So I’ll be honest, I’ve been a bit hesitant to discuss the purchase of my gown on here. While part of that has to do with a price tag that feels a bit over the Broke-Ass budget (and indeed did push me beyond my original budget limits), it more has to do with the fact that while I absolutely adore my dress, the process of purchasing it was less than thrilling. Still, I think part of what makes my experience in purchasing my dress valuable to those of you out there reading this and stressing over your dress purchase is that mine didn’t go perfectly smoothly. It was a saga that began last January and wasn’t truly completed until the Friday before my Sunday wedding.
My first foray into making my dress purchase was a cold Sunday in January. Matt and I were bowling in a town about an hour outside of Boston when a dress popped up on a yard sale and the address for the purchase was pretty close to where we were at the time. The woman who was selling the dress knew my older sister so I felt comfortable going to her house to buy it. I went in, tried on the dress and walked out with it less than an hour later. It was about $150. It needed some cleaning and was a bit tight on me … but other than that it was beautiful.
So that was that, right? Nope. Almost immediately after I got home with my dress I was instantly filled with regret. I looked at pictures of myself in the dress, and it just didn’t do it for me anymore. The moment I had gotten engaged, one of the first things my mom and I did was watch episodes of “Say Yes to The Dress” and I suddenly felt like I had cheated myself out of that special bonding experience of being surrounded by the girls I love as I picked THE perfect dress. My superstitious side also got a little bit creeped out thinking that Matt had seen me in that dress already.
With that in mind, I put the dress I had bought to the side, figuring if nothing else I had something to fall back on, and went out shopping. I spent several weekends out with my sisters, my cousin and my niece trying to find just the right dress at various bridal shops, both national chains and smaller local places. The pressure to buy the same day you come into the national chains was kinda crazy. I noticed that every time a “limited time” sale ended with them, it started all over again the very next day. Almost every shop I went into offered discounts on accessories if I purchased my gown with them, and additional discounts if that was where my bridesmaids purchased their dresses. In some shops I was considered plus-size and my gown cost more than the non-plus-size dresses. In others, the price was the same for all.
I must’ve tried on about 50 dresses in the course of trying to find the one … and amazingly, the vast majority were dresses I could’ve seen myself wearing down the aisle. I credit this at least partially to the expertise on the part of the salespeople. I described what I wanted and they went and grabbed me bunch of gowns to try on. Many were poufy, princess-y ball gowns that were gorgeous and at the end of each day, I found myself more confused than the last time I had gone out. One thing I will say is most of these dresses were difficult to move around in.
One major thing I learned when looking at dresses was not to judge a shop by its storefront. My favorite dress shop I visited was a place in New Bedford, about an hour from Boston. The place was actually named Julie’s Bridal and it felt really serendipitous when my sister and I stumbled upon it in a trek throughout the state to find THE gown. You could walk right past the shop without even realizing it was there and it was crowded full of dresses on the inside. The owner (also Julie) was sweet and helpful. She’s known in some circles as “the dress whisperer” and people fly in from all over the country to get their dress from her. She had the kind of shop that you could show up a week before your wedding, and she’d find something for you. At her shop I tried on my first Maggie Sottero gown. Back when I was 14 and my older sister was getting married, Maggie Sottero had been my favorite designer but because of my weight, I didn’t think her dresses (many of which were more form fitting) would look right on me. Julie encouraged me to try on one of her styles and I was in love. I didn’t buy the dress from her there and then because I wanted my mom with me, but that was the moment where I really realized what I was looking for in a gown. I also realized after the fact that it was going to take a lot to drive out to New Bedford for every fitting.
So with all that said, I found a place closer by and I went there with my mom. I was unshowered, unkempt and forgot any kind of shapewear to try on with the dress. I slipped the Karena Royale over my head and both my mom and I were completely sold instantly. It was really a beautiful mother-daughter moment. Even better than it just being gorgeous, I could actually move around in it. With a few little additions, I made it my own.
This dress was unbelievably easy to move in. I jumped into this picture last second like it was nothing!
