Interesting bit from the Planet Money team over at NPR.

Why Are Wedding Dresses So Expensive?

For those who feel up to the challenge, there is also the possibility of making the dress from scratch.  This pattern from Vogue is very pretty and very close to the royal wedding dress.

Vogue Pattern V2979

If a designer dress is not in your budget and you can’t find any inexpensive options that you like, there is also the option of piecing your dress together from various sources.

Step 1: Choose a dress with the shape you want.  A-line, Princess, Empire waist, Mermaid, Drop waist, etc.  Here is a very inexpensive example of the most common wedding dress shape: A-line.


Step 2: Choose the sleeve style that you like.  Short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve.

Step 3: Choose the fabric for the sleeves.  Lace, Satin, Chiffon, Fur, etc.  Here is an example of a 3/4 length sleeve lace bolero.

The final look would be something along the lines of this dress:

The best part? The total cost of this outfit is less than $260!

Here are a few more pairings that I think would work well.

This dress + This bolero = $380


This dress + This bolero = $390

These are all ready-made items but there is also the option of commissioning a seamstress, your mom, or crafty friend to add sleeves or make a lace overlay for your strapless/sleeveless dress.  Who says you can’t be beautiful, fashionable, AND unique on a budget?

As much as we would all enjoy a designer made wedding gown, that is just not an option for many of us.  But fear not!  Even department stores are getting into the wedding dress business.  Here are some lower-priced wedding gowns that also include sleeves!

David’s Bridal

Style VW351023

Style CWG324

Style 859695D

Nordstrom’s

Theia Chantilly Lace Gown

JS Collections “Duchess”

Yes, this last one looks PRETTY familiar, doesn’t it?

One of the unique things about Kate’s dress is that it actually had sleeves!  Traditionally, most wedding dresses have had sleeves but for the past few years it has been nearly impossible to find anything but sleeveless wedding dresses.  In the past year though, there have been a few designers who have started incorporating sleeves back into their wedding gown design.

Here are a few of those designers:

Elizabeth Filmore: Spring 2012

Oscar De La Renta: Spring 2012

Jewel by Priscilla of Boston

4) The dress

Much has already been said about Kate’s glamorous but traditional bespoke wedding gown.  There is a whole feature about the dress and the designer on Vogue’s website.  I am not a fashion expert so I won’t add any comments regarding the fabric, cut or designer.  But over the next week I would like to look at the inspiration for her gown and also how her style of gown can be replicated for far less than $40,000!

First, the inspirations.

The most obvious inspiration for this gown is Grace Kelly’s famous wedding dress that she wore for her wedding to Ranier III, Prince of Monaco.

But Princess Grace of Monaco was certainly not the only royal bride to wear a dress in this style.  Here are a few more:

Princess Margaret

Princess Marie

Princess Isabella Orsini

Let me know if you find more!

3) The People

I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to grow up in the limelight like Prince William.  I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be courted by one of the most well known bachelors in the world like Miss Kate.  I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to prepare for a wedding that will be watched by an estimated 2 billion people.  All I know is that getting ready for a wedding is difficult enough without the pressure of knowing THE WHOLE WORLD (literally) is watching you.  But it seems like they’ve done an incredibly hard thing as gracefully as possible and they should be commended for that.

2) Ceremony

Prince William and Miss Middleton’s wedding ceremony was a very traditional Anglican service from The Book of Common Prayer.  You can read The Celebration and Blessing of Marriage in full here.  It is a very beautiful and meaningful service and most Christian marriage services are based on it.  I would recommend any Christian couples planning their wedding to at least read it, if not use it for their own service.

The wonderful thing about traditional services is that the focus of the ceremony remains on the vows and the ceremony.  As wonderful as each couple is, a wedding service is not necessarily the time to focus on the individual.  Marriage is about moving away from the individual and into closer community.  Closer in community with one another and with the couple’s larger community.

