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This title is in is all caps because most brides will put it close to the top of their priority list. I have split this post up into two second- one advise for the Clever Girls who are soon-to-be brides and advice for guys who need to be So Very Clever when approaching the uncharted waters of Wedding Planning.

The stress associated with the acquisition is similar to selecting a college or naming your first child- it involves a commitment of great consequence. Photos of your wedding will likely be seen for decades, perhaps centuries as your grand children feature portraits of those who have entered the holy sacrament before them at their own weddings. I identify with your diligence in finding the EXACT right dress for you and have some hints how to manage your budget and still satisfy your needs (wants).

Know this. No matter what dollar amount you have budgeted for the dress- you are likely to not only exceed it but surpass it to such an extent you feel you need to lie, reallocate and pilfer from other areas of the wedding to cover the expense of the dress that has redefined the word “lust” for you.

Let’s take this slowly because it quickly becomes overwhelming and a source of anxiety for brides. Look at magazines, get an idea of the style you think you are interested in- you will be shocked how much they vary. Do some research in your area and select a bridal boutique likely to have a wide range of styles- in the Dallas, Fort Worth Area, the pinnacle of all things wedding is Stardust Celebrations located in Plano- it is worth the drive even if you are a couple states away- hell, Southwest Air will get you here in a jiffy. Stardust is the largest bridal boutique in the country- perhaps the world, boasting nearly twenty thousand square foot of space allocated to WEDDINGS.

A well reputed bridal boutique will have professionals educated in dresses- despite what you think you want- take their advice. I know so many women who have flipped on a dime after trying on a dress recommended to them. Often the styles we see on others are not the styles which work best for us- low rise jeans is THE case in point.

In order to manage your expectations- dresses are sold for $99.00, and the most expensive dress I have personally seen on a bride was an $80,000.00 St. Pucci gown. If the dress is not high on your priority list, don’t bother going to a premier boutique- you will be put off by the high prices which come with couture designers. David’s bridal is a national chain and they have dresses that will meet a wide range of budgets.

Other ways to satisfy both want and budget is to take advantage of sample sales. Most if not all bridal boutiques need to rotate inventory at the end of the season- so, if you have time to wait for your dress to go on sale do so. I have seen dresses discounted as much as 75% from retail. If you buy a sample dress, you need to understand it will have been tried on, it will likely need to be altered and you are purchasing it AS IS. It will require cleaning as there might be surface dirt, make up from others and even dust on it. However, this is a fantastic way to get a couture dress for a bargain price.

Consignment dress shops are popping up all over the country- with the divorce rate as high as it is, there are thousands and even millions of dresses popping up on Ebay and in resales shops. Don’t discount this as an option if you are a patient and flexible bride. Likely the dress will have been worn once and with a thorough cleaning look like new. Expect to need alterations as each bride is shaped differently, but give yourself a pat on the back for being So Very Clever in acquiring your dream dress for a fraction of the retail price. I have a friend who is about to sell her five thousand dollar dress on Ebay for under a thousand dollars. What a deal for a St. Pucci couture gown.

Stardust Celebrations, in an effort to service every single bride’s budget, has opened an “outlet” in Willow Bend Mall in Plano to feature their last season samples. The Bridal Closet offers attendant attire, mother-of attire and exquisite bridal gowns by some of the hottest designers in the world. You will not believe the prices. Often you can view this selection on line at http://www.stardustcelebrations.com/.

One thing you can be certain of- the sheer number of options will boggle your mind- the fabrics, the textures, the colors (can you believe how many shades of white and crème there are?), the lengths, the accoutrements, the accessories, the styles, the prices- OH MY.Fathomless. Don’t be afraid to try on things that don’t appeal to you on the hanger- every thing looks different on.

There are many options for the bride who finds nothing appealing while shopping. Check with local boutiques for seamstresses who will custom design dresses. Make sure you look at previous work and get references. Call the references to make certain the price and quality of the workmanship was consistent with the desires of the bride so you are not disappointed. Do not pay in full- but rather make payments as you see your dress taking shape and be certain to give yourself PLENTY of time for a dress to be custom made- it is a process and will likely require some reworking if you are not seeing eye to eye with the designer.

A trend I see emerging quickly is more than one dress. Historically it was not unusual for a bride to change into a “send off” outfit as she dashed to the airport from the reception- but this is something else entirely. As the dresses are becoming more elaborate, detailed, highly stylized and expensive it is becoming common place for the bride to change into a less expensive dress once the cake is cut and the toasts are done. This preserves the wedding gown from likely spillage during dancing and partying and is cooler once the dance floor begins to heat up.

After parties are becoming increasingly popular for the younger couples who have the stamina to continue celebrating after midnight. In almost every case of this, the bride and often groom change clothing. Some reappear in jeans and or sweats, or a more causal dress outfit and they advise the guests who are able to do so to feel free to change as well.The after party concept appeals to me from the perspective of older guests who feel obligated to stay until the official send off, but would like to end the evening after which. In this scenario- the wedding can end at eleven, allowing those who have young children at home or those who are ready to turn in their dancing shoes to leave at a respectable time and for those who want to get the party started- to do so.

OK, Clever Bride’s to Be. I will manage the expectations of your Clever Bride Grooms tomorrow and try to take some heat off you.