Saying yes to the dress is one of the most exciting parts of getting married. But what if you don’t want to spend the average $1,800 it typically costs for a wedding gown? Hey, we don’t blame you.
Considering the countless other expenses you’ll have for your big day, such as the caterer, music, flowers and idyllic location, it’s OK not to drop thousands on a dress you’ll likely wear once. And with so many alternative choices available, it’s easy to forgo the traditional and wear what feels more like you at a price that you’re comfortable with.
“It’s not difficult anymore to find a beautiful wedding dress for less,” says Kennedy Bingham, Los Angeles-based bridal stylist and founder of Gown Eyed Girl. “Give yourself enough time to shop for your bridal look and explore the many hidden gems found in unconventional places, like online retailers, sample sales and even department store sale racks.”
With this in mind, here are Millie’s top 10 online stores for finding your wedding look for a fraction of the usual cost. You might even free up enough cash in your budget to pay for that professional calligrapher or get those fabulous shoes … you do you, bride-to-be!
A favorite of brides who want a statement piece for their special day, this online retailer also has physical stores in several major cities where you can try on the styles you love from their website. Not to mention the incredibly considerate “Last-Minute Brides” department for those of us who are a little … disorganized. Be sure to check their sale section, where they often mark down designers like ML Monique Lhuillier, Needle & Thread and Watters.
This OG bridal retailer has stepped up its game recently and now offers both classic silhouettes and trendy styles that rival some bigger names. In addition to the designer brands they carry like Melissa Sweet and Oleg Cassini—which are often marked down—their in-house DB Studio label has a large selection of online-exclusive dresses for under $500.
Known for its collection of red carpet-worthy bridesmaids’ dresses that are also très bridal, White Runway offers wedding gowns that suit any style of nuptials. Start with the under $150 sale section.
This Australian brand’s bridal collection offers silky dresses and pant suits that you could also wear for dinners while on your honeymoon and thereafter—from one-shoulder midis and bias-cut slip dresses to ruffled wrap styles, maxi cocktail dresses and tuxedo trousers—without the luxurious price tag.
Loved by many fashion stylists, this ready-to-wear label also has a bridal collection for the fashion-forward bride, with contemporary styles, inclusive size ranges and a sustainable mindset. They often make their gowns from dead stock or vintage pieces, so your dress can still have a story without completely bankrupting you.
For the modern bride who wants something fun and trendy, this well-known curation site has their own bridal label offering an impressive selection of contemporary wedding day styles—many also in maternity and plus sizes.
Specializing in dresses for civil ceremonies, elopements and all your pre- and post-wedding day events—from the bachelorette party to the honeymoon—this site offers a well-edited selection of emerging bridal designers and chic styles.
A discount website for luxury designer labels, The Outnet also offers deep discounts on bridal brands like Badgley Mischka, Marchesa Notte and Rebecca Vallance. Browse their ready-to-wear dress selection for other bridal-appropriate styles that might also work for your big day. It doesn’t always have to be white, right?
A treasure trove of wedding dresses and accessories, this site has everything you need for your bridal look, including jewelry, veils, clutches, shoes and sashes at crazy low prices. They also offer a try-on-at-home program featuring a large collection of dresses to try before you buy for just $15 per trial dress.
For the bride on a budget who wants something classic yet fresh, this brand offers bridal looks for every wedding style—all for under $100.
Other Ways to Keep Costs Down
You can check when the bridal shops that carry the brands and styles you’re interested in will be hosting a sample sale or disposing of sample pieces at a discount. “Most sample sales happen in the summer and the end of fall, when bridal boutiques make room for spring inventory,” saysAdrienna McDermott, a wedding industry consultant and owner of Ava and the Bee, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So, if you have the time, circle back at these times of year to snag a deal.
Bridesmaid and Evening Gowns
Don’t overlook bridesmaid dresses and evening gowns in white and cream shades or even in your favorite hues. “If you’re open to a nontraditional wedding day look, formal, cocktail or even prom dresses could be an option for finding your dream dress without breaking the bank,” says Heather Docherty, wedding planner and co-owner of HD Events by Carbon Creek, based in Pittsburg, Kansas.
Vintage and Consignment
If you can’t get a designer gown out of your head, all is not lost.Consignment websites like The Real Real and Dora Maar, as well as curated vintage shops like Gossamer, are the places to score designer and hard-to-find, unique pieces at discounted prices. Wedding-specific secondhand resellers often carry new dresses that have never been worn. Start your search with the online Pinterest-like bridal reseller StillWhite, which specializes in secondhand gowns from coveted designers and brands and connects you directly with the seller.
Your upcoming wedding is a good time to ask that fashionable friend or family member if you could borrow one of her special pieces. See if she has a bridal-appropriate dress you can wear or a piece of jewelry or shoes that would complete your look. “This is a really sweet way to involve the people closest to you while also keeping costs down,” says Bingham.
The Right Accessories
Accessories can completely transform a simple, inexpensive dress into a stunningly polished gown without a big price tag. “Your accessories are a great way to save on your bridal look,” says New York City-based celebrity stylist Micaela Erlanger. “You can easily shop for a veil or detachable skirt on Etsy, or your shoes and clutch on Amazon.” And, if you go with Etsy, you can still get that handmade, unique touch.
Look for Fit
Find a dress that already fits well to cut down on the costs of alterations. If you’re shopping online, have your measurements taken beforehand so that you can compare them to the size charts on the website. Just about every online bridal retail site will walk you through taking your measurements to help you get the best fit when you order. Do your due diligence to save.
Then, order your dress as close to your true size as possible. “Keep in mind that most dresses can only be altered two sizes down and one size up, depending on the fabric and construction of the dress,” says Lauren Wheeler, event planner and owner of Aster + Birch, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. And be sure you understand the site’s return policy and level of customer service before you make a purchase.
Millie content is licensed from Dotdash Meredith, publisher of Millie, Real Simple, InStyle, Investopedia, The Balance and more.
Ivette Manners is a New York–based weddings and lifestyle writer.