Deanna And The Tale Of The Stunning Wedding Dress

So, I have to give a huge congratulations and a virtual hug to Deanna, who was one of my very first readers ever, and had her amazing $6,000 brunch wedding featured on Snippet and Ink this weekend. (I haven’t squealed my excitement about brunch weddings lately, so here goes: Pretty! Great light! More affordable! Whee!)
One of the most stunning things about Deanna and Jesse’s wedding, in my opinion, was Deanna’s simple chic dress. It floored me. And then I found out it cost her a grand total of $300. $200 for the dress and $100 for the alterations. And I started thinking… what if we all saw more lovely and affordable wedding dresses? Would that change our thinking?

When I created my wedding budget, I put down something that felt super luxurious* in the wedding dress line (Wedding dresses are expensive! I thought to myself). Ha! Little did I know. Out there in the brutal world of wedding dresses, my line item shunted me off to the “budget” dress section, to my great confusion. Apparently I was wrong. Most wedding dresses are not expensive, the are exorbitantly expensive.

So what if we all started re-adjusting our thinking? What if we saw more simple pretty wedding dresses that were affordable? Would Vera Wang stop being the gold standard, and instead savvy brides like Deanna would be the gold standard? So! I’m officially collecting. I want to see pictures of brides who wore used dresses, found a great deal on sample dresses, had their mom make them a simple dress, or just got their dress on a great sale. I’m particularly intrigued by brides who borrowing dresses. All of us have friends with wedding dresses sitting in the closet, begging to be worn. Who is daring enough to wear them? Let’s share stories, lets share tips. Let’s figure out a new gold standard.

*Full disclosure: I’m still spending that luxurious amount on my dress. I just found a way to make it feel luxurious again, instead of making me feel sad and poor. Effing wedding industry.

Featured Sponsored Content

  • I can’t wait to see what you post!

  • Anne O.

    Oh I wish I could give you a photo already. I’m getting married in August and will be wearing a red Maggie Sottero gown. Original retail when this particular style was sold a while back was about $1,000. But since it’s been discontinued I found a sample dress online for $200. Red, my size, Maggie, ballgown, crystal beading. Can we say DEAL? I promise I will come back in 10 1/2 months and give you photos :)

    Love your blog. I consider myself practical too. I had to let go of the need to spend the least amount of money on things and feel guilty when I wanted to spend more, and embrace the idea of spending it if we can afford it and doing what makes us happy and just forgetting the things we don’t care about.

  • photos coming soon of my 80$ dress.

  • Meg

    Well said Anne. We’re not in the running for spending the least – except maybe among the downtown SF crowd… and the “mainstream” wedding world. And I have to remind myself every day that our wedding is not a contest of any sort. The point is to spend what we can afford in a way that works for us and our families.

    Can’t wait to see the dress. That’s when we are getting married too.

  • I purchased a used dress. It hasn’t arrived yet, and I’m hoping it works out. It is still an exorbitant expense, but I’m trying to DIY as much of the other stuff as possible.

  • sarafina

    Yup! I feel you. I had a budget that was well-under what was expected– of even a “budget” wedding dress. I was pretty appalled that what I thought was “a lot of money” (4X what I had ever spent for a piece of clothing) was going to get me something made of some poly-blend fiber…and not anything near the dress of my dreams! I took it as a challenge to find something made of natural fibers that was elegant and suited to our afternoon wedding. But still made me feel “Wow!”. I scoured Ebay, borrowed a friend’s dress to try on, looked on various vintage websites, contacted Whirling Turban…all to no avail. At last I found “the dress”– a Paloma Blanca sample made of silk and alencon lace…I added a $4 brown ribbon from Micheal’s and I can’t wait to wear it in November…

  • I *love* her dress. Absolutely, utterly gorgeous.

    I’m sooo with you on this one, I knew from the start I wouldn’t even be looking at ‘normal’ wedding dresses. When your total budget is ÂŁ4k, you just can’t spend ÂŁ1k on the dress, even if your mum is paying for it. It just feels wrong to tip the balance so far towards my appearance when there are going to be over a hundred people there.

    You know my story already, but here are the the links:

  • I bought a JCrew Sophia dress for 45â‚Ź (shipping included), that is, around 65$, at ebay. I’m so so happy with it. I feel comfortable, beautiful and sexy. My mother is trying to convince me to buy a “normal” wedding dress, but I think I will keep my mind.

