If you’re a bride on a budget, it’s well worth looking into wedding dress sample sales to find your bridal gown.
A sample sale is when designers and boutiques offer dresses up to 70% off; the dresses might be past season designs, overstocked dresses or simply have been on the rail for a while – that’s not to say they’re not every bit as lovely as a dress you’d normally buy from a boutique, though.
Sample sales are perfect for brides with a short time frame before their wedding, because you walk away with your dress that day, rather than waiting for it to be custom made and delivered.
Reduced prices and having your dress then and there may sound perfect, but there are other things to consider when it comes to sample sales.
Shopping for your wedding dress at a sample sale is a far cry from the usual boutique shopping experience, where you’re often treated to a class of something sparkling and always given undivided attention -if you’ve seen the episode of Friends where Monica and Phoebe attend a wedding dress sample sale, you’ll know what we’re talking about!
Sample sales have limited stock (normally only one of each dress), which tend to only be available in sample size.
“The sizes of dress totally vary depending on the boutique, designer and style,” says Holly Johnson of Feathers Boutique in Birmingham.
“It’s always worth checking with the boutique beforehand to avoid any disappointment if the sizes they carry are way off your mark.”
They also tend to be quite crowded (everyone loves a bargain!), so they’re not the serene wedding dress shopping experience you might have imagined.
When do Sample Sales Take Place?
There’s not necessarily a specific sample sale season like with normal high street sales, though they tend to happen a couple of times year.
“We usually host sample sales when the new season’s styles land – so spring and autumn,” says Holly. “We do have the odd piece go in the sale throughout the year if we’re looking to refresh, though.”
How Many Dresses are Included in Sample Sales?
Again, this varies from boutique to boutique, but one thing pretty much guaranteed is there will only be one of each dress style.
“A boutique may be just having a bit of a refresh to make space ready for some new styles to land, or it might be an all singing and dancing sale with the majority of styles up for grabs so they can re-stock with the new season’s collections,” explains Holly.
“Bigger doesn’t always mean better, though! You may find your dream aisle style tucked away next to just a couple of gowns, waiting for you to find her.”
Advice for Sample Sales
As we said, sample sale shopping is a world away from the usual wedding dress shopping experience. First of all, we’d recommend going to a few normal boutique appointments before hitting the rails of a sample sale.
Do your research and try on dresses before the sample sale so you have an understanding of what you like and what suits you. You need to be able to make decisions quickly at sample sales, as there’s only one of each dress, so knowing that you’re after a fishtail gown or a long-sleeved dress is a good start.
Having said that, do go into sample sales with an open mind. Unless you know for sure that it’s there, you’re unlikely to find your exact dream dress in a sample sale, but you might fall for something completely unexpected. “You never know what might look incredible on you if you give it a chance,” agrees Holly.
Because you’ll need to snap up your dress then and there, have a clear idea of your budget. Knowing how much you’re willing to spend will make it much easier to make snap decisions when looking at rows of gorgeous gowns.
Be aware that the gowns might not be pristine and perfect, as a lot of brides might have tried them on, so they could need dry cleaning or some mending before the big day.
“I paid £100 for my Ronald Joyce wedding dress, which was marked down in the sale because it had a catch on the front of the dress,” says real bride Joanne Martin. “My seamstress sorted that right out though, and you would never know that it was ever like that.”
Seamstresses and tailors will be the best friend of brides who buy their dress in a sample sale; because the dresses are only available in one size, if it’s not the perfect fit but it’s too good a deal to miss, alterations can be made to make the dress fit like a dream.
While it’s common place to take your mum and members of your bridal party to boutique appointments, we’d suggest keeping plus ones to a minimum at sample sales – they’re crowded enough as it is, without adding in an entourage. It’s nice to have a second opinion, on dresses, we know, but on this occasion it’s probably best to fly solo!
When you’re searching for sample sales to bag a bargain in, look out for boutiques that stock dresses by your favourite designer. While they might not have the exact dress you’ve got your eye on, they might have something similar by the same brand, or maybe something you love even more.
Real Bride’s Stories
We spoke to real brides who purchased their wedding dresses at samples sales to find out what it’s really like, and to hear their thoughts on the pros and cons of sample sales.
Gemma Selby purchased the Callie dress by LouLou for £250, reduced from £1,300 at a local boutique.
“When I got to the sample sale, quite a lot of sizes had already gone and I was a bit disheartened as I didn’t think I’d fit the sizes they had available,” shares Gemma. “However, the ladies in the shop were very knowledgeable about the line and knew they were often small fitting so I was delighted to find that it actually did fit!”
“I was concerned about buying from a sample sale where the dresses had been tried on by a lot of other brides but the dress was still immaculate, the ladies in the shop advised dry cleaning would be a good idea but in all honesty it was hard to see that it would be necessary!”
“I’d advise any other brides interested in sample sales to go for it. Keep an open mind as you may not find an exact style you’ve had your eye on but may end up stumbling on something you love even more. The sample sale let me stretch my wedding budget so much further, and I felt so special in my dress.”
Keri Hopwood purchased her Pronovias wedding dress from her local boutique.
“I saw a specific dress on social media which was exactly what I had in my head so went to try it on at the sample sale, and ended up coming away with a completely different dress due to there being such a fab variety on offer,” says Keri.
“The reason I didn’t go for the dress I had in mind was because I would have paid the same price in alternations so defeated the object of buying a “cheaper” dress for me personally.”
“The downside for me from buying in a sample sale is I now have to collect the dress this month even though I’m not getting married until 2021 but at the same time I have my dream dress for half of the original price!”