How to Save Money on Your Wedding Dress

(Part of The Smart Bride's 201 Smart Tips for Saving on Your Wedding)

Go shopping at a discount outlet. Many high profile designers also have outlets for the sale of old season and surplus stock. Do a web search of factory outlets to find them in your state, or use one of Pamm’s discount guides (available for Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) or

Skip the wedding dress shops altogether and buy from a normal formal shop. Many formal shops have gorgeous gowns in various shades, including white, (although who ever said a wedding dress has to be “white”?). Wedding retailers, including wedding dress retailers generally put substantial mark-ups on their products so shopping at a non-wedding store can save you a pile.

Debutante dresses are also a great option if you are looking for a more simple style of gown, however deb dresses can also be altered cheaply and by adding a train or some embellishments (lace, beading or crystals) together with your veil can transform it into a beautiful wedding gown.

Get a dress without beading or crystals and do it yourself (the time it takes to add beading and crystals is extensive, and the labour costs are added into the cost of the gown). It can be a fun thing to do yourself, or with you mother, grandmother, sister, friends… (if you are going to be handling your dress extensively remember to wear white cotton cloves to avoid marking your dress with oil from your skin).

Jane’s Story

Jane got a $150 plain formal dress from a formal wear who was having a sale. It was simple white satin material in a plain design. Jane went to a material shop when they had a sale and spent an extra $80 on beading, sequins, crystals and thread. Then she had a sewing weekend where she got her mother, grandmothers and aunts over to help her sew these onto her dress and veil. Jane used pictures from bridal magazines as a guide to get the look she was aiming for. In the end, she spent $230 on a gorgeous gown that looked like it came from a designer shop, AND she got to spend a weekend making memories with her close female relatives.

Go with the second hand option. Or as many people call them: “pre-loved wedding dresses”. You can find them advertised on the internet on wedding websites, in the trading post, local newspapers, and in some second hand community stores (op-shops).

Keep in mind that a lot of “pre-loved” gowns, haven’t been worn at all. Some brides don’t ever make it down the aisle, but more commonly, brides will buy on first impulse and then find a dress they like better – and end up with two! If you would prefer to wear a dress that hasn’t been worn before, it is worth checking out the “second hand” option and asking the seller if it has actually been worn. You might be pleasantly surprised!

There are new and used, as well as vintage dresses on e-bay. Some of the vintage dresses are just amazing.

Stocktake sales can save you up to 50% if you know where to go. If you can hold out until the June/July sales, do it!

Sample sales are not well known about, mainly because they are irregular and the timing is determined by the individual store. A sample sale is where a store will sell the dresses that have been hanging as samples for brides to look at when they do their wedding dress shopping, or a designer has sent to a store as an example of an up-coming range. The pros of buying in a sample sale is that you can pick up a gorgeous dress for sometimes less than even half price. The cons are that you have to phone around to find out when and if they have their sample sales, some samples will have been tried on by other bride to be’s, and often stores will not do alterations for you on samples which means you will have to find your own dress maker to do your fittings.

I bought my dress at a sample sale, but it was not a sample dress, it was just old season. When I was shopping for my dress the strapless look was just about all anyone was buying, and my dress was identical to most on the rack, only it had a couple of straps. I preferred straps because it meant I wouldn’t be pulling my dress up all day (personal preference only, no offence to all of you strapless lovers!) and I got my dress for 80% off. Would you believe that the material my dress was made from was worth more than what I paid for the whole dress? It was a size too big, but nothing my dress maker didn’t fix for $150 (more tips on dress makers later). When I did the calculations, I couldn’t believe it was 80% off – that’s crazy! And to make it even better, I used to drive past this wedding dress shop weekly, and had been admiring this dress in the window since before my husband and I had even begun talking about getting married. It just turns out that when I finally went looking, the price had been slashed!

I just mentioned that I paid less for my dress than I would if I had gone and bought the material. Sometimes stores just want to move their stock, and will sell below cost. Have you found a dress that is an absolute bargain, but you don’t really like the design? Is it possible to get a complete make-over? Sometimes you can really save on material this way, and it will be cheaper than starting from scratch at a fabric store. Get ideas on what you want your final dress to look like from bridal magazines.

Do you have a relative who is good at sewing? Having someone in your family to make your dress for you will add sentimental value, and make your day even more special. Even if their speciality isn’t wedding dresses, they can still do the main dress making, and then you can hire a professional dress maker to do the final fittings and alterations for the professional touch.

Full skirts add to the cost of a gown because of the additional material. If you would like a full skirt, think about using a hoop or petticoats to add fullness rather than getting a dress with miles of material.

