I started dress shopping too early and it wasn’t exactly the most fabulous experience but I got through it and I have a dress and I will share my dress shopping experience with you in the hope that you learn from my mistakes!
Even after being engaged for three months I had barely started to even look at wedding dresses and I had no idea what I wanted beyond the knowledge that I didn’t want to look like a princess or a cupcake. I figured I had plenty of time and very little money so I would shop online and in second hand stores to find a used gown I could be happy in and afford. I was quite ignorant of the world of wedding dresses and their cost, I don’t think I had watched a single episode of Say Yes To The Dress yet! However I knew I wouldn’t be comfortable spending more than $1500 on my dress (a completely reasonable number in my mind).
Along comes my mother for a summer visit. She starts showing me picture after picture of pretty dresses and encouraging me to find one! Of course, one of the dresses she shoves in my face I really like. Knowing my mother would be heading back home soon and not knowing when we would be able to try on dresses together, I decided we could go try on this ONE dress while she was there. I should have known this was a bad idea!
It was a Lazaro (dress 3004) and I knew it was out of my budget but I naively thought that if I tried it on at a salon and loved it I could find a used one online for less money. Silly Meg, and down the rabbit hole we go…
The only salon in LA that carries Lazaro is Panache in Beverly Hills. Nervous about the address and knowing there was no way I could afford this dress, off we went to the ritzy salon only for my hopes to come crashing down. They didn’t have the dress! It had sold only a few weeks earlier and it was the only sample they had. My mother was determined to get me in some dresses despite this sad news and so my consultant slipped me into dress after dress, each more expensive than the last. All the dresses I tried were very pretty but none of them spoke to me and I began to think perhaps I wouldn’t have that “this is the one” moment. My consultant ran out of dresses to pull for me and encouraged me to look around to see if there were any others I might like so I did just that. I found a sweet looking dress that I wasn’t thrilled about on the hanger but it was also practically my last option so I gave it a go. Guess what, I loved it. I cried, I totally cried! (embarrassing to think about now) The thing is, I’m not sure whether it was the dress or just something about it that made me really feel like a bride, it just hit me all of a sudden, I’m getting married, and I couldn’t help it, I got weepy.
Of course my consultant immediately thought she had this in the bag and started asking about measurements…uh, hang on lady, how much is this thing? $2000! Oh, but they can give it to me for the sample price, $1800… Big woop, that’s still way over my budget! As much as I loved the dress I knew I couldn’t spend that much so we left and I felt confident I would find the dress used and less expensive online. WRONG! Of course I have to go and fall in love with a Rosa Clara limited edition dress, I couldn’t find it anywhere! Not even on the designer’s website! As much as I liked the dress I still felt I should try on the Lazaro dress I had originally gone in to try. That meant a trip to the OC to the only other salon that carries Lazaro. Don’t worry this time I called first, they had the dress.
It was pretty, there was nothing wrong with it but…it wasn’t for me, I didn’t feel special in it, it just felt like another dress. I could wear it but I didn’t love it. This consultant thought it was a sure thing too, sorry lady!
Back to the Rosa Clara dress. Cue my mother while she was visiting family in Pasadena: “Oh honey, your auntie and I were just looking in this bridal salon over in Pasadena and they have such nice dresses, I think they even have your Rosa Clara dress, you HAVE to come try some on here with me and your auntie! please!” Ugh, yeah, sure, I’m sure they had lots of nice dresses, dresses I couldn’t afford! But what did I do, I agreed! I went!
I tried on some more dresses and worked with a really nice consultant. I tried on the Rosa Clara again and fell in love with it all over again. (Sorry I don’t have a dress number for you.)
It was still $2000, $500 more than my max budget not including alterations! What was I to do! I left and decided to return with my bridesmaid Jenn. She loved the dress, I had practically resigned myself to buying this dress despite the cost. Then the salon owner tells me I can put a $1000 deposit down and they won’t order the dress and I will have time to keep looking/thinking about it. If the dress was to be discontinued they would call me and see if I wanted to order it, and I was to make a decision by Christmas. If I decided I didn’t want the dress the deposit I paid could go toward any other dress in the salon. That seemed reasonable (WHY DIDN’T I THINK ABOUT THIS!) so I did it.
Enter future mother in law Sandy. She didn’t get to do any of the dress shopping with me and I felt bad about that, I knew she wanted to and I knew she was not thrilled about the price of this dress I had fallen in love with. So I told her to come down for a visit so we could try on the salons sale dresses in December with the hope of finding something just as nice and cheaper.
The salon had some good prices on many sale dresses, of course most of them were UUUUGLY! Thankfully I found one I really liked, in fact, I liked it even more than the Rosa Clara! Yaay, we did it! I’m thinking, this dress will be way cheaper! WRONG! Originally $5000 it was marked down to $2000, the same price as the Rosa Clara, I save nothing! 🙁
Now what!? My money was stuck at this salon, I had two dresses I could wear but both were over my budget and this was their only sale of the year! I couldn’t afford the majority of dresses in the salon so even if I waited it was very unlikely I would find a cheaper dress I liked. Why did I do this to myself! I never even looked at those second hand shops I told myself I’d try. I should have gone to David’s Bridal but one of my bridesmaids who knows how picky I am told me it wouldn’t be worth my time, I shouldn’t have listened! They have some pretty and cheap stuff!
I was in a hole and I had limited options so I decided to spend the money and just buy the damn dress. I rationalized it with the fact that Sandy loved the dress so I had made her happy and I could sell the dress after my big day, hopefully recouping some of the costs (we shall see how that works out).
Honestly I’m not “in love” with my dress, it’s gorgeous and I feel good in it but I also kind of hate myself for jumping the gun and going so over budget. I have come to terms with it though and I know I will feel great the day of my wedding. I’m also not including my dress in our total cost/budget breakdown since I consider it my own expense. Let this be a warning to you eager brides though, if you are looking to save money PLEASE take your time, shop around a LOT! And don’t get pushed into anything!
I can’t show you my dress yet but I will tell you it is by Eugenia and it has lace!
Instead I will show you a picture of my ring!
Favorite Wedding Dresses from BHLDN
Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here.