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Inspiration » Wedding Planning » Your Wedding Dress Guide for Any Budget

Your Wedding Dress Guide for Any Budget

by Allison Hata
Your Wedding Dress Guide for Any Budget


If your wedding will involve you wearing a dress, you may feel particularly anxious about getting it right. Tradition (and the wedding industry) will tell you that it has to be done a certain way on a certain timeline. In reality, there are lots of ways to find the right wedding dress! All the cultural expectations aside, you’ll be wearing your dress during your entire wedding day. It should be something you feel comfortable wearing! It’s important to remember that you don’t have to go with a traditional dress if that’s not what you feel most comfortable with. You should find a dress that you’ll feel great in, whether that’s a traditional dress with all the lace and chiffon your heart desires or a party dress with just the right amount of sparkle. Here’s our wedding dress guide to get you started!

The wedding dress industry

Finding info on wedding dresses is not always easy, whether you’re doing your research online or calling and visiting shops the old-fashioned way. From pricing to sizing to alterations, the quirks of the industry can make it hard to get a handle on things at first. But trust us, you can find a great wedding dress within your budget! It’s often just a matter of looking in the right place. You may be told that you need to order your dress a year or more before your wedding, but that’s probably not true in most cases. If you feel the need to spend a bit more time to find the right dress, ordering around 8 months before the wedding should still give you plenty of time.

If you’re starting your search at a typical bridal salon, the cost and timeline of a getting a wedding dress may seem exorbitant. But you should keep in mind that a wedding dress really does take more time and effort to make than an average dress. They are made to only be worn once, of course. If you are buying from a salon, they are also usually made to order. That means it naturally takes longer and the production cost for the dressmaker is greater.

Regardless of where you start, you should figure out your budget first. When you call a wedding salon, give them your dress budget and see how well they can work within it. Remember that you can find a dress at any price range, so find a salon that won’t try to convince you to spend way more than you want to or check out other buying options.

What to expect for your budget

While the cost of a wedding dress will vary a lot depending on where you are and what you’re looking for, there really are options at every price range. If you just want to a dress to get married in, you will find plenty of options under $500. Even if you’re more particular, it isn’t difficult to find a great dress under $1000. At the traditional wedding salons and boutiques, you will likely find more options in the $1000-$2000 range. And if you have a budget over $2000, your options could include designer dresses or a handmade couture gown.

Where to find a traditional dress

There are a few different ways to get a traditional wedding dress. They vary in terms of convenience, quality, price, and the time it takes to get the dress home. Weigh these factors and do some preliminary research to find the right option for you!

Bridal salon

This may be what comes to mind when you imagine wedding dress shopping. A bridal salon will usually have a wide variety of dresses that are made to order. Attendants will usually help you pick out a dress and assist you with measurements. They may also help you alterations or refer you to a preferred seamstress. All this service comes at a cost, but it can be worth it to have the right dress with the right fit without any hassle.

Wedding dress chain

If your ideal place to shop is a bridal salon or boutique, a wedding dress chain may seem like something you want to avoid. They’re actually worth consideration, though, especially if you want to save time and money. Dresses from chain wedding stores are usually mass-produced, so they will be delivered much faster than at a bridal salon. You may even be able to buy a dress off the rack and carry it home right away. You’ll most likely want to find a good seamstress, though, since the dress won’t be made exactly to fit you.


If time and money are less of an issue when it comes to your wedding dress, you may consider ordering a custom dress from a boutique. A handmade dress can take months to complete, so plan ahead if you want a truly unique dress for your wedding.


Every year there are more and more great places to shop for a wedding dress online. You may be able to order dresses to try on and ship back if they don’t suit you. Just make sure you’re familiar with the site’s return policy before ordering. You’ll also want to have a seamstress you trust to make all the alterations you need, since the dress will be mass-produced.


While you may not be used to having to have your everyday dresses altered, your wedding dress will most likely require alterations. The fabrics and detailing of a typical wedding dress mean that getting the right fit probably won’t happen without the help of a seamstress or tailor. As with everyone else who is essential to your wedding, you should vet a seamstress to make sure she is someone who you feel good working with.

Since for most dress options alterations are just a part of the deal,  factor them into your budget. If you’re getting a wedding dress from a bridal salon, make sure they know your total budget, so they don’t show you dresses that won’t leave you enough to pay for alterations. Also note that when it comes to alterations, how much they will cost depends a great deal on how quickly you need them. Rush fees can greatly increase the cost of alterations!


Wedding dress sizes can be confusing, to say the least. In theory they tend to run a size or two smaller than a normal dress, but this can vary a lot depending on the maker. A salon will often order a dress a size up from you actual size. This will mean that you will have to get more alterations done, but it is easier to alter a dress to make it smaller than the obverse. Having accurate measurements is important, so you may still want to have them done professionally if you’re going with a chain store or buying online.

wedding dress

Other options

If the traditional options for buying a new wedding dress don’t appeal to you, there are plenty of other ways to find something great to wear to your wedding. You may want to go with a non-traditional wedding dress, or you may opt to save on the type of dress you really want by buying a used dress. With a little bit of searching, you can find the right option for you!

A non-traditional dress

If what you want for your wedding dress doesn’t fit with what you find at a bridal salon or wedding chain, there’s no reason to not look at non-wedding retailers. A party dress or any other kind of dress you want can serve for your wedding. Just make sure it’s sturdy enough and has the appropriate lining! This is especially true if you go for a white dress. You may find that white dresses are more expensive in general. This is because they usually already have more lining—to prevent them from being see-through!

Buying a used dress

If you want to find a designer dress but don’t want to pay a designer price, you may consider buying a used dress. The dress will (hopefully) only have been worn once, but be sure to check a used dress thoroughly for stains or rips. You may not be able to find a used dress in mint condition, so be sure that whatever minor damage is there is not noticeable.

Vintage dresses

You may also consider looking at a consignment shop or online for a vintage dress. This can be a great option if you’re going for a classic look. Just be aware the sizes will generally run very small, since women generally married younger in decades past.

You define what’s right for you

You’re the one who will be wearing the dress, so make sure you feel comfortable with it and how it looks. At the end of the day, your wedding dress is about finding something that feels great to you! And whatever dress (or suit!) you choose, Joy is here to help you share the moments of your wedding with your loved ones.

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