Cheap wedding dresses are the siren song of every bride-to-be: You want a gorgeous wedding dress but you want it at a bargain price. Unfortunately, wedding dresses (and designer ones at that) are just downright expensive. In fact, your wedding dress can easily be right up there with your venue and photographer when it comes to wedding cost. But there are ways to save. Aside from sample sales, buying a pre-owned wedding dress, going with an up-and-coming designer on Etsy.com, or even buying a wedding-worthy dress that is not marketed as a “wedding dress” can help you save hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. There are also online stores that specialize in providing cheap wedding dresses that look like they’re made by a high-end designer. The problem with the last option is that 99.99% time, those online stores are too good to be true.
Rossen Reports recently did a piece for The Today Show on imitation dress designers, and how they target fashionistas looking for designer prom dresses (or in our case, wedding dresses) for more than half the price. The problem? These dresses are cheap imitations posing as the real thing, and the companies selling them are ripping customers off.
While the government is working on shutting many of these sites down, a new one seems to pop up every day as soon as they do.
So, if you’re looking around online, what are a few steps you can take to make sure you get a great wedding dress without getting scammed? Here are a few important things to look out for:
1. Don’t Let A Nice Design Fool You
Counterfeit sites, based in the U.S. or as far away as China (where many of them seem to be clustered) have the resources to make their site look great while still being a scam. Which means that just because they feature Vogue-worthy photos doesn’t mean they are. In fact, they might actually be photos stolen the fashion magazine or a high-end wedding dress designer.
2. Read the Fine Print
Check out the “About Us” or “Terms” sections of a site. If the wording seems off or is in broken English, this might be a red flag. Most professional sites based in the United States or Canada have their terms of service written by professional lawyers. If the wording doesn’t feel right, then go elsewhere.
3. Find An Actual Phone Number and Address
If you DO find an address on a website, put that address into Google Maps and see if it’s real or not. If there’s a number listed on the site, try calling it. If someone picks up, ask if they’re an authorized retailer for the wedding dress designer you’re looking for. If they deal with custom designs, try to find out more about their company, where they’re based, and their return policy. Basically, you’ll want to ask them enough questions until you feel like they’re legit. Also? Never send a check or pay with your debit card. At least with a major credit card you’ll have some sort of protection from retailers of faulty goods.
4. Look For Reviews
One of the most important things you can do when buying a cheap wedding dress online is to research the site you’re looking to purchase it from. If a dress feels too good to be true, than it probably is. And if you can’t find any reviews online about the site you’re considering buying from, then run…fast. Sometimes scammers put these sites up for just a few days or weeks, then take them down, give them a different name and do the same thing over and over again. Check out trusted review sites like Yelp to see if anyone else has bought a cheap wedding dress from that site and see what their experience was like.
5. Research the Testimonials
Some sites offer “testimonials” of blushing brides who are ecstatic with their purchases. Copy the exact text of the testimonial and paste that text into Google and hit search. Sometimes you will see this bogus testimonial text on multiple sites from the same owner. It just goes to show you how these scammers work and what lengths they will go to to try and capitalize on the cheap wedding dress market.
6. Be Careful on Craiglist
While there are a lot of great people who buy, sell and trade many things on Craigslist, it is also the home to a lot of scammers. And there’s just no way of knowing until it’s too late if you’ve been scammed. I’ve heard of people who have had good experiences buying a wedding dress on Craigslist, but I’ve heard of too many more who had a bad experience. So my advice: skip it.
7. Buying A Cheap Wedding Dress on Ebay? Read On
The MOST important thing you should do is check the seller’s rating. Ebay’s seller rating is helpful in figuring out if you’re dealing with someone who is reputable (a lot of positive reviews is a good sign). Next (and a lot of people don’t do this) is to reach out to the seller and ask if you can have a quick phone call. This is a wedding dress you’re buying…it’s an extremely important and sentimental purchase that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If the seller doesn’t have time for a phone call, then this probably isn’t the right purchase for you.
If I can impart any advice on your hunt for the perfect cheap wedding dress, it would be this: The more intricate a wedding dress appears to be, the most expensive it usually is. Which means that while you really want to find a wedding dress that looks like $5,000 but really costs $500, chances are it doesn’t exist (unless you’re at the world’s best sample sale, in which case…call me!). Go through a reputable retailer and get your cheap wedding dress the way you’re supposed to…ON SALE.