Thursday, May 28, 2009

How Much Wedding Budget Should Go Towards "The Dress"?

This is a tough question, but I'm feeling up to attacking this topic today! I've read in supposedly reputable sources (bridal magazines) that about 20% of your wedding budget should go towards your dress. I must disagree!

This may have made sense when there was limited choice in wedding dresses, much less what I'll call "nice" wedding dresses. To be able to understand the numbers, we'll first have to look at what weddings really cost! According to The Wedding Report the average US wedding in 2008 cost $21,814. This was a 24% decline from 2007 indicating the recession affected couple's budgets in a big way. This means that even at discounted "recession prices" that the average bride should be spending well over $4,000 on her dress. Pretty insane, right? Why would they suggest such a thing? I liken it to DeBeers giving the advice that men should be spending two month's salary on the engagement ring. It's in their interest to aim high here! What is plastered all over bridal magazines? Ads for dresses! So of course they want to promote the idea of paying a lot for a wedding dress: it's also in their best interest.

Before we get all into conspiracy-theory territory, let's look at some more "real world" numbers to see what brides are ACTUALLY spending! In 2008 brides spent an average of $916 on their dress. Yes, a far cry from $4k indeed! There's more to it, however.
  • The veil: $106
  • Tiara, combs, hair pins, garter: $72
  • Shoes: $94
  • Dress Preservation: $124
  • All figures from The Wedding Report
This makes the total "outfit" plus preservation afterwards come to $1,312. If we use the average cost of a wedding in 2008 fro above ($22K) and do the math, this works out to 6% of the budget. Breathing easier now, aren't you! To give a couple of examples outside the "average cost" this would mean that if your wedding budget is:
  • $10,000 that at 6% your bridal attire should come to $600
  • $30,000 translates to $1,800
Feeling better, aren't you? Now that you have a guideline, get shopping!

Friday, May 15, 2009

What are couture wedding dresses anyway?

"Couture" is a very misunderstood and misused term. Not a coincidence: the use and abuse have naturally led people down the path of confusion. Couture originates from the French term "Haute Couture" which literally translates to "high sewing" or "high dressmaking". Haute Couture in France used to be a term that referred to the exclusive fashion houses in France: Chanel, Christian Dior and the like. Not just loosely, it was (and is!) even regulated who could use the term Haute Couture in their advertising. (You gotta love the French - such sticklers for rules. I can say that since I'm half French!)

In order to qualify to use the term, the couture houses had to satisfy certain criteria, of which the main one was to design made-to-order clothing for private clients. So this is the main distinguishing feature of "Pret-a-porter" vs. "Couture": Couture is custom made for the individual client and pret-a-porter (ready to wear) is fabricated to certain pre-determined sizes.

Coming back to wedding dresses, even though it can seem that you are "custom ordering your dress", from a bridal boutique, the vast majority (I would say over 99%, but don't quote me!) are made to pre-determined sizes and therefore actually pret-a-porter. This term is itself a little bit of a misnomer because as any boutique owner will tell you, the chances of your wedding dress that you ordered (even though it's in your size) of fitting you perfectly are extremely slim! You will need alterations, which can be costly. The cost of alterations can be such a surprise that I recommend getting quotes on the alterations before purchasing your dress from a boutique, if you go this route.

OK, so if Couture wedding dresses are all custom made, why do several manufacturers have lines of wedding gowns made in stock sizes with "couture" in the name? In a word: marketing. Even though "couture" technically means made to measure, since savvy clothing labels have been using the term to mean "high end" or "designer", consumers have started to interpret the meaning as exactly that. Hence all the confusion!

So, how can you get a couture wedding dress you ask? Well, if you have upwards of about $40,000 to part with you can see if one of the few big-name wedding dress designers out there will make a custom wedding dress for you. Or, you can come to Custom Couture Bridal where we custom design wedding dresses and make them to our brides' measurements. This is our specialty: we don't actually sell stock sizes. Even if you'd like to buy one of the dresses from our in-house collection, your dress will be custom made to your measurements.

