The average bride in the U.S. spends $1,000-$2,000 on her wedding dress.  To me, spending that much on a dress you only wear once is just plain crazy.  When I was able to get my dream dress for only $400 (on sale from $700), I was ecstatic.

I didn’t realize then that alterations and bustling (which prevents the dress from dragging on the ground and allows the bride to move about more easily without tripping on the train) could potentially add another $300 to the cost of my dress.

That $400 dress may not have been such a bargain after all!  To avoid paying these ridiculous extra fees, here are some alternative options.

Get a dress that fits properly.

If you get a dress that fits, you don’t need to waste your money on alterations.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  If you have an unusual body type (like I do), it can be a challenge to find a dress that fits well in every area  – I had to have my dress taken in quite a bit in the waist, taken out a little in the hips, hemmed a few inches, and the straps shortened.

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When I “said yes to the dress”, I had no idea how expensive alterations were.  Now that I know, I would have tried harder to find a dress that fit me well and would require fewer alterations.  Be patient and willing to try on more dresses even after you’ve found one you like.

Buy a dress that has a removable train or doesn’t have a train at all.

In addition to being much cheaper, nontraditional dresses like white prom gowns or bridesmaid dresses have the benefit of not having a train.  Some traditional wedding gowns also don’t have trains.  Without a train, there’s no need to bustle the dress.

Use a wrist loop.

Many wedding dresses have a loop that is used for hanging the dress.  This loop can be worn around your wrist to hold the dress up and eliminate the need for bustling.  I considered doing this for my own wedding but decided against it because I was concerned that it might get too heavy.  Still, it has the huge benefit of being free!

wedding dress wrist loop

Photo courtesy of Marialinz Photography

Have someone who knows how to sew use a couple pins, and you just got a bustled dress for free instead of $300!

My mom is a seamstress but she had no prior experience working with wedding dresses.  She and I did a “trial run” to see if it were possible for her to bustle the dress, and she easily bustled my dress using just a couple of pins.  It may have looked a little better if I’d had it professionally bustled, but that certainly wasn’t worth $300 when my mom could do it for free with just a couple of pins!  Wikihow has tips on how to bustle a dress.

Were you surprised by how expensive alterations and bustling can be?  What tips do you have for reducing these costs?