Shopping for Rental Wedding Dresses in the GTA

I was meaning to write this blog post after I finally selected and finalized my wedding dress last weekend but didn’t get a chance to, so here goes:  (Scroll down to the middle of the blog for the summary bullet points)

I had it in my mind a while ago that I wanted to rent my wedding dress instead of buy a brand new one after hearing about a friend years ago who rented hers along with all of the evening gowns that she got for her wedding.  I thought, “What a smart way to save money and not have to worry about buying and keeping something that you’ll likely only wear once!”  Thus, the very first bridal boutique that I visited on my search for wedding dresses was at a rental place.

Rental bridal boutiques allow you to rent the wedding dress for three days (enough time for you to borrow it from the shop, wear it on the day of the wedding, and then return it on the third day).  The price of rental includes all alterations, dry cleaning, and the price of renting the dress itself.  I loved the fact that I wouldn’t have to do anything about the dress other than fittings in it, taking it for the wedding day, and then returning it.  *claps hands in cleaning fashion*.  It’s so easy and hassle-free!

This blog post will outline the bridal boutiques that I visited:   (It wasn’t until I visited these bridal boutiques that I realized a lot of them also carry one stop shop packages for make-up/hair, photography, and videography.  If we hadn’t booked those services already a la carte, I would have probably booked these services from where I’m getting my dress.  I’m the type of bride that hates hassle and love stores which offer all-in-one packages.  Also, it seems the concept of renting wedding dresses is more of an Asian thing, thus all the bridal boutiques that offer rentals that I visited were headed by Asian staff and spoke Cantonese/cater to Asian brides.

I also like the idea of being environmentally friendly — the dress I choose will have been lovingly worn many, many times by past brides, by me, and by future brides, and thus not just worn once or twice and put into a closet forever.)

1.  First up is Ellis Bridal Boutique (2201 Brimley Rd, Scarborough).  This is a bridal boutique that has existed for many, many years.  It is situated in an old plaza along Brimley and Sheppard in Scarborough.  Their pink sign may be easy to miss when you are driving along Brimley, so slow down a bit otherwise you might have to make an U-turn to get into their parking lot.

Their store has many styles of wedding gowns, evening gowns, Chinese kwa and keipos, as well as tuxedos for the males, and bridesmaid dresses too.  I only looked at the wedding gowns.  Their rentals are the cheapest that I have found with the cheapest wedding dress for rental for only $300!  Some of their stuff is a bit dated but nevertheless, the styles are still fashionable.  You just have to find the right dress and see what you are looking for.  I actually came to this shop two times.  On both visits, it was the male owner who helped me.  (Apparently, his wife works there too also but we missed her on both occasions.)  The male also acts as the photographer for their packages (so cheap at only $1,000!  Seriously, if we hadn’t already booked our photographer, we might have gone with him.)  Besides the $300 dress, there were also ones for rent for $350, $450, $600, and $800.  This is again still one of the cheapest rental wedding dresses I encountered during my shopping.

I was able to take as many photos of the dresses as I wanted.  In fact, the male owner helped me take the photos and gave me photo directions on the best angle too.

2.  The second wedding mostly rental place is The One Bridal (280 Yorktech Drive, Unit #2, Markham) located just behind First Markham Place.  This is a really nice bridal boutique that also offers photography and videography services.  They have many, many beautiful wedding gowns and also evening gowns and Chinese kwa and keipos for rent.  They also rent out veils and jewelry.

I loved the customized service here (there was only one appointment at any one time).  Upon arriving, I chose a few dresses that I wanted to try on (there was no limit to the dresses that I wanted to try on) and then the female owner recommended some further dresses to me too.  She was the one who helped me into the dresses and adjusted the dress with clips to make sure it looked its best.  Their dressing room is gorgeous with a raised platform and a large mirror so that you can see yourself in the dress.  She only let me take photos of my top two favourite dresses though, which was fair.  I liked how she was attentive and professional and didn’t push me on sales at all.  I ultimately ended up getting my dress from this place. ^_^v

In terms of fittings, they only require me to go in for a fitting two weeks before the wedding.  Once the dress was altered for me, it was off limits for those two-three weeks.  I loved how simple the process was and I didn’t have to go in for two or three fittings as I’ve heard some brides had to do for their own dresses (see, I really dislike hassle).

