How To Find an Affordable Wedding Dress

Just because it’s your big day doesn’t mean you need to spend big bucks to look fabulous

If you’re like most women, as soon as you said ‘yes!’ and slipped on your beautiful engagement ring your first thoughts were about one thing; your wedding dress. One of the most important pieces of clothing you’ll ever purchase, your wedding dress will likely be one of the most elegant dresses you’ll ever own. It’s the dress you’ll be wearing on the biggest day of your life, with dozens, if not hundreds, of friends and family, looking on. For that reason, finding the perfect wedding dress is vitally important.

But here’s a question and, if you’re not swimming in money, it’s an important one; where can you find affordable wedding dresses that won’t completely drain your savings account? Let’s be honest, you want to look fabulous on your special day but, once it’s over, your wedding dress is going to sit in a box for the next few decades. Is it truly worth spending beaucoup bucks on a dress you’re going to wear exactly once?

If you just said “heck no” then the next few minutes will definitely be worth your time. Below you’ll find over a dozen different cheap wedding dress alternatives that, while they still look amazing, won’t bust your budget wide open. So if a more affordable wedding dress is what you seek, read on!

Use a Wedding Dress Rental

Think about it this way; you’re going to rent a limo, rent out a wedding venue, and rent a DJ for the day. Why not look at wedding dresses for rent? Not only will you save thousands of dollars but you’ll be able to get married in a dope designer wedding dress that makes you look amazing!

Wedding Dress For Rent is a great place to start searching and has many beautiful, affordable options. Rent the Runway is also a fantastic place to rent your wedding dress and dresses for the bridesmaids also. There’s also Borrowing Magnolia where you can rent, buy, or even list your wedding dress to rent-out to other brides. By the way, if you’re into going green, wedding dress rentals are a great way to lower your carbon footprint and help the planet! Nice!

Purchase a Pre-Owned Wedding Dress

Imagine purchasing a beautiful piece of art like a painting or vase and then shoving it in the back of your closet for the next 30 years. That’s basically what you’re going to do with your wedding dress and, for many women, that doesn’t sit well. The solution? They sell their wedding dress on one of several online portals after they get hitched!

The good news for you is that you can purchase one of their gently used wedding dresses at a substantially reduced price! There are quite a few websites where you can find previously-used wedding dresses for sale. Still White, for example, lets you put in the designer you love, your size range, and your price range. Once you do it gives you all of the options that match your criteria, making your choice much easier! Nearly Newlywed is similar, with hundreds of pre-owned wedding dresses. They also offer jewelry, gifts, and accessories. Once Wed even offers sample dresses plus ideas and advice for your big day!

Another place to look for wedding dresses and accessories is on Facebook.  In many areas, there are regional Facebook Groups, or use Facebook Marketplace, to look for gently used bridal gowns, bridesmaids dresses, and decor.

Another perk is that many of the dresses you’ll find are top-tier designer wedding dresses that would usually cost thousands of dollars. Purchase it pre-owned, however, and you’ll save up to 70 or 80%! That’s a big chunk of change that you can use on something else, like a better caterer or a swankier honeymoon!

There is one caveat to purchasing a pre-owned wedding dress, however; it may have been altered to fit the previous bride. Depending on the difference between your size and hers you may need to have it altered a bit more to fit perfectly. The good news is that you’ll still be saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars over purchasing new.

Purchase a Bespoke Wedding Dress on Etsy

If you’re looking for an alternative wedding dress why not purchase one that’s been completely custom-made just for you? That’s what a bespoke wedding dress is and, on the hand-made, vintage, and craft website Etsy, they have unique wedding dresses galore! Imagine it; a wedding dress made just for you that looks gorgeous and costs a fraction of what most bespoke wedding dresses cost.

Etsy has several excellent and talented sellers that can help you. We suggest that you look closely at what they’re offering, check their reviews closely, and ask as many questions as possible! Remember, these aren’t big, expensive brands or retailers you’re dealing with, but simple craftspeople who have a knack for sewing and a ton of creativity.

One thing is for certain, however; if you purchase an alternative wedding dress on Etsy, it will be the most unique wedding dress you and your guests have ever seen. If you like ‘doing you’ and saving money, Etsy is a great choice.

Look For Sales at your Local Bridal Salon

Here’s the thing; in retail, it doesn’t make sense to hold onto your old stock for years and years. That’s especially true for smaller retailers like bridal salons. It’s also why, at least once a year (if not more), they have huge sales where they sell off their old stock for massively discounted prices. These are new wedding dresses too, not cheap wedding dresses, and again they’re marked way, way down.

One bit of advice if you plan to try this method is to go early. Like, get there an hour before the door opens early. The last thing you want to do is arrive to find that their racks of wedding dresses have already been picked clean. Also, it makes sense to get to know the owner of the bridal store well before the sale. and let them know you’re on a strict budget. If they’re nice, they might let you purchase your marked-down dress a few days early.

By the way, bridal salons do this a few times a year with their sample dresses too. David’s Bridal, for example, sells their sample wedding dresses at deep discounts. Off White does the same and has many designer dresses to choose from. The same can be said for Mia Bella Couture where they offer dozens of different and unique wedding dresses at steep discounts. Overstock is another fantastic option for buying a cheap wedding dress (that wasn’t so cheap to start with). Keep in mind that most of these online locations sell their samples all year long so there’s no need to wait for the sale.

