Getting married in the off-season winter months and dress shopping in late fall can mean big savings on your dream gown. Retail data shows wedding dresses see average markdowns of 30-50% in November and December as styles get discontinued for the new year. Sample sale racks and purchasing showroom or floor model gowns discounted due to minor damage also offer incredible value-sometimes up to 75% off comparable dresses! Consider buying off the rack instead of custom for similar stylish design at a fraction of the cost; waiting for end-of-season sales nets huge savings.
Planning a wedding can be an exciting yet stressful time. With so many details to organize and vendors to coordinate, costs can quickly spiral out of control.
One of the biggest budget items is typically the wedding dress. But there are smart ways to get a gorgeous gown without spending a fortune.
The first step? Figuring out the optimal time to shop so you can score a deal. By understanding the wedding dress buying cycle and planning ahead, you can save hundreds even thousands of dollars.
Read on for tips, facts and advice to determine the best time, place and ways to buy your dream wedding dress on a budget.
Finding your dream wedding dress has less to do with money and more to do with strategy.
- By properly timing your shopping adventures around best sale seasons and special sample events, you can discover incredible savings while still feeling beautiful on the big day.
- Avoid the big national bridal chain stores in malls and explore trusted local boutiques where small business owners may empower you with insider opportunities unavailable to the average buyer.
- With an open and creative mindset combined with advance planning, you can feel like a VIP bride with an incredible gown without breaking budgets or pulling up credit card debt.
- Prioritize what elements matter most for your personalized fairytale vision and don’t overspend on lesser details.
- Spend time not money seeking that special dress and be willing to travel outside your own zip code if necessary to find the right style at the right price.
- Stay focused on the hunt for the perfect dress by signing up for newsletters and trunk show invites from a variety of designer brands and retailers.
- Follow bridal accounts on social media for early notifications on upcoming sales and even travel to markets like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago when sample sales seasons peak.
- Getting a gorgeous wedding dress can feel magical without being expensive with proper insider tips and determined bargain shopping dedication.
When to Start Shopping?
Most experts recommend starting your dress hunt 9-12 months before your wedding date. This gives you ample time for alterations and to deal with any ordering or shipping delays.
It may seem early but dresses can take many months to arrive and proper fittings are crucial for making sure it looks perfect on the big day.
If you start dress shopping less than 6 months out, you’ll find yourself with fewer choices as many boutiques and designers order dresses so far in advance.
Leaving things to the last minute also risks major alterations being needed and additional rush fees from seamstresses.
General Buying Cycle for Wedding Gowns
The world of wedding dresses runs on its own timeline each year. Know when new collections are released and when sample sales happen so you can shop at the most strategic times.
January – March
This is when the newest bridal gown collections debut each year. Salon sample inventory will be fully refreshed so you’ll have the greatest variety of the latest looks to choose from.
April – June
Spring and early summer tend to be the most popular season for weddings. Bridal salons will be buzzing with brides-to-be trying on dresses.
Appointments become harder to book and consultants are very busy. Beautiful gowns can go quickly so don’t drag your feet if you find “the one”!
July – September
Appointments may be easier to get at bridal salons during these summer months.
Many brides are busy with vacations so salons often run trunk shows to spur excitement and sales.
This can translate to great sample sale deals in the slower months after an event.
October – December
Bridal retailers start clearing out last season’s inventory through sample sales, discounts and promotions. Selection will be more limited than earlier in the year but great values arise on discontinued dresses.
Holiday engagements also send a new wave of excited brides-to-be to start dress shopping before the new year.
The Best Times to Buy
Now that you know the general ebb and flow of gown inventory throughout the year, here are specific time frames that present great opportunities for scoring wedding dress deals:
Post-Season Sales (Aug – Nov)
When bridal retailers switch over their selections around August/September each year, leftover gowns from previous seasons go on clearance sales.
Discounts typically range from 30% to 70% off. Most salons will also throw in additional extras like free veils, free shipping or rushed alterations incentives.
While you may not find the very latest trends, choices are still plentiful but at a fraction of original prices.
Call your favorite local bridal shops to ask what sample inventory sales they have coming up or search sites like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com for online listings from salons nationwide.
Holiday Sales (Nov – Dec)
Around Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many bridal retailers run holiday promotions to entice engaged couples.
Discounts might be modest at 10-15% off but every bit of savings adds up. Also keep an eye out for free add-on extras like free gloves, jewelry or veils – which you’d otherwise have to purchase separately at regular pricing.
December is a slower month for weddings with holiday activity so shops might be eager to discount older inventory to clear out space for newer incoming styles.
Negotiate with store managers for maximum discounts especially if purchasing your dress far in advance.
Paying 50% upfront and 50% closer to the wedding date might allow a price hold so rates don’t increase in the interim.
Trunk Shows & Sample Sales
These special sale events hosted a few times a year by retailers allow brides early access to new collections before they are officially available to order.
During trunk shows, you’ll get to try on fresh samples shipped in from various top designers.
If you fall in love with a gown, you can pre-order it months before other buyers even get a chance to see it.
