11/9 Real Bride Holly: Why Sample Sales Suck and Other Bummers

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Hello BABs!

This week I would like to talk about my experience dress shopping. I like to think that I experienced my first investigation into the world of wedding dress shopping kind of like the five stages of grief:

Denial: “I’m sure that I can find a pretty wedding dress that will make me feel like a beautiful princess for not that much money!”

Anger: “Okay, so this one is … THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS? Are you f***ing kidding me!? It’s a dress!”

Bargaining: “Well, if I don’t go on vacation/pay my rent/feed myself for the next three years, I could probably afford this.”

“Welp, I might as well go home, it’s hopeless.”

Acceptance: Ha, just kidding, I never got to acceptance. When you objectively look at how much the prices are jacked up, it sucks! I literally found one website where they sold an identical version of a single dress, one white, intended for a bride, and one blue intended for a bridesmaid, with the only perceivable difference being color, with the white one priced at $800 more than the blue. I don’t particularly like feeling exploited as a consumer, and I felt ready to stand up like Lisa Simpson and voice my displeasure. 

Determined, I went online and explored other options for how I could get around the “bridal tax” and find myself a pretty dress that was priced according to its quality, not the type of event it was intended for. I explored a few different options, which I will expand on below, along with my thoughts on each.

A non-white dress: Personally, I wasn’t married (ha) to the idea of a white dress. I found some stunning formal dresses in all colors that I could totally have worn. The best places to find them are places that sell formal or prom dresses, or even bridesmaids dresses. You can easily get a gorgeous one for $500 if you like the idea of being a colorful bride.

Used: I checked out website like StillWhite and Preowned Wedding Dresses and was really impressed with the selection and the buying/selling format. However, after some comparing, I realized that some dresses were only priced a few hundred dollars less what they would have been from the manufacturer. In the extremely likely event that you need to get alterations or have it cleaned, you may not be saving much, unless you can argue the seller down on the price. Plus, there’s the added stress of not being able to try it on first. However, there’s one good way around it that I thought of. You could go to a bridal shop, try on a dress, figure out your approximate size, make a note of the name of the style, THEN go online and search for a used version in that size. Or, you might get lucky at a brick-and-mortar consignment shop.

One other thing about used dresses: They also provided a reminder for me that if I did end up buying a dress, I could always pay a little bit more for a dress but then recoup some of the money by selling it after, although there’s no guarantee. Not a bad option either.

Sample sales: Lots of bridal shops have sample sales at the end of the season, which is a good option if you are approximately a street size 8 or less, and have extremely high tolerance for crowds. I went to a sample sale that was insanely crowded, there were about 45 people crammed into the shop, clamoring for the dresses. If someone tried on a dress and didn’t like it, there were people waiting outside the changing room like vultures, waiting to grab the rejects the second they were taken out of the change room. It was very hectic and claustrophobic, and while the deals were good, they weren’t so good that they negated the fact that I was potentially going to have to make a large financial decision quickly in a very high-pressure environment. I’m not sure if all sample sales are like this, I’m sure that some allow you to make appointments, and if that’s the case, you might have a better experience. However, I also noticed that the sample dresses usually had some damage, and, again, the cost of mending and alterations may add on additional cost that might offset some of those savings.

Other Alternatives: Modcloth has an amazing bridal line. You can also save a ton of money if you’re willing to do a tea-length or shorter dress. I didn’t end up going that route, but it’s a great option.

The bottom line: In the end, the wonders of the Internet allow us to make more informed choices than ever before. Whatever you end up doing, I think the most important thing is to take a minute to reflect on your values as a person and how they align with some of the expectations surrounding wedding dress shopping. Are certain things really important to you, or do you just feel like that’s what you “should” do? It’s your big day — pick a dress that reflects you, whether that’s a traditional white princess dress, a bright orange tutu with sneakers, or anything in between.

Did I miss any money-saving dress options? If so, share in the comments below!