The dress I wore on my wedding day made me feel like a princess. It fit like a glove, shimmered like a diamond, and was everything I ever dreamed of wearing on my big day.
It also cost less than most bridesmaid dresses I’ve bought.
For $85.45, I was able to find a dress on eBay that retailed for almost $300. You’d never be able to tell the difference, and I was able to spend the extra money on something more important–namely, Croatian wine and seafood on my honeymoon.
Wedding dresses tend to be expensive, but yours doesn’t have to be. If you play it smart, you can definitely find the perfect dress for less.
Where To Find Affordable Wedding Dresses
According to wedding website The Knot, the average cost of a wedding dress in 2018 was $1,631, including alterations. If the idea of spending that much gives you a panic attack, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to find the perfect dress for way less.
Look For Unique Dresses
If you’re set on a traditional wedding dress, you might have a hard time keeping the cost low. That’s why it pays to consider an unconventional wedding dress. This includes prom dresses, formal dresses, or anything other than a long white dress. Believe it or not, just wearing a different color on your wedding day can save you money.
It’s much easier to find an affordable champagne or cream-colored dress than a white dress. If you’re willing to explore even less traditional color schemes like red, blue, or green, you’ll have no problem sticking to a tight budget.
I wore a blush, floor-length formal dress with beading and floral details for my wedding. Even though it wasn’t marketed as a wedding dress, I was able to find pictures of other brides wearing it on their big day.
Compare Prices Online
If you see a great dress at a particular store, don’t forget to research what it costs elsewhere, especially online. You should also check the price from the designer directly. You might find they have a better deal or special coupon.
Buy Used Wedding Dresses
You can save a lot of money buying a used wedding dress. As an added bonus, it’s also more eco-friendly.
You can often save between 50% to 80% on a dress in perfect condition. Sometimes the dress has never been worn because the bride changed her mind too late or the wedding was called off. Other times the dress may have been worn once, dry cleaned and then put up for sale.
Clothing resale sites like Tradesy or Poshmark often feature affordable wedding dresses. You can also look at wedding-specific sites like NearlyNewlywed.com, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, or StillWhite.com.
If you find a dress you love in-store, see if you can find it used. If you don’t have a specific dress in mind, you can still browse designers and dress styles until you find a perfect match.
Some local consignment stores may also carry wedding dresses. My city actually has a bridal-specific consignment store that features brands like Maggie Sottero, Essence of Australia, and Lazaro. Search around and call consignment stores to ask if they have a bridal selection.
Resell Your Dress
Saving money on your wedding dress is great, but recouping some of the cost after your wedding day is just as good. If you can do both, that’s even better.
Don’t assume that it will be easy to sell your dress. It can take weeks or months to find an interested buyer, and you might earn less than you thought, especially once you factor in shipping and handling.
You might be able to earn 50% off the retail price, depending on the condition, if it was altered, and if it’s a popular style. You can also sell your shoes, wedding jewelry, and other bridal accessories.
Wedding Dresses Under $200
Is your wedding budget tighter than a corset? Here’s how to find the best wedding dresses under $200.
Shop On Sale
Everything goes on sale eventually, including wedding dresses. If you want to be frugal and still have a traditional dress, look at the sale rack for brick-and-mortar bridal stores and online retailers. Bridal stores often sell the dresses off the mannequins at a high discount, since these gowns have been displayed for weeks or months.
For example, BHLDN, the bridal sister store to Anthropologie, has a sale section that currently features nine wedding dresses under $200. Four of these are less than $100.
Check Out Department Stores
High-end department stores like Nordstrom sell formal white dresses for far less than a “real” wedding dress. Nordstrom also offers free alterations to members of its free rewards club. This can save you several hundred dollars.
Many department stores also have a more forgiving return policy than bridal stores, where it can be difficult to return an item unless there’s something wrong with it. Almost all department stores will have the dress immediately available for you to take home as well, whereas traditional wedding dresses are custom-made and can take several months to arrive.
Wear A Bridesmaid Dress
Many bridal brands make bridesmaid dresses, which typically cost far less than wedding dresses. For example, BHLDN has a wide range of bridesmaid dresses in shades of white, champagne and cream, many of which cost less than $200.
Even a traditional bridesmaid site like Dessy has hundreds of white dresses that are beautiful and interesting enough for a bride, many for less than $200. Don’t forget to check out the sale section, which has an even larger selection.
You can add a rhinestone belt, a long veil or sparkly jewels to accent a more simple dress. These accessories can also be resold later or kept for other occasions.
Look At Thrift Stores
Thrift stores like Goodwill or Salvation Army can be a decent option for affordable wedding dresses, but you have to spend some time to find the right dress.
One Reddit user said she went to her nearby Goodwill every weekend before she found a dress. If you have a location near you, find out when they restock the shelves and visit the store that day. Look at different locations, focusing primarily on high-income neighborhoods.
Rent A Dress
Rent the Runway is a great site for formal or cocktail dresses, but it’s also the perfect place to find a wedding dress. Dresses are shipped to you for several days and cost between $30 to $300 per rental.
You can rent a gown for anywhere between four and eight days. The cost will increase by about 50% if you choose the latter option. For example, a dress that costs $70 to rent for four days will cost $112 to rent for eight days. If you’re leaving for your honeymoon right after the wedding, ask a friend or bridesmaid to ship the dress back so you don’t get charged a $50 late fee.
Selection on Rent the Runway changes regularly, so a dress you saw five months ago might not be in stock when you’re ready to order. Current wedding designers include Badgley Mischka, Nha Khanh, and Laundry by Shelli Segal.
One downside to Rent the Runway is that you don’t get to try on dresses before you order them. If it comes in the mail and doesn’t fit you perfectly, there’s not much you can do.
The good news is that Rent the Runway lets you pick two sizes when you rent a dress, while only paying for the price of one. Customers should read the size guide carefully to understand how a dress fits. Make sure to figure out your exact measurements before ordering a dress.
Currently, Rent the Runway has a coupon for 20% off your first order or $80 off a 60-day unlimited membership, normally $159. The unlimited subscription lets you take four items out at one time. This can be a good way to order a few different dresses to find one that works. You can also pick dresses for your wedding rehearsal, bridal shower, or bachelorette party.
Rent the Runway has free shipping and all dresses arrive clean. You don’t have to dry clean the dresses when you return them. Renting a dress is only a good option for brides who aren’t sentimental and don’t mind not keeping their wedding dress forever.
Where To Find Cheap Bridesmaid Dresses
Getting a cheap bridesmaid dress is, for the most part, easier than finding a cheap wedding dress. If you’re buying a traditional gown from a store like David’s Bridal, try to time the purchase around a holiday. You can save around 20% off or more. Ask if they offer any discounts for joining their email list. The bride may also have a special coupon for bridesmaids if she bought her wedding dress there.
If your bride only asks you to buy a certain color and not a specific dress, you should look for dresses at consignment and thrift stores. Remember to check these stores regularly because inventory changes quickly with used clothes.
When buying a used bridesmaid dress, make sure the garment already fits you perfectly. Alterations on a formal dress can be expensive, turning a cheap dress into an expensive purchase. If you can’t wear the dress again after the wedding, consider selling or consigning it.
Thinking outside the box a bit can help you find a great deal on a wedding dress. Being willing to move away from white to a cream or blush-colored dress can give you more lower-priced options. Also, being willing to buy used, or even rent will save you big bucks.
How much was your wedding dress? Do you have any tips on finding an affordable wedding dress?
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