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The Pros and Cons of Buying My Wedding Dress Online

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Photo by Kzenon via <a href="">Shutterstock</a>
Photo by Kzenon via Shutterstock

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Nowadays, brides have all kinds of options when shopping for a dress, from the traditional showroom experience to the DIY online hunt. Our recently betrothed Interim Editorial Director Leslie Price went the latter route, stalking her dress on the internet and eventually tracking it down at an outlet. We had to ask her: Was it as much fun to bridal shop online as it's supposed to be in person? Did she miss the whole shopping-with-your-bridesmaids thing? Do the savings you get by hunting down your own dress online outweigh the traditional approach? Here's her tale.

If TLC and the entire Kate Hudson film canon has taught me anything, it's that a wedding dress should fill a woman with explosive joy. It should satisfy some deep-seated, long-held craving. It should possess qualities that make bystanders weep with happiness. Expectations are higher for your wedding dress than for any other garment you will buy—ever. It's the great, poofy, strapless white whale of the adult female wardrobe.

The shopping experience is fraught with emotion and, for a serious introvert like myself, stress. Did I want to stand on a platform while someone fussed with a ribbon around my waist and clamped extra fabric at my hips while other brides-to-be stared and commented? Not really. I also didn't want to have someone pull dresses over my head while I stood there, mostly naked, as if I wasn't capable of the task myself. The entire undertaking felt like a hard sale; the appointments, flourishes, false compliments and attention as an excuse to charge thousands of dollars for tulle and satin that honestly felt kind of cheap to the touch.

I love shopping, but I wasn't enjoying the search for a wedding dress. I hated being "that girl"—the sitting duck, wallet exposed and vulnerable. That is, until I turned to the internet. Countless hours flew by as I, couch-bound and filled with a fevered intensity, scrolled through bridal week slideshows, debating whether to go completely traditional or way non-conformist (would I regret a lavender gown as much as I regret that dragonfly tattoo I got when I was 17?).

I pinned a few options to a secret board and set my hopes on a white, strapless, battenburg lace Oscar de la Renta ready-to-wear dress from spring 2012 (worn on the runway by Karlie Kloss, if you want to see it). It was bride-y without being totally traditional, but past-season and therefore practically impossible to obtain. A challenge!

I found one on eBay, a listing that appeared to be fraudulent, and tried the only US ODLR outlet, located in New York state. They didn't have the style but took my information and said they'd call if it came in.

Months passed. I forgot about the dress, a phantasm of post-midnight Googling, until my cell rang while I was on vacation. One had come in, a kind salesperson relayed, and it was a size 8 (not my size, no matter). Did I want it? I did. Already on sale, it was also an additional 10% off as part of an outlet-wide event and wasn't returnable. I made the gamble and shipped my impulse purchase to my best friend in Brooklyn. It was scary to buy without a try-on, but my pro shopping instincts kicked in; I knew it was right.

Two weeks ago, I met the dress. My friend urged me to try it on straightaway, but I wasn't ready. What if I had made a mistake? Every day for a week I considered trying it on. Finally, on my last night in the city, I took the plunge. "Do you love it?" my friend asked, nervously.

I did? It didn't fulfill me or anything, but it was really pretty—beautiful, even—as well as a bit too big and in need of a steam after being boxed up.

Weirdly, it was at that moment that I realized I had been tormenting myself for months over a piece of clothing. If I had been in a bridal boutique, some ever-present helper would have sprinted to my side, equipped with a bunch of dress clips and a sample pair of heels. Instead, I stood barefoot in a Cobble Hill living room grasping at the fabric behind my back, twisting and turning in a mirror propped against a wall. And that was totally cool with me.

If you're the type that likes attention, or at least doesn't run from it like I do, you'll probably enjoy wedding dress shopping. They're nice to you in those stores and they might even pour you a drink while you look.

But if you're a private person who enjoys hours of solitary browsing, you might want to hunt online for your dress. It can be a risky proposition, but the payoff is zero pressure and the potential to save a ton of money. Also, there's 100% less interacting-with-a salesperson-while-pantsless action.
· All Weddings Week coverage [Racked]