As y’all know, I’m a bride on a budget. As a grad student, I have to pinch pennies and I’ve gotten pretty good at finding what I want for way less. For my regular wardrobe sales, coupon codes, and secondhand keep me on budget but put the word “wedding” in front of anything and you’ll see the price skyrocket. It can be especially frustrating if you’re a plus-size bride wading into the bridal fashion waters, which Kathryn covered in her post about her own dress shopping experience. While my beloved Say Yes to the Dress may give us some great eye candy, it isn’t realistic for most of us. I’m here to break down some real, affordable dress options so you don’t fall into the “it’s one day, just spend the money” spiral that so often accompanies a bridal salon visit.
If you love boho, all over lace, and saving money, this is the place for you. Every dress is under $1,000 and you can choose between buying a dress “off the rack” or having one custom made to your measurements. You can also request alterations to the design, like opening the back, shortening the slip, or even having them design you a completely custom dress! The only downside? You can’t try the dresses on in person. But at this price point, a made-in-America dress that comes in ANY size is worth the gamble.
I used to hate David’s Bridal so much that when I was instructed to buy a bridesmaid dress from DB I headed to Poshmark and found a NWT one that fit the parameters to avoid shopping there. However, the company has made an effort to modernize and break out of the “Walmart of Bridal” model we’ve all come to expect. (Come to think of it, Walmart is also breaking out of the Walmart clothing model, but that’s a whole different post.) As with any store, there are ways to save big and plenty of traps that will have you emptying your wallet just like any other bridal salon.
Shop sales! David’s has samples, discounted dresses, even an “under $200” section on their site. You aren’t heading to DB to spend $2k, so don’t let your consultant lead you down that path. Scope out dresses in your budget on their site before you go–– or just order one to your house! If you don’t like it, you can always return it.
Did you fall in love with a designer dress but there is no amount of budgeting in the world that is going to get it in your budget? Try secondhand! Not only are you going to save a bundle, you’re making a sustainable choice. I love Still White because it is based in Australia and includes sellers from there, the U.S., and Britain, so you can purchase gowns from designers in other countries which makes them a bit more unique.
Our favorite standby when all the straight-size stores are failing, Torrid just released their new bridal collection and it’s incredibly size inclusive and affordable. They also have bridesmaid’s dresses if you need to outfit your mates as well as intimates for the honeymoon. I’m loving this classic off-the-shoulder style, but they have a dramatic cape sleeve gown that would be a real showstopper.
Unfortunately, Asos is less plus-size friendly as they only carry a few dresses that only go up to a 24. They do have super affordable prices, though; their most expensive dress is only $491, with most under $400. I really like their sequin gowns; I feel like they would be great reception/party dresses. Pair them with another dress on this list and you can be one of those bougie two-dress-wearing brides like we always see on SYTTD for less than half what they’d spend on just one dress.
Nordstrom can be a little dangerous because they do carry dresses that are over our 1k budget, so be careful what you try on (this is where online shopping can save you—you can completely filter out dresses you can’t afford). I really like the Tadashi Shoji bridal line if you want a dress that is more traditionally bridal. If that’s not your vibe, they carry bridal jumpsuits! Can you imagine shedding a ceremony overskirt to reveal you’ve been wearing a party-ready jumpsuit the whole time? I die.
They’re also great for pregnant brides: Nordstrom is one of the few retailers that has easy-to-find maternity gowns at affordable prices.
Nordstrom does carry this line, but I thought it deserved its own mention because it has quickly become synonymous with beautiful, affordable bridal. BHLDN (pronounced “beholden”) has amazing dresses under 1k, but if you shop their sales you can find even better deals, like this dress marked down to $300 from $1450. I love their vintage-inspired options and separates. I have to admit, I don’t love their size exclusivity––I fell in love with a bridesmaid’s dress that doesn’t go above a size 18. As annoyed as I am about this dress, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to fall in love with a bridal gown knowing it just won’t fit.
I know what you’re thinking, “Summer, Lulu’s is great for skinny girls searching for bridesmaids dresses, but they won’t have a bridal gown for me.” Allow me to present Farida:
Of course, Lulu’s will make an appearance on our round up of affordable bridesmaids dresses as well, but don’t rule it out as an option for your own dress. A lot of budget bridal advice will tell you to think outside the box and try dresses that aren’t necessarily bridal. While I fully support that, if looking “traditionally bridal” is important to you, you shouldn’t have to give up that dream whether your budget is $100 or $1000.
This suggestion will be region-specific and may require some legwork on your part: sample and consignment shops. I’m a big fan of online shopping, but I get that you may want that in-store experience with your family and friends. Stores that sell samples (new dresses that boutiques use for you to try on) and consignment (pre-owned dresses) are a way to get that savings and eco-friendly benefit while also having a “bridal experience.” We went to a shop like this for Kathryn, Sunday’s Bridal and I’m hoping to visit this one in Austin, Second Summer Bride.
If you have a favorite bridal boutique in your area, ask when they have a sample sale! When new styles come in, they have to get the old samples out which can mean a big savings for you. We love the boutique Kathryn got her dress from, Bliss Bridal, and you’ll probably see me in a couple dresses there during their next sample sale.
You’ve probably noticed we are big fans of Amazon, and I tried a ton of their little white dresses for my engagement party. I am a little wary of this option for a full bridal gown, but with free Prime returns, what is the harm in giving it a shot? If you don’t mind a dress that looks a little non-traditional, try searching for evening gowns. I would advise against getting anything bright white, as that can cheapen the look, but throw on some ivory lace and very few people will be able to tell if you spent $50 or $5000.
I hope this helps you find a dress that makes you feel beautiful and frees up some money for that open bar. If you do, send us a photo! We love to see a happy bride. It can be a little daunting to find a dress online, but we’re happy to be your bridal guinea pigs. Which of these options would you like to see us try?
The post is a part of our Something Old, Something New series about wedding planning. Click here to read more from a bride who just went through planning a wedding and a bride currently going through it!
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