05/10/2013 06:41 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2013

How to Score a Designer Wedding Dress at Half Off

Monique Lhuillier

If you buy a $90,000 car and own it for a year, the cost of ownership is $.17 a minute. If you buy a $5,000 wedding dress and wear it for 5 hours, the cost of wear is $16.67 a minute. Yikes.

Fortunately, there's a way for savvy brides to make their wedding dress purchase more economical, to the tune of 50 percent off retail (even on coveted designer gowns like Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier).

The way to this savings heaven is by purchasing a pre-owned wedding dress. Found at online wedding dress resale sites, via wedding message boards and at local consignment shops, these gowns have been worn once, if at all, and are ready to make you look beautiful (at a price that won't make you dizzy).

There are tens of thousands of pre-owned wedding dresses available online. Just google the designer and style of the dress you've been dreaming of, and chances are, it's currently available at resale.

And when you locate the dress, and an amazing price, here are some tips on making a smart buy:

Know Its Value
Designer, style, age, condition, and whether the gown has been cleaned are all factors in its resale value. Find the true value of the gown you're interested in by comparing the price from different sellers, or by using the Dress Value Calculator. Then you'll be able to negotiate with your seller for the fairest price.

Confirm Authenticity
When buying a high value item like a designer wedding dress, you want to be sure of its authenticity. Ask the seller to see a copy of her receipt, or the gown's certificate of authenticity. You can even ask her to snap a pic of the gown's label and send it to you.

Ask About Alterations
Knowing exactly how the dress has been altered can actually save you even more money. A hemline that matches your height, or an already added bustle, means you won't pay a seamstress to make these changes for you.

Ask your seller for the bust, waist, hip and height measurements -- and remember that gowns can often be taken in for a perfect fit, but it's tricky (read: costly) to make them larger.

Know The Return Policy
Some online sellers offer a return policy while others don't. Ask your seller in advance what the policy is. And if she does accept returns, we like for the transaction. They protect both the buyer and seller until the transaction -- and the return period -- is completed.

See It With Skype
If you've got Skype, it's a great way to e-meet the seller and see the gown "in person." Ask your seller if she will have a video chat and show you the dress. It's also a great time to ask any remaining questions.

Then, walk down the aisle looking ravishing and feeling smart. And use the savings for something else fabulous for your wedding day, or newlywed life!