What if you could score a designer wedding gown for under $250, in just three hours or less, and create an unforgettable experience at the same time? That’s the promise of the annual Running of the Brides®, Filene’s Basement’s now legendary sale of wedding dresses. Originally retailing from $900 to $9,000, Filene’s Basement puts thousands of dresses on sale at crazy prices, from $249 to $699. And the labels are some of the most coveted in the world.
Dates and cities to be announced soon.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Running of the Brides?
Words don’t do this event justice, but we’ll try. The Running of the Brides (ROTB) is a one-day sale of designer and famous-label wedding gowns at ridiculously low prices, and the maker of precious “laugh out loud” memories.
When did the sale start?
1947 is the earliest reference we found in press clips and letters from customers.
How many gowns are there?
1400 to 3000, depending on the size of the store.
What are the prices of the gowns?
Prices range from $249 to $699
What were the original prices?
Anywhere from $900 to $9,000+ at full price bridal salons. Gowns we buy from other retailers usually have the original price tags attached, so you can instantly see the savings.
What labels do you carry?
Because we sell the gowns at such a deep discount, we promise our vendors that we won’t advertise the names. What we can say is that these labels are featured in all the big brides’ magazines.
Where does Filene’s Basement get the gowns?
Our buyer has her ear to the ground, ready to jump when wedding gowns go up for sale at a good price. The gowns are on the block for a variety of reasons. Manufacturers might be saddled with overstock or stuck with a cancelled order, or they might have samples of gowns that were never produced. Bridal salons need to periodically sell off past season gowns to make room for new arrivals.
Do I need to make an appointment? No—we’re not that formal, as you’ll see when you get there.
What are the hours of the sale?
8:00am till closing, which is between 8:00pm and 10:00pm depending on location.
What time do people typically arrive?
The doors officially open at 8:00am, but some brides-to-be start lining up earlier. In fact, there are always a few brides and helpers who show up the day before with lawn chairs, sleeping bags and even pop-up tents. Most brides arrive between 6:00am and 8:00am.
Do I have to be there at the crack of dawn in order to find my dress?
That would be a big fat NO. If the ‘rush to the racks’ is not your idea of fun or your job conflicts with your plans to shop for your wedding gown (don’tcha hate that?), the odds of finding a dress are still excellent. Remember, most of the people in line are helpers, not brides-to-be. For example in Boston, there might be a thousand people in line but only 250 of them are brides-to-be with nearly 3000 gowns to choose from. For more on arriving later, visit www.filenesbasement.com/campaign/late.php
What happens when the doors open at 8:00am?
Customers sprint to the racks and grab as many dresses as their arms will hold. Racks are stripped bare within 90 seconds (the record is 36 seconds). Next, brides-to-be and helpers stake out a spot on the selling floor and start trying on dresses.
Are there fitting rooms?
Yes, contrary to popular belief, there are lots of dressing rooms for brides who want privacy. Some stores even open the men’s fitting rooms to brides for the first few hours of the sale. Most brides, though, opt for changing in the aisles, (more room to spread out) so they wear sports bras, shorts or swim suits.
Should I bring help?
If you’re planning to shop in the morning, definitely bring help—your mother, bridal party, a style-savvy friend. You need people to grab gowns off the racks, help you in and out of the dresses, guard your “maybe” dresses from prowlers and make trades with other teams. Even if you plan to arrive later in the day, you’ll want to bring someone to help you in and out of gowns, give you feedback and celebrate with you when you find “the one.”
Why do people wear matching hats and t-shirts?
Early on, brides and helpers realized they needed some way to find each other in the sea of white, so they started wearing the same colors, or carrying whistles or walky-talkies. The idea caught on and now designing and wearing team uniforms is part of the whole ROTB experience. Some print the team name on their t-shirts and identify who’s who (bride, MOH, MOB, etc.) or the role each team member will play (gatherer, dresser, trader, and so on). Every year the teams get more and more imaginative, putting slogans or photos on their t-shirts, and wearing outrageous headgear so they can see each other above the racks.
Why aren’t the dresses organized by size or label?
#1) We don’t want give the first people in line the unfair advantage of taking all of one size or label and #2) Any attempt at order would break down as soon as the racks were emptied.
If I wear a street size 10, should I be looking for a size 10 wedding gown?
Wedding gown sizes vary—depending on the maker, and often they run small. Our advice is to try on any dress that looks close to your size and see how it looks. It’s rare that a wedding gown is a perfect fit on anybody. That’s why we have alterations experts at the ROTB to answer your questions.
