10 tips for negotiating the price of a wedding dress

July 25 | Guest post by MsKate
katya_lavanda_27
Photo by Sveta Laskina

I knocked $400 off of my wedding dress. Er, technically $387, but I like nice round numbers. Plus, with tax lessened, it probably all rounds out, right? Right.

Here's what happened, first, I went dress shopping and pulled several things, including one which I thought was in my price range, but wasn't. After I tried on the dress and loved it, I realized that it was $100 over my budget. So, I walked away from it to think on it and see what other options I may have. After all, it was just a dress. Just because I loved it, didn't mean that I couldn't find another one if the pricing didn't work out in my favor. Perspective, pragmatism and reason firmly in place… I still wanted the dress, y'all.

SO! For those who don't like anecdotes, here's a handy dandy list on what to do to try and negotiate your price for your gown.

1. If possible, try and shop only within your price range. This was my first mistake, however unwitting, but it could have led to heartbreak, had I not triumphed.

2. Be okay with defeat and make sure you have a back-up plan you're happy with. If you can't find the dress for your price, that doesn't mean you should just settle either. Take a few days to really think it over and then look for something else. No matter what, DO NOT GET DISCOURAGED. These things will work out. You will marry the love of your life and you will find a nice dress/suit/outfit/whatever to do so in, and you will be supremely happy.

3. Research like you're writing a thesis. This just means be diligent. I am a Googling fiend and I Googled every iteration I could think of to try and find my dress and different places I could find it. Know what price you're looking for and make sure to verify your sellers. This can be done with a simple check to your manufacturer's website.

4. Be reasonable. I knew I would not find a $1600 dress for $300 dollars. Even knowing that many smaller shops have a higher mark-up and things like that I knew the mark-up couldn't be that much higher. I hoped that I could find it for $300 less, but would have been happy with $200 less and would have been ecstatic with $500 less. I was pleased as punch to get about $400 knocked off. It's important to be reasonable and pragmatic in your price hunting because it will help you make a rational decision. If you find a $2500 dollar dress for $25 dollars, it's probably too good to be true.

5. Pick up the phone or meet with people in person. Emailing is great, but be confident in calling around and checking with the manufacturer. You'd be surprised how nice and pleasant people are. I called the manufacturer expecting an automated nothingness void and got a really sweet girl named Kelly to help me out. Make sure to call or speak to your salon in person. Let them know what you've found and be prepared to back up your statements if they need you to. You don't need to come in with guns blazing, but make sure you have something holstered.

6. Remember Rule 2. This may seem like redundancy, but it's important. This may be tough to hear, but nobody owes you anything. A shop does not have to price match, they don't have to haggle, they don't have to throw in a tiara or alterations with their price. How they wish to do business is entirely up to them and that does not necessarily make them bad people, it just means they have a business policy they're trying to follow.

7. Haggling is ok, but don't go overboard. If they're not willing to budge on a price or go lower than a price match, screaming and hollering about may not convince them that they wanna do business with you anyway. And if you do want to haggle, be prepared to justify why you want to spend that much. You may also ask to purchase the sample if you're trying to go really low with the price.

8. Be prepared to buy on the spot. Many salons will price match, but only if you pay in full at time of purchase. Check with the bridal salons policies before you go to the register.

9. DO NOT STRESS OUT OVER IT. If trying to make the dress work in your budget is giving you stress-induced hives, take a break from it. No dress is so pretty that it deserves to give you a heart attack. Again, it's just a dress, and there will be a perfect one for you.

10. Be as pragmatic as possible. Your wedding day may be filled with romance and whimsy and love and fluffy unicorns, but your negotiations are a business transaction. Even if the end result is gorgeous bridal goodness, act like the Godfather and go to the mattresses. It's not business, it's personal.

  1. And search for Trunk Show sales!!! I found my dress and there happened to be a trunk show for that designer at that bridal salon the next weekend. I got 15% off a $6100 gown and since I was keeping my cool (as was my mom), I also got them to give me a cathedral length veil worth $350!

    5 agree
  2. Anything can be negotiated and if they are unwilling to work with you then you should walk away. Any business owner knows the importance of compromising with their customers and the need to establish a network. Due to this I would simply add in the ability to drive the business sales in the future (friends, family, etc) as an added value to working with you. Oh the value of the almighty referral.

    Great post!

    3 agree
  3. Politeness goes a long way, as does sharing your story. When we bought my wedding dress, we went to a small independent store in Ottawa. The owner mentioned that all 2009 dresses would be on sale the following week-but unfortunately I was only in Ottawa for a few days for whirlwind wedding planning, after which I would be heading back to Atlantic Canada. "Oh, I'm from Newfoundland dear, so I know how hard it is to arrange family visits!" the owner exclaimed, and then offered to give us the sales price in advance. We chatted, she brought me dresses and I tried them on, and then I asked her if she had any boleros. We created the perfect ensemble, and because I was "such a nice young bride" she threw in the bolero for free, on top of the sale price on the dress. Sharing your personal story, and being a polite and patient customer can go a long way in terms of getting a discount. I'm pretty sure that at the end of the day, my prom dress cost most than my full wedding ensemble!

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  4. I was able to buy the sample dress, thus saving almost $400, which made it within budget. Technically, the saleswoman told my mom it would be $400 off, but then when she went to put down a deposit, it was only $300 or so off. My mom told her what we'd been told, and up went the discount!

    Also, there are websites like preownedweddingdresses.com where you can find discounted dresses, and sometimes they aren't even worn.