This VIP treatment means you’ll be the first down the aisle in these latest couture looks.
On top of early bidding rights, trunk show promotions often include designer discounts of 10-20% off for ordering during the event. Some salons also apply additional store discounts on top of those savings!
Sample sales are also excellent opportunities for serious deals. These end-of-season clearances will advertise sample gowns worn for that year’s trunk shows or runway pieces used in local fashion shows.
While they may have been tried on numerous times, samples are almost always brand new and never actually worn down the aisle. Deep price cuts apply since the styles will not be sold at full-price after the season changes over.
At these same events, many salons will also advertise factory seconds available at huge reductions. Minor flaws or defects allow factories to sell these dresses at 50-75% below wholesale costs.
Issues can be as minor as a clipped thread, a missing crystal or a spot stain. As long as imperfections don’t bother your eye, the magnified savings on these bridal outfits make small defects utterly worthwhile.
Bridal Market Week (Apr & Oct)
Coinciding with the rollout of new designer collections each spring and fall, massive industry trade shows occur where all the hottest runway styles are unveiled.
Retail store buyers and managers attend to view collections and place orders for their boutiques back home.
Held in major fashion districts like New York or Chicago, Bridal Market Week fuels inspiration and hype around the best innovative designs that buyers believe their clientele will love.
Media outlets also provide extensive reporting on the dazzling trends being launched.
What does this mean for budget brides? Bridal shops often celebrate these seasonal buying sprees by running special promotions and giveaways for clientele when they return home.
It’s the perfect chance for them to showcase all the gorgeous new inventory they just selected and generate excitement to book appointments.
Attentive brides may be able to take advantage of price breaks, accessories upgrades or something else special that coincide with a store’s peak buying period.
Pop-up Shop Sales
Temporary wedding dress showrooms and pop-up shops are emerging in some major cities about one weekend per month.
Top bridal factories and distributors set up group sample sales to offer drastic deals to local brides for a few days only. Huge event spaces get packed with hundreds of sensational styles with savings up to 80% off retail.
What makes these pop-ups better than department store blowouts?
Dresses sold at temporary showrooms usually come directly from the design factories, before middleman distributors and sellers mark up prices season after season. Tags with original wholesale costs prove unbeatable supplier rates.
Pop-up bridal sales are almost like nightclub hot-spots with long lines and guest lists for entry. Some traveling shows publicly promote sales dates and publish RSVP rules for fittings and admission slots. Signing up ahead online is highly advised.
For special VIP early bird access, prior retail purchase receipts from that distributor’s network of authorized stores can allow first dibs shopping passes.
This gives bridal stores a nice perk for their loyal customers. Reach out to shops in the area to explain your budget for a dress and ask if they offer passes to any upcoming sales in the region.
Developing relationships with small business owners can come full circle in delightful ways!
Inside knowledge and a savvy shopping strategy are required with these events as they can feel like chaotic wedding gown battlegrounds!
But the deals discovered make it utterly thrilling for bargain hunters. Be prepared for very limited alterations though so sizes close to your own for a wearable dress are essential from these warehouse direct merchandisers.
Rent or Buy Used
In recent years, more eco-conscious brides aim to reduce retail waste buying new dresses that get worn once. Consignment or resale sites like StillWhite.com and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com have exploded in popularity for selling quality pre-owned gowns at 40-60% discounts.
Even high end designers like Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier can be found gently used at a fraction of original retail.
Many shops now also offer wedding gown rental services which make designer labels financially feasible for stringent budgets.
Online companies like Rent the Runway and Borrowing Magnolia have broad inventories where dresses rent for 10-15% of the purchase price. This allows high fashion without lifetime costs.
Brick and mortar salons are also adding rental selections allowing try-ons instead of solely online ordering.
Call shops in your area to ask if they provide rentals or carry pre-owned dresses to discover deals. Custom creation services for unique personalized bridal looks are also on the rise for more modest price points.
Things To Consider Before Buying
When it comes to buying a wedding dress, there are several things to consider to make the process easier and more enjoyable.
First, it’s important to finalize a budget for the dress, which according to The Knot’s data, accounts for 7% of the average couple’s budget, with the average cost of a wedding dress being $1,900 in 2022.
It’s also helpful to do some research and gather inspiration before the first bridal shop appointment, so you have an idea of your preferred neckline, silhouette, sleeve type, fabric, and gown silhouette.
When trying on dresses, it’s recommended to wear comfortable clothing that can be easily slipped off, and bring a good, strong hair elastic. It’s also important to keep an open mind and try on dresses that the stylist recommends, even if they’re not what you had in mind.
Finally, don’t forget about additional costs such as alterations, which can be several hundred dollars depending on the dress and what needs to be done. By considering these factors, you can make the wedding dress shopping experience more user-friendly and enjoyable.
Use this guide as your roadmap to unlock savings secrets from industry experts. Channel your inner warrior bride to score big on beauty with breakdowns provided here for optimal times and insider tricks to discover incredible deals.
With grit and passion, your dream dress awaits without draining your funds. You’ve got this! Now get out there are find the gown to dazzle your soulmate on your special day!