Broke-Ass Tag: Affordable Wedding Dress


As someone who has only seen episodes of Say Yes to the Dress in the time it takes for the channel to load and me to flip to the next channel, I was completely unprepared for wedding dress hunting. I was a “good” bride/friend and invited my mom and two besties to Charleston for the process.  I made appointments at 3 different bridal shops (Bridals by Jodi, DeBorah’s Bridal, and David’s Bridal) for the weekend they came to town.  Charleston has no shortage of bridal shops, but I knew I wanted to stick to my budget, despite mom saying it didn’t matter how much the dress was since she was paying. I knew that would be impossible looking for dresses downtown.

Veils put me into First Communion mode. I can’t explain it, it just happens.

I am pretty much the anti-bride. I don’t really do “girly.”

I knew going into this process that it would be a test for me. Remaining calm and collected in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation is difficult for me. Also, a stranger was probably going to see my tatas and I’m not overly modest (military boot camp really helps you overcome body shyness) but still, I like my private parts private when I have the choice.

I also have this issue where I get extremely disappointed very easily.

Meaning, if I get my hopes up about something and it doesn’t happen, I will be crushed. I decided I would go into dress shopping completely objective. I wanted a dress that was functional (I needed to be able to walk and move naturally and spread my legs a little [for dancing, duhh]), but still flattering. Pockets would be a mind-blowing positive. I quickly learned that I was drawn to full-pattern, lace overlays. I knew that an empire waist/A-line dress looked best on me (I went to four proms in high school and it actually came in handy … who would have thought?). I knew that regular waists make me look frumpy and I needed to avoid those.

Over three dress appointments, I probably tried on over 80 dresses.

EIGHTY. I went home empty handed. I had a favorite dress at each place I went to — one of which I quickly eliminated after it was several hundred dollars over budget. I’m nothing if not practical, and one option was eliminated. I may have gone home empty handed, but I had learned some valuable lessons. Your experience at a place will color your opinion. I was so overwhelmed and disappointed at my David’s Bridal appointment that I didn’t like anything I tried on. I kinda liked one dress, but it had a weird waist issue (on me) that I wasn’t sure I could deal with and it was a little over-budget. The dress I liked at Bridals by Jodi was in budget, but I wasn’t sure if I was sold on it. What if I found something better?

With each dress I put on, my entourage was extremely encouraging.

Each dress was beautiful and I looked soooo good in it!! I finally pointed out that these dresses cost at least $800+ and if it didn’t look amazing and make me look gorgeous, it was overpriced and wouldn’t be coming home with me. I needed real critique I felt like a real jerk telling my people that their compliments weren’t really helpful, but I needed productive feedback, I needed to pick ONE dress.


The butt rouching on this dress was fabulous, but I wasn’t sold on an open back.

The night after my final appointment I was scrolling through the photos that had been taken of me in different dresses.

I had seen myself in the mirror with every dress on, but I hadn’t actually seen myself. Every time I stood in front of the mirror, I was critiquing everything:

Are my boobs hanging out? How does my butt look? Does this dress make me look pregnant?

Body image is a real struggle over here in Megansville.

Is this dress comfortable? Can I move around? Will this be too hot/cold for November 1st? Does it have pockets? What will Timo think of me in this dress? What do I think of me in this dress?

I decided to look up the dress I’d liked from David’s Bridal on their site and happened to notice that it was on sale for $500 from $1150. It instantly became my #1. I could deal with the weird waist issue with a sash for that price. The next day, with only one of my besties in tow, I headed back to try on the dress with a sash to make sure I was OK with the waist (Mom and the other bestie had left town the day before).

I said yes to the dress.

Little did I know that I’d have to ring a bell and make a wish, but if I had known my wish would have been, “Let me be able to order this dress.” I learned when I went to check out that the dress was no longer in production and they could sell me the floor model, but that was my only option. The savings weren’t worth that. The dress I had tried on was picked and torn to bits. Despite being told they would “fix” the dress, I knew there was no way they could make the dress perfect again and I said, “Nope,” and we left.