That does not mean, however, that there shouldn’t be any personal aspect to the ceremony.  Of course not!  A couple can choose the scriptures, songs, hymns, and some readings for their service.  I think William and Kate did an admirable job of balancing tradition, community, and personality in their ceremony.  That’s what made it so beautiful and also why the millions watching from afar almost felt like they were a part of the event.

The wedding homily itself can be very meaningful.  The Bishop of London gave the homily at William and Catherine’s wedding and it is well worth reading.

When Mr. Clarke and I were planning our own wedding we borrowed heavily from The Book of Common Prayer in planning our ceremony.  We also used a book for Catholic couples planning their weddings called Celebrating Marriage.  Unfortunately, it is no longer in print so you would need to find a used copy but we found it very helpful both for planning a traditional service and also for thinking through what it means to include the community in your service.

1) Location.

So I just checked and pretty much the only people who can get married at Westminster Abbey are members of the British Royal Family i.e. probably not you.

But don’t despair!  There are plenty of other gorgeous options.  Almost every city has at least one or two historic churches with the requisite soaring ceilings and marble floors.  Even newer cities, like Los Angeles where I got married, have some rather grand old churches and cathedrals.  Mr. Clarke was very insistent on getting married in a beautiful church and we found several options.  Most were in the $1,000 – $3,000 range for a wedding ceremony rental.

As an example, here are some of the ones we found:

Westminster Presbyterian Church

Immanuel Presbyterian Church

Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church

First Congregational Church of Los Angeles

Hollywood Presbyterian Church

Wilshire United Methodist Church

San Marino Community Church

First United Methodist Church, Pasadena

First Baptist Church of Pasadena

Some churches have rules regarding who can get married at them and also about who can perform the ceremony so be sure to check the rules for each church before booking one as your wedding venue.

NB: I did not include any Catholic churches on this list because they are only open to Catholics and usually only to members of their own parish.  So if you are a Catholic bride or groom, be sure to check with your parish about their policies.  Similar situation for Orthodox churches.

If you would like help looking for a church location in your city, feel free to email me or leave a comment below.  I’m more than happy to help you look.

On April 29, 2011, the British royal family gave us a glimpse into their world as they accepted a commoner as one of their own.  The wedding of HRH Prince William to Miss Kate Middleton looked like a fairy tale.  Solemn but joyous, grand but sweet, overwhelming but so personal.  It was altogether incredibly beautiful.

What made it so beautiful?  I think there were several key components that made it so memorable.

1) The location.  Westminster Abbey has to be one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world.  Its towering ceilings that seem to reach to heaven itself.  The history present in each stone.  And the nearly magical way that light filters into the hallowed halls.  It is impressive, awe-inspiring, and suitably solemn.

2) The ceremony.  Though the ceremony was a very traditional Anglican marriage service, it was very moving.  This partially due to the fact that they are words that have been repeated by many men and women through the past 400 years but they have been personally meaningful to each one of them.  The words for the service were carefully and prayerfully written many years ago and have continued to be affirmed by the church.  These words are vows to be spoken before God and one’s community.   I’m sure that William and Kate are very nice people and have a very sweet love story but I’m so glad that the wedding service was about the vows they were making rather than about themselves.  I think this is unfortunately rare for many young couples planning their weddings these days.

3) The people.  A prince and a soon-to-be princess.  It doesn’t get much more romantic than that.  But there was something else about these two people that made their wedding especially beautiful.  They treated themselves, each other, and the occasion with great respect.  They looked oh-so-happy but also like they were very much aware of the solemnity of the occasion.  This was especially beautiful coming from two individuals who are so young.

4) The dress.  Obviously!  It was so timeless, traditional, but fresh, lovely, and fit her perfectly.  I could go on and on but plenty of people already are.  I was so so happy that she chose something traditional rather than trendy.  I’m sure hoping that her dress will influence a shift in the wedding dress industry toward some more traditional options.

Did you enjoy the Royal Wedding too?  Over the next few days, I’m writing a series of posts on how you could incorporate these beautiful elements into your own wedding.  And no, you don’t need $14 million.  But then again, you probably won’t get permission to have your wedding at Westminster either. :)

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