How to Budget For Your Wedding Dress - Wed Mayhem

How to Budget for Your Wedding Dress

Budget… arguably the least fun yet most essential aspect of finding your dream dress. Putting a price on a dress that you’ll remember for the rest of your life but only wear for a couple of hours is no easy task. Every bride’s dream is to find the perfect dress, at the perfect price. Wedding Wingmen Monica and Tori of Platinum Bridal share exactly why wedding dresses are so expensive, plus budget mistakes to avoid.

The average bride spends around $1,600 on her wedding gown. However, some brides spend much more and much less. First things first, you should take a look at your overall wedding budget. You should not only have a budget in place before wedding dress shopping, but you should wait until most of your vendors and big-ticket spending is already done. Not only will this give you a better idea of how much you can spend, but details such as time of year and venue could impact the dress you choose.

After you determine how much you can spend, it’s important to research prices of dresses you like. The value of a wedding dress can be determined by the amount of appliqué, quality of material, and the structure of dress. Starting with a ballpark budget range, gives you and your bridal stylist a place to start when pulling dresses for you, with the flexibility to go up or down in price. 

Wedding Wingman Wisdom

“Keep in mind details equals dollars. When you are choosing your wedding dress and you are into bling, heavy beading, lots of lace, or long sleeves, all of those things are going to add to the price of the dress. So if you come in with a modest budget and you want the details, you might want to increase your budget to get everything you want for your wedding dress.”


Wedding Dress Applique

A good rule of thumb is typically the more intricate the dress, the more expensive it will be. Embellishments and appliqués such as beading, crystals, lace, ribbon, pearls, or buttons can transform a simple dress into something show-stopping, but there’s often a price to pay. Often these embellishments are hand sewn on with nylon thread which adds to their value.

Sometimes lower budget clients feel like a dress is too plain and missing appliqués and details. This can be remedied with accessories (which can be much less expensive than an alternative dress). However, Monica and Tori warn “The key is to love the dress first, then accessorize.” Some brides will go a bit overboard and over budget to make up for it and it ends up costing them in the long run. Done right, accessories can complete your bridal look from head (adding a veil) to toe (don’t forget you need shoes!) So don’t forget to factor bridal attire outside of your dress into your budget. 


Wedding dresses

While affordable wedding dresses will use the same fabric as more expensive dresses, they are not cut from the same cloth. For example, mikado is a type of clean and structured silk fabric commonly used in bridal. However, cheap mikado tends to be too thick of fabric that easily bends and creates creases and lines all over your dress. 

When purchasing a dress online, you run the risk of not being able to try the dress on. You may not be able to see the difference between cheap and higher quality fabric, but you can definitely feel it – and sometimes hear it. A-line dresses specifically, will use crinoline, a stiff and structured fabric, under a dress to make it poof out. Material quality is key here, as a cheaper crinoline will bunch up and you can hear it rub together when you walk. 


You have to feel good to look good! Confidence in a dress is one of the biggest selling points. Dresses with structure will help your dress fit like a glove over your body.  For example, Megan Markle’s simple, yet elegant, long sleeve wedding dress was made from crepe fabric. When using a high-quality crepe, brides will feel as if they have shapewear on as it provides structure to the dress. 

wedding dress with structure vs without

On the flip side, while you’ll save money on cheap or low-quality crepes, you’ll be able to see every lump and bump on your body through the dress. Often this leads a bride to head to a tailor to alter their dress to be more flattering to their body. Alterations are not included in the dress price and can cost anywhere between $100-$500. If you’re running into alterations over $500, Monica recommends opting for a different dress as, 

“The dress should work for you, not the other way around! Chances are, there is a better fitting gown out there that won’t break the bank.”

Our final wedding dress shopping tip is don’t feel pressured by any sales tactics such as 10% off if you buy today! Buyer’s remorse can happen whether you’re over or under budget. Shop early, especially if online, to give yourself time to make returns if needed and avoid added fees such as rushed shipping. Also, don’t forget to factor sales tax and shipping into your budget! Now you can say yes to the dress, without budget stress!

Meet Your Wedding Wingman!

Monica & Tori are the sister team behind Platinum Bridal. The wedding planners-turned-bridal stylists enjoy being a part of the most important event in a couple’s life. They joined Wed Mayhem to educate brides on how to shop with confidence for a dress that complements their unique style, personality, and silhouette.