I was at my most photogenic while trying on wedding dresses. This is The Almost Dress.

I took a split second to be frustrated and then we headed back to Bridals by Jodi to try on my other #1. I tried on my #1 and several other dresses the attendant recommended but in the end my #1 is what I ended up going with. It wasn’t the PERFECT dress, but I know that to get a PERFECT dress, I’d have to find someone who can make a dress from scratch and I just don’t have the energy or money for that. I was pleased with how I looked and felt in the dress and it was $850 (under-budget). #win

My key takeaways from the entire process:

  • If possible, do NOT go dress shopping on a holiday or weekend. That is when every other bride is also out shopping.  Stores will be slammed and attendants will be harried. It’s no one’s idea of a good time.
  • You do NOT have to spent a lot of money for a gorgeous dress. Don’t fall prey to the wedding “industry” and the “have to haves”.
  • It’s not like it is on TV. Even if they try to give your entourage signs, it’s definitely not like on TV. Someone will always be pissed off or disgruntled. Wait, maybe it is exactly like on TV.
  • When trying on dresses that are too big, pillows stuffed down the back of the dress to pull it taut are the shiznit. Hardware clips are not as magical as pillows.
  • Most stores do NOT give you free champagne. You can bring your own.
  • Do not have expectations of stores to help you. David’s Bridal only pulls the dresses for you and you have to fend for yourself getting in/out of them. Their dressing rooms are TINY and there are no mirrors in the room so everyone sees you before you are able to see yourself. Some places give you a room with a door to change in, some places you get an area with a curtain as a door. Each place is different. #themoreyouknow
  • What looks good on someone else may not look as good on you, no matter how bad you want it to.
  • When you say the “Kate Middleton” dress, your “Kate” may not be the same as someone else’s “Kate.”
  • The type of dress you think you like isn’t necessarily the type of dress you actually like.

But most importantly, and what no one told me:

Some people don’t have a magical moment of finding THE DRESS.

Sometimes, you find a dress that is just fine and you buy it and you slowly get excited while you wait four months for it to eventually come in and then continue to wait as it get altered and then you worry about where you’re going to hide it until the wedding day so your fiance’ doesn’t find it.

Photo Feb 18, 3 02 26 PM

Pillows make the best stuffing!

Have you gone dress shopping yet?  What are you looking forward to?  What do you dread the most?




  • 3/28

    Affiliate Disclaimer NewI am so happy to report that I have finally made a concrete decision on something … THE DRESS! About a week and a half ago I hauled my mom, my bridesmaid Shay and my two girls to David’s Bridal in the hopes that I could finally get this ball rolling and make a decision on something. Chris has recently taken on a paramedic certification class on top of his full time job and National Guard duties, so a lot of planning is going to fall on me (and my wonderful, Type-A mother), so I’m starting to buckle down and try and get things done.

    I actually really enjoyed this experience, even though I typically am not a huge fan of extended shopping experiences or having all eyes on me for a long period of time. My consultant, Iman, was amazing. She knew what she was doing, and even though I think she had 2-3 other brides and bridesmaids appointments, she was very attentive without being overbearing. When we walked in, she pulled some of the dresses that I had indicated I liked on their website, and then a couple other ones that were within my budget, which was $500. I’ve known the kind of dress I want to wear on my wedding day for a long time: off-white or champagne (I’m very pale and I feel like pure white would wash me out. Plus, I have two kids, so I’m not trying to look virginal), definitely lace, straps, and form-fitting. So Iman pulled some dresses for me that met my criteria and then one big, poofy ball gown to try on just for fun and so my girls could see me in a princess dress, which my 4-year-old really wanted.

    Poofy ball gown

    Me and my “princess dress”

    So the ball gown was definitely not my style.

