Brides on a budget & bargain-hunters: we are kindred spirits. I've always loved a good deal, and when it comes to the biggest fashion purchase of your life, finding a wedding dress discount can be a make or break for securing your dream dress.
At Bridal Musings, we consider ourselves first and foremost: wedding dress shopping experts. From our former bridal stylist turned Fashion Editor, Christina Castello to my decade-plus experience on the bridal fashion week runway & real weddings, we've written the book on wedding dress shopping tips. We can tell you which trusted online wedding dress shops are legit. We can advise what to do if you don't want a bustle. And yes, we can tell you how to make your dream wedding dress more affordable.
Sticker shock is a common experience when any bride first goes wedding dress shopping. Last week, you were in Nordstrom Rack scoring a major discount on $50 Nike Air Maxes. This week, you're at a swanky bridal salon blissfully sipping on champagne only to see four (or five) numbers listed after that dollar sign. It can be jarring.
But, there's a good reason for it! With most traditional wedding dresses you buy at bridal salons, you're paying for a made-to-measure gown of the highest quality. Your custom gown is designed & crafted by an experienced & talented dressmaker. Couture wedding dresses take significant time & labor not to mention the price of luxurious fabrics these days.
Thankfully, if you're on a budget, there are ways to get granted discounts, find sales, and get bargains – even for made-to-order & custom wedding dresses. Affordable wedding dresses are out there if you know where to look. Thanks to our decades combined in the bridal world & our own bargain wedding dress shopping, we have the best tips to scoring discounts on your wedding dress…
If you're on a tight budget or want to find a better price than in-store, your best chance is to shop online.
We've listed all the best places to buy your wedding dresses online in various budgets. Reformation has stylish & sustainably-made wedding dresses for under $600! Anthropologie's wedding shop, BHLDN, also has many gowns that live in this range with the bulk of there wedding dresses falling around $1,000, a collection of which often goes on sale. ASOS has its own incredibly affordable wedding line with wedding-day looks as low as $25 and high as $600.
Online retailers like Net-a-Porter, Moda Operandi, MATCHESFASHION & ShopBop supply top fashion houses whose RTW (or Ready To Wear) dresses in white are often much less expensive than a made-to-order wedding dress. What do I mean? I'm talking Oscar de la Renta, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander Wang, Zimmermann, etc. Glide into your reception in this sexy silk wedding dress by our beloved Galvan for $1,400. Perhaps out-of-reach for your regular wardrobe, these designers actually can be more affordable than the typical wedding dress you find at a bridal salon. With regular sales happening, these prices can often be slashed. Plus, if you know the exact dress you want, just Google the name and you might find it cheaper on another online retailer's website.
The Outnet takes it one step further. Supplying fashion from last season & seasons prior, you'll find designer gowns at major discounts – up to 70% off. Search by designer or just browse through the many, stunning white designer dresses at shockingly low prices.
Shopping online for your wedding dress isn't limited only to RTW styles. May we introduce you to our favorite wedding dress shopping platform: Etsy.
If you dream of a custom, made-to-order wedding dress but lack the budget of traditional bridal salons, Etsy if you're bridal BFF. Shop through the innumerable incredible bridal designers on Etsy and you'll find every budget, style, color & fabric you can dream of. Moreover, most designers will send swatches of fabric and even a fit gown, to make sure the sizes are correct before finishing your wedding dress. To help you, we cover everything about shopping for affordable, custom wedding dresses on Etsy here.
Why do custom wedding dresses on Etsy tend to be cheaper? Bridal designers in every corner of the world can cut out the middle man, selling directly to brides. This means the final product is more affordable for you. Designers who live in lower-cost regions of the world can afford to price gowns at lower price points. What we mean to say is you're still getting an incredibly high-quality gown, but you don't have to pay into the price of the typical NYC fashion houses' rent. If you're still worried, check out the designers' review section. Our favorite Etsy designers hover in the 4.5-5 star range with hundreds, thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of reviews!
Follow your favorite bridal designers & salons on Instagram.
Following your dream wedding dress designer & local bridal salons can pay off in major discounts. How? Most designers & salons have seasonal sample sales, and they post the special dates on Instagram.
A sample sale is when gowns that have been used for photoshoots or for brides to try on in-store are sold at a significant discount. This makes room for new styles on the floor. Most sample sales range from 50-90% off the retail price. Our editor Claire Eliza bought her Welcome Party dress for 90% off $3,600 thanks to catching a Sample Sale event listed on the designer's Instagram.
Sample sale gowns are most often very gently-worn. You'll likely just need a light cleaning & alterations. We recommend buying sample sale gowns within two sizes of your own size for easy alterations.
Visit a trunk show.
Additionally, another way to score a discount on a particular designer you love is by visiting a trunk show. Designers will send entire collections (or, their classic bestsellers plus their new collection) to a salon for a weekend event selling exclusively their gowns. Traveling trunk shows most often include a discount of 10-15% off. If you love one designer this is a fabulous way to try on every dress and get a little bit off the final price.
Trunk shows are normally listed on designers' websites & on bridal salon's websites as well. We recommend, just like above, following their Instagram accounts for trunk show alerts.
Ask your bridal stylist if they offer dress & accessory bundle discounts.
Many bridal salons will offer discounts if you bundle your entire wedding wardrobe together. So, if you plan on buying a wedding veil or bridal accessories later anyway you'll get a discount on the entire package by buying it all at once, in-store.
If you're a military veteran or frontline worker, tell your bridal stylist.
Are you a military veteran? Or, are you working as a frontline worker during the pandemic? We've seen many bridal salons offer discounts to deserving brides and it never hurts to ask. If you feel uncomfortable asking yourself, have your family member or friend shopping with you tip off your bridal stylist and they'll let you know a discount is in store.
Consider vintage & secondhand gowns.
Shopping vintage & secondhand for your wedding dress is one of the ultimate ways to score a major discount on gowns.
Certainly, you can shop in-person at vintage & thrift stores. There are even secondhand stores dedicated entirely to wedding dresses like Brides For A Cause in the Pacific Northwest & Brides Do Good in the UK.
But online, you'll find scores of preloved wedding dresses & vintage treasures for a tiny fraction of the original price.
For secondhand designer gowns, we recommend shopping through Still White & NearlyNewlywed. Both sites allow brides & bridal salons to set their prices & sell directly to other brides. You'll find gowns that brides purchased and decided not to wear, gently worn gowns and even dresses that were only used in photo shoots & bridal salons. Discounts range from 10% for brand new dresses all the way to 95% off of the retail price for some gowns.
For vintage, we love Etsy! You'll find wedding dresses that span the ages. Hunt for boho gowns from the 1970s, mod knee-length dresses from the 1960s, antique dresses perfect for the cottagecore wedding and poofy taffeta dresses from the 1980s (which is so trendy right now!)
Warning: don't ask another company to make a copy.
With plenty of ‘dos' above, we had to include this major don't for wedding dress shopping discounts. Scam artists & factory stores make falty promises. It may be tempting to give a photo of your favorite dress to a company offering a cheaper copy. However, we implore you to think otherwise. The internet is filled with bride horror stories. You'll hear of bad copies, cheap scratchy fabric, horrible fits, misleading information and gowns simply never showing up.
Think beyond the personal pain you'll experience when your dream dress shows up a disaster days before your wedding. It's just bad karma. Designers put their heart and soul into dreaming up the perfect wedding dress collections. Asking someone else to make a copy is bad form, and we just can't condone it!