Life in Transition

Navigating Personal Finances During Life Transitions

Archive for the tag “wedding”

Tips for Selling Your Wedding Dress

In a previous post, I shared some places where you can sell your wedding dress (or buy a pre-owned one).  I successfully sold my dress with RecycledBride and I wanted to share my experience and some tips.

I bought my dress and floral sash from David’s Bridal for $718.68 including tax.  I sold mine for a total $415, almost 60% of the original cost.

Tips for Selling your Dress Online

  1. Price your dress right.  The listing sites suggest listing the dress from 50%-75% of the original price.  If you price your dress too high, it will not sell.  My listing price was $375 for the dress and $40 for the sash.  I’m assuming that I priced it just right, since I received five inquiries within a week
  2. List on multiple sites, but avoid those with listing fees.  With sites that don’t require a fee, why list them on ones that do? Especially when a sale is not guaranteed?
  3. Include plenty of pictures from a variety of angles.  Your first two pictures should come off of the designer’s website with their model wearing the dress.  That way, if a bride-to-be is looking for a particular dress from a certain designer, she would be able to instantly recognize it.  The next few should be picture of you wearing the dress at different angles.  A woman looking for a size 8 dress will want to make sure that it looks good on a size 8 woman.  A dress that looks good on a size 0 model might not be flattering for someone wearing a different size.
  4. Write an honest, detailed description.  Let brides know whether the dress has been altered, if there is a small rip or stain, etc.  Be sure to include other accessories you may want to sell with the dress.
  5. Be prompt in answering inquiries about the dress.  Buyers love good customer service.
  6. Beware of scammers.  Never accept checks, cash, money orders or Western Union transfers.  Stick with Paypal and Escrow as your method of payment.
  7. Don’t underestimate shipping costs.  Remember that shipping cost also includes the box, packing material and tape in addition.  If the bride is not in a rush to receive the dress, the cheapest shipping option is the parcel post through USPS.  Make sure to spend the extra money to provide a tracking number and delivery confirmation.  It could potentially save you a lot of headaches.
  8. Dry clean the dress before you ship.
Side Note: In my area, drying cleaning a wedding dress starts at $130. In other words, it is not cheap to dry clean a wedding gown.  However, since my dress was simple with no extensive beading or lace, my dry cleaner charged me the prom dress dry cleaning rate of $30.  So, a less ornate dress will save you about $100 on dry cleaning, which is an expense that a lot of brides do not think about.
Have any of you bought a used wedding dress or tried selling one?

Selling Your Wedding Dress Online

I’ve never had any intentions of holding onto my wedding dress.  It’s been only worn once and I’ll never wear again.  I can’t picture my future daughters wearing it either.  It’s just taking up space, so to me the only option that makes sense is to sell it. 

Now-a-days, there are many ways to sell a used wedding dress.  You can take it to the consignment store, sell it on ebay, or craigslist.  Other options include websites that only sell things related to weddings, Facebook, or on a blog.  I plan on trying the last three methods, but for this post I’ll focus on website that exclusively sell wedding related items.

OnceWed is one of the most popular wedding sites.  The listings are almost exclusively for dresses, though I saw a few listings for accessories.  The best part about using their listing service is that there is no listing fee or commission, except the the commission paid the the third party payment portal Escrow (Oncewed allows sellers to use any payment service but strongly recommends Escrow for the buyers and sellers’ security).  Listing the dress was really easy, and sellers can include up to five pictures.


In addition to secondhand dresses, Bravobride allows you to sell anything wedding related such as jewelery, accessories, flower girl baskets, and decorations.  The site as a $19.95 listing fee for dresses and wedding bands, but no listing fee for anything else.  Sellers also have the option of paying an extra $4.95 to have a highlighted listing or and $9.95 to have your dress show up first in buyers’ searches.  I decided not to list my dress on the site becuase of the listing fee.  I don’t want to pay anything upfront when my dress isn’t guarenteed to sell on this site.  I plan on selling my other items on this site.

Preowned Wedding Dresses is another popular site for budget-savvy brides.  This site is similar to Oncewed with a user-friendly search tool.  However, out of all the sites that I searched, this one had the steepest listing fee of $25.  Listings expire after 18 months. I will not list my dress on this site for the same reason I didn’t list it on BravoBride.

Recycled Bride

I recently learned about this site.  Like BravoBride, brides can sell other wedding-related items.  For the basic listing package, you can list one item for free.  Sellers can upgrade to the Plus package for $9.95 a month.  The upgraded package allows sellers to list up to 6 items, and have the items listed as a featured product.  There is a 6% commission if the item sells.  I went ahead and listed my dress on this site since I don’t have to pay extra fees if I sell through another website.

