08/24/2012 06:33 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2012

How To Get A Designer Wedding Dress For Less

The economy is pretty tough right now but couples still want to get married and brides still want to feel beautiful on their wedding days. After 20 years of working with brides-to-be on a budget at VOWS Bridal Outlet in Boston, we want to offer up some "secrets" on how to find your dream wedding gown for less even if you can't make it up to visit us.

1. Buy a gently used version of your dream gown -- There are quite a few websites that allow past brides to post their "gently worn" wedding gowns. These include,, and even eBay.

It's important, though, to make sure you know what kind of alterations have previously been done on the once worn gown. If the original owner was 5' tall and you're 5'7", the gown won't work! Also make sure you ask about the condition of the dress; does it have any stains or tears? Always make sure that you are able to return the gown if it doesn't fit or isn't what you expected once you receive it.

2. Buy a sample wedding gown at a traditional retailer -- If you fall in love with a gown at a traditional bridal shop, ask them if they are willing to sell you their sample. Sometimes the retailer is ready to move that sample to make room for new inventory. You should expect to receive 10-50 percent off the retail price.

It's important to ask the bridal shop if dry cleaning of the sample is included, especially on high-end silk gowns. If it isn't, you should expect to pay $150-$350 to an experienced dry cleaner.

3. Order an ivory or white bridesmaid dress instead of a wedding dress -- If your budget is extremely tight, you might want to consider ordering a bridesmaid dress and then adding accessories to make it your own. There are some gorgeous belts, brooches and sashes that can be added to most dresses to make them look more expensive. is a great site to find beautifully handmade pieces from artists who offer their goods online.

4. Have a copy of your dream dress made by a professional dress maker -- There are some phenomenal dressmakers out there that are able to make a less expensive version of your dream gown.

It's important to get references and to ask if you can look at other gowns that the dressmaker has completed. I think this is a better option when you are looking to copy a simple bridal gown with minimal beading. Also make sure the dressmaker is going to use the same quality fabric that you expect. You don't want her to make you a polyester version of a silk designer gown.

5. Consider wearing a family member's gown -- There are some beautiful vintage wedding gowns made of luxurious fabrics and laces that perhaps are in your mother's or grandmother's hope chest. If your family member agrees, you could customize the gown with an experienced seamstress. Maybe you could turn the high-neck lace gown into a strapless stunner or perhaps you could take off the puffed sleeves and show off your shoulders.

It's important to make sure that the lace or fabric of an older gown is still in good condition. Sometimes older fabrics can begin to disintegrate if they are handled to much. A good dry cleaner or dress maker can advise you on this.

TLC'S new series "I Found the Gown" premieres Friday August 24 with two new back-to-back episodes at 10 and 10:30PM.