Budget Bride: How I Won My Dream Dress

(Summary of my wedding can be found on an earlier post here and stay tuned for a future entry explaining how we kept our wedding budget to under $8500.00)

Fact: I am a crazy contest lady.

What does that mean exactly? It means that I am a strange human being who actually enjoys spending hours on the computer filling out online forms from reliable entities in order to have a chance at winning a prize. We do exist.

(Sites I like to use are: Contest Canada, Contest Girl, and a variety of others)

I haven’t won an insane number of things, but when I do win something it’s fun and exciting. Someone has to win and you never will unless you take a chance and enter.

Contest Tip #1: Always enter, someone has to win.

Winning my wedding dress was the best prize that I have won to date (next to Chris’ heart [Ba Dum Tis]). It started with winning a much smaller contest – the entire process was very lucky.

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You can see my easy Instagram entry in the comments.

I first saw a random post while searching for #weddingcontest on different social media forums, this is why some contest entering can take patience in research. I found a post by the National Bridal Show (@ntnlbridalshow) on Instagram that was giving away two free tickets to their upcoming convention. The show was in Vaughan, Ontario, which was approximately an hour drive from my house and it happened to land on the weekend of my 25th birthday party that I had been planning for a long time (Cassy-con: everyone had to dress in video game, anime, comic book, sci-fi, or fantasy costumes and I made a lot of DIY decorations).

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Cassy Con event photo I made (yes that’s my face on Leia’s and yes that’s master Roshi’s house from Dragon Ball).
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Photo of me wearing my DIY Saria costume from Zelda: Ocarina of Time with my fur-niece Sidney who I can no longer pick up! 

I entered the contest just in case.

I was happy to win the tickets, but unsure of how I was going to make it work! I decided that I would go on the Sunday, luckily I drank a lot of water during my party and wasn’t hungover. I brought my mom and my future (now) stepmom which is an odd mix, but they got along great and it we had fun.

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Left to right: mom, myself, and my step mom. Having fun trying out one of the bridal show photo booths.

I was excited to be there for mainly one thing – contests. Bridal shows, especially big ones, have a lot of contests with really great odds. I had hoped to have a chance at winning some stuff for the wedding since we were on a small budget, but I never imagined winning my dress.

After entering every contest in the building, sampling food, and collecting too many heavy items in our bridal shower tote bags, we headed home.

Sometime later, I got an email that I had won the chance to choose any dress from a bridal store and I almost didn’t believe it was real.

Contest Tip #2: Always research; do your homework on who is hosting the contest to determine the legitimacy of the prize.

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My Instagram post about winning my dream dress!

The store was legitimate, beautiful, and the prize was better than “you won this specific dress,” it was “come to our store and choose any dress that you want!” I was over the moon excited. My original budget for my wedding dress was $500, but I would likely get to wear a real wedding dress now and all I would have to pay for were accessories and alterations. The boutique sells dresses at discount prices similar to Vows [check out PHD and Pie Filling’s experience there] on I Found the Gown so their prices are quite reasonable for brides on more traditional budgets!

The wonderful dream-granting store was Revival Bridal Boutique in Vaughan, Ontario. The two women who own the store are incredibly sweet, friendly, and accommodating. I recommend supporting their small business not only because they gifted me a gown, but because they have great prices for really beautiful dresses that work within a wide range of budgets.

 

Once the shock of winning died down, I figured out a date that worked for my bridal party and waited with anticipation for December. My bridesmaids (minus my now sister-in-law who lives in London, England), my mom, and Chris’ mom (my stepmom wasn’t able to make it this time) excitedly drove to Vaughan one cold day. The two moms and I met my sister at a nearby hotel where we were going to have a girl’s night after because my sister lives four hours away, this worked out too because my sister is 1000x better at doing hair than I am and helped finish my look before trying on dresses.

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Dresses I loved, but didn’t choose!

Vanda, one of the co-owners from Revival Bridal Boutique, was a joy to work with. She made sure that even though I wasn’t buying the dress I was getting the regular bridal appointment treatment. My support group sat around the dressing room and Vanda helped me try on dresses, she had picked out some gowns that were similar to what she saw on my pinterest board.

