How to Budget Gowns

So, you’re recently engaged and searching for your perfect wedding dress! First of all —Congratulations! What happens after the excitement of your engagement? Planning and making a budget. You’ve probably already thought a lot about your color scheme, venue, and flowers, but how in the world do you make a budget? We’re sharing some things to consider to start getting real numbers on paper to set goals. To help you plan for your wedding and wedding dress without breaking the bank, here are our tips for budgeting: 

#1: Set Your Budget Before Your Appointment


Before you go to your first appointment, you’ll need to set your budget. With a set budget, you won’t fall in love with a gown out of your price range and be disappointed. The best way to do this is to start by setting the budget for your entire wedding, so you have a BIG picture of what you’re working towards. Typically, brides will spend 10% of their total wedding budget on their dress—but this is not set in stone and is completely up to you! Decide which part of your wedding is most important to you—the venue, the cake, the DJ/band, or the dress. So, if you’re the kind of bride who wants a really great band or really great food you can shave a bit off of the dress, or if you’re a bride who’s very into fashion you can add a little bit more. This can also change depending on the size of your wedding—with a smaller number of guests, your budget goes a lot further. Now let’s get going on numbers:

What are reasonable costs of almost everything wedding? 

  The national average for the cost of a wedding is $29,050. Seems out of the question?  Look at it like this:  $29,050 over 12 months is $2421/ month or over 18 months is $1614/ month. (12-18 months is the average engagement time). This is your starting point to begin customizing your budget based on your income and what you can afford over a period of time or what you are willing to put on credit. Keep in mind you do not have to pay in full up front on a lot of your categories; only deposits are required to secure what you are planning, and time frames will also help you manage your money. If $1000/ month seems more reasonable and your engagement is 12 months, you’re looking at only $12,000 for your wedding.  Remember, $29,050 is an average and includes all large cities across the US. To see more national and regional averages, see the chart below.




Got your overall picture? What’s next? 


You’ll need to secure your venue so you’ll know your wedding date and find your DREAM dress (lead times for special orders can be 16-18 weeks). Either one can be first. Once those are decided, the other aspects will fall in place.  Remember, you have your total cost in mind (and on paper), and 10% of that cost will give you a goal on your budget for your dress.  Next step is to call florists, photographers, bakeries, DJ/bands, catering, etc., and ask their charges based on your number of guests and deadlines for deposits/final payments. Use a calendar to plan these out. Be sure to write down everything they quote to you, unless they give or email a cost list to you. Do not panic at what you are hearing; write it down and plan it out.  

 Ask About Price Range and Payment Options for your Dress


When making your bridal dress appointment, ask the boutique about their typical price range so you know what to expect. Most boutiques will also ask you for your budget, so that the stylist won’t pull a dress you can’t afford and you don’t have to stress about budget during your appointment. You can also ask if that boutique offers payment plans; some boutiques offer layaway options, and you can pay the dress off over time. Consider how long you’re comfortable making payments—you may find you’re able to afford a bit more dress when paying it off in segments. 

Consider Shopping Sample or Off-the-rack


A great way to find a deal on a dress is to shop sample sales or off-the-rack, meaning there’s no waiting time for the designer to make the dress.  Not all sizes will be available in every dress, but if you find a dress up to 3 sizes too big, it can easily be altered down in the hands of a seasoned seamstress!  Common wedding dress alterations and average prices include: 

Taking in the sides: $50-$200 

Adding a bustle: $55-$95 

Off-the-rack sections often have a more limited selection of dresses, but they’re often offered at a discounted price, so if you’re willing to choose from a smaller pool and have alterations, this option could be perfect for stretching your budget. 

If you’ve set a budget and want to find your perfect wedding dress, come see us at Belles and Beaus! Book your appointment and we will work with your budget to help you find the wedding dress of your dreams.