The coupon clipping, the barging hunting, the wheel’n and deal’n…everything that I had saved in other areas of my wedding planning allowed me to have a hefty dress budget. At the time I went dress shopping, I didn’t think having the perfect dress was all that important to me, I figured I’d find something I’d feel okay about, preferably without spending much, and go from there. I’ve never been a bride that dreamt about a big wedding, and have never had any desire to be the center of attention for a day. However, my fiancé kept telling how important it was to him that I find a dress I loved. Never in a million years would I have ever guessed what an adventure and awesome experience dress shopping would became for me.
Now you see, this is my second wedding. I was married just over five years ago in a very small ceremony on a cruise ship. We had fewer than ten people in attendance and the wedding package for everything involved cost under $1,500. I had a dress from a previous failed engagement in college that I was still in love with that I wore. I had spent right around $500 on that dress and I figured I picked it out because I liked it, it was my style, the dress still looked great on me, and I’d just end up re-choosing something similar anyways so why waste the money and hassle on a new dress? Plus, I felt like it had that WOW factor everyone looks for in a dress. I couldn't imagine finding a new dress that topped how I felt about the old one.
Next to the reception & catering expenses, this new dress is the biggest splurge of my wedding. I still can’t believe I spent as much as I did on it, but at the same time, I have to admit, it was a pretty fantastic feeling to be able to walk into a place and pick out what I wanted, regardless of the price and know I had a savings that could cover it! All those years of saving, saving, saving and forging racking up credit card debt, and working every available minute though college so I wouldn’t need student loans made it feel even sweeter. Even though my divorce, I was able to somehow manage to stay out of debt by making sacrifices (This is when I really went into over drive using coupons and sale shopping). Now, I know this is a budget blog, so understand my dress by itself was of no way a savvay savings (well, maybe to a Kardashian!) but it’s still part of my overall wedding experience.
My original intention for dress shopping involved finding a bargain, past season gown. I had the expectations of finding something that I’d feel, “Okay” about. So, after my Maid of Honor suggested dress shopping in Dallas, I bought a plane ticket and flew from Michigan to met her in Oklahoma City. Nick, my fiancé, coordinated my trip timing and went on a guy’s road trip though New England with his best man while I was away, too. It was a great chance for both of us to spend some quality time with our Best Man/Maid of Honor.
Melissa, my maid of honor, spent the last seven years living in Texas while her husband was stationed in the Army. They’ve since been reassigned to Oklahoma, but she was somewhat familiar with what Dallas had to offer, shopping wise, which was much more than back home in West Michigan. We have been friends since high school, and even though we’re miles away, it’s still like we’ve never been apart whenever we get together!
Before flying down, Melissa and I had searched the internet and planned out our store strategy. I had found Dallas has several past season bridal outlet stores. Score! At prices ranging from $100-$1,000 I was confident I would find something.
On the day I flew into Oklahoma, the airport had a brush with a tornado! Thankfully it hit several hours after we had left the area, but having to watch the news to hear where it was moving though the night was a first for me!
We camped out at Melissa’s house that evening (Thankfully we didn’t need to try out her neighbors underground tornado shelter in the back yard, either) then took off the next morning for Texas. Like any good road trip, we had to make a few photo stops along the way.
After arriving in the Dallas vicinity, we started out at a store called, A Bridal Closet inside a mall. This was one of three stores that were part of the Star Dust Celebrations chain in the Dallas area and was a dress outlet for the other two stores. The dresses here were sold ‘as-is’ and you can take them when you that day. This seemed perfect for me, being out of state! So, I tried on at least a dozen dresses and found one that I liked, and put it on hold. It didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of my first dress, but I was happy with it. Plus, it wasn’t outrageously priced at $500 (This dress had a regular price of over $2,000!). While we were in A Bridal Closet, the sales women suggested we also try their other store across the street from the mall, Stardust Bridal Salon. We figured why not since we were already in the area and wondered over there.
