them all on the same day. You will need at least 3-4 hours.
With purchases, they do have leverage with the prices in stores. It never hurts to ask for a discount or something free (i.e. accessories, alterations). They could also give you a further discount for a “cash-carry” (ie. pay by cash). Also, different stores have sample sales at various times through the year. Call ahead of time and find out when they have their sale which will also help you save a few more bucks.
Some people will choose to purchase their dress online. There are many websites now that sell wedding dresses such as Aliexpress or Taobao which are much cheaper than purchasing one at a brick and mortar shop. However, I do caution against this as I have heard of dresses brought which appeared different than the photos online. Also, custom duty may be charged and significant alterations may be required. These may outweigh any cost savings.
3. Custom Made
There is also the third option which is to make your own dress! If you cannot find the perfect dress out there, you can always have it custom made. This option is typically the most expensive but sometimes could actually help you save some money if you had picked a designer dress and had it replicated. Most bridal stores actually offer this service so it does not hurt to ask! Also, if you see any dresses that you like but they did not have your size in the store, they could just order the dress in your size, usually at no additional charge. The down side of making your own dress is also the lead time. You will need to order your dress at least six months in advance. Even though the dress is custom made, further alternations may still be required so there be additional alteration costs. For me, the biggest headache was explaining to the tailor the exact dress that I want. I showed her pictures of different dresses and told her what I wanted to include from each one for my dress. Apparently, it does not work that way! You need to actually provide one picture that has all the elements that you want….but if I COULD find a dress that had all the components that I wanted, why would I need to have it custom made?!? After three attempts, I decided to give up on this option.
Trying on dresses
You should go to various stores to try on wedding dresses to see what style you look the best in. Don’t dismiss a dress simply because you do not like the style! Be open to trying on different styles until you are able to narrow down a few criteria that are the most important to you. As you try on more dresses, you will also pick up more of the dress lingo (i.e. A line, applique lace, sweet heart, etc.) too!
Make sure you bring no more than two people at a time to accompany you with dress shopping as sometimes too many opinions can cause you headaches. Also, make sure the people you bring will provide you with honest feedback about how you look! You may have a few “THIS IS IT” moment with a number of dresses, but make sure you go home and spend some time to think it through. Bring that friend who discourages impulse buying!
They always ask for your budget before you try on dresses. I think it is okay to try on dresses that are at most $300 over your budget in anticipation that you should get a discount. However, I would not go more than that as you may find a beautiful dress that you simply cannot afford or you will blow your budget! I personally felt it was very condescending when the sales persons roll their eyes at me when I tell them my budget is only $1,200. They will tell you that you will only find dresses in their sale section which usually is always at the back of the store. Talk about the walk of shame! Then I get the second eye roll when I tell them my size. The sales person snobbishly says “Sample wedding dresses are made in size 4-6 only. We don’t carry too much of the larger sizes”. Every time I go dress shopping, it is a big hit to my self-esteem!! Therefore, it is important to buy your dress at a store where you feel comfortable with the sales person. You should never walk out of the bridal store feeling defeated or discouraged!
I Said Yes to the Dress!
I was feeling quite burnout from all the dress shopping at this point. After visiting at least 20 shops and trying on 40 dresses, I felt like I just had enough!! Rentals did not seem like a viable option for me and the miscommunication with the custom-made tailor was making me pull my hair out!
I initially had scheduled an appointment at a bridal store in Chilliwack which had a store closing sale. Good thing I asked the store whether they had dresses in the style I liked before I went. They said no so I cancelled the appointment and saved myself three hours of driving. Instead, I decided to visit two bridal shops on Main Street. I decided that if I did not find anything I like that day, I would just go for a custom made dress.
My first appointment was with Tiffany’s Bridal. My consultant was very nice and she made me feel very welcome. I was also glad to see that they had a much larger selection of dresses in my size! Their prices are also very reasonable. They also allow you to take pictures. We tried on a few that looked pretty good on me.
Afterwards, we headed over to our next appointment at Action Liquidator. When we arrived, my bridesmaid and I were a little surprised by the store front. The store looked like a thrift shop more than a bridal store. When we went in, the lady told us that there are only three dresses in my size as they do not normally carry too much inventory in my size. The three dresses had actually just came in from Montreal so she actually did not have the chance yet to check out the dresses. With no expectations, we took the three dresses to try on. Out of the three, two of them looked amazing on me! Both dresses were nice in their own way and had different styles. Not to mention, the price of both dresses were very attractive! Torn between the two, I decided to put a hold on both dresses and went home to think about it further. I could only hold the dresses until the next day so I had very little time to make up my mind.
After consulting with a few friends and my photographer, I made up my mind. I picked the first dress which gave me the “THIS IS IT” feeling! Next day, I phoned in and paid for it! The dress checked off all the boxes but the style. I wanted a more poof-y dress with a longer train. However, we realized that we could compensate it with a cathedral veil!
Finally, the search for the perfect dress is now complete. Now and then I just take out my wedding dress from my closet and look at it with a big content smile….