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Weddings on a Budget: Where to Find a Cheap Wedding Gown

Updated on June 6, 2012
My wedding dress, for $299
My wedding dress, for $299

I had a very, very small budget for my wedding. My soon-to be husband and I agreed that while I should find a dress I love, we really didn’t have more than $300 to spend on it. This is a very small budget, and I was a little stressed over this. Skeptical of the possibility of finding a dress in my budget, I began to do some research and I realized that it was totally possible.

On one sunny Saturday afternoon my friend and soon to be sister-in-law set out on the search for the perfect three-hundred dollar dress. One of my favorite places for formal wear is the Jessica McClintock Outlet store. I was excited on my way because I knew what they carried and I was fairly sure I would find a dress there. I went there when my sister was looking for a dress, and she found hers for only sixty dollars! It was gorgeous, just last season’s style. The best part was there was no ordering, and waiting. We found it, tried it on, she loved it and we paid and walked out of the store, dress in hand.

The one thing you will want to keep in mind when buying outlet is that you will need to find an outside source to do the alterations. This is not usually hard, most individual bridal shops will do them or they know of somebody who will.

I had lots of hope for finding my dress, but despite my research I was disappointed to find that the Jessica McClintock store had closed. I became a little frustrated that what I thought was my best hope was gone. From the empty parking lot my friend and I drove to the local fashion district. These are not as common throughout the country, I was lucky enough to be near Los Angeles for my wedding dress search. There were dozens of little shops with dresses galore. I didn’t find anything I liked, but there were plenty within my budget.

Next, we tried David’s Bridal. They were having a huge clearance sale. If you have the time, wait for one of these sales and check them out then. There were thousand dollar dresses marked down to $400 and less. I tried on about ten dresses before I reluctantly walked out. I have since learned something I wish I had known then. Amazon carries David Bridal dresses. Who knew? There had been one dress I tried on that was $800, way out of my range but I loved it. I later found it on Amazon for $320, close enough that I could have scraped a twenty from somewhere.

From David’s Bridal we were exhausted and hungry. We stopped on the way home at an outlet mall to grab a bite to eat. Walking around afterward we ran into nothing else but a store that happened to sell wedding dresses. We had never noticed before, but there they were. We darted inside but I did not have much hope.

I went straight to the clearance rack in the back, knowing that was my best chance to find something in my price. I tried on three dresses with no luck. Then, I noticed a dress partially on the floor underneath the others. I picked it up and immediately loved it, at least what I could see through the plastic garment bag. I held my breath and looked at the tag…it was $299. Under three hundred dollars! I raced toward the dressing room, grabbing my slightly surprised friend’s arm on the way. I flew out of my clothes and hopped from foot to foot while my ever patient friend readied the dress. I knew as I was putting it on that it was the one. It didn’t even need alterations, save for a button in the back so I could pin up the train during the reception. Victory!!

So, let’s recap. Look for the outlet stores of your favorite bridal designers. Alfred Angelo, David’s Bridal, and Jessica McClintock all have outlet stores. You will have to find somebody to do your alterations, but the cost saved is worth it.

Next, if you have local bridal shops check them out as well. They may have clearance racks that will fit your budget.

Try Amazon. It is scary to buy your dress online, but if you have the time order VERY early in case it needs to be sent back. Also be sure to check their return policy in case you absolutely hate it. You may want to consider having a backup dress you can order if yours isn’t just right. Many of the dresses on Amazon are name brand and have reviews, so you can see what people who have actually worn the dress say about it. My sister in-law ordered her dress online, and it was beautiful. It did come a bit longer than she expected, but a hem is an easy alteration. Just beware of seedy looking websites and stick to ones you can find reviews about.

Find outlet malls. Very often there will be a store that sells dresses and if it’s at an outlet it is much more likely to be within your budget. The store I found my dress at I had walked past hundreds of times and had never even noticed there were wedding dresses.

You can do this. Spend some time researching what style, color, (White? Ivory?) and shape you want your dress to be in, and then go get it! Don’t be afraid to try on a bunch of full priced dresses to get an idea and then search the internet for a look-alike. Once you have your dress picked out, you will feel much more relaxed about your wedding.


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