Wedding Dress By Jessica Weltersen Cheap wedding dresses are like parking spots in a crowded city – they always feel like you got lucky. Here are some surefire buying tips to help you find the gown of your dreams. Did you know: The average bride spends over $1,000 on her bridal gown! Helpful buying tips: Remember, that it’s not just the gown you’re buying. I know you’re looking for CHEAP wedding dresses, but as we mentioned earlier, the average wedding dress costs over $1,000 in America. BUT WAIT! There’s more! There is going to be a laundry list of expenses related to the purchase. You’ll need to factor in related items like a veil ($150+), shoes ($100+), alterations ($150+), skivvies (aka, your undergarments – $50+), etc. Factor these costs when planning your budget to avoid surprises. Cheap Wedding Dresses Does Not Mean Cheap Looking Start early. Remember that your dress will take 10 to 14 weeks just to ARRIVE! And then it needs to be ALTERED! These time-frames are when everything goes perfect. Save yourself the stress, and start this process ASAP. You’ll screw up your strategy for cheap wedding dresses if you wait until the last second. Unlike wedding invitations, wedding dresses can be ordered before the reception and ceremony sites have been decided, so you have no excuse to not starting this soon! Buying Tip #1: Most brides buy their dresses from boutique gown stores and you can still look here for cheap wedding dresses. Not that this is really news or even a much of a buying tip, but it’s important to note that most wedding dresses are bought at wedding gown boutiques. This means they are rarely purchased at large chains or department stores. While this system provides a lot of specialized expertise for helping you shop, it also means that sometimes these stores can be less financially stable. I’m not trying to set-off a panic, but it’s a good thing to be aware of, as there are many horror stories of brides ordering their wedding dresses only to find that their store has gone bankrupt before the dress arrived! BE WARNED! Buying Tip #2:The second most popular place to buy wedding dresses is a large, national chain called David’s Bridal. They are known for selling high quality cheap wedding dresses, but this is a subjective opinion. Most of their locations are inside shopping malls. While you won’t get the level of specialized knowledge and attention that you would have from a boutique and you could end up wearing a gown that many other brides have worn, there’s a reason David’s is so popular. They have wedding dress shopping down to a science. And if you’re worried about your cute little boutique on the corner going belly-up before your big day, David’s might not be a bad option for ya to find cheap wedding dresses! Buying Tip #3:Pick a dress you love and see if it’s on eBay or Craigslist. The web is a great place to look for cheap wedding dresses. I’ve had many friends both buy and sell their wedding dresses on eBay or Craigslist. Since the dresses are usually being sold by a recent bride, you’ll sometimes get better, more attentive service from sellers! We are – after all – all survivors! This step is easy. Once you have an idea of the EXACT dress you want, go to eBay or Craigslist and search for it. On the flip side, remember both sites AFTER your wedding day. I’ve heard that turning your wedding dress into cash instead of mothballs is a sure cure for the just-returned-from-the-honeymoon blues that most of you will be feeling. Buying Tip #4:Negotiate on the price. I say this one all the time. Negotiate and haggle. Make up an excuse. Tell the store you’re broke or broken down. Whatever your sob story is, I’m sure there’s a bridal gown retailer who will buy it. You’ll never know until you ASK! Cheap wedding dresses are sometimes high-end expensive dresses that were well-negotiated. That could be you! Buying Tip #5:See if you can get the same dress but from last year’s catalog. In some ways wedding dresses are like cars. Each year there are new models that look exactly like the year before, but the old ones can be bought for a discount. When you find the dress of your dreams, ask if last year’s model is available. Since the store needs to get rid of the older versions, they might discount it for you. Buying Tip #6:Be wary of buying your dress off the web. While I’ve just recommended eBay and Craigslist as viable spots to purchase, in these situations you ALREADY know what you want and are just looking for a different spot to buy. Buying wedding dresses off the web is a risky proposition. It’s becoming more and more popular, but with a ticket this big it’s hard to trust the person on the other end of your internet connection. There are a lot of horror stories about the sites selling cheap knock-offs being made in Asian sweatshops. While most sites likely have decent quality and service, consider yourself warned if you take this option! Buying Tip #7:Don’t believe all the hype about alterations. A tailor can only do so much, and the wedding dress salesperson will hype alterations like a miracle drug. This ain’t Extreme Home Makeover. Ty Pennington won’t be appearing with his megaphone at boutiques anytime soon to makeover all the dresses to fit you like a glove. They can’t perform miracles, so use your common sense when ordering. If it don’t fit, you must (ac)quit! Buying Tip #8:Consider custom making a dress with a seamstress. There’s a good chance that you’ll fall in love with a design style, rather than a particular wedding dress. Many brides find they are drawn to a certain embellishment or neckline or what have you. If this is you, consider hiring a seamstress and show him/her photos of the designs you are considering. Once you remove alteration fees and the mark-up of the store, this option can actually be a cheaper way to buy the gown of your dreams. Buying Tip #9:Shop at non-traditional sources. Did you know Costco is the second largest retailer of engagement rings in the US? That’s right. Just behind Walmart! There are untraditional sources for EVERYTHING, and wedding dresses are no different. Consider shopping at stores that don’t cater specifically to weddings. Target and J Crew have both launched wedding dresses on-line and in their catalogs. Both offer their dresses at prices so low, you might squeal like one of those wedding dress salespeople you should be avoiding. Buying Tip #10:Order off the rack. One of the main contributing factors to the high price of wedding dresses and a great way to find cheap wedding dresses is the fact that each one is custom-made after you order it. You can avoid the expense by ordering off the rack. Stores like David’s Bridal (no, my name ain’t David and I have ZERO affiliation with them) are expert at selling wedding dresses off the rack at a much lower rate. If you find one you like, you won’t get a much better deal any other way. Trust me on this. Off the rack is ok. Sometimes it’s better. Let go of custom made. I won’t tell anyone. Promise.