Running of the Brides

Monday, June 29, 2009

With the average price of a wedding dress ringing in at $1,200 without even considering the veil, shoes, jewelry or undergarments, I can't help but cringe at the thought of spending that much money on a dress I'll only wear once. No matter how special the occasion, I just can't fathom donning a dress that costs more than a several day vacation in London or for that matter a week-long cruise to the Caribbean. Did I mention that I'd only wear it for a period of about two hours?

While designer dresses such as this Priscilla of Boston
are beautiful, they don't come cheap. This gown
was originally purchased for $5,000.
Photo Source:

Fortunately I've slept a little better since beginning to read the Oprah-endorsed Bible of bridal saving -- Bridal Bargains by Denise & Alan Fields. It's a nearly 500-page guide packed full of secrets to help brides save instead of becoming a slave to the wedding industry. One of the favorite money-saving tips that I've stumbled across so far in my reading is the Filene's Basement Running of the Brides sale. At this epic event, almost-brides from across the country wait in line Black Friday-style to run into the store with friends and family to grab as many wedding dresses as possible before trying them on and swapping sizes and styles with other brides in a race to find that perfect dress.

The Running of the Brides is held about ten times a year in stores
located in major cities across the U.S. The first sale that
has inspired today's tradition was held in 1947 in Boston.
Photo Source:

What would make brides want to partake in such a frenzy? Filene's offers rock-bottom prices on designer dresses at the yearly event (except for in Boston where it's held twice a year) offering gowns originally priced at $2,000 to $3,000 or even $9,000 for only $249, $499 or $699. So let me rephrase my original question, why wouldn't you want to be a part of the so-called Running of the Brides?

Call me crazy, but I'm completely down with the idea of doing a dash-and-dress instead of the traditional appointment with the snooty salesperson who inevitably will make you fall in love with a dress just out of your already stretched budget range so that you'll obsess over it until your friends finally talk you into it. Thanks, but no thanks.

Hundreds of brides pull gowns of the racks in hopes of finding
a designer dress at a deeply discounted rate.
Photo Source: The Exchange

With some upcoming sales around the corner in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston, I'm entertaining the idea of hopping on a plane or arranging a road trip with some gal pals to hit up one of the sales. The adventures and stories from a trip like that would be worth more than any price tag.

One Wisconsin bride found her wedding dress at the
Running of the Brides sale.
Photo Source: Filene's Basement

Also, sadly in recent months Filene's Basement has been experiencing financial difficulties including recently filing for bankruptcy. While I hope this isn't the last year Filene's doors are open for such sales, I'd take advantage of the deals while they last!

So here are a few tips for success in dress-hunting if you decide you're up for the challenge:
  • Get a game plan: have an idea of what you're looking for before you go to the sale. This means trying on dresses in advance to see what styles best suite you and which ones you can rule out. Many brides will create posters displaying their size and preferred dress style for the event, and they'll have their entourage well-informed as to what they should be scouting for. Some groups go all out creating matching T-shirts and ensembles. Whether it's so they're easily able to find eachother in the crowd or just because, I'm not sure, but it makes for some memorable pictures!
  • Arrive early: while the doors open at 8 a.m., many brides will begin lining up as early as 5:30 or 6 a.m. Your chances of finding a dream dress will be much higher if someone else doesn't find it before you do! Don't forget to get coffee for your crew as a morale booster for standing in line so early.
  • Dress for success: many sale attendees wear tennis shoes along with sports bras or appropriate undergarments as many brides derobe in the aisles to try on dresses as quickly as possible. Some unabashed brides will wear the underwear they plan to wear under their dress, but others may not be so bold! Also be sure to give your purse to a friend so that you have both hands free.
  • Do the "swoop and swap": or the "grab and go". Whatever you want to call it, the name of the game is haggling, so the more dresses you have in hand the better position you're in to find the perfect dress.
  • One size fits all?: so you find a dress and fall in love with it, but there's one hitch -- it's too big. Since many brides already have their dress altered anyways, you may still be saving big since the lower dress price makes up for a couple hundred dollar alteration. Obviously this trick will only work if the dress is too big and not too small, but it's a viable option for brides who are willing to seek out a skilled seamstress.


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