This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
When you are planning a wedding, one thing that cannot be overlooked is the wedding dress. This is usually near the top of the list of priorities for most brides. You will have hundreds of pictures taken of you in this dress so you want it to be perfect, but also affordable. Thankfully there are ways to get the dress of your dreams and stay in budget.
Now, as soon as you have your dress, your mind will shift to another important clothing item: bridesmaid dresses. No matter how much they love you, they are going to cringe (or cry) when they spend $300 on a dress they’ll wear once. The goal is to get dresses that will make you and the people who have to buy them happy.
So where do we find all of these beautiful and affordable dresses? Here are my favorite options.
Affordable Wedding Dresses
State Your Budget
Before you ever look at a dress, set your budget. What is considered a reasonable amount for a dress with vary for everyone, so look at your wedding budget as a whole and then decide how much you can spend on your dress. You will also need to subtract the money needed for alterations if that is not a separate category in your wedding budget.
Word of caution: As soon as you put on a dress that you absolutely love that is way over budget, you will either swipe that card or cry. Neither is a good solution, so avoid the problem beforehand by setting a limit. Tell your bridal attendant your budget and make sure she knows you are sticking to it.
David’s Bridal gets a bad rap. No, it isn’t a fancy boutique, but you’re going to be able to try on 50 dresses (or more) that are all less than $500. In most of those wedding boutiques, you’ll get to try on one dress that is less than $500. It’ll be on the clearance rack and 10 sizes too big. Before you shun David’s Bridal as the Walmart of wedding dresses, go in with an open mind and see what you find. They even carry some designer brands.
Inside secret: all dresses at David’s Bridal will go on sale. Seriously. If you go in and find a dress you love but it’s full price, wait a week and it’ll be $50-$200 off. They’ll try to tell you to buy it that day, but just wait. It’ll still be there when the sale starts. They also sell samples for 50% off.
Buy Last Season’s Dress
No one at your wedding will know that your dress was from last season unless you tell them. I promise. It will be significantly discounted though. This will most likely require buying a dress off the rack that may need minor cleaning and some alterations.
If you end up buying a dress too large, call around for price estimates before selecting your seamstress. If you can find a good deal on alterations, you’ve just saved that much more.
Off The Rack & Sample Sales
Those fancy boutiques will run fun sample sales where they sell significantly discounted dresses. It’s like the Black Friday for wedding dresses. These sales can get a little crazy though, so go in prepared with friends. You’ll have to buy the dress that day and definitely need alterations. You also will want to bring dress appropriate undergarments with you.
Never Underestimate The Power Of A Good Seamstress
A seamstress can do amazing things with a dress. Do not let a dress being one or two sizes too big deter you from a great deal.
Also, if you’ve found a dress you love but you want the skirt to be more or less full, you don’t have to buy a whole new dress. Alterations can either add or take away to the crinoline under the dress very inexpensively.
Craigslist, Ebay, and Thrift Stores all sell wedding dresses. Many of them have never even been worn. A bride will buy a dress and decide she doesn’t like it, but she can’t return it (most wedding boutiques do not accept returns). She spent $1,000 on it, but you get to buy it for $300-$500. You just got your brand new wedding dress half off.
If you want to go this route, be sure to go to a bridal boutique and try on a variety of dresses and know exactly what you are looking for before searching online. Take pictures. You can even write down the name and information of specific dresses you love and then go home and search for those used. Be sure to check if any alterations that have been made to the dress. You’ll also want to look for stains, missing buttons, and check zippers.
Some small bridal boutiques have affordable dresses. This works even better if you are open to samples and shopping discounted dresses. Call around and see what the price range of the dresses at the stores are. You can tell them the style you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend. If they don’t have much in your price range, you can skip making an appointment at that store.
Don’t Buy It Unless You Love It
One of the best ways to save on your dress is to only buy one. Unless you absolutely love the dress, do not buy it. If you for any reason doubt your decision, don’t buy it. The most expensive dresses will be the ones you don’t even wear because a week after buying it you decide you hate it. Remember that girl who sold her brand new dress on Craigslist for $300? Don’t be that girl.
Ready to shop? Here are some stores to help you get started:
Affordable Bridesmaid Dresses
Most brides have 3-6 bridesmaids. Whether they are friends or sisters, they have different body types. You have to be considerate of this when picking the dress style. You will also want to consider that it is expensive to be a bridesmaid. They love you and want to support you, but they also like to eat. Ask them how much they are comfortable paying for a dress and try to stay below that.
Select Colors Wisely
You may have found the cutest blue ever on Pinterest. In reality, that shade of blue may become the biggest pain to find in the real world. You’ll save time and money by selecting more common colors. That blue may make a great accent on a few things, but life will be easier for everyone if you aren’t hunting down Sapphire Blue. Just go with Navy.
Let Them Pick
Sometimes the best decision is to decide to not decide. Give your bridesmaids directions on the style and color and them let them find a dress they like within the parameters you set. You can even have them send you pictures of the dress before they purchase it so you can okay their choice. This way they get a dress they can at least tolerate but it still suits your tastes.
If they are only going to wear it once, why own it forever? There are some great sites where bridesmaids can rent dresses. You will want to check and make sure you are able to get all sizes needed before selecting this option. Little Borrowed Dress is a great option for rentals.
Skip The Label
Any dress labeled as a bridesmaid dress is instantly going to cost more. Look around for dresses that are appropriate but not labeled as bridesmaid dresses.
Check The Return Policy
Not sure if a dress is going to work? Have one bridesmaid order the dress and try it on. You can tell a lot more about it in person. If it doesn’t work out, it is a nice gesture to pay for the return shipping.
Use Coupon Codes
If you wait for a dress to go on clearance, all of the sizes you need may not be available. If you find a dress you love look for a coupon code for that store. Can’t find a code? Try signing up for their newsletter. They usually include coupons for new subscribers.
Words of Caution
When ordering dresses, be sure to go by measurements instead of the size they typically wear. Pay attention to the length too. It’s a good idea to stay away from any dress that has the word mini anywhere on the page.
Ready to shop? Here are some stores to help you get started:
See more ways to save on weddings.