From my previous internet searches, I had known Star Dust Celebrations had a high-end, a mid-range, and an outlet store. As soon as we walked in to Star Dust Bridal we were beside ourselves! So many dresses to look at, so many designers, so many pretty fabrics! It was unlike any place we’ve been before in our little mid-western towns and the place looked like one of those dress stores straight from a TV show! Since appointments were needed, we made one for the next afternoon, on our way out of town. While we were browsing, I did notice the price tags on some of the dresses. I saw dresses ranging from $1,500 all the way past $10,000! But, it was too late, I was hooked! Not to mention I had seen a strapless dress on a mannequin that I just had to try on! Melissa had asked if I wanted to check out their third store, Lu Lu’s, which for some reason I thought was the high end store since it was located in the downtown Dallas vicinity, but after seeing Star Dust, I was scared I’d fall in love with something even pricier! I didn’t want that temptation!
After a stop for lunch at Sonny Bryans (My all time favorite BBQ joint which has forever ruined me on brisket, ribs, and smoked sausages!) we continued on that day and stopped at another consignment / outlet dress store. After being in Star Dust, this little store, in a seedy strip mall with dresses packed so tightly on the racks that if you fell in, you might never be found again, just seemed… sad. Regardless, I grabbed a few dresses, all priced well under $500 and tried them on. The store attendants made me feel really uncomfortable, the dressing rooms were smaller than your average department store, and you weren’t allowed to be in the dressing with the door shut (Not kidding!). Melissa wasn’t allowed to help me, either. So, after trying on the first one, literally in my skivvies , half hanging out of the ‘dressing room’ with the rest of the store’s customers watching intently, I was ready to dash out of there! I can only imagine there is a YouTube video out there of me from this ordeal! One of the dresses did fit me very well, but had stains on the front. The attendants tried to convince me this dress was, “Made for me” but I just didn’t feel it, and neither did Melissa. We high tailed it out of there before the attendants could add more dresses to my try on pile.
After the consignment experience, we had enough dresses for the day and enjoyed a girls evening to ourselves.
This was the first time Melissa had been away from her little boy since he was born, and the first time we’ve had one-on-one girl time in close to six years so I wanted to make it extra special for us. I booked a girls night package at a hotel in the heart of Downtown Dallas which consisted of a one night stay, evening cocktails, and breakfast the next morning. After checking in we headed back out, did a little shopping, dressed up for dinner, then went to check out the evening cocktails. Unfortunately the hotel night life proved to be a little too wild for us, so we grabbed our free drinks from the bar, and hid back up in our room watching TV re-runs and chatting the night away. The next morning we enjoyed their very lovely breakfast, and headed back out of town to Star Dust.
When we arrived at Star Dust, we were the first people in line to get into the store. As soon as they opened we ventured back up stairs (this was a two story shop!).
I began by telling our consultant what I was looking for in a dress, and what my price range was. Then we picked a few of the favorite dresses from the day before to try on. It was such a different experience from the other wedding stores we had visited – Melissa was seated on a couch in a private ‘viewing’ area while the consultant helped me into and out of the gowns. The consultant was extremely knowledgeable about the gowns, and very fun to work with. She did very well tolerating our giggles and joking about different gowns and even joined in with us.
It was such a different experience from the first time I had gone wedding shopping in college where the consultants were rather rude, and tried to rush you though the store as fast as possible. The stores I had been in before were so cramped with dresses that they left little room for viewing in comparison. Here there were mirrors galore and the little bridal platform to stand on. I kept an open mind when trying on dresses, and tried on anything the consultant brought out. Who knows what you’ll end up liking and not liking? After trying on roughly a dozen lovely gowns, I found The One! As soon as I came out of the dressing room Melissa had chills! I don’t know what it was about that dress, but we both just fell in love with it! No, I won’t go into details, because I’m sure Nick, my fiancé, will end up reading this and I don’t want to give away the surprise, but it was a classic satin & lace gown by Victoria Nicole. I did try on a few more dresses after this one, just to be certain, but we kept going back to it. Finally, after trying several other options, mulling over the price tag, I made the commitment and purchased the dress! To our surprise, Star Dust brought out champagne for Melissa and I to celebrate! We thought that was such a nice, special little treat!
