For some brides-to-be, hunting for a wedding dress can be utterly thrilling, while—for others—it’s an utter pain. Regardless of which category you fall into, it is inevitable that you’ll have to shop for something to wear. The good news? You don’t have to make an appointment at bridal mecca Kleinfeld’s to say yes to the dress, nor do you have to head straight to Vera Wang. There are plenty of great alternatives out there, it just takes a little bit of extra effort—and an open mind—to begin the search.
To help make the arduous (and often overblown) process a little easier, we’ve compiled 50 creative places to buy your wedding dress, from off-price retailers that’ll save you money to high-end websites. Now get shopping, you’ll be walking down the aisle before you know it!
1. Browse flea markets and vintage stores.
Instead of spending your day in a traditional bridal salon, turn the dress hunt into a treasure hunt and head to your local flea market. While you’re there, you may just find yourself some antique wedding accessories or even decor items for the big day, too.
2. Click onto Tradesy.com.
Tradesy.com is a genius online marketplace that allows you to scroll through tons and tons of pre-worn dresses until you’ve found “the one.” Just select your style, size, and price range and click away!
3. Head to the Costco bridal department.
Okay, so this one is pretty shocking—but it’s true! Costco officially has it all thanks to a new bridal department available in select stores. The good news is, you don’t have to buy in bulk.
4. Scope out garage sales.
Have neighbors with some seriously awesome style? Keep your eyes peeled for garage sales in your hood. You never know when one of the neighborhood fashionistas may be selling her dress!
5. Bride Power is the online solution to bridal sample sales.
Sample sales can be intimidating, which is why Bridepower.com, an online sample sale, is the perfect site to get a bridal dress that’s deeply discounted. Started by TLC “The Vow’s” Leslie and Rick DeAngelo, Bridepower offers an impressive range of designer gowns at incredibly marked down prices.
6. Buy a used dress for a good cause.
Seize the opportunity to wear the right thing and do the right thing on your wedding day! There are a number of charitable organizations, including Brides Against Breast Cancer, and Encorebridal, that sell used wedding dresses and donate the proceeds to a good cause.
7. Check out alternative wedding lines, and maybe even try a jumpsuit.
Not only does the Viktor & Rolf wedding line include both long and short dresses, but the designer duo have created a stunning white pantsuit for the daring bride, as has affordable spots like J.Crew. There’s no denying that this modern twist on wedding day attire is super badass!
8. Buy a gently used dress at Wore It Once.
Joining in on the online pre-worn trend is WoreItOnce.com an easy to use site that gives brides access to a number of gently used dresses at discounted prices.
9. Shop for a white prom dress.
Have you looked in the prom dress sections at department stores lately? There are often some seriously great offerings, and in white to boot. Some designers we suggest keeping your eyes peeled for include ABS, Aidan Mattox, and Alice & Olivia.
10. Shop the online-only Made With Love bridal line.
We just love the Made With Love bridal line, a unique online boutique collection of wedding dresses! The line is just a year old, so you can be the first of your friends to rock a Made With Love gown down the aisle. Perks include free shipping!
11. Browse for culturally traditional dresses online.
12. Check out Alfred Angelo’s online store.
Shopping for high-end gowns just got a whole lot easier! Designer Alfred Angelo ‘s online catalogue is not only super easy to use but it includes wedding dresses for just about every type of bride. The designer even has an app to make browsing that much easier.
13. For a vintage-inspired dress, head to ShopRuche.com.
This one goes out to the brides who are looking for a sweet, casual, and vintage-inspired dresses at seriously epic prices. All of the options at ShopRuche.com would fit in seamlessly at a country or outdoor wedding.
14. Attempt to get a free wedding dress at FreeCycle.org.
They say the best things in life are free, right? Save big bucks on the big day by finding your dress on The Freecycle Network, a site that is made up of over 7 million members around the world who are giving things away for free—sustainable and convenient!
15. Barter for your wedding dress.
16. Apply for a wedding sweepstakes.
Are you lucky in love and just plain lucky? Try your hand at a wedding sweepstakes for a chance to win your dream dress for free. David’s Bridal often has fun things going on, so keep an eye on the retailer’s Twitter feed.
