As a bride-to-be, I know how important it is to find the perfect wedding dress without breaking the bank.

It's a lovely idea, but in most cases, it's easier said than done.

Let's face it ladies, many of us have had our dream wedding dress picked out since we were 8 years old and were draping white pillow cases over our heads, pretending to be walking down the aisle to our dream guy.

You found your dream guy and have an idea of the perfect dress, but now what?

When my fiancé first proposed to me last April, we decided that we wanted our wedding day to be about us and not so much about how much we spent.

Tip #1: Set a budget before you start planning

I did a little research before I set the final budget goal and gave myself some wiggle room in case my budget goal was unrealistic. Keep in mind, most wedding dress prices are only for the dress. These prices do not include a veil, shoes, alterations or any accessories.

My wedding dress goal: $400

Tip #2: Make a budget sheet

By using Excel, Google Docs or any other organizing software (pencil and paper if you're old school), make a budget sheet. I did mine through Google Docs. I preferred to do it this way because I could add my fiancé to it and he could edit and contribute his ideas.

Make a budget for everything and put the prices in a “budget goal” column and a “actual spent” column. This will help organize all your research and help you determine which is the better deal.

Tip #3: Do your research

You may love the first dress you see, but I suggest that you keep looking until you're tired of it. I imagine there's nothing worse than finding your dream dress after you already purchased a “great, but not as incredible” wedding dress.

I started my research online. First stop: David's Bridal. David's Bridal has a lot of deals on wedding dresses. They even have a selection of $100-under. There's a lot of beautiful choices in this selection, none of them, however, were for me. I constantly stalked David's Bridal website in hopes that my dream dress would magically appear on sale. After several weeks of not having any luck, I decided to start browsing other options.

Vector wedding dresses in different styles.Fashion bride Dress

After being a long-time user and lover of the website Etsy, I decide to search the key terms of the wedding dress I didn't know existed, but couldn't get out of my head.

To my surprise, I came across an Etsy shop that would later become my life saver and giver of the dream wedding dress I had been imagining. The only problem was LaceMarry is a custom made wedding dress shop based out of China.

After looking at all the handmade dresses and sending endless screenshots to my mom, I was convinced it was too good to be true. A gorgeous dress made to my measurements within a reasonable price? I thought it had to be a scam.

I decide to message the shop owner and curator, Mary Jin Mei, and asked her some basic questions about the process of ordering one of her dresses. I was surprised by how quickly she got back to me. We communicated for a month before I decided my heart was set on purchasing one of her dresses.

In the meantime, I did as much research on LaceMarry as I could. It can be scary ordering something so meaningful online and I was very nervous, but Mary was always responsive and didn't hesitate to answer all my questions.

I decided to go with one of Mary's sample dress. Now, her sample dresses were wedding dresses she already had made, so you got the dress as is, which already included a size. Keep in my mind, you can order any of Mary's dresses in your exact measurements. I chose the sample dress because it was very similar to my own measurements and it saved me $100.

My actual total spent: $228.99 includes tax and shipping

Since it's a sample dress, there will have be some minor alterations made, but I was blown away with the quality and appearance of the dress. And I received the dress within three weeks…from China.

The following are some tips on purchasing wedding dresses online:

  • Read the reviews – all of them if you have to
  • Google other reviews – don't just take the websites opinion
  • Find other social media accounts – Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Make sure you understand the return policy
  • Send your exact measurements
  • Contact people who wrote reviews and ask their experiences

Tip #4: Take some time to think about your decision

Don't just jump the gun and buy a dress until your completely 100% sure it's the dress for you. Take some time, talk with friends and family and get some other people's opinion.

Before I made the final purchase on my dress, I went to David's Bridal and other local dress shops and tried on endless dresses with my mom. I wanted to make sure I was choosing the perfect dress for me and that I'd have no regrets.

The best advice I received after trying on the dresses was if you can't stop thinking about a dress after several days, then that's the dress you need to buy.

Tip #5: Give yourself plenty of time

Aside from the venue, I suggest shopping for your wedding dress should one of the first things you do.

You need plenty of time to make final decisions for alterations, shoes and accessories. Give yourself enough time so you're not making any rushed decisions.

It's your day. Enjoy it and take the time to find the dress (and price) of your dreams.

(Erin Thacker is a digital producer at WUSA9. She is currently planning a wedding scheduled to take place in June 2018).