The good news: Your wedding dress may just be your most exciting wedding day purchase. The bad news: It's also probably your most expensive. While there are plenty of gorgeous options for brides on a budget (have you checked out our Wedding Dresses Under $1,000 feature lately?), it is possible to get your dream dress for less. The catch? It requires some work and planning.
Whether you're willing to get down and dirty at a sample sale, scour trunk shows or get ahead of the game early, here are three expert tips for snagging your dream gown at a significant discount.
1. Shop trunk shows. You can often score discounts (usually around 10 percent). Plus, the designer's rep may be open to waiving or marking down certain alteration charges. (Check bridal salons' and specific designers' Web sites for dates; many post them under an "events" tab.)
2. Hit sample sales. This is how salons move older inventory out, so you can often find designer gowns for 25 to 50 percent off. The downside is that most sales are stocked with only sample sizes, which are bridal 8 and 10 (typically ready-to-wear 6 and 8). Note: Most gowns can be altered down one or two sizes but up just one size.
3. Buy early, buy simple. Place your order eight to 12 months in advance to avoid rush fees, which can run as much as a third of the price of the dress. Rule of thumb: The more handwork (embroidery, beading) a gown has, the pricier it will be — and the longer it will take to get made.