  • love the post meg, that dress is lovely.

    My own dress has come from Oxfam bridal and cost just ÂŁ225 yet it is a sample dress which has never been worn. To me the dress was never the important part of the day. It also meant that we could opt for the venue of choice as we hadn’t spent all our budget on the dress.

    Next June I will send you a photo!

  • I also got a J. Crew dress from ebay. It’s never been worn, fits perfectly, looks great and is super comfortable.
    I won it in an auction the very night after I had fallen in love with a Carolina Herrera gown. I just couldn’t bring myself to blow a third of my budget on the dress, though, so I immediately went home and did some ebaying.
    My J.Crew dress is not as nice as the Herrera, but I’m going to replace the sash with some pretty french ribbon and accessorize… so we’ll see how it goes.
    No pics yet – getting married next june ;)

  • The dress isn’t very important to me. It’s never been a part of the wedding that I really cared about. My main requirements are that it is flattering, and that it’s cheap.

    I’m planning on looking at David’s Bridal and at least one other salon, but there’s a chance I’ll buy my gown online. has a fair collection of fairly priced wedding gowns. has a few too. Jessica McClintock has dresses that they advertise as cocktail that would easily work as a wedding gown. The Dessy Group designs a line of “destination” wedding gowns and there are some really great looking dresses there, the one I love is about $500.

  • SJ

    My dress does not yet exist, but I was so happy to see you include making a wedding dress. My mother is a great seamstress – she made my prom dress in high school and she’ll be making my wedding dress. The extra cool thing about it is the lace we are using is coming from the wedding dress that FMIL and FGMIL (future grandmother in law) wore at their weddings. It will still be simple and of a styling similar to the J.Crew Sophia dress. Alas, I am with the others when I say – wait 10 1/2 months.

  • Erin

    Meg, first I’d like to say that I love your blog! I got married almost three years ago, but I am reading because a) I love weddings and b) I am helping my sister-in-law with her wedding planning. You have great information and lovely photos.
    I got a great deal on my Jessica McClintock wedding dress and paid $180 for a simple A-line gown. I absolutely love it and my husband did too! I felt better wearing it than I did when I tried on a $4,000 wedding gown. You’ll get a picture soon!

  • thank you so much for posting about my dress, meg! i’m so glad you liked it. although i’ve cut down on most of my wedding blog readings since getting married, i still check yours every morning and ’cause it’s such a breath of fresh air and i can’t wait to see how your own wedding turns out!

  • I was looking at dresses for my bridesmaids yesterday and realized that a lot of them come in ivory or white. I’m now thinking about buying a “bridesmaid” dress in ivory and wearing it on my big day. A lot of these dresses are in similar if not the same styles as traditional wedding gowns. Plus, the cost of a bridesmaid gown is a tremendous amount less than a wedding gown.

  • My dress was priced at $150, of course you add on all the little things and it came to $200 but I love it and it looks like it cost a lot more that it should.

  • My dress was $78. Originally $125. I bought it used. And it’s absolutely perfect for me.

    I still need to get it altered, so that will be another bit of money, but not too much, I hope.

    This is a great idea. No more $10000 wedding dresses!

  • CraftyBeaver

    Check out this lovely from Melissa Sweet – it’s actually a bridesmaids dress (can you believe it?!) but comes in natural or white. Cost? $299.

    I will be wearing a dress from the Dessy destination collection in April. I found it in salons for prices ranging from $400-$800. I was so outraged by the RANGE of prices that I started checking online – found it at for $273 AND they’re an authorized dealer. What is it about the wedding industry that says you shouldn’t shop as rationally as you would for any other article of clothing?

  • CraftyBeaver
  • Here’s a post (with pictures) about finding my wedding dress online, at (mentioned by another commenter). I’m not the bridal salon kind of gal and I decided to give these dresses a try, after all, they’re Isaac Mizrahi. Well, one is for keeps, it looks gorgeously simple, exactly what I wanted! Like I said in the post it’s just a little too tight on top, but I sew and I’ll make it work by adding a ribbon or something. Best of all, it was on clearance, so it was ludicrously discounted on an already fantastically reasonable price. $65 (this is not a typo)
    Obviously I would have been ready to pay more, but after this why would I?

