9 Strategies to Keeping Your Wedding Dress Budget in Check While Finding The Gown of Your Dreams

For many brides, one of the most highly-anticipated things to look forward to, once you have said “I do,” is grabbing your gal pals and heading out to some bridal outlets for some wedding gown shopping. It’s a rite of passage that is celebratory, fun, emotional, and often, well….expensive. The average cost of a wedding dress, according to this study, was $2,439 in 2020.

 Whether you’ve been dreaming of your gown for as long as you can remember or are just beginning your search with a quick “discount wedding dress shops near me” and/or "reading bridal district" search on Google, we know how intimidating it can feel to know that you’re likely to spend hundreds - if not thousands - on a gown you will likely wear only once. 

To minimize the apprehension and maximize the enjoyment, we’ve put together the following list of nine strategies for you to implement when you’re starting your wedding dress shopping experience. We’ve curated this list based on our experience in the industry, as our store, Blue Bridal, is located in the middle of the renowned and historic Reading Bridal District. This is the go-to wedding district regionally and one of the top nationally for brides, grooms, bridal parties, and families to visit as they search for vendors, photographers, planners, and wedding wear.                                 

1. Set your budget appropriately

Like we mentioned above, the average cost of a wedding dress was $2,400 in 2020. This doesn’t mean that you have to spend that much, and, if you have it in the budget, don’t look at this amount as a restriction! It’s just good to have a place to start. Another general rule some use is to allocate around 10% of your full wedding budget toward bridal attire. Here at Blue Bridal, most of our gowns are priced around $999 - $1,599, which is 30 - 60% off their brand new pricing, as most of our gowns are overstock designer gowns. You probably can't find this kind of price and amazing service in the Reading Bridal District!

We recommend you start by doing enough research to know what range you’re comfortable expecting to spend. When you are making your bridal budget, be sure to include items like your jewelry, shoes, accessories, and veil.

Another thing not to overlook is alterations! Plan to hire a tailor to get the perfect fit. Even though the labor required in order to get your dress to fit like a glove can be an investment, we think that it’s worth it to feel stunning, confident, and like your gown was made just for you. Besides, since you can always move funds to and from categories to accommodate unexpected costs or savings, adding cushioning for alterations means that you might find a gown that doesn’t need them and have a little extra left over! 

With some exceptions, like the venue and perhaps catering, your budget should generally reflect your values and the items you care about - if your wedding gown is supremely important, you might want to allocate more toward that category. Keep in mind, though, that finding deals and employing savings tactics mean that more will be freed up for spending in other categories. Whether that’s a little leftover cash for your honeymoon or an extra-special gift for your wedding party, that’s a win in our book! 

2. Don’t skimp on quality where it matters

Even if you’re not a fashion connoisseur, you can easily tell the difference between synthetic satin and silk. One feels smooth, almost liquid to the touch, and the other feels, well, synthetic. These higher-quality fabrics - things like silk and handmade lace, almost always come acommpanied with a higher price tag. In addition, higher prices are associated with embellishments like beadwork, sequins, and other appliques that require specialized skills and equipment. These details are markers of quality. 

If you aren’t on board for sacrificing quality when it comes to the gown you’ll wear on one of your most important days, but you’re not comfortable spending the big bucks it will likely require to score a brand-new handmade gown, lucky for you - there are some in-between options. These include shopping during trunk shows, shopping sample sales, at overstock shops like Blue Bridal, or purchasing a consignment gown. We’ll go into some of these below in more detail, but one thing we want to be sure to mention is the conundrum of online wedding dress shopping. Read on to understand more about the risks of online wedding gown shopping.

3. Beware online deals that are too good to be true

In today’s vibrant online commercial space, it’s natural that you’d expect for dresses that you spot while online shopping, instead of at affordable bridal shops that you come across when searching “discount bridal store near me” or “discount bridal shops near me,” to have the biggest savings for the same product. But while you might save a few dollars, buying a dress from an online retailer is risky. For one, you just can’t guarantee that what arrives will be the same product or made with the same quality fabrics or craftsmanship. We’ve lost count of the  number of stories we’ve heard from couples where brides order a gown that is confirmed to be too good to be true.

‍The photo you see online might show a gorgeous gown on a radiant model that appears to be a certain length, or constructed of a certain kind of fabric, but when it shows up on your doorstep, it reveals itself to be extremely short, a weird fabric, or in a different color altogether. If this happens, you unfortunately can’t count on getting your money back. And, worse still is that the alterations required to make it possible for you to wear the gown could be even more costly.

4. Do your research on wedding dress stores

We advise that brides look into the full range of Cincinnati wedding dress shops as they begin their dress search. Look into bridal discount shops, warehouses, and boutiques to get a feel for the price range of their store’s inventory. It’ll be easier to stay on budget if you’re visiting Cincinnati bridal shops that don’t carry gowns that are mostly out of your budget range. 

5. Shop at the right time and in the right size

If you need to order your gown, try to place your order at least eight to nine months in advance to avoid rush fees. Alteration services can also accumulate rush fees, so schedule your appointments at the right time. If you’re shopping ahead of time at the Reading Bridal District or bridal shops in Cincinnati Ohio, don’t try to slim down dramatically as you approach the big day. 

