A Guide to Inexpensive Wedding Dresses

June 4, 2021

Whenever I speak with an engaged couple, we talk about priorities within planning, and encourage them to explore what matters to them most for their wedding. For some people, all they think about is the dress. And that’s great! For some, it’s the flowers. For others — like me — it is the photographer. When you’re planning a wedding, there are so many numbers to consider within your budget. I have been in the industry for almost five years, and I thought I knew this, but I didn’t fully understand until I was planning my own wedding. The hidden costs are no-joke.

So for the brides who want to look amazing, but not necessarily spend half your budget on the dress: don’t worry. 1) I see you. I hear you. And 2) There are tons of amazing options out there for finding the perfect dress without spending a fortune. 

1. ASOS and Lulu’s

ASOS and Lulu’s have become two of the go-tos for brides on a budget. 

ASOS, in particular, has really been gaining some wedding popularity this year, and I think it’s almost solely due to the show-stopping sparkle gown you see above. That dress is seriously one of my favorites I have ever photographed. And it fit Bria like a glove! The best part? That dress only costs $340.

The other best part? ASOS has remarkably fast shipping AND free returns. So, if the dress doesn’t work for you, just send it back! ASOS is really growing in the wedding attire market, and I swear every other post I see on Instagram now features that sparkly gown (and I’m not mad about it). 
ASOS also has great suits and ties for the big day, and none will break your bank!

My bride Maegan snagged an $80 showstopper from Lulu’s, pictured above at left, and it was absolutely perfect for her city elopement in Atlanta.

2. Trunk Shows + Sample Sales

If you still want a designer gown, but can’t justify the designer price, look for Trunk Shows and Sample Sales at your local dress shops. Trunk shows occur typically in the Fall and early Winter, as designers release their new lines. If there’s a specific designer you love, keep an eye out for their trunk show announcements. During trunk shows, the dress shops will have access to the brand new line (and many times they will include older pieces from the designer they’re featuring), and usually come with a sales price. These sales are smaller — with discounts typically falling between 10-15% — but if you want a top of the line designer gown with a sales price, this is your best bet! Amazing bridal shops, such as Kelly’s Closet or The Sentimentalist, feature trunk shows every year. They also will sell used sample gowns off the rack for about half the price.

Sample sales are aptly named. They occur when the designer or the dress shop sells off their in-store samples. These are usually much bigger bargains (sometimes as high as 60%), because the gowns have been used for trying on in-store. The downside here, of course, is the sizing. Samples are usually only made in 1-2 sizes. While most gowns can be altered, you have to get a little lucky to find the exact sample you want in your size range.
Also, it bears mentioning that there are sample-specific dress shops: retailers that exclusively sell samples off-the-rack for a lower price! Some of my favorites are LVD Bridal in Nashville, Tennessee, and The Sample Shoppe here in Atlanta. Both have great selections from designers and high-quality samples.

3. BHLDN

A household name to most brides by now, BHLDN , pronounced “beholden”, is the wedding line through Anthropologie. Comparatively, their prices are extremely reasonable, with most gowns lying in the $800-$2500 range. Plus, if you’re looking for something simpler, OR you catch something from their sale rack, you’re likely to save some real cash while getting a high-quality product. The gown you see above is less than $1000.

4. Vintage Finds

If you’re looking to save some money, have a dress like no one else, AND be sustainable, vintage shopping is the way to go. 

Apart from looking in consignment shops, I recommend pouring over Etsy or high-end vintage retailers like my personal favorite, Shop Gossamer. I bought my dream getting-ready robe from her. Her items are true “unicorn pieces”, and some of the more affordable wedding gowns range from $150-$600.

5. Pre-Owned Gowns

The Internet is a beautiful place. With the growing online consignment market, with sites like Poshmark, it only makes sense that there would be places for women to resell their wedding gowns. One of my 2020 brides needed a last-minute gown for her elopement, and she found the perfect one on Still White, pictured above. You might have to scour, but you can narrow your searches by size, designer, and even price.

No matter what your wedding day looks like, I always tell my couples to set their priorities. Inexpensive bridalwear is important to many: to those who are having a true elopement experience, or even a grand wedding with the cash spent elsewhere. Every celebration of love is valid. I hope this article offers guidance to those looking for a less expensive bridalwear option, and I hope you get in touch if you’re thinking of having a nontraditional wedding experience.

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