    However, I did fall in love with a dress that had a faux button up back and lace that went all over my back. It was gorgeous … but very itchy. I hadn’t had it on for two minutes before I wanted it off. Luckily, Iman really was amazing and told me to wait a minute and she’d be right back. She then came back with THE dress. It was everything I wanted, and only $100 over my budget. I had already had a mental discussion with myself on whether or not I was willing to compromise on my budget, so this didn’t worry me too much. Iman had been very good about my budget concerns as well, so I wasn’t worried about hurting her feelings or being made to feel bad if I didn’t pick the dress because of money issues. My mother loved it, Shay cried and Y was in love. The only person I had to convince was L, my 7-year-old, who had fallen in love with the second dress I tried on. I promised her that she could wear it to her wedding, which smoothed over the hurt feelings and she jumped on board. I told Chris I found the dress and told him 500 times that no, he couldn’t see it before I walked down the aisle. I got to ring the bell and make a wish, order my dress, and voila! One piece of my wedding is done. Only 1000 more pieces to go!

    Hair pic

    What kind of bra do you wear with a keyhole back dress?!

    I would definitely recommend David’s Bridal to a bride on a budget. The consultants seemed to be very good at sticking to your budget, and I receive emails constantly about sales and coupons that they offer. I said no to quite a few dresses, and quite a few accessories, and no one made me feel bullied or pressured, which I really appreciated. Definitely Broke-Ass Bride friendly!

    How was your dress-shopping experience? Did you have luck on the first go, or did you have to make multiple trips to find The One?




  • 3/23

    Hi BABs!  This week's request comes from reader Randi, who is in love with a Carol Hannah gown: "I love your Can't Afford It? Get Over It! posts... And your book. If I could climb a mountain (Hard to find in New Jersey...) and sing its praises, I would, but for now I've been recommending it to all my newly engaged broke-ass friends. I recently…

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    We're all about finding fab frocks for less, and we're always super thrilled to get an amazing deal. Whether it's your priority to not spend a ton of dollars on your dress because you think you'll only wear it once and you'd rather allocate the cash to something that lasts longer (hello, photography!) or you're boot-scootin' it to the courthouse -- big party be damned!…

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    Reader Armarni was checking out this previous post, when she fell in love with a Get Over It gown we featured. Unfortunately, the Sabine Dress by Jenny Yoo was sold out and over budget, so Armani asked us for help: "Any suggestions for a similar vintage inspired dress for under $250? Was also thinking of adding a detachable train for the drama!" First off, if…

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    Today's CAI/GOI request is for a fun and casual dress from BHLDN. Reader Kate commented on this post with: "Y'all are incredible. So glad to have stumbled on these posts--have loved looking at some of the Etsy sellers you've mentioned! After a painful divorce a few years ago, I'm blessed to be a second-time-around bride, looking for something a tad more casual than the frothy…

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    Y'all have some major love for Berta gowns! Today's CAI/GOI request is from Amber, who commented on this previous Berta post. She writes: "HELP! I also fell in love with a Berta gown, Berta 15-18 to be exact. My budget is around $3,000. Any recommendations?? Thanks!" The Berta gown in question is an embellished lace sheath number, complete with detachable train, from the 2015 Spring/Summer…

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    Hey BABs! This week, we have a request from reader Katelynn who commented on this post saying: Nice Work! I love BAB!! I've got my own CAI/GOI conundrum: I've fallen in love with the Ashley bridal gown by Nicole Miller ( but it's more than I wanted to spend at $1800. Ideally, I'd love a dress between $500-$800. I love the lace, low back, and halter…

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    Today's request comes from reader Jane, who is looking to help her daughter get over a charming crepe gown from San Francisco designer Amy Kuschel. Jane writes: "My daughter is in love with the Amy Kuschel 'Luna' gown, but it is wayyyyyy out of our budget. Can you do one of your great cheaper-versions of this dress??  Looking to spend about $800. Thank you!!" The…

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