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How to Set a Budget for Your Wedding Dress

Understanding how much you can actually afford to spend on your gown makes the shopping process a whole lot easier.

Contributing Writer
long sleeved wedding dress off the shoulder
Photography by: Betsy Blue

When you're looking at racks and racks of gorgeous wedding dresses at the salon, it can be hard to focus on the budget you set for yourself. After all, when the options are so pretty, you'll probably want to try on everything. But this is decidedly not the way to shop for your wedding dress—in fact, we strongly suggest setting (and sticking to!) your budget before you even entertain the idea of trying on a single gown. Here, we share our top tips for setting a realistic budget for your wedding dress. Believe us when we tell you that it'll make finding "the one" a whole lot easier.

 

Related: Wedding Budget Dos and Don'ts

 

Think about your total wedding budget.

Before you start shopping, you should have determined your overall wedding budget, then decided on a number that you feel comfortable spending on a wedding dress. Generally speaking, fashion (including both the bride and groom's attire and accessories) should eat up about 10% of that total number. How you divide those funds is entirely up to you, but if you have $50,000 to spend on the entire celebration, you'd ideally be looking at dresses at or below $5,000. If your wedding dress is the most important element of the entire day to you, you may be willing to spend a little more on it and a little less in other areas—say, on flowers or music. 

 

Do your research.

And we don't just mean scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest to understand what wedding dress styles you like. While this is important, it's even more important to call salons that you're interested in visiting and understanding what price range they offer dresses in. The last thing you want to do is show up to an appointment and experience sticker shock or to fall in love with a wedding dress that's far outside your budget.

 

Consider shopping at sample sales.

If you have a number in mind that you're having a hard time meeting, consider visiting designer sample sales. This is when a salon or studio is looking to get rid of some of their inventory or any wedding dresses that have been discontinued. They'll slash prices and sell you the sample gowns that other brides have tried on, so remember that this means you likely won't be getting a brand-new wedding dress. Most, however, will be in fairly good condition. Look for wedding dresses with minimal wear-and-tear, and be sure to ask whether or not the salon thinks issues like missing beading, broken zippers, or ripped hems can be easily fixed. 

 

Remember to factor in the cost of alterations.

Whether you're ordering a wedding dress straight from a designer or purchasing something off the rack at a sample sale, remember that alterations are almost always necessary and are always associated with an additional fee. Some studios offer in-house alterations while others will have you find a seamstress on your own. In general, expect to spend at least $400-$900 on alterations, so factor this cost into your total budget.