Some couples turn to secondhand stores, pawn shops for gowns, rings

2012-02-12T06:00:00Z Some couples turn to secondhand stores, pawn shops for gowns, ringsDanie Koskan Journal correspondent Rapid City Journal
February 12, 2012 6:00 am  • 

True love will cost you.

Brian Mitchell found out just how much when he went hunting for an engagement ring.

"I always knew it was going to be expensive," he said.

Unnecessarily expensive, he thought.

So the Rapid City man sought out a secondhand alternative to the pricey diamonds on display in traditional jewelry stores.

Mitchell eventually proposed to his girlfriend with a rock he purchased from the pawn shop he manages. The diamond cost far less than what he would have paid for brand-new bling.

Mainstream thinking says would-be fiancés must spend a small fortune, Mitchell said.

"It's the media itself saying that if you're not buying a Jared diamond, then what value do you have," he said.

Mitchell didn't listen to conventional wisdom and doesn't regret it, either.

Men aren't alone in looking for a deal on their way to the altar.

When the wedding wallet is tight, some brides-to-be browse thrift store racks for a dress to impress.

"It's more common than you think," said Sandy Hendricksen, assistant manager at Goodwill in Rapid City.

Goodwill carries several wedding dresses at a time, and the merchandise does move.

Wearing someone else's gown down the aisle may not be the stuff of little girls' wedding-day dreams, but the price is certainly right.

Several secondhand stores in Rapid City carry gently used wedding frocks at a fraction of the original cost.

"We have five or six gowns right now," said Rainy Smith, retail specialist at the Rapid City Club for Boys Thrift Store.

Local women consistently donate a number of pricey and practical bridal gowns. Some are extravagant and probably cost the original owner thousands of dollars.

"One that came in was absolutely stunning," Smith said.

Others were more likely a deal to begin with.

Donated wedding-day duds often arrive at local secondhand shops in like-new condition. These gowns were seemingly worn on only one occasion, so they don't tend to show the wear and tear of other hand-me-downs.

"Some of them we need to clean," said Shawna Bowker, a cashier at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Rapid City. "But many of them have probably just been sitting in the attic."

Bridal bargain hunters can expect to pay between $25 and $50 for a wedding dress hanging on area thrift store racks.

"Many of the women who have purchased their dress here, they are really happy about the price," Bowker said.

Smith said she's turned to local bridal boutiques for advice on how to price a particular gown. She also researches dresses online to determine their resale value.

A high-end gown at the Club for Boys Thrift Store may go for $100 or more, but it's still a steal - provided the buyer is at peace with knowing someone else posed for pictures in it first.

Not all secondhand bridal gowns actually made it down the aisle.

Some sellers who advertise their dresses locally on Craigslist claim they never wore it, a plus for the bride who wants to be first and last person to dance in her dress.

"We have some dresses with the tags still on them," said Jacki Miller, program manager at the Cornerstone Thrift Store in Rapid City.

Many of Cornerstone's wedding gowns start at $25. Purchase a dress between noon and 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday - what Cornerstone call its "Happy Hour" - and you could snag a dress for half that.

A wedding dress for $12.50?

Miller said it's happened on more than one occasion.

"These girls were beaming from ear to ear," Miller said. "The dress fit perfectly."

Smith said she doesn't know the motivation behind donors' decision to part with their wedding dresses.

"I've never really asked," she said. "Maybe they're divorced and now their dress means nothing."

Veils and other accessories also pass through thrift store doors. And for the woman who's always the bridesmaid but never the bride, well, there's a cheaper alternative for her, too.

Often brides-to-be come looking for discounted decorations to adorn reception tables and are surprised to learn Goodwill carries more than used centerpieces, Hendricksen said. Sometimes they walk out with decorations - and a dress to boot.

The idea of slipping on a symbol of somebody else's love - especially spurned love - rebuffs mainstream thinking. But ask Mitchell, and it's a matter of perception versus reality.

"When I started to realize that it really wasn't the ring that signified the relationship with my wife, I realized I could probably spend less and it would be just as good," he said.

Mitchell, manager of Pawn With Us in Rapid City, said many people don't realize they can snag used engagement rings for far less than their appraised value. Prices for secondhand rocks fall well below retail.

"Just because it is used does not mean the insurance or replacement value is the same," he said. "When you get it appraised, it doesn't insure for what you paid."

In other words, you get more than you paid for.

In the end, the ring doesn't define the marriage, Mitchell said. It's a symbol that has no bearing on how true one's love will be.

"It's not a statement of your marriage," he said. "It doesn't matter who owned it before."

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) Comments

  1. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
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    Actions Speak Louder Than Words - February 12, 2012 8:51 am
    We married abt 20 yrs ago, 2nd marriage. Seemed fitting purchasing "2nd hand" items. Got our rings in a pawn shop, & dress & suit in a first rate consignment shop. Everything was in perfect condition, we saved a ton of money and although "going green" wasnt big back then, we reused. Even today we still stop in thrift stores and get a kick out of buying items that still have the original price tag on them and even find items that go with sets of things we already have.
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