Saturday, April 3, 2010

Buy a bridal gown for more than a wedding

two women in wedding gowns and the founder of the Bridal Gown in her store
From left, Megan Wiltfong in her wedding gown (photo credit Mandy Crandell);
a model in the dress that Tabitha Yoon is going to wear at her wedding;
Geraldine Brower, founder of the Bridal Garden

By Jovana Rizzo

While some brides may fight for their perfect dress at sample sales, others know there’s a different way to score a discounted dress without the hassle of crowded sales -- and it’s all for charity.

The Bridal Garden, at 54 West 21st Street, near Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, opened in 1998 as the not-for-profit fundraising arm of a children’s charity. The store receives dresses donated by designers and stores, as well as dresses already worn down the aisle, and sells them for up to 75 percent off retail prices. All of the proceeds go to the Brooklyn Charter School in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Geraldine Brower, who founded the Bridal Garden, said it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

“You get a good deal, you can get a tax reduction [if you donate a dress], and you feel good because you are helping children,” Brower said.
Brower said she saw an uptick in sales when the recession began and more people were looking for deals, but most of their business comes from word of mouth.

“Since we’re a not-for-profit, we can’t afford to advertise or have a store on street level,” Brower said.

Megan Wiltfong, 26, who tied the knot in August 2007, found the Bridal Garden while she was researching dress shops online.

“I was operating on a budget,” Wiltfong, who lives in the Bronx, said. She purchased the very first dress she tried on at the Bridal Garden, a Maggie Sottero gown for about $875. On the online wedding store, the price of a Sottero dresses can run up to $1,900.

And Manhattan bride-to-be Tabitha Yoon, 30, who is getting married in October, recently bought a silk organza Ulla-Maija Couture dress for $1,800 at the Bridal Garden, and said the original price was around $4,800.

“You feel great that you're not just buying an extravagant dress but your money goes towards charity,” Yoon said. She had gone to one sample sale before a friend recommended the Bridal Garden to her, but couldn’t find anything she liked. The Bridal Garden thankfully “carried a lot of different designers in different styles,” she said.

Wiltfong didn’t look anywhere else for her dress.

“There were times I wondered if maybe I should have looked a little more, but ultimately, I never had the ‘dress regret’ some brides get because I knew the money I spent on my dress went to a good cause,” she said.

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