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6 min

10 Pro Wedding Tips on a Tight Budget

backyard wedding

Planning your wedding is exciting and we want you to enjoy every bit of it! Even the more tedious parts, like budgeting and deciding whether or not you should invite your favorite high school teacher. We have consulted with wedding coordinators Weddings with Clinton and Kaitlin Shea Weddings to curate a list of ten tips that will help you organize a plan to achieve your dream wedding—even if you’re on a tight budget. 


Contracts… Read them!

Before you sign a contract, sit down with your partner (and maybe even a close friend or family member) and carefully read through each section of the contract to ensure that you don’t accidentally commit to extra fees and charges. You may be thinking “I’m going to read my contracts.” but seriously—Clinton tells us that this is one tip that could save you thousands of dollars.

“One of my couples signed a contract and thought they only had to spend $5,000 for the venue but it also required them to spend another $10,000 on food and drinks.”

Wedding With Clinton
elopement wedding
Credit: A. Light Photography


Programs and signs

On the list of items that you might think you need for your day, programs should not be the main priority. Clinton with Weddings by Clinton says that programs are not really that useful for your guests–they are usually glanced over and then thrown away. In order to cut down on cost and waste, he recommends making a sign with the event’s main schedule. 



An officiant can be one of the most inexpensive items on your list, but Clinton suggests being wary of having friends officiate for you, as a poor officiant can easily wreck the mood for your entire ceremony. Even if it is someone you have known your whole life, make sure they understand the tone that you want your ceremony to have, and to save the corny jokes for toast speeches.  If you’re torn between hiring an officiant or asking your good buddy from college, it will probably be safer to hire someone who has lots of experience working weddings.

elopement wedding
Credit: A. Light Photography


Extra charges- BEWARE

Many wedding vendors will offer you extra items or services that sound like a great idea on paper, but at the end of the day go unused, or are underappreciated for the price tag that came along with it. Clinton has made notes of these details and suggests being weary about what kind of decor or services you agree to from a vendor.

“It’s often the little things that add up. For instance, you know the little bows that you see on the chairs at dinner? Some venues will charge you an additional $2-4 per chair just to tie. Yeah, they look nice but are they worth the $240-480?”

Weddings With Clinton


Set a budget

Giving yourself a limit overall on how much you’re willing to spend will help you plan-out where to splurge or save. Kaitlin Shea Weddings had couples that didn’t set an overall budget and unexpectedly spent thousands of dollars because they didn’t set a limit for themselves.

Credit: Tyler Rebekah Wright


Sort out priorities!

As you’re planning out your wedding, it’s important to prioritize which things you absolutely have to have at your wedding. Kaitlin Shea Weddings says that this is the best way to find out what wedding traditions and trends you and your fiancé-absolutely-want to have on your big day; to find out which big purchases are non-negotiables. You don’t want to spend half of your budget on decorations only to find out that you don’t have enough left to spend on food and catering. 

“You cannot get absolutely everything from every vendor, unless you want to spend $200,000 on your wedding. There are just things that we have to kind of pick and choose what’s more important.”

Kaitlin Shea Weddings


Start early

The more time that you have to plan your wedding, the better. Most coordinators, like Kaitlin, don’t recommend starting planning less than six months before your wedding. This simply saves you the stress of planning and coordinating such a big event in such little time. Giving yourself plenty of time allows you to spread out your bigger purchases over many months. More time to save for multiple big cost items; means more freedom to gather materials for any DIY decorations you want to make.

budget wedding
Credit: Kari Geha Weddings


Opt for a weekday or morning wedding

It may seem most intuitive to celebrate your big day on a Friday or Saturday night in order to give your guests time to travel back home from the event (or recover from it). But if you know that your guests will survive the following day, hosting your wedding on a weekday, Sunday, or morning can save you thousands on venue prices since Friday and Saturday night bookings are in highest demand. 


Have a selective guest-list

The more people you invite to your wedding, the more expensive it will be. Between food and seating, your guest count can most definitely push you over budget, so prioritize inviting those who are most important to you.

backyard wedding
Credit: Kari Geha Weddings


Keep the bar tab low

The last thing you want at the end of your wedding is to be faced with a huge alcohol bill because your guests decided to have a little bit too much fun at the open bar. Talk with your alcohol vendor about just doing specialty cocktails or signature beer and wine for your guests to enjoy. You could also have an open bar during cocktail hour and dinner, and then switch to a cash bar once the bigger party starts.

 Now is the time to let the creativity flow and start making your Pinterest wedding board into a reality. We hope that these tips have left you feeling a bit more confident going into your wedding planning journey, no matter what your budget looks like. 

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