Instead of counting on losing weight, make sure you shop for gowns in your current size rather than going smaller, even if you think you will end up shedding a few pounds. Take our word for it - it is so much easier to work with a tailor to take a dress in than to try to work with one that’s simply too tight. Here at our Reading bridal outlet, Blue Bridal, our professional bridal consultants always advise that you should select a dress that fits comfortably. It’s okay if it has a little wiggle room, especially if you intend on having a tailor make some alterations. 

One last note regarding alterations - if you are getting married in a shorter time-frame, we advise that brides select a gown that won’t require significant work to fit well or stay put. Another option is that you could work with a store that offers alterations in-house - this can speed up the process and make sure that you avoid unanticipated rush fees that an independent tailor may otherwise apply. 

6. Visit trunk shows

Another tactic you could use to save money on your gown is to consider visiting trunk shows. Know of a few designer lines that you adore? Check online to see if you can spot an upcoming trunk show at a bridal shop Cincinnati or near you where their line will be highlighted. You’ll likely see the designer’s entire collection, as well as have the opportunity to try on some of your favorite dresses to see how they feel and look in real life. 

Bonus tip - bring along shoes that have the same heel height as the shoes you expect to wear on your wedding day. This gives you the chance to see how the gown will fall. 

7. Shop during sales

Once you’ve got a few Cincinnati dress shops in mind that you love, follow and keep an eye on their social media feeds. Additionally, sign up to receive emails and newsletters for the stores that you’re interested in visiting. Often, shops will post announcements about their upcoming sales and trunk shows. Knowing in advance the sales that shops and bridal stores Cincinnati are planning will help you to be able to select times to visit when there are discounts on the gowns you are most likely to love. Discount wedding dresses are frequently the sweet spot, mixing the quality of full-price designer gowns with the prices found at discount outlets and bridal warehouses.

Promotions add up - they may be sales on certain gowns or designer lines, a percentage off a dress when purchased with jewelry, or the addition of a free veil when you purchase your gown. 

Know what you might be able to buy second-hand, reuse, re-sell, or buy from a consignment store. Google jewelry rental sites - some feature items like $30,000 diamond necklaces that you can rent for $300. Things like your bridal veil, shoes, jewelry, and other accessories can be sources for significant savings when you don’t buy new. 

8. Do your research into designers

For even the most top-notch, most professional stylists out there, it’s helpful to have somewhere to begin when pulling dresses for their clients to try on. They’re there to assist you, and knowing if you like a strappy rustic lace slip dress or a princessy ball gown with layer upon layer of tulle can help them get to know you and ensure that they’re selecting the kind of dress that you’re most likely to adore.

Do you know you want sleeves on the dress that you will wear on your big day? Lots of lace? A sweetheart neckline? Have you fallen in love with Justin Alexander’s designs, or Sophia Tolli? Many wedding dresses in Cincinnati - from those with classic wedding dress silhouettes to gowns that are more modern and contemporary - are carried at the boutiques and outlets near Reading, Ohio

A good place to start is to familiarize yourself with some of the basic styles - ball gown, A-line, trumpet, and rustic gowns - and see what you are drawn to most. We have several posts that explain the differences that separate these silhouettes, or check out the blogs from our sister store, Blush Bridal, to learn about quality designers and their products

9. Keep an open mind

Don’t judge a dress on the rack. In the Cincinnati bridal district, our consultants are professionals and if you trust them, you may be surprised to find that a style you didn’t initially expect to like might just be THE dress! It’s always important to be completely honest with the bridal consultant who assists you during your appointment, but we recommend that you balance your honesty with staying open-minded to those wild cards they may pull. 

While it’s important to express your preferences and tastes, it can also be very beneficial for you to trust your stylists’ years of experience and expertise. They likely understand dress construction and fabrics, and their training makes them well-suited to understand the many ways to flatter bodies of all shapes

Being open to trying new styles and wedding dress silhouettes, in addition to the styles you were initially captivated by when doing your research, helps keep the experience fun and increases the likelihood of finding your gown in Reading, Ohio, at a price that is within your budget. 


We understand the feelings you might have if you’re looking for quality wedding dresses in Ohio and don’t want to break the bank. Full-price gowns are an investment, after all! If the concept of wearing your gown just once and spending a small fortune on one is off-putting, you’re not alone. Thankfully, stores like Blue Bridal exist to make the process of finding a quality gown that’s not full price exciting and fun for you and your guests. 

Sticking to your budget doesn’t need to feel limiting - many of the stores in the Reading Bridal District offer discounted samples from high-end designers at luxury boutiques, offered at a fraction of the original price. To this point, our designer gowns are 30-60% discounted and so even though they’ve never been worn down the aisle, they rival consignment designer gowns! This means that you’ll be saying “I do” in a garment that reflects you, makes you feel confident and authentic, and doesn't bust your budget. Carrying sizes ranging from 2 to 32, we have gowns for every body.

Interested in visiting our Cincinnati bridal shop to find the dress of your dreams? Get in touch to book your appointment! We can’t wait to meet you!