    2 agree
    • Same here. I got a $1200 dress for $400 because I bought the sample. I'll have to pay for $380 worth of alterations (Note: when getting a quote for alterations, have it written down and signed by the alterations woman) because of the zipper, length, and adding sleeves that I need… but in total, that will still be less than the original price of the dress.

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  5. Definitely agree with the trunk shows! And local, small businesses can pay off. I got 10% off my dress which was already on sale for the trunk show. I had also seen the bridal salon on the local news and because of it, I got my veil, a bracelet and earrings for free!
    Don't be afraid to ask for a deal, especially when you're spending so much. The people at the salon bent over backwards since I was buying the day of the trunk show. I think they get used to people trying on dresses but not being ready to commit, so when you are, you can really get a deal.
    I looked at websites like preownedweddingdresses.com but was too nervous about buying a dress craigslist style, and was afraid it would cost a lot more for alterations. I still recommend the website though, there are some great deals and beautiful dresses on there.

    2 agree
  6. I would say (in sweeping generalities here) that the more a dress costs at regular price, the more flexible the seller should be able to be. Stores with low prices generally make their money in volume of sales, so the markup is usually as small as they're willing to make it. Just be aware that whether the dress is expensive or inexpensive, there is a price that any seller will not go under. This is not an auction. If they say they can't do any better on the price, you can assume they're not bluffing. It's at that point that you should look to see if you can get a discount on accessories to sweeten your deal–and their's.

    If the dress is being made or ordered from the manufacturer through your store (you're not buying a sample) then you have some unexpected options. See if you can downgrade some of the materials to less expensive fabrics and beading. The lining is often a quick way to knock off a few bucks–some linings are made with pricey silk blends that no one sees!

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    • I know that the designers my store stocks, I have zero opetions as fars as that goes. I can add extras as fars as train length, dress length, changing zip to corset….but the fabric and beading, no luck. Dresses that I've dealt with come as is or with pricey extras.

      1 agrees
  7. Two more good tips:

    1. Check Chinese wholesale websites: http://offbeatbride.com/ebay-wedding-dress-made-in-china I do that with bags and coats, etc. — things I fall in love with that I could never ever afford. No need to pay the middleman. More often than not, it's the exact same dress/bag/coat/etc.

    2. If all else fails and you can't get the dress out of your head or find it online at a price you can afford, consider having a local seamstress or university design student make it for you. The added advantage is that the dress will be custom made to your body, not just altered to fit it.

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    • What are some of the Chinese wholesale websites you use?

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    • Yikes! I'd NEVER reccomend this.. I used to work in a bridal salon and we saw chinese knock-offs come in and they were terrible quality and very difficult to alter. Bridal designers have their own factories, they don't purchase from wholesalers… definately shop around local salons, you'll be much happer with the product!

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      • So true. My last boss ordered some online from a few popular knockoff manufacturers to see the result. Definitly a mixed blessing.

        People wanting to go this rout need to double and triple check THIRD PARTY reviews (not the ones on the website) to make sure they're getting a good deal.

        Unfortunatly, if it's a dodgy place, you may end up spending more on getting extra dresses than what you would in the first place.

        1 agrees
    • Chinese knock-offs are not ever going to be the same as any non-mass-produced gown. Designers don't use Chinese sweatshops (David's Bridal is a store that uses mass production and shouldn't ever be in the same category as designers like Maggie Sottero or anyone like that). Usually designer gowns are made in the USA!

      For an expensive cocktail dress or non-name-brand purse, you might have better luck since a lot of those things are made in China in those shops. But not wedding gowns. For brides who go the Chinese knock-off route, more often than not they're not happy. It's hit and miss with more misses.

      2 agree
      • I don't normally recommend Chinese sites (I know they can be a high risk!) but I actually did find my dress from one, http://www.dressilyme.com, and was really pleased. I got a gorgeous ivory trumpet style dress that I could not have afforded from anywhere else. The quality seems to be really good, no rips, tears or stains, and mine was a perfect fit. (Of course, I also went with a corset back, just to be safe) I didn't have much to spend, and including shipping, my dress was about $220.

        0 agree
  8. I work in the Bridal industry in Sydney, and an OBBT member (seriously the amount of girls I sectretly suggest OBB to, I may get fired :P)

    1) Definitly come in with a bright and friendly attitude. Dude, we work in retail, it can kill your spirit so a nice friendly attitude brought in at the door works wonders!

    2) I will give as much discount and advice as I can to people who are really friendly to me. I deal with a lot of girls daily, I try give 100% but I do have off days. Be a happy and friendly customer and I will do my mostest to get you the bestest.

    3) Ask me what I have, ask me my Opinions. I deal with this daily. Myself, I will tell you my honest opinions. If I lie to you…the mirror wont, so I don't.

    4) DO the small talk thing. I see so many nipples daily, small talk with the girl I'm seeing topless makes it easier to deal.
    I swear stripper patrons are jeleous of the amount of nupples I see.

    5) Research is wonderful. Look at the store and their designers. Doing the groundwork on the net equals up to a lot less time spent browsing books and me lugging giant dresses off the shelf to show you that you just wont like at all. (It can take a few dresses to get your groove)

    6) and by far the most important…..I'M A PERSON! I'm not scary. I wont tear off the price tag and upgrade the price. I'm a kind hearted person saving up for my own wedding. Treat me as equal. Puuurrrease.

    17 agree
  9. I know it's a little ways off now, but I got my dress on black Friday. For 30% off. I wasn't really prepared to look at dresses (it was just a month after I got engaged). But I saw a few bridal shops were having black Friday sales so I went to one. Fell in love and never looked back!

    0 agree

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