Part of the Wedding Planning on a Budget blog series! Tips for buying your wedding dress online: Buying your wedding dress online can be a risky and nerve-wracking prospect–but if you know what to do (and what NOT to do!), it can also pay off BIG time and help keep your wedding budget in check. Read on for tips, tricks, do’s, don’ts, links and more to give you all the valuable info you need before you buy your wedding dress online!
Tips for Buying Your Wedding Dress Online: Do’s, Don’ts, Tips, Tricks and Links!
If you just got engaged, one of the first (and most fun!) things you will probably launch into regarding your wedding planning is to find the perfect wedding dress! It’s such an exciting process; some women have known for years the exact type of dress they want, and others have absolutely no clue and get to experience the excitement (and frustration!) of finding and choosing the most important and formal dress they will likely ever wear in their lives.
However… if you’re on a tight budget for your wedding, the prospect of finding the ‘perfect’ wedding dress that flatters your body and makes you feel like a million bucks without SPENDING a million bucks can be…well… daunting AF.
Online wedding dress sales have risen in popularity in recent years, partly due to the fact that weddings cost, on average, $32,000! In addition, a lot of young couples are now footing the bill themselves and are quite keen to find deals wherever they can.
If you have a tight budget for your wedding dress (and it’s important to know that they average from about $1200 on the VERY low end, to $3,000+), the good news is you can absolutely get an amazing dress online for a reasonable price.
My Own Experience with Buying a Wedding Dress Online
I had a $1000 budget for my dress.
I’m talking dress, shipping, duty fees, alterations, belt, EVERYTHING. $1000.
I LOVE dresses, especially wedding dresses and other formal gowns. I find them so much fun, and so beautiful, almost like pieces of art, but I absolutely could NOT justify spending thousands of dollars on a one-day dress. I worked out the cost of a $3000 Maggie Sottero that I loved and realized it would cost me $250/hour to wear that dress.
I considered buying a nice $350 floor-length bridesmaid dress in ivory (since I have a couple of girlfriends who have done that and their dresses were truly lovely), but nothing I found gave me the ‘wow’ factor or the full skirt that I was looking for. So, online I went!
In this post, I’m going to share with you the tips, tricks, and resources I stumbled upon during my research and purchase processes, so you can be armed with this valuable information right from the get-go!
Source 1: Etsy!
I could gush for DAYS about the experience I had with my Etsy seller LaceMarry, who made my custom-designed dress. This is not a sponsored post, I swear, I was just so incredibly happy with her service and my dress, I would recommend her to ALL brides on a budget who want to have their dream dress without breaking the bank. I mean… LOOK at this dress!!!
My personal difficulty was that I’m very picky about what I want, but also very frugal! I know, I know… Ridiculous. But I was determined to see if I could get my ideal dress for under my $1000 budget.
And guess what? I got a custom-designed, completely unique dress with tailoring, belt, taxes, shipping, etc. all included for…. $999. I sh*t you not. $999. And 32 cents.
I contacted LaceMarry with a few Pinterest photos – I liked the skirt on one dress I saw, the neckline of another, and the back and sleeves of a third dress. Mary combined all three features, plus a couple more of my own ideas, into my absolute DREAM dress. I would highly recommend LaceMarry, but there are a lot of other wedding gown designers on Etsy too! I seriously considered a couple of them, but in the end I went with LaceMarry, and I am SO glad I did. (Thank you, Mary! xo)
Important things to note:
1) Do your homework! Before ordering with LaceMarry, I looked through pages and pages of Etsy reviews (almost all of them were 5-star reviews, but still!). I also searched The Google and looked up threads on WeddingBee, Reddit, etc. to see what people were saying about that seller, and to find as many photos as I could of her dress designs on real brides. My point being: make sure you have vetted any dressmaker as well as you possibly can before putting down a deposit.
2) Ensure you communicate your wants very carefully. Of the negative reviews I saw, it seemed people were unhappy with a particular feature of their dress because there had been a miscommunication (or lack of communication…) with the dressmaker. Send loads of photos, and don’t be afraid to clarify your wants and needs to the Nth degree. Make sure they know exactly what you want!!!
3) Request fabric samples. They will usually charge you a nominal fee to send these, but really, it’s worth the $20 to know that your $900 dress will be made with quality fabric in a colour you’re happy with.
4) Take that seller’s measurement guidelines to a professional tailor and have them measure you. Different dressmakers will sometimes use different types of measurements, or require certain specifics for their dress designs. Have a pro tailor follow the dressmaker’s instructions to the letter.
5) Leave a wee bit of space in your measurements. My weight tends to fluctuate, and because I had to order my dress so far in advance of my wedding, I added about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch to each measurement where I know I usually gain weight over the winter (my waist, bust and arms). I ended up spending $200 in alterations to tweak it to a perfect fit, but $200 was well worth it to avoid the panic I would have been in if my dress had been too tight!
