The Dress Horrors: Highway Robbery Edition

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

So I stopped by a wedding dress salon on my lunch break the other day, just to see if they had anything that fit the bill. You know: not strapless, not sparkly, not poofy. Since I’m not four, or going to prom, you’d think I’d be in luck. But nooo, of course not. Finally, I found one dress that was a lovely, simple lace sheath. Then I checked the price tag. $5,500.

Can we just take a minute to think that over? Lets assume that this dress was made out of really nice lace, and there was 6 yards of lace in the dress. That means I would be paying $916 a yard, all in, for that dress. $916 a YARD! Did Rumpelstiltskin spin it out of pure gold, do you think? Or am I just being ripped off? It’s not even about “can’t afford.” I’m a determined independent woman with a credit card. I’m sure I could figure out how to pay for it. It’s really about “won’t pay.” I don’t like feeling robbed. Plus, I don’t like wastefulness.

While I was in the store, I also saw the lovely new layered Vera Wang Dress that the bridal world has been buzzing about (pictured above). And I can tell you, its really pretty, and clearly well crafted. The one problem is, it weighs about 15 pounds, and can stand up on its own. How on earth are you going to have fun and dance at your wedding reception while you are dragging around 15 pounds of dress?

Oh, right. And it’s $11,000. Which is a good price. For a car.

By which I mean to say, I think its high time we all stopped acting quite so starry eyed and romantic about weddings. Maybe we want to start this new chapter in our lives with our heads firmly attached to our bodies, making good decisions about spending money. Lets all collectively vow to stop feeling badly about having a wedding on a budget, and start feeling proud. At least we can tell the difference between a good price for a car and a good price for a dress.

Picture via

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit

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  • Good point! Proud to be a bride who had a wedding debt free. :)

  • amen. though after watching seven friends get married and been intimately involved in planning 2 of them, i have long since lost the romantic ideal of weddings. thank goodness for that!

  • THANK YOU! Gawd, I love this blog – with all these over-hyped dresses and details, it’s easy to feel like I’m the only bride on the planet that has any common sense left. Thanks for being a voice of reason!

  • Preach it sister!!!!!

  • EXACTLY! I am also planning my wedding debt free, and am glad that while it’s fun to daydream, it’s even more fun to be practical. Mr. 122 and I are also trying to focus far more attention on what comes after that one day — far more important than cutting off my right arm for a dress!

  • Amen. I couldn’t agree more.

  • here, here! that being said… that vera wang is so purdy…

  • But it’s the biggest day of your life? But it’s the most important day of your life? Don’t you want the best for your biggest day? Most people spend over $30k. It’s worth it. You deserve it.

    I hope you are sensing the sarcasm. Haven’t we all heard these lines one too many times? I’m with ya 100%!

  • anna

    Thanks so much for this wonderful blog – I love it! My fiance and I are also trying to plan a nice wedding that isn’t too ridiculous. After all, we’re celebrating spending the rest of our lives together…NOT just one day. That said, I’ve been looking for inexpensive dresses and as silly as it sounds, found a few on I just got them in the mail and they are pretty nice…seriously. I don’t know if they are the right cut for what I’m wanting, but they are worth a gander.

    Thanks again!

  • I’m loving this blog — thank you so much! Another San Francisco spouse-to-be trying to keep the spending within sane bounds (and refusing any bedazzling on any potential dress) here.

    I ***so*** identify with feeling like I’m wildly traditional for the offbeat bride crowd and wildly offbeat for the traditional bride crowd. (Sorry — I’m paraphrasing badly.) Looking forward to reading more!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    I love this, so well said. I fell for a ÂŁ3000 dress, but even if I’d had the money, I wouldn’t have bought it.

    Budget and Proud!

    I saw this the other day and thought of you – straps, lace, no train …

    and really really pretty in the flesh. I love Monsoon’s dresses, I nearly bought one very similar to this one. But it didn’t suit my teeny tiny boobs!

  • Meg

    Awww… thanks girls! It’s great to feel like I’m not alone it all this :)

  • Anonymous

    I love your blog. Seriously. I am trying to pull my own wedding off for $6000 as we speak and I say budget and be proud! Oh and PS: I got my dress for a mere $400 since it was discontinued… designer label and all. All it takes is some time, effort and being stubborn doesn’t hurt! Thanks again for such a great blog and such a super attitude about all this! Yay!

