Budget Wedding Planning: Part 6 - Why I Made My Wedding Dress

Have you ever walked into a bridal shop? It's a bit overwhelming. It's also super fun. I have only ever been with friends and family members who have gotten married, but while there, I've looked through the racks, made mental notes of what I liked, and also gotten sticker shock at the price tag on EVERY SINGLE DRESS that caught my eye. Some were fancy ballgowns, others appeared more simple, but the two major things they had in common was their location (bridal shop) and their intended purpose (wedding dress). Even the veils sometimes cost more than my entire ensemble did.

When we decided to have our tiny wedding, part of the reason was to keep costs low. Had I bought a dress from a store (like most sane people do), we would have probably quadrupled what we spent for March 14. Are there other ways to save money on your wedding dress? Sure! Buy a non-wedding white dress from somewhere, or go to one of those bridal consignment stores, and you're sure to be a beautiful bride. Heck, you don't even have to wear a white dress - I've seen SO MANY PICTURES of brides in colors and even in suits, and all of them turned out amazing. You just need to figure out your style, and be willing to shop around.

So with other (less stressful) options out there, why was I crazy enough to make my dress?

1. Money

I've already gone over this a bit, and the name of this series does include "Budget". I spent about $185 on nice fabric and thread, and used a gift card to buy cheap "draft" fabric to figure out how I wanted to put my pattern together. That's right, I didn't even buy a pattern. I also spent about $40 on a belt from Etsy, because about 2 weeks from our wedding day, I realized the dress needed one, and I was in too much of a time crunch to make one. So my custom, simple, twirly, handmade wedding dress cost me less than $250. If someone commissioned me to make this dress for them, though, I would have charged at least double for all the time I put in (I should have logged my hours). And remember, this is for a knee length dress, so a full length or a ballgown, even for just the materials is going to drive your price up. But this is the style I wanted, so it worked out well for me in the end.

2. Challenge

I still think of sewing as a relatively new hobby for me. I guess I've been doing it a couple years now, but I still struggle with some techniques, and I definitely learn new things constantly as I'm making new pieces. As with anything, you're never going to get better if you don't challenge yourself, and I really saw this as the ultimate challenge. This dress was going to be in hundreds of pictures that I will look at and share with others for the rest of my life. It had to be practically perfect. This is not a challenge I took lightly. And ever since I started sewing, this has been in the back of my mind, so mentally I'd been prepared for the challenge for a while.

The evolution of my dress:

3. Responsibility and Accountability

Who, typically, is responsible for making a bride's dress look perfect? A skilled stranger. While that is usually fine, it's not something I wanted to deal with. I didn't want to work on someone else's time frame, or make appointments to try on my dress. I also didn't want to incur any unexpected, last minute alterations (which there always seem to be and make your dress even more expensive). It was up to me, entirely, to make sure the dress got done. No one could call me and tell me that things were delayed, and no one could tell me that steaming my dress was going to cost another bajillion dollars. All of my weight loss and alterations didn't change the price of my dress as it would have in a bridal shop. I had full control, and, while this stressed me out plenty, I could work on the dress as much or as little as I liked when I had the time.

4. Uniqueness

While wedding dresses aren't mass manufactured the way T-shirts at Target are, they usually aren't 100% unique, either. I am pleased to say that mine is the only dress like it in existence (yes, I wore Toms, and I did buy my belt on Etsy, but the combination is still one-of-a-kind).

5. Body Image

This isn't something I'm totally comfortable speaking on (because what person is?), but I figure if you've seen my #TransformationTuesday post from a couple weeks ago, I've gone through some pretty major changes. I have struggled with my body for a long time. As long as I can remember, really. I've had periods of my life where I've almost liked it, but mostly I would look in the mirror and not be comfortable with what I saw. The last time I was in a bridal shop was with a friend who was getting married, and I was 60 pounds heavier. Because marriage has been on my radar for years (that's what happens when you're with someone for over a decade), I mentally put myself in her position of trying on all these gorgeous dresses, but I knew that hardly any of them would fit me. I would be struggling into too-small dresses (or be restricted to the ones the shop actually had in my size), and be looking at myself in a mirror, not liking what I saw, even though I would have been adorned in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of beautifully handcrafted wedding attire.

How did I know this? Because if I couldn't even try on a pair of jeans at Nordstrom without hating my muffin top or the sizing number on the tag, I definitely wasn't going to be excited about having someone else squeeze me into a dress clearly made for someone else's body, especially while I looked at my arms and cleavage spilling over a gorgeous sweetheart neckline.

So what am I really trying to say here? It's not that skinny is better or that there is only one picture-perfect body type for a bride. It's that I needed to find a way to feel beautiful in my body on my wedding day, and trying on dresses upon dresses in an overpriced boutique was not going to do that for me. My dress has no size. It was created specifically for my (admittedly thinner) body. It twirls, which makes me feel beautiful. It shows off the curves I (and my husband) like. I don't have to suck in my stomach to get it to zip up or tape it to my body to keep it in place. It is completely comfortable, and I feel completely comfortable in it.

So there you have it. Five reasons I took on the ultimate wedding DIY. I'd say that number 5 really trumps all my other reasons, though ;)