Clothing & Accessories
At a bridal shop a wedding gown will cost anywhere from $300 to $3000 (or more!!!). This is a lot to spend on a dress you will only wear one time but don't worry, there ARE alternatives.
Outlet stores are a good place to look. The dresses are brand new but the styles have been discontinued. We know people who purchased Laura Ashley and Jessica McClintock gowns for $100 each.
The formal wear department of regular department stores is another good place to look. That is where I got my gown for $89. This will work especially well for you if you dislike all the sparkle and glitter on many of the real bridal gowns or if you prefer a color other than white or ivory.
Consignment stores and thrift shops carry used gowns which are very inexpensive. The drawback here is that they don't have a huge selection and the one you love might not fit (this happened to me). You might even get lucky at the Goodwill or Salvation Army Store!
If you (or someone you know) can sew you can make your gown. Price will vary depending on what materials you choose.
The very cheapest way to go is to borrow a friend's dress or wear your mother's. It will probably need dry cleaning and possibly alterations but that's not much to pay.
You can apply the same strategies to accessories and bridesmaids attire. Although it might be a little tricky to find five matching dresses in the proper sizes at the Salvation Army if you have only one or two bridesmaids it could work! You can also try catalogs. Quite a few people have found suitable dresses for under $80 in the Chadwicks of Boston catalog. JCPenney has a bridal collection catalog with prices ranging from $99 to $160. We got our bridesmaid's dresses from the Frederick's of Hollywood catalog for $59 each.
A big money saver in the accessories category is to not buy dyable shoes! They are often uncomfortable and not economical as they most likely will be worn only once. Instead buy a pair of white (or ivory) leather shoes to wear with your gown. You will then be able to wear them as summer shoes for several years.
The same applies to the bridesmaids shoes. I'm not sure where the idea arose that the shoes must be the same color as the dress but it's rather ridiculous. Black shoes with dark dresses or white shoes with pastels are perfectly acceptable and much more practical! Our bridesmaids wore any black shoes they wanted and I can assure you that no one pointed at their feet and said "Look at that...their shoes don't match!"
Headpieces and veils have extremely inflated prices in the bridal shops but are not difficult to make yourself even if you have limited sewing skills. You can find everything you need including easy to follow instructions at your local craft store for under $20. Also consider borrowing a veil from a friend or relative. People are usually delighted to see their expensive stuff get another outing!
Regarding the men's clothing, if they want to avoid the cost of tuxedo rentals they can just wear dark suits and perhaps matching ties. Even if they have to buy new suits at least they will get far more than one day's use for their investment. If you do choose to rent tuxes don't shell out extra money for the shoes! As with the women's shoes, you'll be far more comfortable in a nice pair of dress shoes.
Real world tips and ideas from our readers:
Cathy Germinio in New York State told us that she owns a "different" kind of bridal shop. She sells discount gowns which are used, samples or discontinued. Her gowns sell from $99-$249. Cathy also asked us how much we charge to place an ad on our site! We let her know that we don't accept paid advertising but since she has a service that could be useful to our readers we would post her info. Here it is: Fairy Tale Bridal Boutique, 100 East Main St., Elbridge, NY phone # (315)689-7929.
Andrea was shopping second hand and found a pair of shoes she liked for $3.00 but when she brought them home and they didn't match her dress. Her bridesmaid also already had white shoes so they bought 2 small cans of glitter spray paint for $3.99/can, stuffed the shoes with old newspaper and sprayed. Instant matching shoes!
Coryn Dunn went into a drycleaners to find out how much it would cost to dye a dress white and was told that someone had not bothered to pick up a wedding dress and that if she paid the $40 dry-cleaning charge she could have it. Apparently this happens often so it's worth checking into!
Sami Robe wanted an expensive, fancy dress but was on a tight budget. She discovered that it is possible to rent wedding dresses. There are actually a few options. They offered dresses that had been rented before as well as several catalogs to choose from. I ordered my dream dress from a catalog so it was new when I wore it. Instead of paying $1000 if I had purchased the dress I only paid $250 plus $10 for a few alterations. This particular store also loaned head pieces
Roxann Hickle wanted a cathedral length veil but didn't care for the high prices. She had looked at a lot of veils and decided to make her own. She bought tulle for .99 a yard, a roll of small pearls for $3.99, and a headpiece she loved for $3.99 at a fleamarket. With hot glue gun in hand she created the veil she wanted for less than $20. The shop wanted $165 for it.
K. Poole got her wedding dress (a 1950's cocktail dress) on eBay for $50.00. Her bridesmaids wore 1940's day dresses also from eBay. One was $29.99 and one was $12.75!!
Laura Holby also used eBay. She bought her dress for $237 (it normally retails for $1400!!!). It only needed hemming which a friend did for free. She also bought her veil on eBay for $14.99 (retail price $150.00) with $5.00 s/h.
And one more eBay bargain sent by Gwen Jones in Milwuakee: I bought my wedding gown for $50 on eBay!! It is gorgeous! I DO believe in penny pinchin' weddings! Thank you for all of the tips and tricks. I sure put them to good use! Below is a picture of Gwen wearing her bargain gown:
Cheryl Young's aunt made a simple fingertip length veil with a rolled edge for $2.50 (the bridal shop wanted $75).The same aunt made her dress for $750 which sounds like a lot until you know that it would have cost $4000 in a bridal salon.
A website visitor asked if anybody knew where she could find a pattern for a little boy's (size 4) tuxedo. Apparently it costs $100 to rent one! We suggested that she try the dry cleaner for one that had never been picked up or yard sales for outgrown ones. If anybody knows of a pattern please share the information!
D. Arlene in WI sent this unique way of acquiring a wedding gown: When I decided to get married for the second time around I decided to go ahead get married and let everyone know later. A few months before our first anniversary my husband decided his present to me would be a grand reception. I have 3 girls from a previous marriage and money was very tight so I put an ad in the paper to see if someone would donate a wedding dress. Not only did I get the dress of my dreams but also all her wedding decorations and even the silk flower bouquet. I had to drive almost 100 miles but other than that it was free. I decided to invite this newly married couple (they had been married only 3 weeks) to my reception and she said "Only if I can make the cake." I had three other people who called to see if I would like their dress for free. My total for my reception food, drink, and everything else less than $100. So my tip: put an ad in the paper this is what mine said "Donation of wedding dress needed. Second marriage, very tight budget and 3 small children. Please make my dreams come true."
From Vicki Hogenson: I was reading your site to get more ideas for my own frugal wedding which We are paying for our wedding ourselves so the cheaper, the better! We found an excellent way to have beautiful wedding rings at a mere fraction of the cost. My fiance has always loved Black Hills Gold, and I've always wanted a sapphire stone instead of a diamond. He designed the setting, had Landstrom's custom make it for him, with a sapphire center stone, 2 leaves on each side, and a small diamond on each side - the total cost, even custom made with a white gold band, was under $500, and it's gorgeous and totally unique - probably a fourth of the cost had it been a "traditional" diamond wedding ring. It is the only band I will be wearing - I will not have a separate wedding and engagement ring (also saves money!). His ring also has black hills gold on it, on a sterling silver band. We bought it off-season about 40% off, for under $60. Because they both have Black Hills Gold leaves and white/silver bands, they look like a perfectly matched set, and we absolutely love them!