  • B

    I found my dress on clearance at Ann Taylor for 50%. I got it for $450. I thought it was a great deal (until I started reading everyone else’s posts…)


  • peihan

    Mine was silk, custom, hand-made and hand-dyed by Chrissy Wai-Ching… $340 including my adaptations =) And I’ll be wearing it again!

  • OK, my dress or its cost are not necessarily “budget” but I have to comment. There are ways to cut down on the cost of a dress, for instance, I am getting married in NY and live in DC. I went to NY and found my dress –
    First discount – I bought it at a department store where I don’t have a credit card, they let me open one and BAM! 10% off! And, this included 10% off of the alterations as well. It would have included 10% off of the veil but they were charging way too much for a piece of tulle so I passed.
    Second discount- no tax! Because I bought it at a department store, they are shipping it to another store in the DC area and since it is out of state- no tax!!!
    And I bought it during a trunk show day!!
    So – I really saved a lot! Those percentages add up quickly when you are talking wedding dress prices.
    Ooh- one more thing. Its a department store with rewards points and the day I bought it was triple points – woo hoo! Now I have enough points to buy my bridesmaids gifts, or I can put it towards shoes or other things I am going to need!

  • I’m wearing my sister’s dress and felt a little too jealous of brides who have their “own” dress in that it reflects their style. My sister’s style is not exactly mine (she is more prim and proper than I am and her dress reflects that). To make it “mine,” my seamstress made the shawl that came with the dress into a close-fitting jacket that will look like it’s part of the dress itself.
    The jacket will end at the ribbon at the empire seam (the photo shows the tulle kind of sticking out the bottom)

  • My dress looks very similar to the one posted and I got it for $375 on The best part is the lady I bought it from was almost my exact size so I have very little alterations. Some great previously expnseive dresses at more resonable prices. There are still $2,ooo dresses but if you dig a little you can find some really great deals. Besides I know for a fact that no one at my wedding knows the lady and since it was worn once it looks brand new! :)

  • I too thought my wedding dress budget would be plenty, until I started trying on… What amazed me was that the quality difference wasn’t always significant between a $500 dress and a $2000 dress– maybe once you jump to $5000 it’s different, not sure. I would play a game and try to guess a dress’s price by how it felt and looked and I was always either way high or way low.

    I went to many a sample sale but just didn’t love anything. Finally found a Casablanca I really love, and will be ordering it online through RK Bridal, a reputable NYC shop. So, no tax, v. cheap shipping, and it’s practically the wholesale price. I should come in under budget even after alterations, Yipee!

  • First, thank you! I’m always so glad to hear your perspective in contrast to the standard wedding drama.

    I sewed my sister’s wedding dress, and I’m going to design and sew mine from scratch.

    My sister and her husband are Pagan, heavily involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA, basically group that does historic re-creations), and they wanted a period wedding on a budget. Definitely not WIC, and nothing she would ever find at a bridal salon. In my infinite wisdom I suggested that I should sew her dress, my maid-of-honor dress, and their baby’s dress. So we had three custom made dresses, all dupioni silk, hers and mine with huge bell sleeves and trains, for a grand total of under $600. Her dress alone was less than $250, and it was exactly what she wanted. I think she would have either eloped or worn jeans had it not been for that dress.

    And now it’s my turn! I’m getting married next October, and I’m just not into the “princess-for-a-day” thing. I’m also not finding patterns that look quite right, so I’m going to design my own. I bought this book that’s basically a design school text book, and I’m going to learn to do it myself. I’m thinking pale gold dupioni silk, because it’s about the most luxurious thing ever, and who says I have to wear white?

  • That dress is lovely. I am totally sending you a picture of my little sis’s wedding dress, which we found on sale at Macy’s for $100, not in the wedding section obviously (and no alterations needed). I just have to dig it up.

  • not that creative

    If only I had known about cheap wedding dresses and J Crew sooner! I fell in love with a Vera Wang dress, and found it on ebay, 30 minutes from where I live, for less than half price. I had the owner of the dress meet me at an alterations shop where I tried it on and had a seamstress tell me if the needed alterations were feasible/affordable. I still wish I could have kept it under $1000.

