Some brides lose sight of a time-honored fact: Every bride is beautiful. Although it might be easy to get swept up in designer labels and this season’s runway bridal looks, a woman in love is already stunning, never mind her gown’s maker or its cost.
Being open-minded makes the wedding dress an easy place to curtail costs and keep them within the lines of reason. Beyond sample sales and trunk shows, eBay and Craigslist, David’s Bridal and JJs House, here are some shoppable retailers and styles for spring and summer brides.
Custom and handmade: Etsy
For those who don’t follow a standard size chart and/or who want a custom creation, hop into the world’s largest handmade marketplace. More than 16,000 listings fill the Bridal Gowns & Separates section, so have some specific keywords handy. Prices run the gamut, but are reasonable considering the custom tailoring. Be sure to read client feedback and contact the designer with your lead time and questions.
PHOTO COURTESY OF LILLY PULITZER
Lilly Pulitzer throws something blue in the mix among her wedding-appropriate white party dresses under $300.
Preppy and girly: Lilly Pulitzer
The allure of Lilly isn’t limited to Southern belles and sorority girls. Each season, the line’s enduring shifts and above-the-knee party dresses are fit for brides who don’t want to be a ball-gown princess or constricted mermaid. Check the site page for “The Lilly White Dress” as a starting point. Most designs are sweet and structured. All ring in under $300.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TRINA TURK
This spring’s mod mini dresses by Trina Turk are modern and unexpected for a confident bride, nicely priced under $500.
Mod and chic: Trina Turk
Springtime usually brings a smattering of white dresses from this designer who is often inspired by Palm Springs, her second home. Dresses tend to be bold and free-spirited, with 1960s flair. Turk’s price point is generally under $500.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BHLDN
Vintage-inspired looks, often in lace, can be had for under $1,000 at BHLDN.
Vintage-inspired and boho: BHLDN
Lovers of lace, tulle, silk chiffon, and vintage silhouettes have found their fashion match. Some dresses take a soft, romantic departure from white in shades like dusty pink, blush ombré, ivory, and gold. Many styles are under $1,000; almost all are under $2,000. Shop the site for jewelry, shoes, veils, and lingerie, too, along with styles for mom and your BFF bridesmaids. Keep it consistent by browsing the assortment of shabby chic and rustic wedding décor.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MODCLOTH
Cost-conscious brides might take a peek at Modcloth, where dresses with a retro sensibility start at $150.
Sassy on a dime: Modcloth
Indie brides can hardly argue with prices on these retro aisle styles that start at $150. Sizes extend from 2 to 26. Customer reviews and photos from recent brides help navigate what to expect from these little numbers in real life. (If you’re not set on a strictly bridal design, leave the wedding category and type “white dress” in the search box to open up your options. Pin-up dress in polka-dots, perhaps?)
PHOTO COURTESY OF BCBG
Many of the sleek and sexy gowns from BCBG are under $500.
Youthful and well-priced: BCBG
A budget of $500 will cover almost any style in the site’s Bridal Boutique. Some appeal to a younger, sexier bride while other styles could suit a range of tastes and ages, given the right accessories and imagination. Browse modern glam clutches and unconventional bridesmaid options, too.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PREOWNED WEDDING DRESSES
Strapless gowns by Monique Lhuillier, Vera Wang, and Maggie Sottero are a bargain on Preowned Wedding Dresses for under $1,000.
Pre-loved but designer: Online used wedding gown shops
The top online resources for almost-new gowns should launch any search on a stylish start. The ability to hunt by designer, silhouette, and length as well as sleeve, neck, and back style keep searches as flexible or as specific as you wish. Some even offer dress alerts in case your dream style is listed. You still might end up splurging on a gown by a renowned designer. But you can always resell it to another lucky bride to keep recoup your costs later.
www.preownedweddingdresses.com, www.oncewed.com, www.tradesy.com
PHOTO COURTESY OF J. CREW
Gowns from J Crew start at $250 and appeal to classic brides with simple taste.
Classic and unfussy: J. Crew
The bride, groom, and every member of the bridal party (even flower girls and ring bearers) can shop this online hub for well-priced wedding fashions. Although some gowns seem overly simple (think: Gwyneth Paltrow holding daisies and wearing lip gloss in a basic slip), you’ll find enough variety to warrant a peek. Select gowns are offered in petite sizes and sizes 16 to 20. Prices in the most recent collection range from $250 to $1,350.
Lisa Marie Hart has been writing about weddings since serving as an editor at Bridal Guide magazine in New York City in 1999. Since 2006, she has been editor of the annual Palm Springs Life Weddings & Honeymoon Planner. Away from the laptop, she creates tiered cupcake stands for weddings and celebrations at www.highteaforalice.com