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Costco (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)
Costco (Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)

Costco goes bridal Add to ...

Costco is a good place to go when you need a lawnmower or a gallon-size jar of pickles, but a wedding dress? For the last few weeks across California, shoppers have been stepping into local Costco stores to attend trunk shows and fittings in pop-up bridal boutiques. The dresses are designed by Kirstie Kelly (previously known for her work with Disney Bridal) and cost between $650 and $1,400 (U.S.). Costcouture, as the collection is called, is among a growing number of mass-market bridal lines. Forever 21, the fast-fashion emporium, just announced a new line of wedding accessories, while Anthropologie is putting out a bridal collection as well. J. Crew, the American prep purveyor, has been successfully growing its wedding line since launching it in 2004.

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So why not Costco, which is all about efficiency and value, exactly what a bride is looking for at a time of stress and expense? The Costcouture dresses are reportedly made with satin and silk, which the designer says are bought - as per Costco's business model - in bulk, resulting in price savings for brides-to-be but not a reduction in quality.

Lidia Tacconelli, a Toronto event and wedding planner, isn't sold. "There's a lot of romance to buying a dress," Tacconelli says. "I don't know if Costco is the right environment for that, with, you know, the free samples down the next aisle." Most brides, Tacconelli adds, put a bigger premium on and allocate a bigger share of their budgets to their gowns than almost every other wedding purchase. "It's their one time to have a dress that is really special," she says.

So while efficient bulk-buying is Costco's m.o., personalization is a big priority when planning a wedding - and that's where Costco's bridal-gown foray may hit a snag. The dresses offered at the big-box store don't look any different than the gowns from a bridal boutique with plush seating and tea for mom. In fact, the gowns in those chic boutiques often come from mass-produced lines sold in stores all over the world. But the experience in the smaller outfits feels personal, customized. And it comes, therefore, with a heftier price tag.

Of course, Costco already sells diamonds, flower arrangements, honeymoon vacations, wedding-photo packages and invitations. But when a friend of mine got her elegant letter-pressed invites made there, she made me swear not to tell anyone - and therein lies the company's largest hurdle. If a bride doesn't want to admit to getting invitations made at Costco, would she admit to getting her dress there?

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