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Top Tips for Finding Your Beach Wedding Dress

Updated on June 21, 2011

How to pick and where to find the beach wedding dress that's really, truly perfect for you (at a cost that means you'll live happily ever after).

Every beach bride is different — we all know that. But it's also true that many a beach bride wants a wedding gown that's on the sexy, sporty, or even slinky side. Clean lines and natural fabrics are set off to perfection in these stunning surroundings. Halter tops and Greek goddess gowns are all the rage.

So, for most beach brides, the perfect beach gown is going to be a little sleeker, a little less of an enormous fantasy of a dress with ruffled layers and stiffened petticoats (although ultimately, of course, the choice is up to you).

The upside to the sleek or sporty beach gown is that many times, you'll pay far less than you would for the giant merengue confection, and look every bit as beautiful. In fact, even the bride on the tightest budget has options galore. Below you'll find some of the most popular, time-tested and incredibly useful links for finding the beach wedding gown of your dreams.

Major Designers with Destination Wedding Lines

For the bride with a bit of a budget, shopping the destination lines of designers like Maggie Sottero or Dessy might be a little piece of heaven -- one of the most exciting retail experiences you'll ever enjoy. These beautifully-constructed gowns are sure to bring out the Venus in you, and you'll find them rife with incredible details like sculptural flowers and jewels.

Designer: Alfred Angelo, "Destiny" Collection - Affordably Pretty

Here, you'll find a nice variety of gowns that lean heavily on lace for embellishment. Styles range from short and sassy (tea-length with handkerchief hems, anyone?) to the sultry and/or formal, such as a satiny ruched mermaid gown and a lacy sheath with a pretty train.

These gowns will typically cost you from $250 to $450, depending on how simple or elaborate the design. View the Alfred Angelo Destiny Collection here.

Designer: Maggie Sottero, "Destinations Collection" - Let Loose Your Inner Romantic

At Maggie Sottero, you'll be hard-pressed to not find something you love. Classic interpretations of the beach gown abound, with just the right degree of embellishment — some jewels along the bodice here, a detachable organza rose there. MS even offers several flamenco-style gowns for those brides that need extra drama. Olé! Expect to pay about $550 to $850 for a gown from this collection. View the Maggie Sottero "Destination" Collection here.

Designer: Dessy, Destination Wedding Dresses - Discriminating "Destination"

As always, Dessy leans toward the leading edge of dress design, with styles that trend more toward today's architectural pleats and layers than yesterday's lace. The modernity of Dessy designs is a perfect fit with the stripped-down style of most beach wedding couture. Even with the upscale look, Dessy destination gowns are affordable; expect to pay about $350 to $400. View the Dessy Destination Collection here.

Designer: Demetrios, "Destination Romance" - Beginning the Fairytale

Here's a designer that wears its romantic heart on its sleeve. Girly-girls take note: a gentle allusion to those heart-breaking goddesses who ruled the ancient Greek islands exists in every dress. Demetrios gowns aren't sold online, but you can expect to pay around $1200 to $2000. View Destination Romance Collection by Demetrios here.

Alternatives to the Bridal Labels

Of course, just because you want a fabulous wedding gown doesn't mean you have to get it from your local House of Brides. Some savvy to-be-Mrs.'s have been getting their frocks from slightly left-of-center sources over the years, with Nordstrom and J. Crew standing out as clear crowd favorites.

Alternative: J. Crew Wedding Dresses

For some brides, the appeal of J. Crew is mainly that it's not a bridal store. But mostly, these loyal shoppers appreciate the clean lines, the decidedly unfussy appeal, and the way J. Crew puts its resources into fine, fine fabrics like silk taffeta and dupioni instead of rayon and excess ornamentation.

It'll be fun to watch where this taste for fabric takes them — J. Crew designers were shocked, when they offered an experimental $2000 gown fashioned out of rare and costly silk radzimir, that it sold out almost instantly!

Prices range widely on J. Crew gowns, but depending on the fabric and complexity of the design, you'll typically pay between $400 and $900. Visit J. Crew wedding gowns here.

Alternative: Nordstrom

Nordstrom is the atom bomb of frock finds — for island-bound brides in particular. Shoppers who start their hunt here enjoy the dual joys of posh Nordstrom retail therapy while scoring a killer deal. The Nordstrom gowns offer such great value and variety combined, chances are, the more traditional bridal labels really wish they didn't exist. Fortunately, it's our little secret! View Nordstrom's Wedding Dress Collection here.

Alternative to Alternative: Bridesmaid Gowns!

But wait ... your non-traditional beach wedding options extend beyond J. Crew and Nordstrom. That's because you can often buy a bridesmaid gown that'll be just perfect for your moment of nuptual bliss. All you do is order it up in white or ivory. You can often even get it with a small train!

(Just beware ... some traditional bridal shops may not be too happy if you tell them straight out you're ordering a $165 bridesmaid gown in place of the nice $450 Mary's Bridal. In fact, a few might not even want to let you order such a dress in white. Maybe that's why online stores were invented!)

Alternative: Bari Jay Bridesmaids Collection

Can you believe these gorgeous threads are classed under "Bridesmaids"? Why let those silly girls have all the fun when you can snag one of these beauties to walk down the aisle in for less than $200? Cuh-razy! View all Bari Jay bridesmaid gowns here.

Alternative: Dessy Bridesmaids

Here's another alternative, just to whet your sense of adventure. Expect to pay $200-300 for these gorgeous Dessy bridesmaid designs, most of which can be ordered in ivory or white. View the Dessy Bridesmaids collection here.

What's Your Favorite Beach Wedding Gown Designer or Retailer?

Pick one of the sources listed here -- or suggest another source in the comments below!

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Let us know below.

Beach Brides: What's Your Favorite Footwear?

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We really hope this gave you some inspiration on where to find "the one" -- that perfect beach gown that was conceived with you in mind. We hope this even helped make the process of choosing one a teensy bit more fun!

But heck, as a super-smart reader, maybe you have a secret-weapon source for the ultimate beach wedding gown yourself. Everyone wants to hear it — spill it here!


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