  • MWK

    I got my dressfor half price and within my (very very small for a bridal gown) budget through craigslist! Someone was selling a gift certificate to a bridal salon for half the worth of the certificate, I knew that salon had the dress I loved, so I met the girl there, we pretended we knew each other and used the certificate to order the dress, and I handed her the cash as we left the store. Score!

  • Anonymous

    I found my dress through They always have amazing dresses for a fraction of crazy-bridal-shop prices. I ordered it in two sizes, and the best part was that I had to return both and exchange for an even smaller size. Can’t be that, a discount dress in a size you would never be able to squeeze into at a bridal store!

  • My sister bought her dress at Banana Republic, so I was already of the mindset that bigger is not always better! I found mine (last week) at a vintage show in Chicago–and found an awesome dress for $110.00–not too bad!

  • Stephanie

    Oh yes, I was sure my dress budget was reasonably large enough to have options, but sadly not in the wedding world. Unfortunately, try as I might to find a vintage or previously worn dress, at 5’9″, a size 8, and a E cup anything that has been altered for someone else will be too short or un-realterable on me.

    I finally felt justified in playing along with the WIC stores when I realized that while off the rack non-wedding dresses have never fit me, a wedding gown seems to have been made to fit-no hemming, no alterations.

    If it wasn’t for the awful business practices of many of these stores, I would continue to feel happy in my purchase, but that is an entirely different post.

  • Anonymous

    I also was floored by the poor quality of dresses in the “budget” range. There’s no way I was spending that kind of money on a gown that wouldn’t go for half the price if it wasn’t “bridal,” and that I couldn’t treat as an investment piece worth the money. So, I’m another J.Crew bride :) I waited for a good sale code, bought the shorter version of the Sophia dress in ivory, and had it hemmed to knee length by the store’s tailor (if you buy a dress there, ask about alterations!). Best of all, my dress is 100% silk, beautifully tailored, and with shipping and alterations still cost less than $200.

    The best piece of advice I’ve heard is to shop for white or ivory dresses rather than wedding gowns. It’s amazing how quickly the price of a white evening dress drops when you take away the “bridal” label, and there’s often a big jump in quality as well. Kind of frightening, actually.

    Kind of off topic, but I also like the growing trend I’m seeing among indie/practical brides of making a fun pair of shoes the “splurge” item instead of the dress. Most of us gasp at overspending on a single use dress, but a fab pair of shoes that will make you smile whenever you wear them again? That’s worth the money.

  • Stephanie, I love that you “won” on the WIC alterations scam … I KNEW that those dresses aren’t made for the typical shape! But now I have the info to prove it :) I will always picture a 5’9″, size 8, E cup bride as the perfect fit for a wedding dress!

  • I am going to wear this:
    from Jessica Mcclintock.
    but my wedding isn’t until next year.

    I thought I would go for a simple white gown from the non-bridal section of Nordstroms, but was shocked at how flattering a fuller gown was…and couldn’t imagine finding anything I loved this much for the price…

  • The thing that made me buy a dress so early (more than a year ahead of time) is that I felt an enormous amount of pressure—
    You have to look better than you’ve ever looked?
    You have to wear a gown that costs more than anything you’ve ever worn?

    What happened to, you’ll be happy and beaming and beautiful no matter what you wear?

  • Anonymous

    Maggie, you are so right. When I had a minor dress freakout, my eternally level headed stepmom reminded me that whatever I wear when I get married is a “wedding dress.”

  • I understand where you’re coming from Meg. I budgeted, and spent, what feels like a great deal on my dress. It’s the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever purchased, or will probably ever purchase. It’s a miniscule amount in when compared to a lot of dresses. It’s the only I put on that made me smile and not want to stop.

    I’ve been lurking for a while, thank you for being here. You’re helping me keep a grip on the sane part of practicality. It’s more appreciated than you know.

  • After trying a number of $$ dresses of which i wouldn't have bought but was curious none the less…I ended up getting a Jcrew Avery dress for $100 (including tax/shipping).

    Now i'm getting it totally customized …the bodice is being reshaped & fitted, some vintage buttons on the straps for some bling, and the back…lowered (hello sexy) and sides slimmed to fit my petite frame.

    All in all, about $350 for the dress, accoutrements and alterations. It'll look just like some of the custom dresses, but soooo much cheaper. it's light, elegant and so comfortable.

