If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve set myself up for a personal finance fail: planning my wedding in New York City. Warning: Since I’m knee-deep in navigating the wedding industry and how it affects money, I can’t help it—I’m going to be oversharing my thoughts in the next few months. If this will annoy you, then you might want to block me right now, because it’s about to be all weddings, all the time.
The #1 thing my friends ask me about is the dress.
In 2016 brides spent an average of $1,564 on their wedding dress. I like designer clothes, so I’m planning on spending thousands on a wedding dress, right?
Nah. My dress budget? $300.
I don’t care about average spend statistics because I don’t want to be average. If you don’t have a bottomless budget, $1,500 is a lot of money to many folks, myself included. And while the process of buying a wedding dress seems steeped in emotion, my practical side is winning out here: thousands of dollars on a one-time use dress is a purchase I personally don’t feel good about. That’s why I’ve refused to go to wedding salons and have only been searching online; I don’t want to fall in love with an expensive dress, because I KNOW that’s exactly the way I’d end up blowing the budget. Meanwhile, I have absolutely no qualms about spending thousands of dollars on flowers that will DIE after a day.
Weddings: they’re all about priorities.
For those of us with smaller budgets or who want to spend their dollars elsewhere, here are my top five picks for modern wedding dresses under $500.
*Affiliate links below
Pleats and Ruffles for the Fashion-Forward Bride
Pleated Long Dress, H&M, $249
Recently released as part of H&M’s Conscious Collection, this is the dress for you if you want to look like a stylish seashell, because come on, who doesn’t? With its interesting ruffle details and pleated maxi skirt, I see this fitting in nicely at a more glam affair. Also, Rooney Mara wore a version of this to an Oscars after party. In my book, Rooney Mara can do no wrong in the fashion department. If this is good enough for her, it’s good enough for me. This one’s selling fast, so if you like it, you might want to bust out that credit card now.
Layers of Tulle for the Traditional Bride
Tulle Dress, H&M, $349
Maybe you think non-wedding dresses just aren’t fancy enough. Well, that’s totally fair. You want to make a statement with your dress—”I’m a bride and I’ve arrived”. So let’s kick it up a notch with this dress from H&M’s Conscious Collection. With the classic ballgown silhouette, layers of tulle and elegant neckline, this rivals dresses that cost five times more. Whether you’re getting married at a church or a hotel ballroom, this dress is a safe bet whatever the venue.
Illusion Necklines and Scallop Details for the Ethereal Bride
Aveline Dress, Alexandra Grecco, $495
I’m a sucker for illusion necklines. Light and airy, this one has a garden party vibe—perfect for getting married in a backyard or park. Add a vintage-y hair piece to elevate the look.
Cap Sleeves and Lace for the Rustic Bride
Amber Gown by Nha Khanh, Rent the Runway, $165
For lace lovers who want to be a little more covered up, this Nha Khanh rental dress would fit right in at barn or forest weddings.
Sidenote: Budget-savvy brides know that Rent the Runway is where it’s at. My friend got all of her pre-wedding party dresses here, as well as the bridesmaid dresses. Bonus: After the wedding is over, all you have to do is just put the dresses in their garment bags and drop them in the mail. And if you’re a minimalist, this eliminates an extra bulky dress taking up precious space in your closet.
Chic and Simple for the City Hall Bride
Darling Fete Dress, Nikki Chasin, $200
So fresh, so clean. I love this tea-length dress with a hint of structure—just right for the minimal bride. I first saw it in a gallery on NYMag and had to look it up. Because the dress is so simple, you then get to go all out with the accessories: sparkly jewels, messy updos and killer shoes. Because how sad is it if you’re wearing next-level shoes and no one can see them under your dress?
These dresses aren’t your style? For designer details on a budget, try searching for white dresses at The Outnet or Barneys Warehouse.
Here’s my #1 tip no matter where you get your dress: don’t pick a dress that’s super white, because that’s the fast track to Cheapsville. And nobody wants to look cheap on their Wedding Day. And while it may be a questionable source, check out this article for more solid tips on how to look expensive, no matter the budget.
Were you a bride on a budget or did you go all out? Any regrets?
Image: The Luxe Strategist