I had heard from friends about David’s Bridal and how many brides got their dresses from here.  I decided to check it out.  I knew that this was not a rental wedding shop and purchase only, but I thought it was worth it to see what was out there for sale anyway.

3.  There are two David’s Bridal stores in the GTA, one in Scarborough and one in Vaughan.  I decided to check out the Vaughan (67 Colossus Dr, Woodbridge) store, which is apparently their newest store and also the biggest one.

The saleslady who assisted me, Libby, was friendly and helped me into my dresses with no judgment.  We had some nice small talk too.  I had a 90-minute limit appointment time and was welcome to take photos of all the dresses I tried on.  Libby also found the size of my shoes and gave me a brand new pair to wear while I was trying the dresses, which was a nice gesture.  The fitting rooms at David’s Bridal open out to a large common area with many mirrors so that you can see yourself in the dress.  They carry very pretty dresses at David’s Bridal, and the dress I liked most was priced at $2,000.  At the time, they were doing a promotion which would have placed my dress at around $1,700, but which was still not something that I wanted to spend on.  I would also have had to pay separately for alterations too.  I am so glad that I decided afterwards to just stick with the rental shops.

4.  A third mostly rental bridal boutique is Fairytale Wedding (155 East Beaver Creek Rd, Richmond Hill) on East Beaver Creek in Richmond Hill.  This place also had plenty of wedding gowns, evening dresses, Chinese kwa and keipos for rent.  I really appreciated the female owner here who gave me very sound advice on the dresses that I tried on.  She helped me take photos of all the dresses that I tried on (and videos too so that I could see how the train looked like).  She was very patient in helping me document each style.  She helped me into each of the dresses.  She asked me where my wedding venue was to make sure that my dress would match well with the venue too (for example, you want to impress a little more with your dress if you are getting married in a big cathedral church or aim for something more simple if you have a smaller wedding; making sure that the dress looks good even without constant assistance from your bridesmaids; whether there is an option for the train to be “hung up” after the ceremony for easier moving around — things like that that I didn’t think of myself).  I really enjoyed the visit and learned a lot from her guidance.

The policy at Fairytale Wedding is that there is a four-week period between rentals.  Thus, if you find a dress that you like, you better hurry up and put in the deposit otherwise you’ll be at risk of not being able to rent that dress if your date falls within four weeks of another bride who has rented the same dress.  They also do the alterations and dry cleaning for you.

5.  The fourth bridal boutique that I went to that apparently has both rental gowns and purchase gowns with a longstanding history was Joanna’s Bridal (1571 Sandhurst Circle, Unit 112, Scarborough) inside Woodside Square in Scarborough.  Let’s just say that I had the worst dress shopping experience here and I wouldn’t recommend this shop at all.  They have plenty of foot traffic and traffic in general from high school students who purchase their prom dresses here that I had the impression they don’t care much about customer service quality.  In addition to lots of beautiful evening gowns, they do have a lot of wedding gowns for you to try on.  However, because they push for customers to purchase the wedding gowns instead of renting, many of the wedding gowns are all in large sizes.  That way, they can cater to more variety of differently sized customers who end up ordering the dress anyway for alteration.  The large sizes actually made it difficult to try on the dresses properly to see what I would look like in them.

Also, this boutique had many salesladies who were all vying for commission of the dress sales that they make.  Thus, they were not very patient nor honest with their “compliments”.  They simply want you to buy the dress so that they can make a sale.  I wouldn’t recommend this place.  After picking the wedding dresses, I was by myself in the dressing room trying to put it on.  When I was “done”, I had to gesture and wait for the saleslady to return back to my fitting room to help me insert pins into the dress to fit it in place (unlike the other places where clips were used).  I felt very neglected during the fitting room experience.

Further, they were terribly pushy and appeared a tad racist too (when a Caucasian customer arrived, the female owner made sure that she got the “VIP” room and that everyone cleared the way for her.  WTF?).  Also, they don’t allow you to take any photos at all.