You might think about calling your local bridal boutiques and asking if there they have any trunk shows scheduled.  What is a trunk show?  A wedding dress trunk show is where a wedding dress designer will come to the bridal salon with their entire designer wedding dress line.  You’ll be able to schedule an appointment for a private showing with the designers’ representatives and stylists.  This gives you the opportunity to speak and negotiate directly with the manufacturer, and ask a person in the dress industry for clues on how to stay within your wedding budget.

Chuck Tradition and Go With a Color Other than White

If you’re looking for alternative wedding dresses or unique wedding dresses nothing says alternative or unique more than a wedding dress that’s not white (or some shade of white). And check this out; at the 2019 bridal fashion week in New York, not a single one of the wedding dresses shown by famed designer Vera Wang was white. Some were, get this, black, and there were many others in different colors.

The truth is, some women just don’t look as good as they could in white and, if that’s you, a wedding dress of a different color might be just the ticket. And, again, if you’re going for a unique wedding dress because you’re a unique person who likes it when people sit up and take notice, anything but white will do just that.

Try Matching Separates Together

Yes, weddings are full of traditions and the white wedding dress is one of them. (It started in 1840 in England with Queen Victoria.) That being said, there’s no law saying that long, flowing, 1-piece gown is a necessity. If a more affordable wedding dress is what you seek, why not try matching a wedding skirt with, for example, a leotard or a bridal crop-top?

What’s great about this option is that you can purchase designer-made separates for a fraction of the cost of a designer wedding dress. Plus, if a unique wedding dress is what you’re after, matching a top and bottom that fits your style is about as unique as it gets.

Big Department Stores Sometimes Offer Small Prices

You’d be forgiven for thinking that department stores will always have the highest prices. Most of the time it’s true but, occasionally, off the rack retailers offer budget prices on wedding dresses. In fact, brick and mortar retailers are embracing the bridal business more and more to compete with online sellers.

Surprisingly, one of the best big department stores to buy a cheap wedding dress is Nordstrom. You might also be surprised to know that J.Crew and Ann Taylor offer very attractive wedding dress styles with attractive prices to go with them. Even retail giants like Bloomingdale’s offer affordable wedding dress options these days, as well as Lord & Taylor. They even offer their own online wedding shops and, get this, if you order a wedding dress and don’t like it you can return it! (Try that with a local bridal salon.)

We suggest you start your search as early as possible to find the wedding dress you like best at a price that fits your budget. Also, we recommend going to the actual brick and mortar location because let’s face it, there’s no way to know how good a wedding dress will look unless you try it on in person.

Go For Something Completely Different

OK, let’s say that you plan to have your wedding on the beach, on a cliff overlooking the ocean or anywhere that one would consider non-traditional. If the location is already non-traditional, why not get a wedding dress that fits the occasion? And let’s be honest, you’re not going to want to get married on the beach with 5 yards of embellished silk-satin flowing behind you. Not only would it look out of place but, if the wind picks up, it could be a disaster!

If you’re planning to have a beautiful but simple ceremony, you might want to consider a simple wedding dress to go with it. That would certainly be the epitome of an affordable wedding dress, you have to admit, and would fit the occasion perfectly. This would even be the perfect time for a wedding dress rental and would save you quite a bit of money while still making you look phenomenal.

Purchase a Bridesmaid Dress Instead

If an affordable wedding dress is what you seek, why not consider purchasing a bridesmaid dress instead? Mini bridesmaid dresses are just as beautiful and elegant as a wedding dress and also come in white or ivory too, (if that’s the color you’re looking for).

What’s great about bridesmaids dresses is that they offer a very simple and clean silhouette which, for some women, is more preferable than a massive flowing skirt full of sequins and bows. They’re also far more of an affordable wedding dress option that a regular dress and still look beautiful.

Go For a Smaller or Local Brand Instead of a Designer

One of the biggest drawbacks of purchasing a designer wedding dress is that it comes with a designer price. If you’re not the kind of gal who needs to show off that she’s dressed in Vera Wang or another top designer, a smaller brand would be an affordable wedding dress choice. Lulus wedding dresses, for example, are simply gorgeous and much more affordable. Azazie is another excellent choice.

Locally in Santa Rosa, there’s also A Touch of Class Bridal, Wine Country Bride Boutique, and also Mirabilis Bay Area Bridal Store, to name a few. Going with a smaller brand or a local bridal boutique is always a good way to find an affordable wedding dress, no doubt. It’s also a great way to support local retailers which we should all do whenever possible!

Something Borrowed…From Your Mom, Your Grandma or Your Aunt

We talked about how using a wedding dress rental company would help you ‘go green’, and so would this alternative wedding dress option. Not only would borrowing a wedding dress from your Mom, your Grandma, or your Auntie save you a ton of money, it would surely mean the world to them! You’ll probably need to have it altered a bit, of course, but that’s not a problem for a local seamstress. Christina Vanni is one of the best. They can update it and alter it to fit you perfectly. One thing’s for sure; if you borrow a wedding dress one of your fave women will be beaming on your big day!

Your Wedding Dress Doesn’t Need to Cost a Fortune!

Hopefully, we’ve proven to you that your wedding dress doesn’t need to set you back thousands of dollars. All of the options that we’ve listed here will make finding an affordable wedding dress much easier on both you and your bank account. They should also help reduce your financial stress and prevent any extra stress that weddings can sometimes cause.

The truth is, your wedding day is supposed to be joyful and happy and anything you can do to make it more joyful and happy is always a good thing, we think you’ll agree. With the options that we’ve given you today, you’ll still be the most elegant woman in the room while saving a ton of cash!