Dress Shopping - K. Macdonald

The average wedding this year will cost close to $27,000 not counting the honeymoon.  There will be 141 guests, 4 bridesmaids and 4 groomsmen.   The marriage will come at the end of a 15-month engagement and somewhere in all this the bride will purchase her dress.

According to Brides Magazine, she will likely purchase her dress from an independent local bridal salon where she will spend an average of $1,289 for the dress and another $581 on accessories, jewelry, headpiece and veil.  Even in a down economy, brides are spending 20% more on their dresses than in 2009.  This is big business … just watch an episode of TLC’s  “Say Yes to the Dress.”

There are probably few businesses where the shopping experience for a common item (the dress) is more differentiated.  On one end there is the warehouse with racks of wedding dresses arranged by cost. You are pretty much on your own to find your dream dress.  You leave feeling at bit like after buying a car tire from a giant discounter … you really aren’t sure if you did get a deal and you sure hope it fits.

On the other end, is the bridal dress experience.   After a morning of big box wedding shops, my daughter and I stumbled into the “experience” this weekend.  The difference could not have been more profound.  We had stepped out of an economic transaction and into a transformation.  The focus was no longer on the dress, but was on dressing the bride … transforming a young woman into a confident bride.

When I look back, the specific touches were not that incredible … personal one-on-one attention, clarification of needs, attention to detail, offering of hospitality, and lots of bridal coaching for the big day (e.g., they will see your back during the service, your front the rest of the day.)  We said, “Yes” to the dress.  There is no question in my mind that we purchased the experience … and it came with a dress.

Close to half (45%) of brides will box up their dress to pass it on.  I suspect most of those who do, see their dress as memorabilia not just of their wedding, but also of their transformation.

Where have you shopped and been transformed?