I also plan on creating a photo album of wedding items I’m selling on my personal Facebook page.  I have a lot of Facebook friends who are engaged and on a small budget.  As soon as get all my wedding pictures, I will also post them on this blog.

Do you plan on keeping or selling your wedding dress? If you have already sold yours, where did you sell it and how long did it take?

Wedding Budget

I finally finished tabulating how much I ended up spending on my wedding.  I spent a grand total of $7565.41, which is less than $100 over my $7500 budget.  I was really scared to add everything up, since in the weeks leading up to the wedding, I felt like I was doing wedding related shopping every day, and a lot of things were a lot more expensive than I expected.  Here is the chart of our budget and actual expenses:

Category Budgeted Actual Difference
Attire $900.00 $1,074.18 ($174.18)
Dress   $718.68  
–Alterations   $280.00  
–Hair, Makeup   $61.50  
–Fabric Tape   $14.00  
Reception $3,000.00 $3,406.77 ($406.77)
–Tent Rental   $2,356.55  
–Food & Drinks   $225.70  
–Decorations   $319.76  
–Flowers   $154.76  
–Wedding Cake   $350.00  
Ceremony $1,000.00 $741.32 $258.68
–Chair Rental   $605.13  
–License   $36.57  
–Basket & Pillow   $56.45  
–Decorations   $43.17  
Bouquets $500.00 $383.00 $117.00
Bridal Party Gifts $150.00 $161.51 ($11.51)
–Groomsmen   $107.06  
–Bridesmaids   $54.45  
Rings $350.00 $129.13 $220.87
–Groom   $44.95  
–Bride   $84.18  
Photography $1,300.00 $1,400.00 ($100.00)
Stationary $300.00 $269.50 $30.50
–Save the Dates   $24.39  
–Guestbook   $47.00  
–Invitations   $97.27  
–Programs   $60.00  
–Postage   $40.84  
Total $7,500.00 $7,565.41 ($65.41)

The chart does not include expenses that other people have covered or services offered as a gift, whic is why some of the line items look really low.  I did not include neither the $1200 cost of the venue nor the portable toilet (I’m estimating those to be about $200), since my parents-in-law decided to cover those expenses in exchange for upgrading to a roomier tent.  My husband’s parents also bought all the alcohol.  They stuck with wines that were less than $8/bottle and purchased a keg.  I’m estimating that alcohol totaled around $200.00.  You probably also noticed that the overall food cost I listed is really low.  I decided to have a dessert reception, and some friends and family volunteered to bake something.  I’m not exactly sure how much all of the ingredients for the brownies, cookies, fudge, chocolate covered strawberries, etc. costed.  Overall,  I think that  after including all these costs, overall the wedding was still under 10K.

I spent a lot less on decorations than I had expected. Since the ceremony venue was outside in a beautiful setting, I didn’t really need to decorate.  For the reception, I borrowed a lot of things from my mother-in-law.  I went with a vintage decorating palate, since lot of her candle holders, vases,  cake stands, trays, and other house decor were more ornate.  Flowers usually cost an arm and a leg, especially my favorite flower, the peony.  I cut down flower costs by using silk flowers for my bouquets and buying  individual stems from a wholesaler to create simple center pieces.

I definitely experienced a lot sticker shock for the tent  and chair rental.  The wedding venue required a tent and required you to use a certain rental company.  I don’t know how the rental company compared to other ones in terms of price, but I know that the general consensus is that tents are expensive no matter where you get it.  Overall, I spent about $3000 on rentals alone!

Overall, I am really pleased how my sub-10K wedding turned out.  I definitely  proved to myself that I could  have a beautiful wedding on a budget.

Wedding Trimmings–Part III

During the past two weeks, I’ve discuss ways to save money the wedding dress, venue, reception, invitations, etc.  Today, I’ll discuss ways to save money on photography, cake, and officiant.

For me, this was one of the most difficult areas to save money.  A good photographer was definitely a priority for the wedding, but a good photographer doesn’t come cheap.  I understand why.  Taking wedding pictures is physically demanding, and the hours are long.  Not to mention, the equipment, editing software, and travel expenses add up and the cost is carried over to the clients.  So, I think a skilled photographer has every right to charge as much as they do (I know some people will disagree with that statement).  The average well-established photographer in this area ranges between  $2000-$2500, which  is too much for my budget.  

I was able to find a less expensive photographer through friends and facebook.  I go to a church with a lot of up-and-coming artists, so I found a candidate there who was only going to charge me $800.   The second candidate photographed my former roommate’s wedding quoted me for $1400, and the third candidate I found on Facebook, and his basic package costed $1700.  

