Wednesday, July 23, 2008

eBay Weddings - Thrifty or Just Plain Tacky?

As Americans find themselves in the middle of an economic crunch, many brides are utilizing unconventional methods to fund their big day. No doubt you've heard about the "eBay Bride" - a hairdresser from Virginia Beach whose modest wedding budget prompted her to auction off a prime spot in her wedding - that of a bridesmaid. To be honest, never in a million years would I have believed it would work. It can be frustrating enough to shell out cash for the dress, shower, bachelorette party, and a wedding gift (not to mention putting up with a bride's "princess complex") when you're doing it for your best friend or your sister. But a total stranger? Not unless you pay me. My price? $500 for the weekend, and you agree to cover travel expenses and the cost of that Pepto-Bismol colored taffeta Tooth Fairy gown.

Clicking through eBay auctions, I usually find myself asking "Who on earth would buy that?" Well, for the eBay Bride, Kelly Gray, the answer was surprising. The Dr. Pepper/Snapple Corporation offered a victorious bid of $5,700. The winner increased their offer to $10,000 with another shocking announcement: despite winning the auction, the company still doesn't know who will actually walk down the aisle next April. Current ideas include a celebrity bridesmaid or launching their own contest to win the spot. Was it a good idea? I wouldn't have done it. Paying taxes on the money and dealing with the media circus just isn't worth it to me. I started thinking, though, about eBay as a wedding resource. In 2006, I purchased several new items for my own wedding through eBay with great success. Many vendors offer special "lot" or "batch" items (favors, invitations, decorations) at a much cheaper rate than you'd pay in their online store, simply as a means to keep their selling volume up. After all, making 50% of their usual retail profit is better than making 0%, which means great deals for economical brides who are willing to do some research and take a bit of a gamble...and sort through all the junk.

If you're planning a wedding and feeling creative, take some time to look through eBay's current wedding catalog. Be specific about what you're looking for (i.e. "pink ring bearer pillow" or "summer wedding favors"), and keep an open mind. Do they offer anything that even interests you? If so, can you get it more inexpensively through an auction or "Buy It Now" listing than the vendor's online store? Are you willing to take the chance that you won't win the auction? If you can't find it new, are you willing to buy it used? For many frugal brides, the answer is an overwhelming "YES!" Be sure to check the seller's rating & user history, ask clarifying questions, and calculate shipping costs before committing to bid. It's certainly not for everyone, but if you're feeling brave, give it a try! You might just save enough money to rent me as your MOH. Just kidding. Mostly.

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