In her line of work, Stacey Roney has heard lots of secrets on how to save money on bridal attire. She owns a multi-city staffing company for wedding-day hair and makeup, BeautyOnCall.com.
Even so, when it came to her own nuptials in 2006, Roney had trouble finding a dress that fit her budget.
"My mom really wanted to buy my gown, and I felt it was important to stay within a certain range," Roney said.
At her last stop, a national department store chain, Roney described the simple body-skimming style she wanted. The sales associate recommended she look not just at bridal gowns but also bridesmaid dresses, many of which are available in ivory. One designer style was being sold as both, depending on how individual retailers wanted to market it.
"My gown when sold as a bride's gown was $1,250, but if they chose to sell it as a bridesmaid's gown, it was $250," Roney said.
Guess which version she bought? A hint:
"My mom had enough money left over to buy my jewelry, shoes and veil," Roney said, "which made her feel great."
On average, what the bride's wearing accounts for 8 percent to 10 percent of a wedding budget, according to a recent survey by the WeddingChannel.com & TheKnot.com. But there are ways for shrewd couples to lessen that cost without sacrificing style. (That goes for the bridal party's clothing as well.)
The bride's attire
Shop bridesmaid dresses: As Roney learned, shopping bridesmaid dresses is one way to save, if you're looking for an elegant dress with simple lines. Bridesmaid dresses are not heavily embellished, and the national average price for one is $144, versus $1,100 spent on the average bridal gown, according to the survey.
Unexpected stores: National chains J.Crew and Ann Taylor offer streamlined wedding collections featuring sophisticated styles, many of which are under $600. If your date is in 2011, Urban Outfitters, the parent company of Anthropologie, is debuting an as-yet-unnamed bridal dress brand, inspired by Anthropologie's aesthetic, next spring.
"A lot of times, the cost of the dress is associated with the complexity of detailing," said bridal planner Karen Bussen, author of the new "Simple Stunning Bride" and a member of David's Bridal Style Council. "So think about buying a simpler dress and then adding a borrowed vintage brooch from your grandmother or take a band at the waist from your mother's wedding dress and add that."
Consignment: For more intricate designs, shopping upscale consignment gowns at sites such as whitexchange.com can save you as much as $10,000 on a $13,000 Vera Wang gown.
Local consignment shops and bridal sample sales are another treasure trove, said Sharon Stimpfle, deputy site director of weddingchannel.com. Boutiques often have sample sales from April to May and October to December. Filene's Basement has its famous "Running of the Brides" sample sale in various cities through July this year. Plus, you can always ask sales associates if you can see last season's styles, Bussen said.
Rent or borrow: Consider renting fine jewelry, a wrap and your bridal handbag from sites such as adorn.com or renttherunway.com, Stimpfle suggested. The average cost of a bride's wedding day jewelry is $752, the survey revealed. At adorn.com, a pair of Hartley diamond and pearl drop earrings, which would retail for $3,100, can be rented for as little as $75.
Also, try borrowing a veil a friend wore, which isn't so personal as a gown.
Fabric choice: About the gown: Trading silk for less-expensive fabrics, such as polyester, can cut costs significantly, particularly at national chains that have buying power. David's Bridal stores carry gowns from Oleg Cassini, Galina Signature and Galina Collection, some of which cost a few hundred dollars versus a few thousand for designer gowns elsewhere. If you can find one on sale — through its occasional $99-and-up sale — you can save even more.
Shoes: For shoes, buy ones that are dyeable so you can turn them black or red afterward for black-tie events, Bussen said.
In a fresh trend, Ursula Guyer of whitexchange.com has noticed more brides wearing colorful heels to reflect their personal style. "Why not wear a pair of shoes you already own and love?" Guyer said.
Wear your own item: Perform a risk assessment on letting the groomsmen wear their own tuxes or suits in the same color family. If the guys are style-savvy, it just might work. "You can ensure the look is cohesive with matching shirts and ties," suggests Lori Stephenson, co-founder and senior event consultant for Lola Event Productions.
Shoes: If you rent tuxes, Stephenson said, "let the groomsmen wear their own nicely polished black shoes instead of those shiny uncomfortable rentals."
Pick a color, only: Consider trusting your bridesmaids to select their own dresses and shoes, Stephenson said. Many bridesmaid brands offer a variety of styles in the same color with slight price differences.
Or, dare to open the door even wider for bridesmaids to shop multiple brands and stores. "Provide color swatches in a specific shade or select a palette that works together — paint swatches from the hardware store work wonderfully for this," Stephenson said. "Dictate a hemline and fabric family, and tie the look together with the bouquets."
If you choose a trendy color, bridesmaids will have more options to fit their individual budgets and tastes, Stephenson said. And the freedom from bridezilla tyranny might add sparkling sincerity to their smiles.
What did this wedding cost?
It all started when the engagement ring was purchased. On average it cost $5,847. The weddingchannel.com and theknot.com surveyed more than 21,000 couples last year, and that report shows that the average U.S. wedding cost $28,385. Venue ate up most of that budget, with a cost of $12,838. Guests ate and drank their way though the event for $63 a head. (Oh yeah, and on average, 149 came.) Inviting them all cost $509. Giving them little favors to remember the day by cost $292. The band ran $3,288, the DJ, $892. If musicians played during the ceremony, that cost about $451. Photos for the day ran $2,444, and the videographer cost $1,481. Driving all over town with the bridal party was $692. The night before you all had a nice rehearsal dinner that ran $1,163. The wedding planner received $1,728 for their services, and the flowers and decorations set you back $2,093. In comparison, these items seem almost bargain basement: The wedding gown was $1,134. Bridal accessories ran $256, including veil, shoes, and lingerie. The bride's hair, makeup and beauty preparation ran $196. Her jewelry cost $752. The groom's clothing and accessories was a paltry $211. Each bridesmaid dress cost $144. (And there were five of those and five groomsmen, on average.) The cake you smooshed all over your spouse's face? That cost $559. Wow. you're probably tired — not to mention broke — after all that. Don't worry, go have a great honeymoon, the price of which is not included.
And who paid for it?
The bride's parents kicked in a little more in 2009, contributing on average 46 percent of the total cost. The couple getting hitched picked up about 40 percent, and the groom's parents paid for roughly 12 percent. The remaining 2 percent is usually paid for by other relatives such as aunts, uncles and/or grandparents, according to the survey.