Fast forward 5 months later. It’s now October and logistically, flying back down to Dallas isn’t very practical for me, so I opted to have my dress shipped to Michigan where I’ll find a seamstress closer to home. Like any bride, I was beginning to worry I might not be as much in love with the dress as I had originally been, and was having buyer’s remorse over the price tag. Then the box came, on the same day we were sampling cake flavors. So, I decided to save opening the box until later that evening (With Nick absent, of course). Upon opening the box, I was greeted with tons of pink tissue paper. After pulling away all the paper and revealing a pale purple dress bag, I hastily unzipped the bag. It was just as lovely as I remembered! Any second thought I had over the past few months disappeared.
So, what was the total price of this dress? $3,600! Over double the cost of my entire first wedding! But, having an incredible dress shopping experience with Melissa? Absolutely Priceless! Wanna know something else I found out about Star Dust later on? They use to have their own reality show called, “Girl Meets Gown” and the store has been partners with “Randy to the Rescue”. Turns out we were in the high end store of out of the three Stardust Celebrations locations!
Sometimes price tags aren’t just about material objects. I’m very fortunate that by living a budget savvy life for so long, I could allow myself to splurge on something like this dress, and the adventure of traveling down to Oklahoma and Texas. I mean, how many other people can say they had tornado encounters, a cross country road trip with their bestie, came across the Great White Buffalo, ate AWESOME BBQ, and found a dress shop with fabulous consultants which has been on TV while searching for their wedding dress? PLUS, while all of that is exciting, my dress story doesn’t end here. What comes next makes my dress absolutely priceless to me.
I've been holding off trying my dress on until Melissa came home to Michigan for Christmas. After receiving the dress mid-October I've restashed it away in the purple bag and pink tissue. Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and needed another peek at my dress. I was alone when I opened everything back up, and this time I noticed a round cardstock tag for The Get In Touch Foundation. I had never heard of this organization before, but after reading the information on the tag, it’s a foundation that teaches girls the importance of self breast exams in order to help identify and prevent breast cancer. The dress designer, Victoria Nicole, makes a donation for each dress purchased on behalf of the new bride, or who’s name the bride wishes to honor. I had no idea such a wonderful donation would be given when I chose my dress, but at this point I was in tears. In July of this year, two days before my 30th birthday I lost my grandmother to breast cancer. My grandmother, who was 90 years old, did not tell anyone of the lump forming on her breast. It wasn’t until it was nearly the size of a golf ball that her doctor discovered it and at this point, having lived a full life, she did not wish for it to be treated.
For my 30th birthday, my fiancé had been planning an Alaskan cruise. Before leaving on our trip, I had visited with my Grandma. During this visit she was persistent in saying she probably wouldn’t be alive to come to my wedding. Now, this is something she frequently would say for as long as I can remember (Usually in terms of, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be around for Christmas…the next Birthday…or whatever holiday/event was coming up”) so my family was pretty much use to her saying such things. This time, however, it really touched me. After seeing my eyes tear up, she promised me she’d be there.
Two hours before my fiancé and I were to board the ship for the cruise I received news of my grandmother’s passing. After wrestling with the decision of scrapping our trip and flying home from Seattle or continuing with our plans, we decided to continue with the trip at my family’s request since that’s what my grandma would have wanted (She was extremely excited for us to be going to Alaska, and was very adamant I stay away from bears!). Leaving meant we would lose out on the excursions we had purchased, the cruise fare, and having to scramble to find last minute flights home since we did not purchase trip insurance. We didn’t know when we’d be able to make this trip again, and my fiancé had been planning it for nearly a year. However, staying meant I would be missing her funeral and being home with my family. While we did manage to enjoy ourselves, it was still bitter sweet to be enjoying such a wonderful vacation, and I didn’t quite have that feeling of closure from being home during this time.
I plan to make my donation to the Get In Touch Foundation in memory of my grandmother. I’m very proud to know that when I put on my dress, a wonderful cause was helped in memory of my grandmother and in a way, she’ll still be with me on my wedding day like she promised.
Regardless of how much I spent on my dress, and even if it’s just worn for one day, I’ll always reflect on the great time I had finding it, and the closure it brought me whenever I look at my wedding photos. Thankfully I didn’t let this dress become my ‘Great White Buffalo!’