How To Score A Gown For A Steal

You’ve been dreaming of the perfect wedding dress for as long as you can remember, but when the time comes to hit the dress shops there are so many things to consider. Trying to figure out your style, researching designers and figuring out your budget can be overwhelming. Often times a newly engaged gal has no idea that designer wedding gowns on average can range anywhere form $2,500 – $10,000. So what’s a budget savvy gal to do? Here are some tips for snagging the gown of your dreams for a steal!

Prom Gown Shops 

Yup, I know your cringing right now but this is a great option for budget conscience brides and destination brides! If you’re not worried about the designer label and definitely not into all the drama of the sample sales, head to your a local prom dress shop or hit the mall. You won’t believe what gorgeous gowns you can score for a fraction of the price of a wedding gown.

What you need to know:

  • The gowns in a Prom Dress Shop are often colorful and full of bling! Did you know that these gowns can be ordered in a bevy of colors including white?
  • Gown shops also offer alterations and alternative options for the gowns. You still get the same level of customizations  and attention to detail that you would get at a bridal salon.
  • Gowns can be ordered in just a few weeks to 3 months, a much shorter lead time then bridal gowns. This is perfect for elopements, destination weddings or for brides who don’t want to be engaged for a year or more.
  • The best part is you can still look glam and like a bridal beauty for just a few hundred bucks! Love the look featured in the images? Our Bride Becky scored this beauty for less then $500 at a local prom shop!

Trunk Shows

If you’ve done your research and find yourself being drawn to the same designer over and over again, a trunk show is perfect for you! Trunk shows give you the opportunity to shop a designers full collection before it hits the stores! Even better, you will have the opportunity to meet a representative of the design house and maybe event the designer themselves!

What you need to know: 

  • Trunk shows typically correspond with the release of a new line of gowns from a designer. They will be showcasing gowns that have only been seen on the runway or the pages of a magazine.
  • Trunk shows are held at local bridal salons who carry a sampling of the designers gowns. The full collection will be on display for clients to try on.
  • You can find dates listed on the websites of individual salons and designer websites well in advance so you should have no problem finding a show featuring your fave designer.
  • Trunk Shows are typically a 2 or 3 day event and do require an appointment as slots do fill up quickly.
  • Large groups are not advised as the salons and designers are looking to provide a personal one on one experience to their potential clients offering expert advice on fit, alterations and styling.
  • While a full display of the trunk show gowns will be front and center, most shops will allow you to try on other gowns during your appointment.
  • Have a good knowledge of the designer and the price point before your appointment. While trunk shows are not considered discount shopping events, you can often score incentives or special pricing if you decide to purchase at the event.

In Store Sample Sales

Samples Sales are another way to get your designer gown at a discount. The biggest difference is that you will be shopping last seasons gowns and if you’re really lucky a few current gowns will be available that may have been cancelled by other brides. At in store sample sales, you will be shopping the gowns that the store carries which means you already know the designers which is a bonus! The most important thing to know about shopping sample sales is that they are not a champagne and strawberries type of shopping experience. There will not be the level of personal service and attention that you would get from a typical bridal appointment.

What you need to know:

  • In store sample sales are held at the end of the season usually twice a year when a salon is looking to clear out inventory to make room for new incoming gowns.
  • Keep and eye out on the the shops website for the details and dates of the sample sales. They also often post lots of signage and adverting in the shop windows.
  • Sample sales are often crowded and appointments will be required and sell out quickly. You will also be restricted on the number of guests you are able to bring.
  • Your appointments will have strict time constraints and you are often only allowed to try on a limited number of gowns at one time.
  • Sample Gowns are as is and will range in size from 8 to 12, which is comparable to a 6 to 10 in regular dress sizes. You are buying off the rack at the time of the event.
  • It’s always a good idea to try on gowns at a regular bridal appointment prior to attending a bridal sample sale. This way you already have a strong opinion about what shape, size and style you love without the pressure and time constraints of the event.

Warehouse Sample Sales

Warehouse samples sales are large events often held in major cities. They are known to feature a bevy of high end designer gowns at even deeper discounts they any other type of sale. The product selection will be unknown and these sales are not well advertised. Typically they will be posted on blog and social media s 1 – 2 weeks prior and are mostly found out about via word of mouth. While there is some truth to our favorite Friends Episode where Monica is frantically hunting for a discounted gown like a lunatic amongst other Bridezillas, nowadays to protect the staff ( not the brides ) there are rules, regulations and even security. Most importantly, be ready to rough it. This is no walk in the park, especially since you’ll be lucky if there are toilettes and AC.

What you need to know:

  • You will need to wait in line in order to receive a numbered ticket. It is not uncommon that gals camp out overnight to be one of the firsts in line.
  • Only a select number of people are allowed into the facility at one time. As one shopper comes out, another is let in.
  • Expect no personal service and very little help. Most likely you will not even have a dressing room. In the best of circumstances you will be able to share a dressing “area” with other ladies. Leave your inhibitions at the door!
  • The selection of gowns and designers will be completely unknown. The gowns are coming from a bevy of sources including bridal shops, department stores, designers samples and PR Showroom samples.
  • Sizing at an event like this will differ from an in store sample sale. While the store samples will be the larger sizes typically on the racks in the shops, designer and PR samples are often a size 2 or 4.
  • This is an event where bringing a few extra helping hands will come in handy. Your team can run gowns in and out to aid in your quest to find the perfect dress!
  • Each event has a different set of rules which will typically be explained as you enter. One of which is often the number of gowns you can hoard at one time. This is where the security comes in.
  • While having a good knowledge of what type of gown you want, this is such a hectic environment that being prepared is tough. Luck has more to do with it then preparation.
  • Be realistic with your purchase. Don’t buy a gown that is way to big or way to small. The alterations that are required may completely alter the design of the gown.
  • Don’t be afraid to get creative! If you’re a budding designer or not afraid of doing some major alterations, buy a few gowns and tear them apart to make the perfect creation! It worked out for Molly Ringwald in Pretty In Pink.
  • These events are cash & carry so be prepared to buy!



Styling ~

Photography ~




Model: Becky Mullin ~


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Details of I do is a brides go to source for fresh, fun and inspiring wedding day details! Details of I do was created by Kristin Rockhill. She is passionate about all the little things that make weddings special from the flowers to decor and everything in between. Her love of vintage charm, rustic details, modern lines and lush blooms are what inspires her daily posts. Check in daily for your dose of inspiring wedding day details.

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