What You Should Buy and What You Should Avoid Online
As any bride who’s dipped her toes into nuptial planning waters knows, add the word “wedding” onto any kind of shopping trip and suddenly it’s like the world thinks you’re made of money. Those satin wedding shoes? Prepare to pay 200% more than you would for a regular old satin pair. That slice of wedding cake? Try not to think too hard as your guests lick that frosting from their lips about the fact that it’s costing you up to $15 to $30 per slice (yep, one slice can cost you as much as three regular old supermarket cakes).
That’s all well and good if you really do want to go all out for the big day, or if, say, your father is Scrooge McDuck and has money to spare, but for those of us who want to celebrate without going into major debt, looking for deals online, where no observant merchant can spot your engagement ring and slap, “Wedding” onto your cost estimates, can be a savvy way to go. And yet, while some items are perfect for an online venue, others may need an in-person assessment. Here we take a look at the pros and cons of ordering a few common wedding items online, and how doing so can save you money along the way.
1. Decorations and Favors
Order online from a site like Etsy, and you’ll get both a good deal and a whole host of unique ideas. Just take a look at what a search for wedding decorations on the site turns up. From gigantic paper roses to banners made from chipboard panels, with online ordering from small vendors, you’ll have access to world of affordable ideas. What’s more, many of them will work well with the DIY feel of any Pinterest projects you may have going.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’re more likely to find great deals at wholesalers online as well, and slightly damaged products may be a fun creative challenge for those DIY efforts.
As with any small supplier, ordering on Etsy means trusting that this unseen person with a limited capacity will be able to deliver as promised, and in a timely manner. Before committing to an order, communicate with sellers to make sure they seem on the ball, or, better yet, work with a seller who’s done well for you in the past. With large wholesalers it’s more of crapshoot, so get a good recommendation from a fellow bride first.
2. Invitations and Save the Dates
If you’re an eco-minded bride, sites like Pingg and Paperless Post are an inexpensive and paper-free way to send wedding invites totally online. However, if it’s that paper-based feel you’re after, sites like Minted or even Vistaprint are both great ways to go, with unique templates and the ability to upload your own designs — a great option if you’ve got a friend with a design flare, or if you’re looking to do fun and creative couples photos, like writing the date of your wedding on a hitchhiking sign or on a pair of complimentary t-shirts. And because these sites print en masse and to order, you’ll find them an affordable route.
Expensive as they may be, professional invitation designers know their stuff. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, they can help guide you towards the right design for you based on the look and feel of your wedding or on your personality. Plus, hey, sometimes there’s just nothing like handwritten calligraphy for the truly fairytale wedding. Professional designers also know all about best practices for tracking invite responses and can make recommendations about extras to include, like hotel and local guide information, so you’ll know for sure you’re not forgetting anything. However, be prepared to pay for this kind of customization and tracking.
3. Bridesmaids Dresses
I’m going to be blunt about this one: bridesmaids dresses just aren’t that different from regular old party dresses, and there’s really no reason to pay a markup just for the title. If your bridesmaids are spread out across the country, an online venue might very well be an easy, comparatively inexpensive way to go. You might, for instance, email your bridesmaids a few sample looks along with a color or range of colors and send them out into the world to find an on-theme look to suit their bodies and budgets. Or, you might choose a favorite store like ModCloth and pick out a few different acceptable dresses for every body type. Or, hey, you might even still go with a site like David’s Bridal, where you either order directly or send brides off with a color swatch to shop in-person. Whether you shop solely online or just use it for one phase of your search, the web can certainly make the whole venture cheap and hassle free.
If your bridesmaids can be there in person for the hunt, there’s just no beating the dress shopping bonding experience. Cue energetic music and Hollywood-style montage. And of course, it’s a lot easier to tell just what will look nice on everyone and how each dress will work in a group when everyone is in the same room together.
4. Wedding Dress
Google “discount wedding dresses” and you’ll find an onslaught of discount wedding dress sites. Some of them actually aren’t shady, and you may just find the designer dress of your dreams at an affordable price. That said, because of cons we’ll go into in a minute, shopping for a wedding dress online is really better suited for brides going for a super unique or casual looks — the kind of brides who’d just as soon order an off-white, regular dress from J. Crew than go on Say Yes to the Dress.
The problem with shopping online for a discount dress is that so many of those sites are scams, and they have a chokehold on the search results. That, or the dresses are damaged, and you won’t know how much tailoring work that dream dress will need until it’s sitting in your home. There’s also that tricky truth that, well, you just don’t know how you’re going to look in any given wedding dress style until you try it on, and it’s often easier and cheaper to do so en masse in a physical store than to send dresses back and forth through the mail.
If you’re going to shop for a wedding dress online, make sure the store has a good return policy. A few good guidelines (Lucky Mag) to follow will be avoiding sites with bad grammar or that otherwise look shady as well as those that promise rapid delivery or prices that are just too good to be true. Instead, find an online site from an authorized dealer and see if you can reach a real human being at the company before making any final decisions.
Buying flowers online can be a relatively inexpensive (and beautiful) route to go for a number of reasons, particularly if you go for an organic wholesaler, which ships its flowers direct from the farms. This results in not only in a fresher, more full flower than you might get at non-direct sites or even at a florists, but a much faster shipment. Plus, you won’t have to foot any storage warehousing costs in the price of the flower, and it’s a lot easier to buy in bulk without having to special order.
The online route is best for the bride who has done her research on the types of flowers she enjoys, and will be either putting together her own arrangements or has a friend or wedding planner who can do so. Brides who need more guidance will be still best suited with a florist, especially if you’d like to see a range of flowers in-person first without having to order test bouquets.
For the DIY bride, shopping online quite literally opens up a world of opportunities, and at a bargain rate. Throwing a Moroccan themed wedding? Access a small craftsman in Morocco with a good web search. Want a sprinkling of stone from the beach where you and your fiancé first met? I’m sure you can buy that online, too. However, online purchases do come with some caveats, so you’ll want to consider them carefully before going the online route entirely. Online or in-person, all that matters is that you enjoy the ride.