The first photographer was an acquaintance, and he had just started his photography business.  When was looking for a photographer, he had only taken pictures of two weddings.  While his pictures weren’t bad, stylistically, it was not what I was looking for.  Plus, he was the least inexperienced out of the three, and his price point reflected that.  In the end, I decided not to use him because of his lack of experience.  Now that he’s had a full year to practice, he’s improved greatly.  Sometimes I wonder if I should have picked the first photographer, since he charged significantly less than the others.  

I ended up hiring the second photographer.  She had a year of experience and she consistently took high quality pictures.  When my former roommate got married, she only charged $950.  She became popular very quickly, and increased her prices. The third photographer also took excellent pictures, but he was less affordable.  Though she charged $700 more than  the first photographer, I  chose her since I knew I would definitely get good pictures on my wedding day.   This is an area that I did not want to skimp on quality.  Photographs are one of the few tangible things that I can look at after the wedding is over.  

Tips to trim photography costs: I would start with recommendations from friends, since it’s hard to find photographers under the radar with a Google search.  If you live near a university with an art or photojournalism department, look for students seeking to build a portfolio.  Searching Facebook for wedding photographers is also a good place to start.  Many new photographers who just started will have a Facebook page but no website.

Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes are expensive, for the same reasons photography is expensive.  My former roommate’s sister-in-law is making my wedding cake.  She bakes cakes out of her home as a hobby and will slowly build it into a small business as her daughters get older.  I told her what my budget was upfront and we talked about designs that would fit my budget.  I chose a standard  cake flavor, plain vanilla, and standard icing–nothing fancy.  Overall, I think I saved over $300 by not using a professional bakery.  

Another way to keep costs low is to buy a cake at a local grocery store with a bakery.  Usually, their cakes will be cheaper than a bakery that exclusive makes wedding cakes.  If you choose to bake your own, make several one tier cakes with varying designs.  There’s less of a chance to mess up than trying to make your own  multi-tiered cakes.

Tips to trim cake costs: The most important thing is to keep it simple.  The more exotic the flavors and the more intricate the design, the more your cake will cost.  If possible, find a family member or friend who can bake a wedding cake.  If not, try a grocery store with a bakery such as Kroger.

Depending on whether or not you have a religious ceremony, this may or may not be an area where you can save money.  My fiance and I are pretty involved with a church here in Louisville.  The church has been like a family for us, since we both live far from home.  So, it was important to us that one of the pastors officiates the wedding.  Each church has its policy about compensation for the ministers to do weddings.   Since my fiance and I have gotten to know one of the pastors at my church pretty well from our involvement with the college ministry, he waived the fee as his wedding gift.  

If you opt against a religious ceremony, you have more freedom with who you choose to officiate.  The best way to save money is to have a friend  perform the ceremony.   One of my friends asked her uncle to officiate her wedding.  There’s a few  ways to get certified.  There are some denominations, such as the Universal Life Church and First Nation Ministry, that open ordination to anyone and allow you to get certified online.  If you choose to go this route, make sure you check the legal requirements of your state.

Tips to trim officiant costs: If you or a family member is close to minister, pastor, or judge, ask to see if they are willing give you a discount or officiate for free.  If not, ask a family member or friend to get the proper certification to officiate.

What are some ways you have trimmed costs on your wedding?

Wedding Trimmings Part II

Last week, I talked about how to cut costs on the wedding dress, venue, and reception.  Today I will talk about invitations, flowers, and music.

As I looked through wedding websites and, I fell in love over and over again with fancy, pretty invitation designs.  Yes, I am a sucker for all things pretty.  Unfortunately, pretty also meant pricey, and with invitations, most people who get them would eventually throw them away.  So, to me it did not make sense to spend a ton of money in this area.  For my own wedding stationery, I designed  everything on photoshop, and uploaded the design to an online printing service such as PrintRunner and PsPrint.  Right now, if I order 100 invitations to be printed and shipped to Louisville, KY using PrintRunner, each invitation would only be $0.38 (I would have to buy the envelopes separately).  That is much cheaper than  buying pre-designed invitations, or printing out your own designs (ink is expensive).  Another option is using Staples or Kinko’s copy and print services.

I know not everyone has photoshop or a similar program on their computer.  Check and see if a friend or family member has it, or check to see if it is available at the library.  If you do plan on buying  invitations the typical way, make sure that the invitation is the regular 5×7-in size.  Bulking invitations and non-traditional shapes (like a 6×6-in square invitations) require extra postage.

Tips to trim stationery costs: Use an online printing service or a copy-and-print center, save on postage by opting for a more traditional size.