  • Los Angeles on a Budget

    Thank you for making sensible wedding budgets stylish again, one blog entry at a time! It’s a dress, it’s a big party, it’s a single day. I’m looking forward to your take on it all, from extravagant wedding favors, to bridal party spa treatments, to modern Jewish ceremony rituals.

  • Jenna

    Round of applause for a great post. Listen up wedding industry, we know better!

  • Meg, I am right with you. I found my dress second hand, where the majority of the dresses were _still _over a grand. I had to look at the discount rack of the secondhand place, but I found it. There are dresses out there – you just have to be patient and persistent.

    I tried to just ignore the foolishness and procrastinated so long that I was envisioning myself walking down the aisle in a bathrobe! I have to say, I felt that option would still be better than a zillion dollar one-time dress.

  • I agree! Well said. Thank goodness for the internet to remind us that there are other practical, sane, long-term thinkers out there. I am not dissing the other folks – if their priority is to spend a down payment on a house (in CA!) on a single day, that’s their business. But it’s amazing how that marketing machine has convinced people so thoroughouly of all the things “you have to have!” such that people (not wedding vendors, just people) feel comfortable telling you what “you have to have!”

  • Anonymous

    For crying out loud. Rent a dress, put a down payment on a house for your future…The dress will gather dust in the closet after you wear it ONE TIME.

  • Girl! I am eating your blog up!! Loving every word! To think I was starting to feel guilty for not wanting to spend the money I don’t have. Thank you!!

  • I'm starting to feel a little like trailer trash for finding a budget gown while being surrounded by friends with sky-is-the-limit budgets and this set me right back in my place. Youre right, i am going to be proud to have a wedding without guilt or too much excess, they may call it budget but i think it's really just sensible. thank you thank you!

  • So I recently added your blog to my google reader. And let me tell you…I could read it from start to finish (if I didn’t have to get back to work). I got engaged 3 weeks ago and have just started the planning process and am just shocked at how much things cost. I do not want to break the bank to have the perfect wedding, nor do I think that needs to happen. I just discovered your link to and I’m loving that site, will totally go to them for my invites!! Anyways, just wanted to say thank you for what you are doing and keep up the good work :)

  • Hello!! This is my first time commenting although I have been a loyal reader since I got engaged back in May. I am commenting because the dress in the photo of this post is the dress that I purchased for my wedding. It was expensive but I actually have an incredibly generous uncle who works in fashion who was willing to get it for me as a gift. Otherwise I would have been in the same boat as Lauren, not willing AT ALL to spend 5 months rent on a dress I will wear for 4 hours. But sometimes life gives you unexpected gifts. I now am budgeting and haggling on every other thing. Thanks for the post!

  • Sugaree

    I know I’m joining the part late, but can I say that I totally agree. My first wedding was a “budget” wedding if you can call it that. I spent just at $10,000 for a Sunday brunch wedding. This time around we are eloping with a budget of about $3500.

    I found my dress on Ebay for less than $150. It’s a few-seasons-old Vera Wang with a tiny run in the front that can easily be covered by one of those cute sashes that are so trendy these days. It’s just too bad that all the sashes I’ve seen on Etsy that I like cost more than the dress did…

  • Skittle


    I am…conflicted, to say the least, to admit that I am utterly enamoured of multiple Monique Lhuillier dresses, among other designer styles. Even if I could afford it – and for me, being FORCED to put it on a credit card is NOT affording it – I wouldn’t go there. There was a brief period where I was allowing myself a $2000-$3000 budget for wedding dresses, because WIC had convinced me that was THRIFTY. Can you believe it? Now I’ve challenged myself to keep it under $500.

    From this day forth, I vow to stop feeling badly about wanting a wedding on a budget. Thank you for saving me from all the brain-washing I’d been subjecting myself to!

  • I’ve asked a friend who studies fashion design to make me a dress! That definitely helps with the budget, and it’s going to be tailor-made for me, which is awesome.

  • Hi again!
    I really feel like the way you describe here, robed!
    i went to try some dresses. My budget is quite low, about 1000 and offcourse everything is more that 1400….everything I like and I feel well.
    I don’t know what to do apart keep looking. But I think that there is a big mystery in the business of wedding dresses and that is not quite fair for all of us.
    I hope i will find what i am looking for in a reasonable price.
    Thank you for sharing

  • Hi again,
    I just wanted to inform that I finally found the wedding dress at the price of 850 euros. Actually I am in Paris, so for girls being here I advice you to visit the Pronuptia store. You can find wedding dress of all prices and they are really friendly!

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