Source 2: Pre-Worn Wedding Dress Websites
If you’ve fallen in love with a designer gown that you simply cannot afford, scope pre-worn wedding gown websites like Preownedweddingdresses.com and Stillwhite.ca for that specific dress. Think about it: the dress has seriously only been worn for 12 hours. It’s practically new!!! You can score a great deal on a designer dress, AND it’s a very ‘green’ option because you are re-using materials, reducing the carbon footprint of your wedding. Essentially how it works is: brides post their wedding dress for sale and name their own price, and you can scope through what’s available and make an offer.
Important things to note:
1) Make it easy for yourself. Most of these sites will let you set up alerts for specific gown styles/designers/sizes so you don’t have to be constantly checking the websites to avoid missing out on your dream dress.
2) Set your search for your size, plus a size or two bigger. You can always have a dress taken in by a couple of sizes. If you go too much bigger though, even a skilled tailor will have trouble maintaining the look and integrity of the dress when they try to size it down too much.
3) Ask for photos of the dress in its current state. Most of these sites will have the seller list whether the dress has been professionally dry-cleaned or not, but be sure to ask for current photos anyway. Don’t just rely on the pretty professional ones people post on the listing – remember that those are taken during the day with no close-ups of the dirt and grit that will collect on the train of the dress!
4) Sign up early. As soon as you get engaged and know you have a limited budget, sign up for those sites ASAP! It can take some time to find your dream dress and you’re purely relying on luck–you can’t know who will post what dress when, for how much, and whether someone else will snap it up before you do!
5) Don’t be afraid to haggle! Sellers will list their asking price, but if a dress has been listed for a while without any bites, brides may be willing to negotiate down.
Source 3: Online Retailers (JJ’s House, LightInTheBox, etc.)
I have heard mixed reviews about these companies regarding wedding dresses. I bought a bridesmaid dress from LightInTheBox several years ago, and was quite impressed with the quality of fabric and the fit. However, when I took it in to a tailor to get some minor tweaks done, she said it was very difficult to alter because it was constructed very ‘strangely’. I’m not a tailor, so I don’t entirely know what ‘strangely’ means, but she seemed to think it was a bit of a problem and made the alterations tricky to do. But she was able to do the alterations, so it didn’t end up being a huge problem.
A different tailor (who did the alterations on my wedding dress) said she was amazed at the quality craftsmanship of my Etsy dress. In her experience, she said, “wedding dresses from those other online companies are often poorly made.” She told me she has had brides come in to have alterations done on those dresses only to find out they have been constructed using glue instead of thread! I haven’t heard that personally, but she deals with a lot of brides and didn’t seem to have a high opinion of some online retailers.
However, the reviews on those sites do show a lot of happy brides who were thrilled with their purchases–and the price point!–so I suspect it’s a ‘buyer beware’ situation like any other. But I would still strongly encourage you to apply the same guidelines I’ve mentioned above regarding doing your homework about the seller and checking out as many reviews as you possibly can, measuring carefully, getting fabric samples, etc.
Final Tips for Buying Your Wedding Dress Online
1) Try on dresses at bridal salons FIRST
As you’ve likely experienced with regular clothing, sometimes things look great on the hanger but are horribly disappointing and un-flattering when you actually put it on your body — and vice-versa! The same goes for wedding dresses, but the stakes are way higher. You may see a wedding dress online or in a magazine and think “THAT’S the one!”, but be sure to locate it in a local bridal salon and try it on first, if your goal is to have an Etsy seller replicate it or to find it pre-worn. If you’re coming at this with a clean slate and have no idea what you want yet, try on a bunch of different styles in-store and take careful note of what necklines, cuts, skirts, train lengths and features you like and don’t like. That’s really important information to have if you plan on ordering your wedding dress online, since you won’t get a chance to try it on before ordering! I’m SO glad I did this before I ordered mine because I was actually surprised by a couple of things I thought I would like or wouldn’t like! Also, it allowed my Mum, maid of honour and my Granny to have the experience of seeing me try on wedding dresses <3
2) Budget for added duty/taxes/tariffs
If you’re ordering from outside your own country, be prepared to get hit with duty/taxes/tariffs from your home country’s border control services. This can often be a nasty surprise and can total into the hundreds of dollars, so just be sure you’ve factored that in to your budget. In the end, I only got hit with $32 in duties, which was such a massively positive surprise, I still don’t know whether it was an error or not!
3) Don’t put all your eggs in one (online shopping!) basket
Leave enough time to find a dress in a brick-and-mortar store if your online purchase turns out to be a disaster. It can pay off BIG time if your online purchase works out well for you, but please, please, PLEASE do not leave it to the last minute! Leave yourself enough buffer space to at least be able to buy a dress off the rack at a bridal salon and get it tailored before your big day.
4) Be prepared for criticism
Your mother and your girlfriends are going to think you’re insane. They’re going to say the price is too good to be true, and that you will inevitably be disappointed. But if you’ve thoroughly done your homework and come to a decision to buy your wedding dress online, chug that glass of wine, hit the ‘order now’ button and get ready to strut down the aisle in the (affordable!) dress of your dreams. As one of my bridesmaids put it: “Big risk, big reward!” <3
Do you have any other tips for buying your wedding dress online? What was your experience like? Are you a bride-to-be considering buying your wedding dress online? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!