Why Your Wedding Dress Is Like A Car

Recently, I was invited to the 30th birthday party of a very close friend of mine. As ever with Mike, there's a theme and this year it’s everyone at 80: we’re all going to be dressed up as ourselves in the year 2065.

Now, Mike is a bit of an expert when it comes to throwing fancy dress parties, so I know that whatever I pick to go as it had better be good. We have a joke – which is also not a joke – that if the costume isn't good enough then he won’t let you past the front door. I guess a bit of talcum powder and an over-sized cardigan just won’t cut it.

Maybe it’s because I write for this blog or maybe it’s because everyone I know seems to be obsessed with getting married at the moment, but I've had an idea for a wedding themed costume. Now, I love a good wedding, and I enjoy writing about them, but I am just about the least likely person of anyone I know to even entertain the idea of getting married. I’m selfish, stubborn and I don’t always play nicely with others. You know what, too? The world is just too big and too interesting for me to start getting interested in seating plans and colour schemes.

What's the sound? That's the sound of me losing my job as a wedding blogger. Let me clarify: I love weddings, but I just don't want one of my own (yet).

The day I announce my engagement will be the day
Genghis Khan guest stars in an episode of Corrie – but there’s my idea (the first bit not the Genghis Khan part).

I’m thinking of going to Mike's as my version of one of Charles Dickens’ best-known characters – Miss Haversham. You may or may not be familiar with her. She’s the spinster from Great Expectations who takes an interest in young Pip. Earlier in her life, she'd fallen madly in love with a man whose intention was only ever to defraud her of her fortune. When the man writes to Miss Haversham on the morning of their wedding admitting he doesn’t love her, she’s devastated.  What makes her truly tragic, however, is that she never gets over it. Locked away in her estate, she continues to wear the wedding dress she was meant to be married in for many, many years after. When we are introduced to her, she's surrounded by the decaying mess of her wedding breakfast: cobwebs, maggots and mould. Dickens described her as a waxy skeleton of a woman stuck in the moment that her beloved betrayed her. So yep, that's who I'm thinking of imitating for my 80-year-old self.  It’s either that or a warrior babushka from the Russian Steppe, but that’s another post entirely.

I’d like to think that I won’t be meeting my 80th birthday rattling around an old house in a decaying wedding dress, but I guess you never know, do you?  Anyway, it’ll be a funny way of getting into a white dress before many of my closest female friends *evil grin*.

Of course, the key component to this plan is finding a wedding dress that looks the part. I don’t want to pay much for one (just to make this entire costume hunt even more difficult), so I’ve been using eBay. Now, I know that this is a controversial subject in some wedding circles. Some Chinese suppliers have been tempting brides-to-be with cheap designer rip-offs that turn out to be more nightmare than couture (although, my friend’s dress came from China via eBay and it was absolutely beautiful).

Anyway, I’m ignoring the Chinese sellers and their buy-now options. I'm far more interested in the people selling their own dresses via auction. I say this because it turns out that this is where there are some real deals to be had. If you're on a budget, but you don't fancy an off-the-rail sale look, then there are pages and pages of dresses on eBay. What surprised me, however, is just how many of these dresses (many under £100) are ending their listing without a single bid. It seems to me that a lot of women are misjudging the resale value of their dresses. Some of these gowns have a reserve of £200, but an opening bid of £1.99. Some of these dresses will have cost thousands when they were new. I guess that if you want to sell your dress, then maybe eBay isn't the way.

That's what makes me think that a wedding dress can be a lot like trying to sell a car that you bought brand new. You're likely to lose more money than you'll ever hope to make back. I know so many women who wouldn't want to sell their dress anyway, but what happens when the one you've spent a small fortune on isn't the ONE. eBay has plenty of examples of this:

I bought this brand new for £550, but then I found another dress, so I never wore this one.

This was my wife’s dress. She only wore it in the shop, and it cost £890.

Brand new dress, never worn. Our wedding was cancelled shortly afterwards.

Ouch! You either feel that right in the wallet or right in the heart.  They say that It’s a bride’s prerogative to change her mind, but maybe hold fire on buying that dress until you’re sure. I’ve heard of women spending £2,000 on a dress and then changing their mind.

If there’s one thing that this blog has tried to hammer home over the last 14 months it’s been how important it is to plan. The wedding industry is designed to make you want to spend your money -- make them work for it.

Here are a few things worth keeping in mind

  • There's nothing wrong with getting the dress early in the wedding plan, but don't buy the first one you see. Trying on dresses always stimulates an emotional response, and when you're spending thousands on something, then you need to think with your head not your heart. Maybe that is your dream dress, but give yourself some distance before handing over the credit card. See if the shop will accept a deposit and hold the dress for a few weeks.

  • Wedding dresses follow trends and fashion, so don't assume you'll never find the same dress again. We live in the age of the internet for God's sake, if you're prepared to work for it then you'll find it. Unless, of course, you're after a very specific and unusual type of dress, then you're allowed to be a little more protective of what you do find. 

  • Go to the shop with someone who knows you well enough to be objective and honest. Preferably, you should take more than one person. The point is to have people who will keep you grounded even when you're on cloud 9.

  • Have you considered getting a custom made gown? It could be one way of getting exactly what you want the first time around. 

  • Don't assume you'll be able to recoup all the money you spent on buying a dress by selling it later. If you do come to sell it then research the best platform from which to do that. Ebay is probably better for buying wedding dresses rather than selling them.

  • If you don't think you'll get much, then make a bigger gesture and give the dress to a charity. Your dress could go to a terminally ill bride or it could be made into clothing to bury small babies who died too soon. There are some wonderful UK based charities such as Cherished Gowns for Angel Babies and The Wedding Wishing Well 
Remember, there's nothing wrong with wanting an expensive dress, there's nothing wrong with buying two and you shouldn't feel bad if you want to sell your dress afterwards, just be mindful that wedding dresses can be bought for a lot, but, more often than not, they resell for relatively little. 

I've got until Mid-July to find my dream dress, so I'll keep you all posted.

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