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When Should I Buy My Wedding Gown?

Wedding gowns are often purchased 6 months before the wedding.
A seamstress altering a wedding gown.
Wedding dresses can be expensive purchases and may require months of saving.
Brides looking for a custom gown will have to shop earlier to make sure there is enough time for alterations.
If the wedding is less than six months away, you need to start shopping for a dress immediately.
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  • Written By: A Kaminsky
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 10 December 2014
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Choosing a wedding gown is one of the most important decisions a bride will make. Every bride wants the dress that is perfect for her. A wedding dress is also expensive and should be a carefully considered purchase. When planning when to buy your gown, think about how far in advance you are planning your wedding, what time of year the wedding will take place, and how extensive the alterations are likely to be. A bride should look for her gown at least six months before the wedding.

If the wedding date is more than 12 months in the future, you have plenty of time to shop. A wedding that is scheduled in less than six months means that you need to start looking seriously immediately. Unless you are a perfect size, the dress will likely need alterations, in length if nothing else, and this takes time because wedding dresses are often quite complicated. The sooner the gown is fitted and sent for alterations, the better. You do not want to spend the week before the wedding waiting for your gown to be finished.

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The time of year of the wedding is also important. Wedding gowns tend to anticipate the coming seasons, so looking for a winter dress in January is probably counter-productive; the spring dresses are out by then. Shopping at the very end of the season is not a bad idea, however, as many bridal salons bring in the new year's fashions in December and January and last year's gowns may be greatly discounted. Styles do not change so much in eight or ten months that wearing last year's style will look too unfashionable at the wedding.

Alterations also dictate when you'll need to buy your gown. If you are very short or very tall, for instance, the alterations may take longer. Some brides whose hips and bustlines are not proportional may also need extensive alterations in their dresses, which also takes time. Wedding gowns are often quite complicated and are made of expensive delicate materials like silk and lace. Hemming a dress can be time consuming, for example, since it can't just be measured, cut, and sewn quickly with a sewing machine.

Bridal salons are particularly busy in the late spring and summer — to serve all those June brides — and this extends to their alterations departments. Buying a wedding gown for a June wedding in January and having it altered immediately can save the bride a lot of headaches down the road. She will know that her dress is ready and needs only to be pressed or steamed a day or so before in order to be ready to wear.

It's best then, to buy the dress at least six months before the big day, but the bride should start looking as soon as possible. An earlier purchase gives the salon time to have it perfect and gives the bride peace of mind.

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Discuss this Article

Oceana
Post 12

My fiancee and I were broke when we became engaged, so I only looked at the rack of cheap wedding dresses. This was in a shop that featured dresses costing tens of thousands of dollars up front, and the cheap racks were hidden in a small room in the back.

Some were only $99, but the prices went up to $299. I found some lovely dresses to try on, but when I put one on, I just knew that it was the dress.

It only cost $199. I had to use some of my savings to pay for it, but that was still a great deal.

I bought it just two months before the wedding, and I got very antsy when the sales lady told me alterations could take six weeks. I literally got my dress one week before the ceremony!

Kristee
Post 11

@seag47 – What an inspiring story! Not many women would be so confident that they would find someone new so soon after a breakup to go shopping for their wedding dress!

I've always been drawn to more informal wedding dresses. I might even just buy a pretty white dress at a department store that isn't even intended to be a wedding gown. I could never spend thousands on a dress like your friend did, though I admire her timing!

seag47
Post 10

My best friend bought her wedding dress years in advance. This isn't something that many people do, but she did it to give herself hope and make herself feel better.

She had just broken up with the guy she thought she would marry someday. He didn't know it, but she had several thousand dollars saved away in an account to pay for her wedding dress. Once they broke up, she decided to go ahead and buy a dress as a symbol of hope that she would one day find her perfect groom.

She went to dozens of wedding dress shops and didn't choose until she had found the dress of her dreams. She had just enough money to buy it and pay for alterations.

Doing this really empowered her. She felt like she had control over her future, and though she didn't get to use the dress for another five years, buying it helped her heal.

OeKc05
Post 9

@sunshined – Yes, anticipating weight loss is a bad idea. If a bride really thinks she is going to lose weight before the wedding, then she should buy her dress just a couple of months prior to the wedding.

Of course, she may have to do a lot of shopping to find one that fits her perfectly, since there most likely won't be time for alterations. Still, it's better than planning for a huge change in body shape that might not happen.

sunshined
Post 8

Even though most bridal wedding dresses need to be altered, I would not buy a dress thinking you are going to lose 50 pounds before your wedding.

This happened to the daughter of a friend of mine. She had a year to plan her wedding and planned on losing 50 pounds before the big day. With all the stress of everything this never happened and there was no way she was going to fit in that wedding dress.

There is a lot of stress that goes into planning something like this, and I don't think it is wise to add that much more stress to the whole thing when you order your dress.

golf07
Post 7

@anon192236-- My niece also ordered her dress on e-bay. I think I was more nervous about this than she was, but everything turned out great.

She ordered the dress early so if there were any problems in shipping she would still have plenty of time. This also gave her time to get the dress altered.

She was able to try on the dress at a bridal shop and knew what it looked like and how it fit her. She was able to order the same dress online for so much less than she would have paid at the bridal shop.

It was a simple wedding dress, but very classy and exquisite. I know not everyone would be open to buying their wedding dress this way, but it is an option for those who are on a tight budget.

anon206528
Post 5

I'm getting an Allure Spring 2011 Collection dress. It's about $1,700 dollars. I will be ordering probably mid November of this year. My wedding is end of june 2012 overseas. I'm so excited.

I wish the best for all brides. Look beautiful and happy.

anon192236
Post 4

@Oasis: I totally agree with you. I've seen some lovely dresses on the David's Bridal web site and have a friend who found hers on e-bay.

I don't think people should spend the kind of money they do on weddings, anyway. I can't believe how elaborate weddings have become, just since I got married 15 years ago. Mine was on a shoestring budget, and I paid for almost everything, including my dress. I didn't accrue a penny of debt, but people spend tens of thousands on a wedding and starting a life together so far in debt is not a good thing.

anon173740
Post 3

@Comfyshoes: do they still have the annual "running of the brides" at Filenes? They used to have it in their Boston store, but I think that store is now gone.

comfyshoes
Post 2

Oasis11-I agree with you. Brides sometimes put so much pressure on themselves to find the perfect dress, when in reality the dress will only be worn for a few hours for one day.

But, if you are adventurous, you can always try the designer wedding dresses sale a Filenes. If you are lucky enough to get through the door you might be able to pick up a Vera Wang for a great price.

oasis11
Post 1

I just want to add that the wedding dress is important, but the costs should be put in perspective.

If a bride cannot afford an expensive dress, than consider David’s Bridal. They sell many off the rack discount wedding dresses for a fraction of what the designer dresses cost.

If you save a little money on the dress, you might be able to splurge on a nicer honeymoon with

the groom. That is something the the bride and groom get to enjoy.

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