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I have a confession to make. I am a fan of the show Say Yes to the Dress on TLC. And I’m willing to guess I’m not the only bride here that watches. As anyone who watches the show knows Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan is not known for having budget-friendly wedding gowns. Most of the women on the show are looking in the price range of $2,500 to $5,000 and you will occasionally see those who get gowns priced at $10,000 and up. Whew! That’s my whole wedding budget right there.

wedding dress shopping?
say yes to the dress

So what does this have to do with anything?

When I was originally setting my wedding budget I allocated $500 to $1,000 on the dress (including alterations). Of course I was hoping to stick closer to $500. Like many brides-to-be I got swept away in the magic and romanticism of “the dress” and went looking about three months in to my 16-month engagement. The first place I decided to look? David’s Bridal. And look I did! I did not find much in their racks that I liked. I didn’t want anything with bling… meaning zero beading. It’s just not my style. I’m also not a fan of extreme shapes like a mermaid or ballgown. Plus on my 5’1 frame I wanted something that would make me look grown-up and womanly and not drowning in fabric.

The first gown I tried on at David’s Bridal (and liked) was a lace fit & flare. It was pretty and I was feeling pretty good about myself in it, and excited to find something I liked. But it wasn’t the most comfortable dress. Even though it wasn’t a mermaid I still felt restricted in it and was worried I wouldn’t be able to dance freely. Then I tried sitting down and again, it was uncomfortable. I realized the dress wasn't going to cut it. The next gown I liked actually had a bit of poof to it, something I originally didn’t want.

wedding dress shopping?
fit & flare style on the left with a poofy look on the right

I debated this dress but ultimately decided that although it was fun and cute it wasn’t what I envisioned myself wearing on my wedding day. The nice thing is that both of these dresses priced in at $490 and $540 respectively. So they were right on the mark budget wise.

I decided to go for a more traditional bridal salon experience and booked an appointment at a small local boutique. Dresses started at around $750 and went up from there. I tried on about 5 or 6 dresses and found one I liked A LOT. It had everything I wanted! It was lace, A-line, ivory, with no beading, and a sweetheart neckline. I didn’t cry but I didn’t want to take it off. That says something. My mom was with me and she also loved the dress. However I did not buy it right there… I wanted to keep looking. The next month the same boutique was having a trunk sale so I decided to go back with one of my bridesmaids and try on some more dresses. I must have tried on 10 or more. Some were nice but none were as nice as my favorite from the last visit. I asked the consultant if I could try that dress on again. Then I just knew. I loved it just as much as before and felt better knowing none of the other dresses had stood up to it. My friend liked it too! The only downside? It was $899 before alterations. My Mom ended up paying for half and technically I was under my top budget of $1,000. Here it is!

wedding dress shopping?

Now, I love my dress. But I have been feeling a bit guilty about purchasing it a year before the wedding and only trying on gowns at two places. I recently went looking at bridesmaid dresses with my girls and saw some great dresses at another salon that were less expensive than mine. I kept thinking I had found “the one” because Say Yes to the Dress and other shows like it always tell you to stop looking and buy once you’ve had that feeling. Did I make the right decision? I don’t know. But I am happy with my dress. I might have been able to find something just as great for less but I know I will feel wonderful on our wedding day. Instead, I’ll just have to be more conscious of our budget in other areas.

How do you feel about wedding dress shopping? Did you get a feeling when you found “the one”? Do you have any dress regrets?

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About Ashley Catherine

I’m a 24-year old marketing coordinator from Portland, Oregon who enjoys outdoor activities like hiking and riding my bike, reading, blogging, and indulging my nerdy side with video games and trivia nights. I’m marrying my wonderful fiancé Tom in a fall-themed wedding on October, 5 2013. I’m lucky to call him my best friend.

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  • Jenn

    Ashley – the dress you chose is beautiful and flatters your figure so well! The most important thing? YOU feel the same about it and when you put it on, it’s what YOU want.

    We easily get caught up in that we “need” to feel this way on our wedding day. Reality check – we don’t NEED anything but the man whom we love standing with us. The flowrs, the earrings, the bouquets, the aisle decor and the tiny little placecards you handmade? Cute and awesome, none of it is needed. And I remind myself when I, too, devulge myself in an afternoon of “Say Yes To The Dress!” In fact … it’s my guilty pleasure! However, I find that with every episode, I find myself laughing and rolling my eyes most of the time … I tried on a dress that was on an episode of “Say Yes To The Dress” – the episode the woman came in wanting a “blush” dress and it was this giant poofy blush dress with a flower sash, strapless. I tried it on (same day and location as the dress I went with) and yea … it was nice … but this incredible dress worth over $10k? No … definitely not. AND the store I went to was a high-end store that did sell dresses up to $8k and higher in their store (I just happened to find mine in my size and exact style on the discontinued rack in the back for $399 … and guess what? It’s actually almost identicle, except about 3/4 of the ‘poof’ of that TLC SYTTD dress!).

    Make sure you’re happy with your purchase – it’s amazing when you put it on and you DO get that feeling, but some girls never find that moment. Not because they don’t find the dress, but because it’s not the dress that they’re looking for … for some women (and this doesn’t make those of us who do go googly and cry when we put on our dress) the dress, deep down, is just a piece of the day and it’s the DAY that means the most, as a whole.

    You did good sticking to your budget and even if there are other options out there that you may see even further under budget, like you said, just save in other areas. 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you in this dress on your big day!!

    • Thanks Jenn! I just had my first alterations appointment this weekend and trying it on again I loved it just as much as I did when I purchased. It wasn’t the cheapest option I had but I am happy with my decision. We are finding ways to save in other areas of the wedding so I feel good about sticking to the overall budget.

  • Wynelle

    I also started at David’s Bridal. I wanted to make sure my Mom got to be with me when I first looked at gowns, so while visiting her on vacation last year we went to her local DB where I tried on five or six gowns. I’m 5’9″ and am a 47 year old first time bride and I didn’t want a dress that was “too much” – as in too much lace, too much cleaveage for a church wedding, or just plain too much dress. Saw some gorgeous ones, and found one we all liked (trumpet style that fit like a glove). But the price was $699 w/o alterations. That was simply way out of our price range.

    BUT, I wound up meeting a gal at home while helping a friend with her daughter’s wedding. My new friend had a connection with a wedding planner who said she refers all her brides to a knock-off website for wedding gowns. Thousands of dresses to choose from, custom-made (at no additional charge) or standard size, and the prices are crazy good. (Ex. gowns that look identical to one particularly featured SYTTD designers that go for $5K was for $249.99. Is a designer label really worth $4750.00?) I spent hours pouring over the site. Knowing what style fit my body type best helped tremendously. Then I found it! The dress that was all I could have asked for. More lovely than anything I tried on elsewhere…for $179.99. I ordered it yesterday and can’t wait to see it!

  • Alexis

    I agree with Jenn. Sure, you could have tried on dozens of other dresses and would there be one in there that you loved even more (and might have been a better price)? Maybe. But you love the dress you have now, it makes you feel good, and it wasn’t wildly out of your price range, plus you guys are finding other areas in which to save.

    I bought the fifth dress I tried on in the first shop I went to. I just felt right in it – it was comfortable and made me feel beautiful. It was at the top of end of my budget but my mom surprised me and got it for me. Afterward we went to another shop to look at shoes and dresses for her, and I saw a lot of pretty dresses that fit my initial budget. Did I have doubts? Sure. I could have tried on those dresses and probably found something else I liked just as much and maybe saved some $. However, I love the dress I got and I don’t need it to fit some image in my head of “the one.” My fiance already does that.

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