If the film rights to the story of my wedding planning were bought tomorrow, I’d highly recommend the title “Four wedding gowns & my budget’s funeral”.
Four wedding gowns?
Four wedding gowns.
Let me explain. Dress one and two were bought online as budget driven purchases. When I started my dress search about 8 months ago, we had yet to book a venue but I knew, or at least I thought I knew, what I wanted, and importantly what I didn’t want. Strapless, ballgown, fishtail, corset backs and anything ‘shiny’ were absolute no go’s for me. Nothing that made me look too bridal. So after a little Pinterest browsing I narrowed down the ‘look’ to dresses with long, lace sleeves and an open back. I wasn’t interested in any particular designers and had no wish to visit any bridal shops. I was a budget bride on a mission and as luck would have it, I found a dress that checked all the boxes and for just over £150? Bargain!
Blush coloured lace?
Why not! And so it arrived and I felt pretty good about my purchase.
But pretty soon the peachy tones began to bother me. It was pretty, but it didn’t really look like a wedding dress.
Enter dress two
One of Jenn's lucky four wedding gowns!
Another online purchase, with long lace sleeves but this time in white and at £100, I was sold. My friends agreed. Great!
And still well within budget in spite of dress number one. Now at around this point, our wedding planning was getting into full swing. Our wedding venue had just been booked, I joined a wedding orientated Facebook group and for the first time started speaking to other brides, I had started browsing wedding blogs for ideas for colours and noting wedding supplier recommendations.
Over time through osmosis or cosmic intervention I had unintentionally opened up my mental browser to a whole host of wedding dress styles.
I think because I had closed down my dress criteria so early on, I had yet to explore any other options. Though I was pretty convinced that a ballgown would likely make my 5”3 frame appear as wide as I was tall. After a little Googling I began to realise if a dream dress happened to be designer, it could still work on a budget, if you knew where to look.
Let me tell you about sample sale dresses. I own two. I’ll get to that in a moment. But via the website Preloved I learnt about a sample sale of designer dresses in a nearby bridal store. Here was my first taste of real life wedding dress shopping; being offered champagne, literally being put on a pedestal…and it wasn’t that bad.
Here I found dress number three...
For an ex-sample it was in pristine condition. This dress was luxurious and just a little bit sexy. Bridal, but in an unexpected way.
Now at this point I should of heeded the warnings to STOP LOOKING.
When you meet the man you’re going to marry and he asks you and you say yes, you do not keep swiping right. You delete the app altogether and move on. You’re done. Right? But my guilty pleasure after work was to continue to browse through the beautiful wedding dresses in the sales online, partly to reassure myself that I had made the right decision. Looking back, it was probably because I was having doubts that I had chosen the right dress - a surprisingly common occurrence after doing a little online soul searching on my bridal Facebook group.
So with no genuine intention of buying another dress I found myself at another bridal store sample sale. An acid test if you will. Purely to cleanse my system of wedding dresses and try on that ball gown and confirm that yes, they do make me look as wide as I am tall (I wasn’t wrong). What I didn’t expect was to get “that feeling” about a dress. A dress that had almost everything I said I didn’t want. That feely feeling that made the next 8 dresses (I have ninja changing skills when I need to) pale in comparison. Two more shop visits just to make sure, and that was that.
Welcome to the dress party number four…
What happened next? Well one and two have made several appearances on eBay. Three still hangs on the side of my wardrobe, it’s fate undecided. To sell or not to sell? Part of the reason I chose it was because it wasn’t so bridal that I thought with it shortened and dyed, it could pass for a beautiful evening dress to be worn again long after the
And now that we’ve relocated the wedding to Italy, a light, airy dress such as number three would be a blessing in the heat when it’s time to throw shapes on the dance floor. Although dress four is without doubt The Dress (and I no longer dress stalk the sample sales online by the way), dress four is big, four layers and a hooped skirt kind of big that would melt me into a puddle after a couple of minutes of vigorous dancing.
I wouldn’t be the first bride to wear two wedding dresses. And although my inner budget bride can stand there pointing out the obvious; realistically I can afford it and even with the cost of alterations factored in, my two dresses still come in less than the cost of one brand new designer gown.
But it’s all swings and roundabouts as they say.
Another one of Jenn's lucky four wedding gowns!
My friend recently got engaged and finds my story of the four wedding gowns amusing. A funny story for the grandkids it might be; there are still some pearls of wisdom to pass on to brides embarking on the dress hunt.
Set your budget. Don’t go too extreme one way or the other and end up regretting your penny grabbing budget dress (or dresses) as I did.
Do a little research before hand. There are some good websites out there that are almost like catalogues of all the current seasons dresses with links to stockists. Knowledge is power!
Be open to trying on every kind of dress style, even that weird one with the tiers the shop assistant calls ‘the wild card’, you just never know. Wedding dress shopping is all about trial and error. Dress four has everything I told myself I didn't want.
Four. Designer dress on a budget? Absolutely do-able.
Sign up to the Instagram accounts, Facebook groups and mailing list of designers and local bridal stores to catch the sample sale alerts. Utilise preloved, second hand whatever you want to call it websites to find gowns at a fraction of the original price.This applies to accessories too (my ex-display bridal designer shoes came in at almost 80% off).
And lastly, don’t be afraid of the B word. Bridal.
Bridechilla Jenn is a London based Doctor lucky groom who is marrying Art (short for Artem, short for Artemis - he's part Greek), in Italy, just outside Florence next July. Read more about their planning process here.