Catherine Thomson challenges the myth that a wedding dress can only be worn once.
The petite, happily-married woman steps onto a small, rectangular block in her wedding gown. The extra height makes it easier to see the whole dress in the mirrored wall at the Bride's Closet in Nanaimo. Thomson still loves her dress as much as she did when she married the man of her dreams in Hawaii on Dec. 19.
She holds her breath while April Menzies, manager of the quaint bridal boutique, zips up the last few inches.
"I just love it. It makes me feel like a princess," said Thomson as she slowly ran her hands down the sides of the elegant white gown.
Thomson has returned to the bridal store 11 months after her wedding day to have her "perfect dress" altered. It would be such a waste to put it in a box never to be seen again, when a simple alteration will transform it into a beautiful cocktail dress.
The $750 dress will be sliced in half below the knee and a zipper will be added to connect both pieces. The dress will go from wedding gown to evening chic when the bottom half is removed, she slips into some killer heels and adds a few pieces of funky jewelry.
This move goes against the grain of tradition. Throughout history, brides-to-be have searched for a unique dress, which will make them stand out and feel like a princess for one day, and one day only. Some brides spend more than a year to find their perfect dress.
The internet is a great resource for research, but some brides also take their chances and buy their dress online to get a better deal. The price brides are willing to spend on a dress they will only wear once differs from woman to woman, but at the end of the day Menzies says it is usually the dress, not the bride, that decides the price.
The life of a wedding dress after its big day is traditionally a lonesome one, as it sits in a box or hangs at the back of a closet with the hopes a daughter might love it just as much one day. But, some brides will part with their beloved dress for a fraction of the price they paid for it.
The internet offers information overload when it comes wedding gown research. Designers, styles and price are all just a click away, which can make the actually shopping experience more productive.
Menzies said brides are coming in much more prepared with ideas of what they are looking for.
"It's great when they come in with their favourite pictures in hand," she said. But, to use the internet beyond research and actually purchase a dress definitely has its risks.
Only online sellers with physical bridal shops are authorized by designers to sell gowns online. There are a lot of knock-offs advertised on professional-looking websites and brides-to-be can get a shock when they open up their parcel.
The dress might visually resemble the dress they ordered, but the quality of material and make of the dress can bring excited brides to tears. There is always the chance everything will work out perfectly and the bride will get the dress she wants at a bargain price, but Menzies says only "crazy people are willing to take that risk for something so important. It could be a horrible roller coaster ride."
The average cost of a wedding dress is $1,505. Brides with a high-end budget can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 to $5,000 for a fairy tale dress with elaborate lace and bead work. Most bride's budgets fall within the $500 to $1,000 price range and frugal brides can scoop up their dress $300 or less.
There are a few tricks to the trade to get a dress that doesn't break the bank. Most bridesmaid dresses can be ordered in white or ivory, or brides can shop at sample sales and attend bridal events, usually held every few months at local hotels or community halls.
Nanaimo's Angela LaRose, 27, bought her Alfred Angelo wedding dress off a sales rack in Victoria in 2002. The original price tag was $2,500, but she only paid $700. After a divorce and getting remarried this summer, she posted her first dress on Craigslist in October and sold it for $150 on Sunday.
"It's definitely a buyers' market," said LaRose with a laugh. Other websites including eBay and Kiijiji are also popular spots to buy and sell wedding dresses and wedding decorations. LaRose does not intend to sell her second dress, but rather have it altered and dyed so she can wear it again.
Thomson plans to get every penny worth of her dream dress as she prepares to have it altered. Also divorced, the mother-of-one remembers her first wedding and the lengths she went to buy a dress that was on sale. She ended up with a great deal, but it wasn't "the dress."
Thomson can't say enough how important it is to get the dress that makes "you feel like a princess" instead of one that fits a budget. It is better to cut costs or budget shop for wedding accessories including centrepieces, decorations, and other objects most people are likely to forget about.
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