  • crafty beaver- what was your experience like with NetBride? would you recommend them?

  • One great resource I found was the book “Bridal Bargains”. It has a huge chapter on wedding dress deals and questions to ask at shops to make sure you aren’t getting killed with extra charges.

    I decided to go the traditional dress route. After finding a wonderful dress near where I live now, I called my mom, who lives in Georgia, where my wedding will be, and had her check the local small bridal shop to see what their price was. IT WAS $300 CHEAPER!. So, instead of costing $1015 without pressings or a dress bag or anything, I am getting the same dress from a place 5 miles from the ceremony site for $715. And now I don’t have to carry it on the plane.

    Also, try They are an authorized retailer for all of the dresses they sell, and members of the better business bureau. Their dresses are typically 60-70% the price of the same dress at a bridal salon.

  • Anonymous

    I bought my dress 3 days after we got engaged. (I was, and remain, SO exited to marry this man!) My mom and I went to David’s Bridal and I got a dress that I adore for $349. I splurged a bit on a $100 veil which I now realize I could have gotten for less. Then went shopping with my sis, who spent $3K on a wisp of silk wedding dress. Very pretty, but I just think, geez, we’re getting a bluegrass band and food for 130 for that amount of money! It’s a jungle out there in the WIC!

  • Love the idea! (As I love so many of your ideas….) I was *crazy* about my Alfred Angelo dress, which came “new with tags” from Ebay for $225. Here’s a pic:

  • I love this idea! I know what I want in my dress, in terms of the structure, but the idea of shopping & buying it has already freaked me out, due to the "average" prices out there. What a great way to show new brides where else you can look!

  • Zoe

    I happened to go to the fabulous Betsy Robinson Bridal Salon here in Baltimore on the first day of their “bridal blowout sale” on sample dresses I found James Clifford (another line by Jim Hjelm) 100% silk gown with a price tag that said $2275 for $250! Of course it needs to bustled and cleaned, but I LOVE my dress and am thrilled I found such a great deal!

  • I found a clearanced Calvin Klein ivory dress at Macys for $80 and it fits perfectly. wedding is in three weeks so will send pics!

  • I absolutely LOVED Deanna's gown! Most of my girlfriends will probably think I'm crazy, but my gown will most likely be made by my mom as her wedding gift. My wedding isn't until next October so the dress is not even made yet, but here is a link to the dress pattern:;=2

    The pics from the pattern look a little on the frumpy side, but we'll probably be making some alterations. I'd like to find some beaded/embroidered chiffon for the train (which is completely removable so I can actually dance at my reception!) and I'm thinking of commissioning Myra of Twigs and Honey to make me a floral brooch to wear at the top of the train ( No, it's not my dream wedding gown (which would probably be a several thousand dollar alencon lace gown) but we're working with a budget comparable to Deanna and Jesse's so my dream gown is not a possiblity. On the other hand, knowing that I'm wearing a gown that was custom made for me by my mom is something that I think is priceless.

    Oh, and my mom did a short stint in the alterations department at David's Bridal so I've heard lots of stories about what goes on in those places- I wouldn't really want to buy my gown from a place like that anyway!

  • I know this is old, but I have to share this.

    I went to Goodwill trying to find gardening gloves and came out with an absolutely BEAUTIFUL wedding gown, brand new in its box. The total cost with tax? $26. I paid for it in cash.

    I’m having the sleeves removed and it’s going to be amazing!

  • Brandy

    I found a gold Maggie Sottero Gloria in the racks of a sample clearance that the store seemed ashamed to acknowledge was even there. It fit me like a glove and was marked down to less than half the retail price. I considered it serendipity!

  • Priscilla

    I know that this is an old post, but it rang true for me. My beautiful, amazing cousin introduced me to this site the first week I started wedding planning. Thank God. Seriously. I would be lost in the right now if not for her (and you, Meg.) And that wonderful cousin is also letting me borrow her gorgeous, handmade, Italian lace wedding gown to use for my own wedding. I get to share in the joy of her day, wear an heirloom!, have a dress 10000 nicer than what I could have afforded, and I'm beyond excited about it.

  • Kate

    I am looking for one ;)
    In white or ivory…size 34B(bust)…size 0 in J crew, could be 2 or 4 in others….let me know if you are selling one. Thank you in advance,