If I have a specific dress in mind, how likely am I to find it at the ROTB?
Honestly, it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but it has happened—more than once.
I’ve heard that people trade dresses. How does this work?
The gowns are in no particular order, so the first people to get to the racks don’t know what styles, sizes or labels they’re grabbing. Within an hour of opening, the brides who managed to get dresses will start to narrow the selection. Gowns that don’t make the cut are handed over to helpers, who fan out and begin trading gowns with other teams looking for “fresh” merchandise.
Many teams make signs that display the size and style they’re seeking. Others just hawk what they have to trade and what they want to trade for.
This can get complex—one trade could involve multiple transactions. For instance, bride #1 wants a gown that bride #2 has, so she offers a gown in trade; #2 has her eye on a gown being held by bride #3, so she sends bride #1 to negotiate with bride #3. Got it?
I don’t think I’m cut out for all the trading and bartering—what then?
No problem—not everyone enjoys this part. Our advice is to go get coffee and come back later—by late morning, most of the dresses are back on the racks and you can go through the dresses one by one when things have settled down.
I’ve heard all kinds of stories about how people behave at this sale—are they true?
Buying a wedding gown is an emotional purchase to begin with and if you’re in line for the ROTB, excitement builds as the clock approaches the 8:00am. Filene’s Basement adds extra staff to make sure the line moves safely and smoothly through the doors. Bad behavior is not tolerated, either in line or inside the store.
In fact, some incredible bonding takes place at the ROTB.
- Two brides-to-be in a chat room discover they’re both going to the same ROTB, so they make plans to meet at the store.
- Teams meet in line, make friends and form alliances. Once inside, they keeping an eye out for the size and style the other team is looking for.
- Bad weather forced the cancellation of a mother’s flight from Chicago, leaving the bride-to-be on her own; word spread quickly, and in no time other mothers came to the rescue to help her find the gown of her dreams.
- And the ultimate demonstration of support and bonding occurs when a bride declares she’s found THE ONE. Everybody in the vicinity applauds her success and shares in her joy.
How far do brides travel for this sale?
We’ve talked to brides who traveled from Alaska and Hawaii, the Bahamas, the U.K., Germany, Switzerland, Uruguay, Colombia, and Egypt to name a few. A group from Fresno, California flew to Boston for the sale after hearing about it from an uncle who lived in Taiwan. The gowns themselves have traveled too. One woman sent 4 dresses to her nieces in Russia; other customers select gowns for family members who live in faraway places where wedding gowns cost a small fortune.
Are men allowed in the store during the sale?
Sure, if they dare. We’ve seen the occasional brother, male friend, father and even fiancé. There have even been instances when a fiancé has stepped up to the plate because his bride-to-be is on a business trip or studying for finals. You might think that’s a tough assignment for a guy, until you see all the mothers who flock to his rescue.
What was the most expensive wedding gown ever sold at the sale?
Last year a bride-to-be got the dress of her dreams and the bargain of a lifetime. She paid $699 for an absolutely stunning dress and the original $12,000 price tag was still attached.
What is the most unusual wedding gown sold?
A few stand out. One was custom designed gown and train made of white lambskin. The skirt was gored alternating leather with different patterns of ecru lace. Another was hand-made by designer Michelle Roth for a runway show. The skirt had five layers—one layer hand painted with flowers was sandwiched between two layers, on which 3-dimensional flowers were tacked. Underneath was a layer of lace and below that, a crinoline skirt. Two other gowns were memorable for their hand-painted skirt designs: one was a peacock and the other, a map of the world.
Are the dresses returnable?
No, because Filene’s Basement does not carry wedding gowns other than the day of the sale.
Besides saving money, why go to the sale?
As one bride put it, “if we get a gown here, we can invite twenty more people to the wedding.” Her fiancé had other plans for the savings—extending the honeymoon.
And there’s the fun factor—this sale has become part of the wedding planning experience for brides and their helpers. In some families, the ROTB is a long-standing tradition. Many brides-to-be tell us the Running of the Brides® is on their ‘bucket list,’ whether they find a dress or not.
Do you have any tips for finding the perfect dress at this event?
We have a great compilation of tips gathered from brides-to-be who found their wedding gown at the ROTB. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request “Secrets of Success—finding your dream dress at Filene’s Basement’s Running of the Brides.”