If you've said yes to "Will you marry me?", one of your next steps is to say yes to the dress. But where do you begin to find your dream gown? Should you shop at bridal salons or a national chain store like David's Bridal? Should you buy a gown during a store's sample sale, or even a second-hand gown online?
The folks at www.dailyfinance.com recently explored the costs of purchasing a dress at bridal salons, retail chains, sample sales and online resale sources and offered tips for landing a great buy from each option.
You can read the full story at the website, but here are a few of the highlights:
For pampering and service, nothing beats a bridal salon. Brides spent an average of $1,100 for a wedding gown last year, and 58 percent of them bought their gown at a local bridal salon, according to The Real Weddings Study by The Knot, the internet wedding planning resource.
Dresses purchased at bridal salons are more expensive because they are made to order, Rachel Leonard, fashion director for Brides magazine, told AOL's Wallet Pop.
You'll have a plethora of dress choices from a variety of designers, with styles ranging from formal, traditional and ornate to classic and modern looks.
Just as gown vary in price range from moderate to expensive, bridal salons vary from moderate to upscale.
To find a lower-priced dress, look for salons that carry gowns by more affordable designers, such as Maggie Sottero and Watters & Watters. Their gowns range from $500 to $1,700.
VERDICT: For pampering, service and the experience of trying on multiple gowns to find the perfect one, shop at a bridal salon, but don't expect any bargains, unless they're on sale.
National Bridal Chain Stores
David's Bridal and Alfred Angelo stores offer a huge selection of dresses in all different sizes and styles at affordable prices. At David's Bridal, prices range from about $299 to $1,400. At Alfred Angelo, dresses range from $199 to $3,000, with most in the $599 range.
These stores sell their own brand of dresses, along with some exclusive and licensed collections from famous designers that are typically made from a less expensive fabric than what you'll find at a bridal salon.
David's Bridal now sells White, an exclusive line from Vera Wang, with prices from $600 to $1,400. And if you have fantasies of looking like Kim Kardashian on your wedding day, Wang is adding knockoffs of two of the gowns she designed for the reality TV star's recent wedding to her David's Bridal collection.
VERDICT: You can get designer gowns at national bridal chain stores, but while the price is easier on the budget, the quality is going to be a bit less than the custom sewn and fitted gowns at a bridal salon.
Specialty apparel chains, including J. Crew, Ann Taylor, White House Black Market and Urban Outfitters' new Anthropologie spin-off division BHLDN (Beholden) have gotten into the wedding business, and their collections tend to be less expensive than those sold at bridal salons, although they also tend to be much more casual.
They also tend to be online exclusives, meaning you can't try them on because you're ordering from a website.
Wedding dresses at White House Black Market range from about $348 to $698.
Dresses at Ann Taylor go from $300 for a simple tulle strapless dress to $896 for an all-over lace gown. The gowns at J. Crew and BHLDN tend to be pricier.
VERDICT: If your wedding is more on the casual side, retail stores might be a good place to look for a gown with a simpler silhouette, or if you would prefer a non-bridal white dress that can double as a wedding dress. But because you can't try them on if you buy them on the internet, be sure to check the return policy before you buy.
Bridal salons hold sample sales several times a year, and brides can get discounts of as much as 80 percent off the original price.
These tend to be frenzied events, though, as shoppers snatch up a limited supply of bargain dresses.
Filene's Basement in New York City is famed for its Running of the Brides event, which draws shoppers from around the country.
The brides-to-be bring teams with them to help them grab as many gowns as possible to try on and trade with other brides.
VERDICT: Dresses will be soiled and need to be washed, and possibly repaired if there are any rips or missing buttons. You should also be prepared to pay in cash and buy the dress that day.
If you don't mind wearing used clothing, especially on your wedding day, you might check out sites devoted to selling pre-owned gowns, such as OnceWed.com, Encorebridal.com and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.
Sizes and selection will be limited, but you can save big bucks buying second-hand wedding gowns. A new Oleg Cassino dress recently sold on PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com for $250, which was 72 percent off the original price.
Most of the dresses have only been worn once, and some have never been worn.
Consignment and thrift shops are also possible sources for second-hand gowns.
VERDICT: You probably won't be able to return the dress, so be prepared for the sale to be final.