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These days, the cost of a wedding can get out of hand pretty fast. Planning a wedding on a budget could make you feel like you need to give up the idea of buying a dream dress, since wedding gowns are known to cost a pretty penny.

Luckily, the only thing you really need to give up is any preconceived notion you may have about wedding dress shopping. Buying a dream dress on a budget is perfectly possible. It’s not about lowering your dress standards; it’s about shopping smarter. We’ve come up with a list of ways you can buy your dream dress, without having to break the bank or settle for less than you deserve.

01. Consider Bridesmaid and Cocktail Dresses //

By searching online or in store using the word “wedding dress” you are unintentionally restricting your options. Just because a dress isn’t labeled as a wedding gown, doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be the perfect dress to walk down the aisle in. Try searching for bridesmaid dresses in white, cream, nude, ivory or blush. Lots of brands make dresses as fancy as the bride's, but the cost will be much more affordable than dresses labeled as “wedding gowns.” If you’re going for a more casual look, let's say for a beach or any outdoor ceremony, you can even try looking for sundresses or cocktail dresses.

02. Buy Separates // 

One of the most overlooked options is buying separates. You can achieve a wedding gown look by buying a long tulle skirt and a separate top. Not only is it easier to fit, your options are endless. Choose from a range of skirts and different style tops; mix and match them until you find the perfect look. No one will even know its two pieces, unless you choose to style it with a gap for a more modern, trendy look. Depending on your budget, you may even be able to buy a change of skirt or top for the reception and still stay under the price that a single wedding gown would have cost.

03. Buy a Sample Gown //

Sample gowns are the dresses that are used in bridal boutiques for customers to try on—and therefore, are slightly worn. Just like any other area in fashion, wedding dresses come in and out of style, so inventory has to be rotated each season. Boutiques and retailers sell their sample gowns at deep discounts in order to clear the closets out for the latest fashions. You can find your dream dress at a majorly discounted price, with little to no noticeable wear.

04. Have It Custom Made //

If you find yourself drawn to a certain look but can’t find anything in your price range, then having a similar dress custom made may not be as expensive as it sounds. Search your area and look for recommendations on local seamstresses. Go in and talk to them about having a wedding dress custom made. Depending on the style and the fabric, they’ll tell you exactly how much it will cost to sew. The local seamstresses won’t have the price markup that manufacturers and retailers have, so there is a great chance your dream dress will be leaps and bounds cheaper than if it was bought at a store.

05. Search Etsy Shops //

One of the simplest options is searching on Etsy bridal boutiques. There are plenty of shops that sell handmade gowns made by seamstresses all around the world. If you’re not sure where to start, you might want to check out our piece which features four affordable wedding dress shops on Etsy that we love.

06. Custom Tailor a Simple Dress //

Another option is buying a simple dress at a low price and then adding your own flare to it. Consider it a blank canvas: have them add embellishments, alter sleeves, add ribbon, lace, or tulle. The great thing about this option is that the dress becomes uniquely yours. Just make sure you've got enough lead time for the big alterations!

07. Rent a Dress // 

For the majority of people, a wedding gown is only worn once. After their special day it gets packed up in a box or lost in the back of a closet, since it’s quite hard to find another occasion where it would be acceptable to wear. If you're not planning to hand down your dress to a future granddaughter, renting a dress is always a reasonable option. You can score a dress at a way more affordable price, and not feel guilty about packing it away once you become a “Mrs.” Be sure to check out Rent The Runway and Borrowing Magnolia if this is the route you choose.

08. Browse Flea Markets or Vintage Shops //

There are plenty of brides who decided that instead of packing their dress away for a rainy day (that would probably never come), they’d donate it. Browsing flea markets or vintage stores may be the perfect way to find your dress at a great price, especially if you’re one who loves an old-world vintage look. While this could take some extra time and effort, you never know what treasure you may stumble on. 

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine