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Save big bucks on gown and tux

Wedding clothes need not cost a fortune. You can even get a coupon for tuxedo rentals.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 30, 2012 11:21AM
Image: Bride and groom (© Image Source/Getty Images/Getty Images)Three things you should know about wedding attire:
  • The bridal gown doesn't have to cost a fortune.
  • Bridesmaids' gowns need not be one-time-use.
  • The men don't have to wear monkey suits -- but if that's the plan, did you know you can get a coupon for tux rentals?

Outfitting the bridal party can be pretty fraught, from the choice of wedding colors to the length of the veil.


It's possible to get the look you want -- even a designer look -- without emptying your wallet. Wedding planners and former brides told me so.

Something old?

The dress need not be new. Brides Against Breast Cancer collects and sells dresses for as little as $99. Half of them are new, gowns that were donated by retailers, designers and manufacturers.

If there's no charity sale in your area, check out the offerings at sites like Recycled Bride (which also offers men's suits) Wore It Once and Encore Bridal.


Or how about re-using a vintage dress? "If it was a family member's, the heartfelt meaning and nod to history is inherent," says Sara Mathes, co-owner of Jill Andrews Gowns in Baltimore. Sometimes the tailoring is as simple as removing the sleeves or changing the neckline.

Kelly Bejelly, who blogs at A Girl Worth Saving, wanted a new gown but she didn't want to pay too much. "I found a seamstress on Craigslist and the total cost of my custom wedding dress was $250," says the Portland, Ore., writer.

Rent, don't buy

Guys rent tuxes all the time, but how many people think of renting wedding gowns or bridesmaids' dresses? provides a state-by-state list of wedding rental stores.

Rent the Runway offers access to high-end designer gowns for about one-tenth of the cost of purchase. Wondering whether it will fit? The company will throw in a second size of the same gown, just in case. (Post continues below.)


Rent a Wedding Dress is a matchmaker: It puts you in touch with women interested in renting out their gowns. That's one way to recoup an investment.

Off the rack

If a friend asked you to pay a few hundred dollars for an outfit you could wear only once, would you do it? Probably not. So why ask your bridesmaids to go along with floor-length turquoise gowns and shoes dyed to match?

Photographer Catherine Fiehn recalls a thoughtful bride who suggested her attendants pick out their own black dresses.

"The ladies all had dress that flattered their figures and their individual budgets -- and that they could use again," says Fiehn, who's based in Darien, Conn.

Kendal Perez, who blogs at Hassle Free Savings, also had her attendants choose their own dresses. To create "a cohesive look," she had them wear the same type of shawl. (The garments doubled as bridesmaids' gifts.)

Similarly, why not specify "dark suit" for the groomsmen? If the groom already owns a nice suit, he's home-free; if not, this is a good excuse to buy one.

Should he really want a tux, buying one versus renting (more on that in a minute) ensures that he'll look great at the next wedding he attends, as well as at the symphony or the opera.

Other frugal tricks

Wedding attire need not be tuxes and gowns. Geri Koeppel's nuptials took place on a 100-degree-plus day so "we passed on the formal suit and wedding dress," says the Phoenix-based writer.

She and her fiancé opted for a Tommy Bahama silk shirt and pants and a cream-colored spring dress. Total expenditure: about $350 for clothes they could wear again.

A few more suggestions:

Shop on eBay.
Kate Harrison of the Green Bride Guide site wanted Vera Wang shoes. She got them for $50 via online auction, then resold them for the same price. "All I paid for was the shipping," she says.

Check consignment stores.
Kelly Bejelly paid $13 for her wedding shoes at Buffalo Exchange. Or check a thrift store, especially on half-price day.


Utilize cash-back shopping. You can get a new dress at a lower cost this way. ExtrabuxMr. Rebates, and other cash-back sites offer rebates for retailers like David’s Bridal, House of Brides and American Bridal.

Look for coupons.
Sites such as Brad's Deals, Retail Me Not and have coupons and special discounts for the same sorts of wedding stores as the cash-back sites have. I also found coupons for $10 to $40 off tux rentals at

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.