Is your mother or grandmother’s dress an option? Wearing or altering a heirloom dress worn by a grandmother, mother, aunt, sister or even a friend can be an economical and original alternative to buying a brand new gown. You’d be amazed at what a dressmaker can change, add or take out of an already complete gown, or maybe you’ll be lucky enough that the gown is perfect the way it is.

Would you consider going with a more classic style (not going with the trends) so that you could pass it down to your future daughter or relative? While it may not save you money immediately, it might save your future family a few dollars?

Renting is an option for people who aren’t sentimental and don’t want to hang on to their dress after the wedding. If you’d rather spend your wedding budget on the reception, wedding bands, honeymoon or future home, then renting can be a very good option. Professionals who rent out wedding outfits make sure all of their stock is in 100% condition and looking brand new, so no one would know you rented unless you told them.

Buy a style that is in season and sell it second hand afterwards. I know a bride who bought a gorgeous dress on sale, and sold it second hand afterwards for more than she originally paid for it. She made money on her wedding dress! One word of warning – if you’re going to spend extra on a dress because you’re sure you going to sell it later, make sure you are committed to getting rid of it. Many brides spend extra for this reason and then can’t bare to part with their dress after the wedding.

If you are buying a new dress, always try and negotiate the price down. There’s nothing wrong with asking “is this price set, or can you come down a little?” If the answer’s no, you’ve lost nothing, and if they come down, you’ve gained! If you are not a standard size (ie not between size 10 and 14) use this as leverage as these dresses are harder to sell.

Discounts often pop up when the word “cash” is muttered.

If you are buying an expensive dress and the price is fixed, negotiate to get the hoop or veil included.

Lots of Aussie brides are starting to buy their gowns over the internet from US bridal sites. These work out cheaper than the same thing in Australia even after you have made the currency conversions and paid for freight. Of course, always be careful when making internet purchases, especially when it involves overseas retailers. To find retailers, do a google search of “cheap wedding dress”, “wholesale wedding dress” etc. If you type in “=&us=” at the end of your google search (in the url bar) results specifically from the USA will appear.

If you are on the small to average size in the chest area and your dress comes with cups or boning, you will not need to fork out on coordinated lingerie. Cups cost below $2 and can be easily inserted by your dress maker, so think about this before spending a fortune on a new bra.


Dress Makers

Choosing the wrong dress maker can be costly, especially if you have to get the dress re-worked, or even worse, you dress is ruined at the hands of an amateur. Here are my tips for choosing a good dress maker and potentially saving in the long run:

Only go with a dress maker that you are 100% comfortable with. You may end up paying more to get someone else to fix their mistakes.

Ask to see some of the work they have completed (real life examples, not just a portfolio – look for neatness of stitching, sturdiness and the cleanliness of the finished product).

Ask how long they have been specifically making wedding dresses (not including just doing alterations) and ask if they only go off a pattern, or if they do their own pattern making. Patterns can get expensive, so someone who can do their own will save you.

Ask them how busy they are (while busy-ness is an indication of popularity and possibly how good they are, a rushed dress maker will not give your dress 100% of their attention).

Ask them how many fittings you will need, and when they do their last fitting (you don’t want your last fitting any longer than 4 weeks before your wedding because brides are known for their weight fluctuations, especially in the last few months). If your dress maker won’t do a fitting in the last month before your wedding you may have to pay someone else to do it for you.

Pick a dress maker that does things in the style you are looking for. There is no use going to someone who mainly does big flowing gowns with lots of skirts and puffy sleaves if you want something more sleek and sophisticated. While the dress maker may be adaptable, you want to stick with someone who does this style regularly to avoid costly mistakes.

The Veil

An easy way to spend NOTHING on a veil is to use one that has been passed down through the family (as long as the colour matches your dress).

Or … borrow one from a friend. While borrowing a dress may be going a little too far, a friend will be flattered if you ask to borrow their veil.

Make your own. Tule is dirt cheap, and easy to cut and gather (it doesn’t need hemming or ribbon edging, you can just cut it and leave it). The tule can be easily gathered at the top and glued or sewed to hair pins or a hair comb and then use beads, crystals, material flowers, real flowers or any other decorations to cover up where you have attached it to the hair piece. I did this (I used a pattern I found on the internet to cut the shape) and my veil cost a total of $12. This is especially a great option if you have detail in your dress and don’t need a lot of detail in your veil.


The Wedding Dress
The Bridesmaid Dresses, The Groom & Groomsmen’s Attire
Hair, Makeup & Jewellery, Shoes
The Ceremony & Music
The Reception Venue, Catering & Drinks
The Flowers, Cake & Bonbonniere (Favors)
The Photos
The Transport
Invitations, The Bridal Shower, Hen’s Night & Buck’s Night
The Gifts & The Honeymoon
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