Flowers are expensive, so it’s best to use them sparingly.  For the bouquets, I used fake flowers, since you really can’t tell the difference between the real or fake in pictures.  I didn’t feel comfortable with a DIY attempt, so I found an online florist who specializes in silk flower bouquets . Etsy is also a good place to look, but there are vendors who charge as much as a florists using real flowers would charge.  Silk flowers arrangements are still expensive, so making your own will save you even more money.  For decorations, I stuck with one bloom, the peony (yes, I have expensive taste but luckily they are in season during my wedding), and I bought them in bulk through a wholesaler.  I plan on buying vases and making a few simple flower arrangements.

Tips to trim floral costs: Use silk flowers for bouquets, and buy live flowers in bulk. Overall, use flowers sparingly and rely more on candles for decorating.

Music is an area where we enlisted our friends for help.  My roommate is a talented harpist, so she will play for my wedding as a gift.  One of my fiance’s good friends will sing during the ceremony.  For the reception, we are making a playlist on Spotify, and getting a free one month trial of Spotify Premium to eliminate commercials.  So, essentially, we’re not spending any money in this category.

Tips to trim music costs: Mobilize the help of your musically inclined friends and family, if you don’t have any, hook up an ipod or laptop to speakers and make a playlist using iTunes and Spotify.

Next up: Photography, Cake, Jewelery, and Officiant

Wedding Trimmings-Part 1

It’s no secret that weddings are expensive–with the average wedding topping $24,000. Unfortunately, most of us twenty-somethings (and their parents) cannot realistically spend that much money (and even if you can afford that much on a wedding, I am still not convinced anyone should spend that much money on a single event). After checking out the websites of the major wedding vendors in my city, I quickly saw how the costs could quickly add up to 20K. So, here are some ways I tried to trim costs to keep my wedding under $8000.

The most popular venues in in my city cost about $2000 and require you to use certain caterers. I expanded my search to other nearby cities, especially after I found out that the only day we could realistically schedule my wedding was on the Kentucky Derby (which meant the price of everything would at least triple and all hotels were booked two years in advance). My finace ended up finding a horse farm for $1200 thirty minutes outside of Cincinnati. It’s about twenty minutes away from my fiance’s parents’ house, and an hour and a half away from where I live. I could have both the ceremony and reception at the location, which would help cut costs. The best part was that they didn’t have a catering list. In fact, we were free to bring our own food and alcohol. They required us to use a certain tent rental company, since Kentucky weather is extremely unpredictable (last month, we had a deadly tornado one day, three inches of snow the next day, followed by an 80-degree sunny day). Soon after, I learned that tent rentals were expensive. The cost of renting chairs, tables, and linens added up quickly. Overall, I’m not sure if I saved money in the end. An indoor venue does not require a tent, but most require an expensive caterer.

Tips to trim venue costs: Find a location that allows you to have the ceremony and reception at the same place, if you are in a major city search for venues thirty to forty away. Also, avoid venues that have an exclusive caterer list.

Typically, brides-to-be are advised to budget half of their expenses towards the reception. The easiest way to control reception costs is to trim the guest list. Unfortunately, this wasn’t really an option for me and my fiance since 1) a lot of people would get offended if we didn’t invite them, and 2) there were a lot of people we wanted to share our special day with. So, we decided to have a dessert and cocktail reception, since we wanted a more casual atmosphere. I picked out a few dessert items, and enlisted family and friends to help me bake. For drinks, we picked a few cases of red and white wine from Trader Joes and ordered a keg of beer. I have a friend who is a licensed bartender, so he will bartend for free as a gift. Word of caution: If you are hosting a dessert reception, make sure you let people know on the invitation, so that your guests will know to get a quick bite to eat before the wedding. We’ve been to a few weddings expecting dinner, and went home hungry instead.

Tips to trim food costs: Limit the guest list if possible. Ditch the traditional sit-down dinners, and opt for a buffet, hor d’ourves, or dessert reception. If you are serving alcohol, stick with wine and beer.

This is an easy area to blow your budget. It takes little effort to fall in love with the perfect dress that happens to be a couple thousand dollars over budget. To prevent this from happening, I limited my dress search to stores that offered dresses in my price range. The only store that fit that criteria in town was David’s Bridal, so that was the only place I tried on dresses. I know that the quality of their dresses aren’t great, but I am okay with that since I’ll only be wearing the dress one time for a few hours. I still ended up buying one of the more expensive dresses –one from Vera Wang’s White collection–and a $78 (my one splurge) floral sash to go with it. Overall, I’m still pleased that I spent less than $700 on my dress. Once my wedding is over, I plan on selling my dress on secondhand dress sites like

For shoes, I’m wearing a pair of flats that I already own. For jewelery, I’m borrowing pearl earrings and a pearl necklace from a friend.

Tips to trim dress costs: Avoid stores that don’t have dresses priced within your budget, don’t try on dresses you can’t afford, and if possible buy a used dress. For accessories, borrow them from friends.

Next up: Invitations, flowers, music

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