Why is the concept of custom made clothing worthy of such obsession and even legislation? It will sound cliche, but you have to experience it to understand completely. It's all about the fit, and in wedding dresses, there's nothing more important! Imagine, you're walking down the aisle and you start to feel your dress slipping down just a little. Or maybe a lot. It will show on your face. That precious moment of yours will be stolen from you so needlessly! This is exactly why more and more brides are trusting us to make a dress that will fit them perfectly.

Come see our collection of couture wedding dresses. Each dress is custom made and customizable in terms of several aspects. This way you can not only have a custom made dress, but you can tweak several elements of the dress to your specifications.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Finally: Simple, Beautiful Wedding Dresses!

I've probably have heard the phrase "Less is more" more than just about everyone else on this planet having gone from a degree in Architecture to being a wedding dress designer, but there, I put in writing. It's just true in so many ways. (For you non-artsies out there, the phrase was coined by Architect Mies van der Rohe, but you can call him "Mies" for short. There - banter for your next cocktail party!)

It used to be that to get a true simple yet beautiful wedding dress you had to shell out a lot of your hard earned wedding budget on a top-name designer like Vera Wang or Amsale. The good news is that is no longer the case. They are harder to find, but there are some out there! We've put together some of our simple wedding dresses that don't break the bank here for you to enjoy.

From a designers' perspective it is harder to design a simple wedding dress than a more complicated one. Informal wedding dresses rely on the purity of the lines and are much less forgiving than a dress with a lot more happening. Sometimes a simple concept can fail in the execution and end up looking like a sundress or nightgown! This is probably why they are hard to find in mainstream boutiques.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Oh, you lucky brides with TWO wedding dresses!

OK, I admit it, I'm envious of the brides who have decided to have one dress for the ceremony, and another dress for the reception. It's really a neat idea to be able to have a more traditional dress in the day for the ceremony and pictures, and then to be able to turn the sexiness level up a notch or two and dance the night away in a more glamorous creation. The "evening dress" can be a different color and a style more conducive to dancing.

All great in theory, but you need to budget for both dresses from the beginning. Get your prices and make sure to factor in alterations, and any additional accessories if necessary. We've been getting several requests for these gowns lately which have been inspired from red-carpet type dresses and sometimes music videos. Usually these dresses are NOT inspired from traditional bridal manufacturers who seem slow to pick up on this growing trend. We've gathered some of our Red-Carpet wedding dresses for you to get inspired. Have fun. And yes, I'm jealous!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Buying Your Wedding Dress Online

This was the week of helping out two brides who ordered their dresses from less-than reputable Internet retailers. One bride ended up with a dress eight inches too short. Not exactly a minor detail! The other bride is not happy with her dress overall: essentially it does not match the picture provided on the Web site.

Here is my advice to heed BEFORE ordering from an Internet retailer:
  • If the price sounds too good to be true, it is. Beware!
  • Find and print the return policy. (This however was no help to one of our brides. Despite having a return policy, the seller is not honoring it!)
  • Realize that by paying with PayPal your protection as a buyer is limited to receiving the item or not. If the item is not as described, your recourse is with the vendor, not with PayPal
  • Make sure you are seeing the retailer's own photo of the dress in question, or pictures of other dresses that they have made. I can't stress this point enough!
  • Order a fabric sample. There is no better way than to see it in person.
  • Only order from people you can communicate with easily, preferably by phone. Communication is so important when explaining the details of your dress. An e-mail description is fine to start the process, but a live conversation is must before you finalize everything.
  • If your dress design is a combination of several dresses and otherwise hard for you to visualize, it is best to have a designer sketch it out for you so that you are sure that 1) you like the way the elements look together and 2) you know what you will be getting. My company offers this service as of approximately one month now and it is incredibly popular! Custom wedding dress design service.