How Some Women Said Yes to the Dress

Two weeks ago, I watched 12 hours of Say Yes to the Dress (I was sick.) I was left with some questions. Like, are people actually spending $2,000 on wedding dresses? Are they crying in the salon? How many dresses are being tried on before you find “the one”? What happens to these dresses after the wedding? Who will tell me these things? As it turns out, I know a lot of married people.

The Friend Who Ran With the Brides:
I did Running of the Brides, which when it existed, was more a feat of athleticism than a moment in a store with sales help. I had heard I could buy a wedding dress for a couple hundred dollars instead of a couple thousand; I didn’t like the idea of spending a couple grand on something I’d only wear once.

My sister and I lined up around 7:15 a.m.; the doors were open for 8. Women fly in from all over the U.S. to get as close to the front of the line as possible.

Here’s what you don’t realize until you do it: Filene’s hangs up all the dresses on racks, and then they open the doors and the first 2 dozen or so women that get in, grab every dress and hold them for ransom. You have a team and you wear coordinating shirts or maybe hats with feathers so you could find each other. You go around with signs—”I need a size 12,” “Something with feathers,” etc. My sister walked by someone’s pile and just dove in and grabbed a dress, so at least we’d have a bargaining chip, but it turned out to be my size and it was very pretty. You can try stuff on in public (I dressed in a sports bra and soccer shorts), and I slipped the dress on and it fit, so we paid for the dress. The cashier was in shock. Apparently, that had never ever happened before. My wedding dress shopping experience took an hour, if you count the waiting in line, but 15 minutes of “shopping” and I tried on one dress and bought it.



The Friend Who Rented a Dress:
I decided to rent because it was $300, including alterations, which is insanely cheap. Also, I liked the idea of it getting more than one use. (It’s also more of a cultural thing in Utah.) I went to a Mormon bridal rental place in Utah, which was great, because I wanted shorts sleeves and no cleavage. I was looking for something that I looked good in, something simple and classic. And I wanted something I could move in and not have to think about too much on the day of. I spent a couple hours trying on different options, the way it works at this place you had to make a bunch of decisions, because you choose a top and a bottom piece, and then different decorations, veil, etc. I definitely got excited when I found the combination I liked, but no crying.


The Friend With Two Dresses:
Those wedding-based reality shows are exaggerated and whacked. I still have the dress from my first wedding, I guess I just didn’t know what to do with it, and throwing it away seemed mean. I will probably donate it to a charity. It was the first dress I tried on. I had a frugal mind set and didn’t want to exceed $400 or so. Therefore, my options were limited right from the start. In any case, after trying on about 10-12 dresses, I went back to the first one I put on. I knew it was it all along.

WEDDING #2, 10 years later. Still frugal. I wanted something old-fashioned looking and very specifically, no train, not poufy, and not elaborate or lacy. I mostly only looked online. I searched with terms like “budget bridal gowns” and “cheap wedding dresses”. I wanted more of an evening gown look, so I looked at dresses meant for bridesmaids, guests of a wedding, etc. I bought one for $99 in champagne. Returns were not allowed, so I bought one size too big, and had alterations made for about the same price as the dress! All done for under $200.


The Friend Who Googled It:
My mom and I went to the Saks boutique after browsing some off-the-rack dresses there and the ladies there helped me figure out what silhouette worked best for me … then they declared that I was shopping very late and I needed to decide right away and spend thousands of bucks. My mom got all neurotic but I Googled and discovered all these places that sold off-the-rack dresses for much less money. After that it was just pure fun.

I didn’t find it stressful. I have the dress somewhere, but it has grass stains and coffee stains and is basically worthless now.


The Friend Who Knows That the Average Amount to Spend on a Wedding Dress is $1,200:
I did not cry. I did not “know.” There was no drama, no one I had to please, and no crowd of people waiting outside the room for me. I went to several different stores, with a HUGE range in terms of prices, styles, etc. I don’t think I really knew what I was looking for. It was such a process.

I know that I thought I got a good deal (I was able to buy the sample, so they gave me an extra 25% off or something. It cost about $600, but I think I had budgeted potentially up to $1,000? ( My husband thought that $600 was WAY too much—in fact, when I asked him just now if he remembered how much it cost, he went on and on and on about it.)

According to CNN, the national average is $1,200. But I feel like most of them are way more.


The Friend Who Hung Out in Her Underwear for a While:
Throughout the wedding planning, I felt this weird tension: I was aware how ridiculous it was to spend so much money on one day, but I also really wanted to feel special (and felt like this was my one opportunity to get away with spending like that). This feeling was doubled when we went to look for a wedding gown because I had already purchased one for another fiancé and hadn’t sold it yet. It continued to taunt me from the back of my parents’ closet. I have now moved on from that whole thing, thanks to my therapist.

My mother, sister, and my then fiancé’s mom went to a boutique and looked through some dresses to get an idea of what was there and then all went into a dressing room. The three of them were fully dressed and I was hanging out in my underwear. I tried on a few gowns and mostly felt like I was playing dress-up in someone else’s closet. The two most important things were that I could dance in it and I would not have to worry about the dress falling down.

Our budget was a bit over $1,000. I think we ended up spending between $1,200-$1,300 including the veil, corset, and bustle.


Chanel Dubofsky lives in Brooklyn and is interested in your personal decisions


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