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Say ‘yes’ to which dress?

By Kim Fulscher · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

If the dress is the No. 1 priority in your wedding budget, maybe you'll splurge for an Oscar de la Renta gown like Carrie Bradshaw wears in your favorite "Sex and the City" movie. But if you're on a tighter budget, there are dozens of ways to save on your dream dress.

Take 'bridal' out of the dress equation

Broaden your search by leaving out the word "bridal." Let straps, length, color, fit and style be all that hold you back.

"Find a white formal dress as opposed to bridal dress," says Kristin Koch, senior editor at WeddingChannel.com. "You can glam it up with a jeweled belt or fancy costume jewelry."

You may also alter a formal white dress to fit you perfectly, says says Jodi Furman, owner of the LiveFabuLESS blog. Most brides get two or three fittings before the big day to ensure the dress fits perfectly. Some of Furman's tips include:

  • Start with a dress that's as close to your actual size as possible.
  • Order it to fit the largest part of your body.
  • Use a tailor who will do the best job, not necessarily one who will offer the lowest price.
  • Visit the tailor to get a quote.

Purchase a pre-owned bride's dress

Shop thrift stores and websites such as DHgate.com to find the perfect discounted or pre-owned dress. If you’re buying online, keep these points in mind.

  • Is the dress damaged; if so, where?
  • How much will it cost to fix?
  • What are the exact measurements of the dress?
  • Can the seller send you photos of the dress from every angle?
  • Can you return the dress if it doesn't fit or doesn't look right on you?
  • How much are you saving after shipping and alteration costs are added?
  • Consider purchasing shipping insurance and tracking.

Purchase bride, bridesmaid dresses together

Gather up your besties and go dress shopping. It could be the perfect chance to negotiate a discounted price, Furman says. She suggests asking this question with a smile on your face: "If I were to order both my wedding dress and my bridesmaid dresses from you, what kind of discount might you be able to offer me?"

"Even if they say 'no' to a straight discount, they might be willing to offer free alterations or offer to throw in accessories (veil, jewelry, etc.)," Furman says. "You won't know unless you ask."

Sites such as RKbridal.com offer "no-frills" programs in which you can order a dress without the option of fittings, alterations, returns or exchanges -- in exchange for a discount.

Rent the dress

Do it like the guys -- go rental, Furman says. Sites like RentTheRunway.com beckon brides to "let us be your something borrowed." Not a bad idea, actually.

Find accessories and handbags at sites such as Bag Borrow Steal. To get the whole look, visit RentTheRunway. The company sends you the dress of your choice in two sizes accompanied with a pre-stamped return package. They'll take care of insurance and dry cleaning. You can choose purses, dresses and accessories in dozens of current styles.

If you're OK with letting that dress go back to its rightful owner after the wedding, renting could be a perfect solution to wearing your dream dress at a dream price.

Come to think of it, you really can wear that de la Renta gown on your special day.

How do you plan to save on your dream dress? Tell me in the comments section! Follow me on Twitter: @KimSavesMoney.

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