How I Said Yes to the Dress

Soon after I got engaged, I set aside a weekend in September as the “bridal gown shopping weekend” with my mom and my maids of honor (aka my sisters). I know myself well, and it could have easily become an obsessive hunt for the perfect gown taking up way too much of my time and energy. So I picked a day we were all available, made appointments with several bridal shops and was determined to find the dress that Saturday.

Unfortunately when you are on a tight budget, you don’t have the luxury to get just any dress you want–I mean, I guess you could, but you don’t want to be the Bride who wore Vera while your guests get hungry at your reception because you didn’t prioritize your budget properly. So I was determined to find my dress within my $500 budget.

I prepped my shopping companions before going into the shop: “I only have $500. That is it. Only Five. Hundred. Dollars. And I don’t want to pay any more than $50 in tax.” They were all like, “Yeah, yeah. Just wait until you fall in love with the most expensive dress and then we’ll see what you say then.” (We had all watched a TV marathon of Say Yes to the Dress the evening before, and to no shock, most of the brides on the show ended up increasing their budget by a few thousands of dollars. A few thousands of dollars!*)

The first place we went was David’s Bridal. Turns out that was the only shop we went to because I found the dress there. Now, I’ve never really been a fan of David’s Bridal. It’s always had that prom-dress stigmatism to it and it gets a bad rep for having cheap-looking dresses. But I knew that they had affordable dresses, so I chose to go there first. (Plus if a bride buys her dress there, then each bridesmaid gets $20 off their dress… a perk I was interested in for each of my girls.)

I arrived at the bridal shop with a catalog that I had previously starred and marked all dresses $500 or less to give to the consultant. They took me behind the curtain where I then spent the next two and a half hours putting on dresses, awkwardly walking over to my entourage, twirling and verbally rating each feature that I liked/disliked, then awkwardly trying to get out of the dress.

After trying on probably two dozen dresses, I ended up with three in the final running. I wasn’t sure what kind of style I wanted originally, so each of the three were very different in styles, shapes, and textures. I tried each of the three dresses on again and it was a clear choice which one I would get. I started to cry when I saw myself in it again and knew that it was The Dress. In fact, once I started crying, my sisters and mom joined in making a ridiculous scene in the backroom with tears and jumping and shouting “You’re getting married!” so loud the saleswomen and other shoppers came over to celebrate with us.

After confidently deciding that was The One, I reluctantly got out of the dress and returned it to its cover. As I was walking to the register, reality hit that I was about to spend a lot of money. When the lady rang it up, a sale was applied that I was unaware of, so after tax the total ended up being $499. I’m not even joking… just one dollar under my budget! It is absolutely gorgeous and I’m so excited to show you all what it looks like in (less than) five months. :)

*Please do not think that I judge anyone who buys a dress for thousands of dollars. In fact, I wish I could afford such a lovely, expensive gown! But since my total budget is $10,000, I really didn’t want to spend more than my allocated amount to maintain the budget all-around.
  • Red

    Congrats on finding your dress in your budget! I too had a good experience at David’s Bridal, despite its bad rep. My assistant was super helpful. She just kept bringing out dresses, helping me put them on and take them off.

    When I tried on The One, I didn’t know it was going to be The One. I kept trying on dresses, but I continually compared whatever dress I had on to what ended up being my wedding dress. My assistant said, “That’s how you know. When you start comparing every other dress to one specific dress, that dress is The One.” ;) Congrats again! I can’t wait to see it!

  • There’s no denying it–that dress is totally meant to be! Congratulations on finding The One (the dress and J) and best of luck to you on this incredible journey. My hubby and I are nearly 5 years in and each year keeps getting better. Marriage is bliss :)

  • Way to go! Are you going to show us a picture?

    Do you think that your strategy of picking out of the catalog was the biggest factor in not going over budget? Did you even look through the racks?

  • I am so impressed with your sticktoitiveness ( a word?) on the wedding gown!! I’m going shopping in February and am nervous about it!

  • that’s so exciting! My best friend is also getting married and she bought her dress at David’s Bridal. It is a beautiful dress.. we didn’t have much luck with bridesmaids dresses though :(

  • Way to go on sticking to your budget! There is so much pressure to spend tons of money on a bridal gown, but it is possible to find amazing dresses at reasonal prices.

  • If it made you cry when you put it back on then it really is the one, and price has very little to do with it. so glad the dress of your dreams was also in the budget of your dreams.

  • congratu-freakin-lations!!!!

    despite being on a tight budget, it’s still the moment of realizing it was YOUR dress…that makes it amazing, right???

  • I did something similar… My mom dragged me to David’s Bridal, because I had heard all about it’s not-so-great reputation and wasn’t excited about going there. I did look online first and was excited that they had dresses that came in petite, so I picked out a few including one in particular that was my favorite. I tried on that one and I just knew it was my dress! I didn’t cry (I’m not much of a crier) but it wasn’t even a question, and it meant dress shopping was a one day event! Amazing.

    My bridesmaids dresses are from there too, so they get the discount – even better.

    Congratulations again!

  • I think it’s totally great that you set a budget and stuck to it, and you didnt tempt yourself by seeing dresses out of your price range.

  • tiffany

    Congrats! It is so fun dress shopping! I got my dress at David’s Bridal as well. My expectations were low when I entered the store, but I was pleasantly surprised. I found a beautiful dress in my budget, and it was a very easy experience! I got it in the mail last weekend and I’m constantly opening my closet to stare at it :)

  • First, WELL DONE!!! I’m so glad you found your dress and at the EXACT price you wanted. It was meant to be!

    Second, merci for your encouragement/support! Last night’s run really bummed me out, but I’m moving past it. :D

  • Aww.. it was TOTALLY meant to be! Great story! I can’t wait to see your dress! :)

  • Wow – that is awesome that you found THE DRESS and it was under budget! I can’t wait to see the pics! =D

  • I love that your total came out $1 below your limit. Perfect!

    Also, you say you don’t judge people who buy really expensive dresses. But I kind of do! Mostly because I can’t imagine paying that much for a dress you wear once. Even though I’m not engaged or anything, I think I’d had a limit of $500 in my head as a good price to shoot for.

    Glad you found the perfect dress! :)

  • mahut

    Anyone seen this show? The series gives a “behind-the-scenes” view of Klenfeld’s, the “superstore” of stores in Manhattan which carry upscale wedding gowns and related accessories. I think it came out a few months ago, but since I had an opportunity to watch so many of them, I thought it was time to make a comment. mahut