The first dress was beautiful and I joked about how on TV women often end up choosing the first dress they try on. It was really gorgeous, but I didn’t have a “moment,” I didn’t cry or anything. I was excited to try on the next one. I tried on around ten gowns that day and loved most of them, but I’m actually a really good decision maker and picked the top three quite easily (ability to do the twist was a priority). From there we tried them on again and it was clear to me… the first dress was my dress.

The second that I realized this I started to cry – which is so silly, but it happens sometimes when you start to get older and you cry about a lot more things than you used to (this is coming from a girl who’s favourite parts in The Lord of the Rings movies were once when people’s heads got cut off with swords – now I’m a sap who cried three times during a Disneynature chimpanzee documentary narrated by Tim Allen)!

I never thought that I’d wear a veil, but I loved the cathedral length one. That day, I purchased a belt and a veil that came to $300 together and placed the order for my Lillian West gown #6349 in Alabaster/Ivory.

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When I chose my dress with the help of Revival Bridal Boutique co-owner Vanda.
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My team on dress-picking day!

A month before the big day I drove to pick up my dress with my bridesmaid Natalie in terrible Friday afternoon traffic on the 401. The gown was exactly how I’d remembered it and fit almost perfectly, it just needed to be hemmed and for a bustle system to be put in. The owners were very understanding in my wanting to have it altered closer to home and were happy to make my dreams come true.

I had it altered by a very sweet lady in Oshawa who also altered my stepmoms wedding gown earlier this year. I really recommend Shimmer Alterations for price and professionalism in Durham Region.

My alterations came to $316.00 making the grand total for my dress, belt, and veil $616.00 which I am VERY happy with.

Collection of dress photos from the wedding taken by Caitlin Currie:

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A Budget Bride in Brooklin Ontario

Weddings are a lot of work – they take even more effort when you decide to keep them within a small budget.

Chris and I are both thrifty people and we pride ourselves on saving money which is why we knew we didn’t want to spend an arm and a leg on our wedding. The whole thing totaled to approximately $8500.00 with 75 guests (I’ll explain how I came to win my wedding gown from Revival Bridal Boutique in a later post)!

We got engaged in October of 2015 and we were lucky enough to have a nearby photographer (Rosenlee Photography) snap a couple candid photos of the proposal!

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We decided on an August 2016 wedding for scheduling reasons that gave us nine months to plan our DIY wedding. On top of a shorter time period than the average bride, I was in the fourth year of my undergraduate degree and had taken on writing a 93 page honours thesis. All my hard work ended up being worth it when I graduated top of my class with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Digital Media Studies this past spring and had a beautiful wedding this past August.

After many cuts, folds, tape, sweat, and love, family members and friends helped us decorate the multi-purpose room in Brooklin’s community centre/library on the morning of our wedding. By 11:30am we were off to get all dolled-up and try to avoid the inevitable bad weather. Our wedding was indoors, but we still had hopes of outdoor photos that we were lucky enough to get in-between bouts of pouring rain. We married on Saturday, August 13th, 2016. Although it had barely rained all summer, our wedding day welcomed what CBC News claimed was the “most significant storm of summer.” This resulted in less than perfect hair, but we smiled through it all and pushed through.

We decided on a pre-ceremony reveal so that we could take photos with our fur-baby. Just in case anyone gave me a hard time, I researched the origin of the not seeing the bride before the wedding tradition. It is one of the least romantic traditions that I have ever read about:

In a galaxy far, far away (actually on earth, but it was a long time ago), when fathers decided which bachelor would suit his needs best rather than his daughters’, the groom wasn’t allowed to see his bride until the last second. This privacy measure was only taken so that the groom would be less likely to call off the wedding if he found his bride unattractive (The Surprising Truths Behind Common Wedding Superstitions).

Chris and I decided that we’d be okay without keeping this tradition alive.

We had a short non-denominational ceremony with our own written vows and exited to The Distillers song “Beat Your Heart Out” (I let Chris choose, but I really loved it). We had the reception in the same room that we had the ceremony in and proceeded to re-enter promptly to share our first dance to Joe Strummer’s “Mondo Bongo.” Our guests joined us after a couple minutes of this beautiful six-minute song and the night went swimmingly for the rest of the night. After a very successful day, our friends helped us clean up and we were home by 3:30am.

Here is a collection of photos from our wedding day taken by musician and photographer Caitlin Currie.