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Say "I Do" To Wedding Gown Rentals
By:  Karen Sullen

It's true.  Weddings can be expensive.  Adding up all the costs for the food, the reception site, the decorations and wedding centerpieces can make your head spin and your wallet cry.  The caterer, photographer and florist notwithstanding, your wedding gown will probably be the single most expensive item for the wedding.  Because 10% of the wedding budget typically is spent on wedding attire, many brides are turning to renting their wedding gown for their dream wedding.  Sure, you could purchase an inexpensive wedding gown from the big warehouses or you might even find a darling gem at a consignment shop to save money, but a great way to cut the cost of couture is to rent it. 

Renting vs. Buying:  The Benefits

Besides the obvious savings, there are many benefits to renting a gown vs. purchasing one.  You have the luxury of wearing a gown that might have been previously out of your budget.  Ending up with a gown made by Vera Wang for a little bit of change is a definite plus!  Another benefit is flexibility in sizing.  Whether you were trying to lose weight for the wedding but didn't exactly make your weight goal or your weight tends to fluctuate, rental shops have a variety of sizes available.  So you can always be guaranteed a good fit even at the last minute without having to make alterations to a gown purchased months in advance.  Finally, it solves the dilemma of what to do with the gown after the wedding.  Other than "trashing" it, some brides keep the dress in hopes that their daughter would want to wear it.  But renting can save them the heartache if she doesn't and the costs to preserve it.  Now, don't get me wrong, you might be one of the lucky ones to sell a designer gown online or at a consignment shop, but you'll never get nearly what you paid for it.  And the amount you get might be just what you would have paid for renting it-without the hassle.  Yes, renting your gown could be the smartest decision you could make for your wedding.  If you decide to say, "I do" to wedding gown rentals, here are some tips to make sure you get the dress you want.

Rental Tips

Give Yourself Enough Time:  Allow at least six months when reserving your wedding gown.  Reputable rental shops generally get booked months in advance, even more so during the peak months of May and June.  Give yourself ample time on the back end by picking up the gown approximately four days prior to the wedding, so that if there are any problems, you'll have time to correct them.

Inspect, Inspect, Inspect:  It's the best way to protect yourself.  When you try on the gown initially, be sure it fits properly and that there are no stains, rips or tears.  And if there are, the shop should agree to have it cleaned and repaired to your specifications (it wouldn't hurt to include that information in your contract.)  Carefully inspect the gown again when you pick it up. 

Accessorize:  Renting a gown doesn't mean it will be any less special.  Adding accessories to your wedding dress can make it unique.  Long-sleeved gloves, wedding jewelry, colorful sashes and stylish wedding shoes can help you express your individual personality.  Most shops offer a package that includes the accessories.  Be sure to ask.

Beware of the Peak-Season Money Pit:
  Because of June weddings and May proms, you may see a spike in the cost of rentals.  It's a basic supply-and-demand situation.  If you're planning your wedding in off-peak months, you'll find better prices and will have a good chance of negotiating a better deal.

The Dirty Deed:  Keeping the gown clean and accident-free is a must.  But, since there's a good chance that something is bound to happen, be sure to read the rental contract in its entirety.  Be clear on damage penalties, cleaning policies and any late fees (if applicable) before you sign the contract.

After considering these benefits and tips, you may realize that renting your wedding gown just makes sense.  After all, guys have been renting for years!  Why should the bride have to spend a small fortune on a dress she'll only wear once?  With rental prices typically between  $150 and $300, she doesn't have to.