Saving Money On Weddings: If It Sounds Too Good To Be True…

Hi Money Manifesto readers! I am Tori, Lance’s other half and the behind the scenes editor of this awesome blog! (Lance: Her words… not mine!) As Lance mentioned, we got engaged back in February of this year. We have set a date and started the wedding planning process but Lance isn’t a huge fan of wedding planning! So, Lance and I decided that it would be fun to swap roles for a bit and I would write a series of posts about our frugal wedding planning escapades!

The “Proper Order” of Wedding Planning

As our family, friends, and the media tell us, there is a particular order that you must follow when beginning the wedding planning process. We have already set a date and time as well as the frugal wedding ceremony and reception venues. The next thing to do right away was to get a beautiful dress for a “wear it just once” type of price. Unfortunately in the small town we live in, there weren’t many options for bridal salons without having to travel a minimum of two hours. I was not thrilled with the idea of traveling to buy a dress, and then traveling to attend multiple fitting appointments. So what do we do these days? Buy online! That’s right, I bought my wedding gown online for a great “wear it once” price of $208! And even better, for $15 more they tailored it to my exact measurements I sent them per their instructions. How awesome is that?! I was so proud of myself for saving lots of money and getting a fabulous wedding dress! About 3 weeks after placing my order my dress arrived at my future mother in law’s house! Deep in my gut I could tell something was not quite right when she called and told me it had arrived, but in a small box…..

Convincing Myself to Like the Dress

That afternoon I went to see my dress for the first time! As soon as I saw it my stomach balled up in knots, but my mother always told me, never judge it till you put it on. I put it on alone and looked into the full length mirror. I hated it. I wanted to cry, for days…. I tried to convince myself to like the dress, make a small alteration here and there, and maybe lose a bit of weight. But it was truly awful. It barely resembled the picture advertised, did not fit, and the quality was less than adequate. For the next few days I told my family I liked it, but in reality I hated myself for falling for such a classic mistake. I have always been cautious about situations like these and normally succeed in not falling in the trap.

So What Now?

After a few days of feeling sick to my stomach over it, I knew I had to find a new dress and tell my family. I called my mom first and she told me, “You don’t want to wear a wedding dress you don’t feel beautiful in. We will find a way to fix this in the budget”. She was right. As soon as I told her I hated the first dress that I spent $250 (after shipping) on I knew I had to tell Lance. He said the same thing and at least we didn’t learn the lesson on a more expensive online dress. Once he knew, I felt an immense amount of relief and began the new search for a dress! Just a couple days later I bought a new dress that I absolutely LOVE! Yes it is more money that I intended and wanted to spend on a wedding dress ($645), but I felt it was worth it because it made ME feel beautiful. I have also decided to not be mad at myself anymore and just remember the lesson learned. The important thing to note is, despite the dress fiasco, we are still sticking to our original budget. It stinks that I now have $645 less to spend on other parts of the wedding, but the dress was really important to me. If I had a horrendous dress I wouldn’t enjoy my wedding day anywhere near as much because I would be constantly obsessing over how I looked. Looking back, (because hind sight really is 20/20), I figured out what made me let down my guard and fall for this too good to be true trap. Ultimately I was avoiding actually going into the bridal salons and have the “Say yes to the dress” experience because I didn’t have my mom with me. She and my dad are still up in Virginia and it still makes me tear up thinking back to not having her here with me for this experience, but it was a decision I made when moving to Florida.

Total Wedding Cost So Far: $995

Venue: $100    Dresses: $895   Do you have any wedding fiasco stories or did everything go perfectly for you? Did you bust your budget on one part of the wedding and make up for it by cutting somewhere else? Or did you get lucky (or plan well) not run into any problems?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. I tried to find the article, but one of the major papers did a piece on this recently. That online scammers are posting pictures taken from the designer’s websites and then outsourcing the work to china or indonesia and delivering awful products. It’s even happening on etsy, where everything is supposed to be handmade and locally sourced. Report the site for fraud. Seriously. I’d even consider a chargeback on my credit card if the company doesn’t let you return it since it’s clearly not what you ordered.

    • Thank you so much for that tip! I have already started looking into my credit card policy on this. I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me to do this before you mentioned it! I will be sure to do a follow up post about this once I speak to my cc company!

  2. Well done Tori!

    We also had a wedding dress fiasco. We went out and bought Holly’s dress at a used dress shop, so we knew what we were getting. However, the person we were paying to alter it waited…and waited…and waited…Finally, it was like a week before the wedding and she hadn’t even started it, so we took the thing to somebody else. I thought Holly was going to freak. However, everything turned out fine. We had a great (and frugal) wedding…and it was beautiful.

    • I’m glad you guys didn’t have any other fiascos with the tight timeline and the new seamstress got the job done!

  3. Great story. We all make mistakes and like you say, the important thing is to learn from them and move on. I love that your wedding budget isn’t changing, you’re just allocating less money to other things. A really great response. Good luck with the rest of the planning!

    • Thanks Matt! Lance and I feel it’s really important to continue to stick with our budget, otherwise you will nickel and dime yourself with exceptions until your budget has doubled itself!

  4. Our wedding planning went pretty smooth. My mother-in-law did a lot of the work and just asked for our opinions.

  5. Oh NO! That really stinks! 🙁

  6. Kendal @HassleFreeSaver says:

    Oh no! What a horrible feeling. I’m glad you found a wedding dress you love in the end! I got married 7 years ago and the more I learn about personal finance and frugal living, the more I cringe about how much our wedding cost. It’s great that you’re sticking to your budget despite this hiccup. At my wedding, the most money was spent on food and though people still tell me it was the best they’d had at any wedding, I wonder if it was worth it! Cocktail hour would have sufficed!

  7. Eek! I’m SOOO excited for yall! Your mom and Lance are right. You have to love the dress! I’m glad you stuck with your gut! Please post more about wedding planning. I love it! 😀

  8. Sticking to a budget is going to be SO HARD when I get married, but worth it. You are right, you only wear the dress once! Why spend tons on it?

  9. Don’t feel guilty about it. I understand that the wedding gown is the most important thing for a bride-to-be on her wedding day. She must look beautiful and for it to happen, you must feel beautiful as well.

  10. eemusings says:

    I’ve heard SUCH varying stories about online dresses – some nightmares like yours, some dream stories where they really lucked out and got the perfect style and fit off the bat.

    Probably my biggest wedding disappointment was the food on the day. Ah well.

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