Wedding Week: Bridesmaids can save big bucks by renting
In 2009, my first year as a bridesmaid, the drill went like this: The bride picked out our dress (floor-length Dessy gown, style 2726, Christmas red skirt and ivory bodice). I ordered it (and saved 15 percent by paying $200 in full). I found a string of pearls as I waited on dress alterations. On the day of the wedding, I received a half-up, half-down curled hairstyle in synch with my fellow maids and put on dyeable satin sandals from Payless in the exact shade of red as my dress.
Everything was so deeply coordinated then. These days, bridesmaiding feels more loose. You don't have to buy your dress. You can mix-and-match necklines and buy whatever jewelry. And no one cares about your shoes because no one will see them anyway. (Or if they do, people may think, Ooo, what personality.)
In the past year, I've been a bridesmaid in three awesome weddings, plus my own. The bridesmaid role, and how to save money doing it, has been on my mind a lot. Don't take the advice that follows as a diss on tradition, because that's a very fine way of doing things, too. But if you want to save money as a bridesmaid, here are some tried-and-true options.
RENT THE RUNWAY
Their rental gowns are gorgeous, no question. Even better, they're accessibly priced.
As much as I love Rent th Runway, though, I've had mixed experiences using it for bridesmaid dresses.
The times it worked out best: When I chose my own dress for a gold-themed wedding, and when my bestie Ileana chose one strapless Badgley Mischka style, a Miami-ready hot pink chiffon number for $80, for the entire party.
For optimal results, pick a dress with a lot of size options. The depth of sizes for each style is not always what you want it to be, and a lot of times dresses run smaller than your normal size. I found few flattering options in plus-sizes for the gold dresses I wanted most (the pink Badgley dress, btw, is available in plus-size), and the indecision just proved more stressful than it needed to be. (Here's all of RTR's plus-size options, btw.)
Another pro-tip: Do a fake order ahead of time. Order the dress you think you want in two sizes (you get a back-up size) you think will work ASAP. Read the reviews! When you get the dresses, try them on immediately. If they worked out, great — you need to return them the very next day and fill out an online form saying the dresses didn't fit right (normally you get an order for four or eight days). RTR will refund your order in the form of a credit. You can apply that credit to your real order to arrive the day before your event. Make sense?
The best thing you can do is communicate what you want with Rent the Runway directly (firstname.lastname@example.org). They are super responsive, and I've always found they suggest dresses that I didn't see online.
BRIDESMAID DRESS RENTALS
As great as RTR is, you might be better off leaving the job to the bridesmaid dress pros.
Another bestie, Eve, went to hip bride Mecca, Anthropologie's BHLDN (like be-hol-den, btw), in Chicago and fell in love with a convertible Jenny Yoo tulle dress — infinite possibilities with just a few pieces of flowy fabric. Retail: $260.
Not ideal, BUT — we ended up achieving the same look for more than half the price by just renting them.
No, you're not going to wear the dress again.
We used Vow to Be Chic to find a Jenny Yoo dress (the Aidan). It cost $20 to try on the dress ahead of time, and then $90 for the wedding rental (they sent two sizes). Unlike Rent the Runway, where you get the dress a day or two ahead of the ceremony, we got our dresses about a week before the wedding. This was actually later than usual, so Vow to Be Chic waived shipping fees. On the plus side, the dresses were in brand-new condition in the charcoal color we wanted for the big day.
For this option, order your dresses several months in advance, not unlike ordering from a Dessy-type company. Other companies, like Weddington Way, also do this.
Men can do this, too.
The classy rental option doesn't just extend to ladies. I've had great experience with Menguin and Little Black Tux, which provide suits and tuxes (sometimes shoes, too) for the groomsmen (or bridesman) between $100-$200. Much cheaper than a suit.
We'll be posting more fun wedding week coverage this week.
Until then, browse links from Wedding Week past: