Carolyn Kennedy's dress by Narciso Rodriguez

just like many women i’ve always had an idea of what kind of wedding dress i’d want to wear. if at any point in the last decade you had to ask me on the spot i’d probably reference Carolyn Kennedy on her wedding day (her dress was designed by Narciso Rodriguez). looking at that photo again now that scene seems to encapsulate everything i’d imagine a perfect wedding to be. a rustic venue, an elegant dress, simple shoes & an even simpler bouquet, pulled back hair…

this is a long, wedding-ey post. so if you’re interested, read more below…

but back to the dress! i went over some budget wedding ideas the other day, and the dress is certainly a tough one to crack if you’re on a budget. if you don’t want to go the vintage route, what do you do? your options are either having a dress made or buying one off-the-rack. both perfectly great options – until the word BRIDAL is thrown in there. want to see prices go up by 1000 percent? just attach that word to anything.

it’s just not a priority for me to pay R20,000 ($2,000) for a dress. not even my wedding dress. in my short experience that’s only the jumping off point if you approach a bridal designer in south africa for wedding dress quotes. but i don’t want to bum you out here, i want to talk about what the options are!

some girls have been emailing me asking advice on budget wedding dresses, so i set out on an internet quest to find some online options that range between $150 – $1,000 (which i know is still a lot of money, but certainly more realistic than $2,000). most actually hover around the $500 mark, which i think is pretty decent. another caveat: they are all white / cream / neutral.  if you’re going to go for a non-traditional dress that’s a colour other than white then you should have no problem finding something affordable (and more power to you!).

Ruche has a nice range of vintage inspired dresses in their bridal boutique. i particularly love the Noelle and the Margarete – both under $500.

Whitney Deal makes beautiful wedding dresses. her shorter styles are more affordable – i particularly love the Lucille ($510) and the Octavia ($825)

UK based Monsoon also has a bridal boutique & they ship worldwide. the Olga ($438) & the Yvette ($280) are sweet.

ShopBop has a sort of bridal boutique – they also feature non-traditional wedding dresses in there (basically just fancy white frocks). most of them are super pricey, but sometimes they have great sales on though – so keep an eye out. i like these ones by Alice + Olivia ($596) and Joanna August ($895).

moving along to more high-end stores, Saks also has some nice affordable options (just do a search for “white dress”). another lovely Alice + Olivia creation ($484) and a beautiful beaded gown by Laundry ($345)

similarly, you can also search for white dresses at Neiman Marcus. i’m not usually into strapless gowns (and i’ve noticed that at as a wedding dress they can sometimes be quite awkward to wear) – but i like this number by Sue Wong ($570) and this dress by Aidin Mattox ($465).

…they also carry a gold-flecked (!) version of the Alice and Olivia dress i featured above.

Net-A-Porter is another high-end retailer that has some designer gowns that could totally pass as wedding dresses. this See by Chloe dress ($595) would be perfect for a laid back / beach wedding, and Alice by Temperley gown ($795) is just so prettttyyyyy.

and let’s not forget about Anthropologie – they have some nice white dresses, and often have exclusive ranges with geust designers that are pretty cool too. i like the Natalie dress by Alexandra Grecco ($278), the Sapelo Maxi Dress by Lila ($88) and the Caraiva Maxi dress by Edme & Esylette ($118)

J.Crew is well known for their rad wedding boutique. some of the dresses are quite pricey, but they do have more affordable options like the Corrina ($495), Angelique ($675) and Ursula ($595).

if you’d like something a bit more alternative, Bona Drag has some great options in their ceremonial collection. these two by With hearts in my eyes are both under $500.

Grace Loves Lace is an Aussie boutique that has dress ranging from the $700 mark

Daughters of Simone have similarly vintage inspired lace numbers starting at $300.

BHLDN has some pretty nutty dresses, if you ask me. most of them are too froofy for my taste and the ones that i actually like are too expensive. but they have a few on sale right now, including the Afternoon Social Dress ($300) and the Bouvier Column Gown (just making the list at $1000)

Jenny Yoo has a lovely dress called the Vivienne ($600) and Modcloth has a little dress called the Snowflake ($187)

sometimes it’s worth scouring places like She Inside and Fashion the Box for deals (not sure about the quality though…) i can imagine these in a sweet courthouse / garden ceremony. left: Chiffon Lace two piece dress ($28) right: Rhinestone lace dress ($33)

another good place to look is The Outnet – but there’s only a slight chance they’ll actually have your size. left to right: Malene Birger ($580), Notte by Marchesa ($365) and Chloe ($1083)

and last, but not least, this lovely Betula Lace Sleeved dress by Twigs & Honey comes in at $990.



  1. Great post! It would have been handy a month ago:) I just bought my wedding dress after a long search. At least here in Finland you can order many of the evening gowns also in white or ivory. They are often less pricey and more simple in style (which I was looking for).

  2. Von Maur department stores have really pretty dresses; some are under $200. I can’t find anything about them online, but I swear they’re in stores!

  3. Thank you so much for this!! I am getting married in October and have been searching for some affordable wedding dresses. This is such a big help :)

  4. I’ll be wearing a $300 Lauren Moffatt dress from the Spring 2012 collection. Luckily, I’ve never really dreamt of my wedding dress- or the wedding for that matter- so I’ve been able to approach this whole ordeal with quite a clear mind!

  5. Great dresses! I have to say, I didn’t enjoy the dress search as finding a non-traditional wedding dress was virtually impossible in New Zealand (where brides where Gowns and no one ships here). But after vigilant searching of all those resources you featured and then some, and regularly checking my favourite designers, I found a beauty (the last in my size) online and took the gamble of shipping it here from Australia (no returns!) It was the best decision I made. I hope you have more fun with it than I did, good luck to you!
    P.S. J Crew tried to charge me half the price of a dress again when I tried to buy one online for shipping overseas, no bueno guys!

  6. Amazing post! And what a coincidence – I made a post about all the different wedding dresses out there that cater to every taste and budget only 3 days ago! I guess the wedding season is now on :) and we picked same dresses (some) or at least different dresses from the same shop! check out mine too, maybe you’ll see something you like

    As to my own wedding dress, I’ve found one in a local boutique, it’s really similar to Carolyn Kennedy’s but with spaghetti straps and it’s A-line. It’s really simple and elegant, actually I was hesitating buying it but after I see how gorgeous Carolyn looks (totally forgot about her look!) I’ve made my decision! :)

  7. I bought my dress custom made from I figured lots of wedding dresses are made in China, so why not buy it directly from a company who makes and ships them? This one is the one I had made:–WSM0382-_p61472.html, it cost £130 at the time. I had a seamstress take it in (I’d lost weight due to wedding prep stress!) and also alter the neckline into a sweetheart shape. I don’t regret this option because it was a gorgeous dress, in no way different from a shop-bought dress but for a fraction of the price.

    Coast also do lovely dresses…

    Good luck for your wedding dress search and the rest of the preparations!

  8. I got my wedding dress at the above mentioned Monsoon. Most of their bridal range, I find, is a bit boring but they usually have one or two lovely dresses in each collection. It’s worth keeping an eye on their sales as well, I got mine for 54 GBP. A steal AND I didn’t give a toss when it ended up covered in Guinness and red wine (we had the evening part of our reception in a pub).

  9. This is such a thorough round-up, for something not that easy to find!

    I purchased my dress at an independent bridal store near Los Angeles named Lili Bridals. . I lucked out and found a sample dress in the (locally famous) “back room”. I was amazed to find it was my size, and 40% off. With tax it came in under $1000. Although it will cost more with basic alterations (length, and tightening the bodice).

    I totally wanted to buy one of the J.Crew dresses, but they didn’t fit me in the bust. They really do fit for B-cups, and I am a D-cup with a small chest measurement. Just keep in mind if you are busty up top – the sizes carried by J.Crew, ShopBop, etc, will likely not fit. Also I really wanted a strapless style, and the boning in the J.Crew dresses was not very supportive. I think if you don’t want a strapless style that definitely opens up the budget options. And I heartily agree with not spending a fortune on your wedding dress!

    My friend in London got her dress at Phase Eight and it was stunning.

  10. So I’m not exactly planning on getting married any time soon, but I do know that I’ll be going the under $1000 route so this blog post is perfect. I also suggest Sarah Seven (an independent designer based out of Portland) as far as handmade gowns go, although some of them are above $1000.
    Thanks for compiling this!

  11. i bought mine very recently off of ebay. it is a slip, which means i now have find another slip to go underneath it, but it is very boho and easy. it is from free people, and was around $130 new. i would suggest looking at the free people site for some more bohemian choices. they have a lot of white dresses right now.

  12. Bananamuffins Reply

    Thank you SO much! I (of course) want a beautiful dress to get married in but want something simple and there is no way I am going to spend what i could put towards honeymoon/mortgage/a load of other great clothes. But there are some really gorgeous and reasonably priced options here. I’m in New Zealand though so I will cross fingers that at least some of these places will ship here!

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