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7 tips for buying a wedding dress that only looks expensive.

In 2015, Canadian brides are spending an average of $1,779 on their wedding dress, making that gorgeous gown one of the biggest expenses of the day. But can you spend less and still look like a million bucks?

Yes! With planning and persistence, you can find the perfect (and perfectly affordable) wedding dress of your dreams. And every dollar saved will help, especially since a BMO InvestorLine® study reports that Canadians fund 60 per cent of their wedding costs with savings — while the remaining 40 per cent comes from parents, loans and gifts from friends.

Before you shop for that show-stopping dress, take note of these seven money-saving tips:

  1. Start early: Give yourself plenty of time to find your ideal outfit. Some experts suggest budgeting eight or nine months, since it may take six months to order in your dress, plus a couple of months for multiple fittings and alterations.
     
  2. Tip: Budget extra time for alterations — and avoid paying an unexpected rush fee.

  3. Do some dress research: Are you envisioning a ball gown or a classic vintage style? Flip through Pinterest®†, and start a collection of your favourite styles. As you look, consider the venue, season and time of day — as well as which styles are going to be the most flattering. Think about current dresses you own (is there a go-to shape you love?), and take a peek at this guide to gowns.
     

    If your ceremony is in a house of worship, don’t forget to check if there are any attire restrictions (for example, you may need to wear a shawl over a strapless dress) before buying a wedding dress.

  4. Tip: This free Wedding Dress Studio app lets you upload a photo and “virtually” try on a dress — no change room required!

  5. Create a realistic budget: Once you have an idea of what you like, it’s time to set a price. Choose an affordable amount to spend on the dress, accessories and alterations. Retailers may mark a wedding dress up by 200 per cent, so if you’re looking to spend less, try ca-dresses.com (styles start at just over $100), consider renting a dress, or look through the bridal collection at J. Crew®‡.
     
  6. Tip: Don’t forget to add a few budget lines for shoes and shapewear.

  7. Size up your options: Wedding dresses are typically two sizes larger than regular clothing (it’s not you!). Try on a few dresses at bridal shops in your area to determine the right size and fit. If a shop has sample sizes only, be sure to ask their professional seamstress to take your measurements (this will be incredibly helpful if you end up buying a dress online). If you get a gown that’s way too small or large, you could end up shelling out for significant alteration fees.
     
  8. Tip: Always order a bigger size to play it safe — it’s a lot easier to take a garment in than to let it out.

  9. Shop online and off: Budget-conscious brides should check out sites like Overstock.com and consignment sellers like eBay®**. You can also find great values at vintage clothing stores, mass discount stores and sample sales. Attending one of the four annual Bridal Swap events in Canada — scheduled for 2016 in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and London — may also help you score a deal by buying a wedding dress from a former bride.
     
  10. Tip: Make sure you check return policies carefully and understand exactly what you’re getting (pre-owned, new with or without tags, or new with defects) when wedding dress shopping. At many stores, once you officially order the dress, it’s yours, no matter what.

  11. Start your own tradition: Did you know that Anne Hathaway and Jessica Biel wore pink wedding dresses? And Sarah Jessica Parker chose a gorgeous black gown? If you don’t love how you look in white, consider buying a wedding dress that’s a favourite tried-and-true colour. You may find a non-traditional dress for much less!
     
  12. Tip: Check out prom and bridesmaid dresses that may double as bridal wear.

  13. Remember that the dress is your decision: Chances are, you’ll know when you’ve found the dress, but you may feel overwhelmed if there are too many opinions in the room. Instead of an entourage, consider bringing only a couple of people along, such as your mother and a trusted friend. Be open to their suggestions (they know you well!), but at the end of the day, it’s your choice.
     
  14. Tip: Don’t feel pressure because you’re tired of looking or a salesperson is pushing you to choose. Brides often try on up to 17 possibilities before they choose one. You want to be confident that you’ve picked the best look.

Looking for more advice for your big day? Here are 7 tips for planning a wedding on a budget.
 
®† Registered trademark of Pinterest, Inc.
®‡ Registered trademark of J. Crew International, Inc.
®** Registered trademark of eBay, Inc.

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