Short and sweet summary points:

Ellis Bridal Boutique – mostly rentals (but has purchases)

  • Super affordable (starting from $300)
  • Lots of wedding dresses to choose from
  • No limit on dresses to try on and can take unlimited photos
  • Self-dressing
  • Shared viewing area with mirror and platform
  • Offers all-in-one packages including photographer, videographer, make-up, cake, flowers, invitations, and more
  • Appointments are recommended

The One Bridal – mostly rentals (but has purchases)

  • Lots of beautiful styles and well-maintained
  • No limit on dresses to try on.  Only photos allowed of the top two favourite dresses
  • Associate helps you into dresses
  • Efficient no-nonsense service
  • Moderate to higher-end prices
  • Only needs one fitting two weeks before the wedding (for rentals)
  • Private dressing area with mirror and platform
  • Offers photography and videography services
  • Appointments highly recommended

David’s Bridal (Vaughan) – purchases only

  • Fixed 90 minutes per appointment with a consultant
  • Reasonable prices
  • Alterations are a separate fee
  • Associate helps you into dresses
  • No limit on dresses to try on and can take unlimited photos
  • Large shared viewing area with mirrors
  • Appointments are mandatory

Fairytale Wedding – mostly rentals (but has purchases)

  • Lots of beautiful styles
  • No limit on dresses to try on and can take unlimited photos
  • Associate helps you into dresses
  • Very helpful and honest advice and experienced guidance on dresses
  • Moderate to higher-end prices
  • Wedding dresses for rent are pre-tailored to fit smaller and shorter bodies (as most of their clients fit in this category)
  • Private fitting and viewing area with mirror
  • Offers photography, videography, makeup/hair services
  • Appointments are recommended

Joanna’s Bridal – mostly purchases (but has rentals)

  • Affordable and wide variety of dresses to buy
  • Sales associates don’t help you into the dress and push for sales
  • Wedding dresses in the store are all in very large sizes
  • Shared viewing room with mirror and platform
  • No photos of dresses allowed
  • No appointment necessary

There was one other Asian rental bridal boutique that I didn’t visit which is Love Forever, also in the plaza behind First Markham Place.  If I hadn’t cut ties with their in-house photographer, I would have browsed their shop for dresses as well. 😛  Google also told me that there is a rental bridal boutique in North York and another one in Etobicoke.  I didn’t visit these though.

Good luck to all brides out there! 🙂  I initially didn’t think that finding a dress would be any problem since I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to wear.  I knew that with so many bridal boutiques around the city, there was no way that I wouldn’t be able to find one that I liked.  However, after visiting the first three boutiques and trying on more and more styles, I very quickly became discouraged and stressed.  “What if I couldn’t find the right one?”  “I’m running out of time!”  I was so disappointed especially after the visit at Joanna’s Bridal where I encountered such a terrible experience.  However, the day after that experience, I thought to myself, “I’ve always wanted to go towards the concept of renting a wedding dress and so I should just stick to that.  It will narrow down my choices.”  That was the moment when I suddenly decided to make a second appointment at The One Bridal to try the dresses on again.  They say that the bride actually ends up with the very first dress that she tries on (or the first place she went to).  In this case, it really was the first place that I went to and the second dress I tried on that I decided to be “the one.”

Finding a wedding dress indeed is like dating to find the right one.  The time span should be much shorter and the requirements more simple, but it does take time and PATIENCE.  I knew that I wanted a dress that was flattering on me, that I liked, and that was somewhat unique.  I realized after the first few dresses that I tried on that many of the dresses out there are kind of the same.  I’m not the only one who thinks this either.  Luckily, the dress I chose is not something that I have seen anywhere yet.  I’m pretty happy with it.  I can’t wait to show it off on my big day in just about six months’ time.  (:O)

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About stenoodie

I'm a stenographer, foodie, and avid traveller just trying to find her place in the world.
This entry was posted in Wedding Planning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shopping for Rental Wedding Dresses in the GTA

  1. gchan7127 says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post! It is so informative and interesting. I can’t wait to see your wedding dress too!!! 😊😊

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