Thursday, April 5, 2012

You’re Not Just Paying for the Dress

Anyone who has taken Econ 101 knows that there is no such thing as a free lunch.When you buy something in a retail establishment, you aren’t just paying for the raw materials. For example, in this amusing video on Slate, a bride asks why her wedding dress was so expensive, when the fabric and labor cost so little.
Dear Brides-to-be: you aren’t just paying for the dress. When you buy any dress any where, say for example, Nordstrom, built into that dress price is profit for the store, which will pay for that nice store, the real estate, the parking lot, the clerk, the electricity, the hangers,… you get the idea. You are also paying for the shipping, the handling, the boat trip and air trip from China/Malaysia/India/Mexico, as well as the designer, the patternmaker, the marketing and the wages of the multiple workers who assembled the dress. But why, you ask, is the dress so very much more expensive than a maxi dress?
One, there is more to a wedding dress than your average maxi or evening dress. Two, people don’t buy very many wedding dresses. You buy many dresses over the course of a year, but most people, (the non-Kardashian part of the population) only buy one wedding dress per lifetime. The manufacturers know this. That’s why they sell wedding dresses with so much fantasy attached. It’s your Special Day! You’ll have these memories for a lifetime! The Wedding Industrial Complex has spent a lot of time learning just what buttons to push in our psyches to get us to pay exorbitant sums for what should just be a short service with a nice party with guests and cake and dance music.
They know that no woman in her right mind would pay thousands of dollars for a Cinderella costume that she will only wear a few hours. So they make sure that you aren’t in your right mind. Go to any Bridal Salon. It’s fancy – it has couches.
You have to make an appointment. So far, all of the messages you are getting indicate that this is no ordinary dress. This is a Magic Dress that will transform you into a Princess. You want to be a Princess, right? I did the whole princess for a day thing, but back when I married; it wasn’t such a huge deal. The dress wasn’t that expensive. Nowadays though, they can be thousands of dollars. If you’re comfortable spending thousands, fine. But after seeing many of my daughters’ friends get married, I’ve decided this whole wedding racket is Bogus. A Conspiracy to get perfect sane young people and their parents to part with their hard earned money for a fantasy. Tell the truth, now. Don’t you think that modern weddings are BORING?
They are all the same. All the brides wear that same strapless dress. They all have the same script…yawn. Such a lot of dullness for so very much money.
My kids and I have discussed this, and we agree that we’re going to do things differently.
If they ever get married, they aren’t doing the same old same old.
We break those wedding rules – you don’t have to wear the official Wedding Dress. It can be any nice dress, it doesn’t even have to be white – but it can be. Make your own, or have a dressmaker make you a pretty dress. Be different. You don’t have to have cake.
Remember that this whole wedding Fantasy Script was brought to you by the same Mad Men who convinced women that a Diamond was Forever, when they are nothing but clear rocks. And we all know that they have our best interests at heart.
I spent $400 in 1980 for my wedding dress. I made my own veil (it came out great for less than 25 dollars!). How much did you spend on your wedding dress?


badmomgoodmom said...

All prices circa 1990.

I bought 2 remnants of Thai silk from Stone Mtn and Daughter in Berkeley for ~25 total. I bought china silk from Elfriede's Fine Fabrics in Boulder.

Dressmaker extraordinaire Joanne Muzzy, formerly of Boulder, still working in Commerce City, CO, made the simple mermaid style dress. Joanne charged me $100 for labor because she already knew my fitting issues from prior experience and the dress was simple. Had I been a new client, she would have charged more for time spent ironing out fitting issues.

Joanne was taking a beading class that summer. She wanted to use my dress as her final class project. She told me that there would be no charge for her labor if I bought the antique glass beads she wanted and let her take the dress in to be graded by the instructor. Deal! I paid an additional $20-25 for the beads.

I estimate the dress cost $200 total. I also purchased gloves from a thrift store and satin pumps from JC Penny.

My sister and only bridesmaid wore a cotton lawn dress from my closet that Joanne had made for me the prior summer.

Our wedding took place at a restaurant in Boulder canyon that didn't charge a site fee as long as we used them for food. The chef tailored a menu and wine list for our budget.

I think we spent ~$5000 for the wedding, dress/tuxes, pre-wedding parties, flowers, rings, incidentals and honeymoon.

We spent the money we saved from keeping everything so modest on maxing out IRAs for the two of us. Those IRAs are worth many times more than that now.

