Make or Buy Decision: The Dress

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning
image via stock.xchng | photography by noobpriest

image via stock.xchng | photography by noobpriest

An unlimited budget is something many of us can only dream of. Dream of and drool.

Ever hear of champagne tastes and a beer pocketbook? That’s us. Actually, some days it feels more like a bottled-water budget.

But this post isn’t *strictly* about budget issues.

Back when I was in Culinary School I learned many things (obviously). One of the major points that stuck with me, though, (besides how easily one can burn off one’s eyebrows seasoning saute pans–NOT me, by the way) was the concept of the Make or Buy Decision.

Yes, I think it deserves capitalizing. It’s really that important.

In a nutshell, the Make or Buy Decision is where you have to decide if the time and materials that go into making something yourself are worth more than what it would cost to buy a comparable item from your suppliers.

You can make it yourself, but should you?

We only have so many hours in a day, days in a week and weeks in each month leading up to the wedding. Most of us are juggling work, some maybe have school thrown in. There may be children’s schedules to wrangle but there’s definitely spending non-wedding-planning time with your future spouse and very important items like sleep and taking care of yourself that have to be done. The wedding gets the rest of it.

Of those carved-out hours, we have to use them to the best of our abilities. If we’re fully capable of making our own invitations, favors, flowers and dress but only have enough hours to cover maybe 2 of those, it’s okay to outsource it. Make or Buy decision.

For me, though, it’s a clear-cut case of more time than money. With 16 months to go, I felt like I had all the time in the world compared to our small budget.

And I seriously considered sewing my own wedding dress.

After all, it’s no secret that the materials many wedding gowns are made out of cost a pittance compared to the retail price when it’s in a boutique. Lots of labor, yes, but depending on how fancy a dress you want versus the time you have available to work on it, even that might be more reasonable than paying someone else’s mark-up and overhead. What we pay for is the skill of the designer and, sometimes, a name, if that’s important to you.

It’s not to me, I just want something that looks nice on me and doesn’t blow the budget.

I gave myself until the 1-year point before I had to make the decision, but nothing in the first two dress “shopping” sessions (more like active browsing–can you call it shopping if you have no intention of buying anything?) really did anything to thrill me and I only held out marginal hope for the third appointment.

If you’ve ever thought about sewing your own wedding dress, here are some very important questions to answer before you dive in.

  1. Can you sew a straight line?
  2. Do you have access to a sewing machine and know how to use it?
  3. Have you ever made a dress before?
  4. Do you know how to read a dress pattern?
  5. Do you know how to adjust sewing patterns to fit you better or adjust a style?
  6. Do you have any familiarity with fabrics, notions, and trim?
  7. Can you sew in a zipper? And make it look nearly invisible?
  8. Have you ever applied lace or beading to a garment?
  9. Do you even like to sew?
  10. Do you have a back-up plan?

If you answered No to any of the above questions, it’s my not-so-humble opinion that making your own wedding dress is not the course for you.

The months leading up to your wedding are not the time to acquire such a demanding skill. It’s not the time to spend hundreds of dollars on specialty fabric (because you’re new at this, and probably didn’t make a muslin) only to find out you hate working with silk/chiffon/taffeta/tulle and sewing in general.

And that back-up plan? Can be anything from a friend’s dress you can borrow to paying a seamstress to fix your mistakes a month before the wedding or even going to buy something off the rack. Know, going in, that you’d better have a Plan B just in case.

But even though I’ve sewn for years, including garments that have been worn and washed many times and didn’t fall apart (an important test!), I still looked for a more ready-to-wear option before investing in fabrics and trim, but sent away for some lace samples just in case.

 Did you ever consider making your own wedding outfit?