I spent the next three months while I waited for my dress immediately regretting the purchase. I had spent more than I would’ve liked to. The dress was totally different than everything else I had tried on and I didn’t get the same warm fuzzy feelings when I looked at pictures my mom and I had taken. I resolved some of this regret by looking up pictures of the gown on others on their actual wedding day, which makes a huge difference when compared with poorly lit dress shops. I considered the dress I had bought before and I also considered the some dresses I found on Amazon.
In the end, I fell back in love with my dress, but I was kind of put off by my dress shop. Once my gown was paid for, I felt like they could be really dismissive of me, as well as my bridesmaids who also purchased their dresses there. When all was said and done, between my entire bridal party (including my groom and groomsmen) we spent around $7,000 at the bridal shop and the tux shop it was connected to, but it repeatedly felt like they were doing us a favor by being involved in the wedding instead of providing us with a service we were paying them for. At one point about a month before my wedding they called me to see if they could give my gown away to someone else because it hadn’t been altered yet (I was in the process of trying to lose weight because it had been a little on the tight side when it originally came in) and they’d reorder my gown, which would’ve been impossible. My gown took months to come in as it was. Each time I went back to the shop for alterations, I felt like my dress got further and further from what had originally made it so beautiful. I felt myself wishing I had gone back to Julie’s in the first place, no matter the distance I’d have to travel.
As it turned out, they finally finished with my dress about a week before my wedding. I picked it up the same day as my bachelorette party. When I got it home and my sister tied up my corset, the dress looked like a total mess on me, so we took it up to a local seamstress who was able to save it by the Griday before the wedding and we all lived happily ever after … especially after I took a trip out to David’s Bridal and grabbed myself a nice jacket that went perfectly with my gown. It honestly looked like it was part of it.
So what would my advice to other brides be when it comes to dress shopping? Here’s a few things :
- Even if you think you know what you want for a dress or don’t plan to buy a gown in a traditional bridal shop, go to one at least once. Try on a few dresses. You might be surprised at what you like.
- Don’t fall into the trap of “You have to buy this right now or else you miss out on all this!” You may find yourself missing out on a deal, but a wedding dress can be a big purchase and you owe it to yourself to really think about the money you’re spending and chances are that same deal will come up again pretty soon.
- Speak up for yourself. This is your day. I don’t like to use that sentence as much as a lot of other brides do, but I think it’s important to feel comfortable with what you’re wearing the day of your wedding and if something is going on with your dress that you don’t like, don’t be afraid to say something about it. I wish I had been more outspoken
- Shop around for seamstresses as much as you shop around for the dress itself. A beautiful dress can be completely ruined by a seamstress that doesn’t know what they’re doing and it’s only going to cost you more if you choose someone on price point only.
- “Say Yes to the Dress” isn’t real life for everyone. If you bring an entourage like that into a bridal shop you may find yourself walking out in tears. Bring someone you’re close to who can be honest but kind and who understands what your vision for your day is.
- If a vendor is adding to your stress because you feel like they’re not listening to what you need or want for your wedding, you might want to re-evaluate that client-vendor relationship. You’re paying them for a service and if they aren’t providing it, you owe it to yourself to go elsewhere.
- Once you know your dress style and sizing, consider some of the reputable online retailers that have some beautiful dress selections for nowhere near wedding dress prices. ModCloth is the first place that springs to mind for me, but there are lots of other great places. Just be sure to check on the reviews before you buy!
So that was that. All is well that ends well, though, and my dress was fixed before the wedding and we lived happily ever after. I was able to dance, and run and do all sorts of cool moves in it.
Seriously, check out these awesome dance moves to The Mighty Might Bosstones. Photo by Sk Photography
Nobody could tell there had ever been an issue with it and I was really comfortable. Was it more than I wanted to spend? Yes. Was I glad I spent it in the end all the same? For the dress itself, yes. For the alterations, definitely not. I saved money in other areas (such as my invites) and was able to reallocate money that way so it all works out no matter what.