Everyone said they had so much fun at our wedding weekend. And we remember all the people there.

Oh, we served cheesecake sandwiched between thin layers of white cake to make it look wedding cake-like. But the cheesecake was a hit.

KID, MD said...

My mother made my dress, and we'd have come in under $200, if I hadn't chosen beaded lace for the bodice - at $150 a yard, it doubled the price of the dress, but it was worth it. Mom had enough satin and lace left over to make a beautiful Blessing/Christening dress for my daughter that matched my wedding dress.

My soon to be SIL has asked me to make her wedding dress - she wants a 50's style tea length dress - and it looks like we'll manage it for about $150. Most of the similarly styled dresses available are in the $600-$1000 range.


Beangirl said...

Weeeeeeell... first off, we didn't have a "wedding". We got married at the Justice of the Peace's office (which she kindly opened on Christmas Eve for us specially) and we just had the required two witnesses in attendance. I bought my dress from Cold Water Creek (burgundy-red panne velvet sheath dress and duster, which was relatively stylish at the time... sort of). That cost about $80, which was pretty pricey really. Or at least, probably overpriced considering the quality. But, eh, whaddaya gonna do?

I actually just took it out of the "storage" closet last weekend and donated to charity.

(Clearly I am not sentimental and I am so not a wedding person. You couldn't pay me money to stand up in front of a bunch of people and do something that personal.)

Venus de Hilo said...

I was with you all the way until "you don't have to have cake."

I eloped and got married in blue jeans and a white polarfleece jacket (summit of Haleakala on Maui at dawn, it was cold!). And we had the smallest wedding cake I could order from the cake maker.

No church, no bridesmaids, no party, no fuss... all totally fine with me. But no cake?!?!? That's just crazy talk.

Beangirl said...

hahah! I'm with Venus. We didn't have a wedding but boy did we have a cake! It was fabulous, with ganache roses in red and white (they looked like real roses, it was fabulous). It was small, but it had three little tiers and all those amazing roses.

The Slapdash Sewist said...

Great minds! I wrote about this video this morning (didn't realize you had already written about it). Alas, I haven't had a wedding so I can't help with the cost comparisons. Others' are interesting, though.

Mary said...

Well, let's see. It was 1975, the wedding was on a grassy hillside overlooking the ocean, a dog was in attendance along with others, and we had some mild intoxicants beforehand. The minister didn't partake. My dress was a yellow, pink and sage impressionistic print maxi dress with the most glorious bell sleeves. I paid $85.00 or so. I wore my slinky nightgown underneath as a slip, used my cool platform sandals for shoes, had a flower headpiece which my husband to be asked me to remove...I did my own hair and makeup. My girlfriends made carrot cake and provided wine, flowers from gardens etc.

We were very home grown at the time.

We are still married :-) after all this time, though we are no longer so home grown.

It is wonderful to read everyone's accounts. I love that many of us had a hand in making our own celebrations and dresses.

Uta said...

Your number makes me comment, I also spent 400, but in Euros in 2003. I had a pretty traditional wedding, not over the top though. I entered a wedding "salon" early in the preparations, not knowing the "system". I told them I'm getting married in five months and I might be pregnant by then, how do you deal with that? Well they don't, you're supposed to plan a year ahead and keep your figure, please! In the end I bought a pre-owned gown when I knew that I was indeed pregnant, eyeballing what will fit at five months along. No fuss, no exorbitant costs (mom was footing the bill and I would have died presenting her with 1.000 € or more...), I'm still happy with my choice.

cidell said...

Thank you for the point on diamonds. I've just finished reading his update to the diamond market and cannot fathom now having a diamond. I don't have central air for crying out loud! There are other things that money can go to instead of a piece of carbon. And, this is from someone who LOVES jewelry and sparkly things. But, it's an industry and one I would try and avoid.

JayBee said...

We were still in school, so dead broke. I altered my mom's dress from the 40's: ivory silk, impossibly long train that caught up into a gravity-defying bustle. She paid around $100 for it in 1946, which I think was pretty big money at the time, but I kidded her that we got two weddings out of it. She wore a tiara (!) with her veil, and I had never, ever, wanted to be a princess, so I made my own little satin cap & veil, attaching the lace I carefully removed from her veil to the edge of mine. Wore her shoes, too, now that I think of it. So, tulle & satin, maybe $10 tops. And we're married 34 years this month, so it worked : ) Still broke, too :o)