Want to save money? Borrow a wedding dress.

wedding photo
© Troy Glover Photography/K. Martinko

Doing this was one of the best decisions I made when getting married. (So was marrying a great guy!)

I was a university student when I got engaged nine years ago. I was living at the time in a small apartment shared with two other people, juggling a full course load and a one-year-old baby. My partner worked hours away from the city, so I only saw him on weekends. Money was tight, to say the least.

Once we got engaged, I began poking around the Internet to figure out what the next step was. The whole idea of wedding planning was foreign to me, as none of my friends had been through it yet. That's when I discovered how much wedding dresses cost, and realized with a jolt that there was no way I could afford that. Even if my fiancé or parents could pay for it, it seemed like the most grotesque waste of valuable money, considering how many other important expenses I faced, like paying off student loans and buying groceries.

It was my mother who suggested that I borrow a wedding dress instead of buy one. She mentioned a neighbour whose wedding we had attended a decade earlier. The bride was about my height and build and I had loved her dress, a simple design with an Empire waist and spaghetti straps. "It doesn't hurt to ask," I thought, and made the phone call.

The woman was surprised, but said she'd think about it. A few days later she called back to say, yes, she'd love me to borrow it. She also liked the fact that we were getting married on her 10-year anniversary. The only thing she wanted in exchange was for me to have the dress properly cleaned and preserved by the same company that had done it before. I agreed, of course.

The dress fit perfectly, no alterations needed. I skipped the veil, wore a beautiful headpiece that my parents gave to me, borrowed some jewelry, and bought a pair of fabulous purple heels for $75. A friend did my hair and I put on my own makeup.

It was a valuable lesson in money not spent at a pivotal time in my life. It taught me to question things that society might pressure us to buy (a.k.a. 'normal behaviors') or paint as 'rites of passage,' when in reality they spell more consumer debt and household clutter. That borrowed dress taught me that there are innovative solutions out there that can usually save significant amounts of money, and that I should always explore borrowing, renting, and buying used before buying something new.

That was nine years ago and I have never once regretted not having a wedding dress hanging in the back of my closet. I imagine its presence would be a burden of sorts, taking up space, needing to moved whenever I moved, and, of course, impossible to throw away because, good grief, it's my wedding dress!

If you're planning your own wedding or advising a close friend who is getting married, give it some thought. Challenge the cultural assumption that a wedding dress is a logical expense and ask yourself how else you could use that money. Put it toward your long-term financial goals or even your bucket-list life goals. Spend it on a great honeymoon, a house, paying student debts, a child's RESP, or even a wardrobe that is far more versatile than a single dress that can only be worn for a few hours. You won't regret it. I never have.

Want to save money? Borrow a wedding dress.
Doing this was one of the best decisions I made when getting married. (So was marrying a great guy!)

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