Are there upcoming nuptials in your family?  Are you the parent/grandparent of a flower girl or ring bearer?  We can offer a few tips on getting the kids dressed to the nines without breaking your bank.

My youngest sister is getting married in June.  After dating for two years, she and her fiancé decided they’d prefer a short engagement, a small, very informal ceremony, and want to include all seven of her nieces and nephews, ages five to fourteen.  As happy as we were for the kids to be asked to participate, to say I was intimidated by the task of finding dresses for my own three was an understatement.  With a little bit of effort, though, our ever-frugal, middle sister came up with a way to dress five girls and two boys for less than $25 each, including hair accessories.

Here are a few of her tips for managing your little ones’ special occasions. If you’re as fortunate as we were, we were given the task with a color scheme (pink and gray), and a few minor requests from the bride (“nothing frilly, no long dresses, and DON’T go to a bridal store for the little ones!”).  This gave us more options to plan our budget and shop around.  She and I shared duties, compared notes, scouted around, and found the best deal for the dollar.

We started by compiling a list of retailers where we’re “loyalty members” and receive extra discounts or coupons.  These aren’t always the very best deal because there are often restrictions on the minimum purchase price or type of product on sale, so read the discounts carefully.  Some of these also have a timeframe for which you can use your extra perks.

I also combed several local children’s consignment stores known for having nice children’s clothing.  I came up empty, but these stores are almost always my first stop when I need to shop for my girls.  More and more of these merchants are raising their standards for resale clothing, so most of my purchases are like new.

Once we narrowed our choices down to a few stores, we searched the sites of retailers most local to us, where we could have our purchases shipped to the store for free and pick up.  If you’re not sure of the exact size your child will wear in a few months, this will give you the option for easy returns or exchanges, if necessary.

A big help to us was the time of year we started searching, and I don’t think it could have worked out better.  Because we began looking between Christmas and Easter, a lot of our favorite merchants had suits and dresses already marked down.  These weren’t eligible for our membership perks, but it worked out in our financial plan.  She found four baby pink dresses originally priced at $40, and marked down for $20.  We “splurged” on adorable gray embellished headbands that were originally $6.99 each, but WERE eligible for our coupons, so we still saved almost $3 per accessory.  The boys were especially easy, as my sister was simply shopping for gray dress pants and white button shirts.

The fifth girl in our line-up was asked to be a junior bridesmaid, so we bought her dress at the bridal boutique where the future missus bought her dress, and we were able to save an initial $20, plus discounts for paying the day it was ordered.  We also plan to have her alterations done by an independent seamstress because boutiques often charge more for their work.

In a situation where your bride is a little more specific with her requests for your young one’s attire, rest assured that there are still options for savings.  If you’re asked to purchase your little girl’s dress at the bridal shop, ask their associates about discounts related to the bride’s dress, size and color, and method of payment.  Ask the bride if she’d like it to match her gown exactly, or just the same material, color, or accent colors.  It is most difficult to find identical dresses outside of the boutique, unfortunately, so these questions will help you plan your budget. (Keep in mind that almost all bridal shops have a no returns policy.)

If you’re granted some freedom to search outside the store, but are in need of definite formal ensemble, I like to explore Amazon first. It is noted for having sizable discounts on children’s attire, and include reliable reviews about size and fit, material, and any perks or problems, so you can be more confident when buying before your child tries on the garments.  If you’re hesitant to order anything without seeing it firsthand, I recommend also include time to browse stores known to have semi-formal and formal wear.  We looked closely at JC Penney and Sears, and also checked into Macy’s and Kohl’s.

Wedding planning and participation can be incredibly stressful on your emotions and on your wallet, but we hope these tips will help ease some of your worries!

Credit for this shopping victory goes to my sister, “D.”  She’s a frugal queen!