17. Try out a rising star bridal designer.
Don’t just look to the big names when picking out a wedding dress, plenty of rising star designers are creating gorgeous bridal gowns too. One of our favorites is Stone Fox Bride, which has the bohemian bride market cornered.
18. Visit the Albright Fashion Library.
Okay, so a girl can dream, right? The Albright Fashion Library is a massive New York City-based showroom that preserves the world’s finest couture. The good news? You can rent the dresses. The bad news? Browsing fees are set at $250 and a minimum dress rental is $1,000. Still, if you’re looking to splurge, this might be the place to do it.
19. Wear a formal gown that isn’t being sold as a “wedding dress.”
Looks like a wedding dress, but isn’t part of a bridal collection? Who cares! Browse your favorite department stores and local boutiques and find “the one.” Chances are what you find will be just as gorgeous as a wedding dress, and half the price. Plus, odds are you’ll be able to wear it again.
20. Visit the world’s largest online wedding store, HouseOfBrides.com.
HouseofBrides.com calls itself “The Worlds Largest Online Wedding Store,” and we have a feeling they just may be right. You can specify between plus size, petite, couture, and destination, and even chat online with bridal experts.
21. Get your dress made by “Project Runway” alum Carol Hannah.
This one goes out to all of the “Project Runway” fans: Carol Hannah Whitfield, third-runner up on the hit television show’s sixth season, has turned to designing beautiful wedding and bridesmaids gowns available both online and in select stores around the country.
22. Buy a pre-owned or sample dress at Nearly Newly Wed.
We cannot get enough of NearlyNewlyWed.com‘s pretty website that sells new, pre-owned, and sample dresses. Our favorite part of the online wedding mecca? Its “Real Weddings” gallery. Sneak a peak at stranger’s nuptials and get some inspiration for your own.
23. Shop for a wedding suit, or non-traditional wedding attire.
Drop the dress and don a suit! The best part of this idea is that it will open up a whole new range of shopping options that you might not have thought of when you were on the hunt for a dress. Don’t believe us? Check out how cool the above bride looks.
24. Browse vintage stores for the perfect dress.
Whether you’re looking for a tea-length retro dress from the ‘50s or a streamlined lace gown from the ‘20s, vintage stores are the way to go. On the hunt for something special? Make friends with a vintage store owner, and put them on lookout duty since they’re the ones constantly on the hunt for new merchandise at estate sales and vintage trade shows.
25. Shop a friend’s closet.
You share everything with your closest friends, so why not go shopping in a friend’s closet and borrow their wedding dress? Besties are used to sharing clothes anyways, so why should it be any different on your big day?
26. Buy a white gown from BCBG.
A classic in formal wear, BCBG Max Azria is a one-stop-shop for everything evening! Not only do they have a designated bridal department, but any of their evening gowns could be the one.
27. Head to eBay.
From beach casual dresses to black tie ball gowns, eBay boasts an impressive collection of bridal wear for unbelievable prices. Whether you are looking for second-hand Vera Wang, a vintage lace gown, or the very best deal on an off-season dress, this should be your first stop.
28. Order a bridesmaids dress in ivory, cream, or white.
Bridesmaid dresses have a pretty brutal rep in the world of fashion, but it isn’t always deserved! Check out Dessy.com for a number of chic styles that look just like wedding gowns. Best part of all is that they won’t break the bank!
29. Seek out mass retailers with bridal lines.
If you’re looking for a boho ethereal look try Anthropology’s sister line BHDLN. If you’re looking for: a classic yet casual look try Ann Taylor. If you’re looking for a timeless look try J. Crew. In most cases, the lines are well-priced to boot!
30. Rent a dress.
Let’s face it, every girl would love the chance to rock a designer gown on her big day, but couture prices are just downright silly. Rent The Runway allows you to rent designers dresses (or accessories!) for prices that are cheaper than cheap. The best part? The site just launched a bridal-specific section.
31. Design your own dress with the help of a neighborhood tailor.
This is an excellent solution for the woman who knows exactly what she wants. Whether you want to copy a look you’ve seen before, or you’re a budding fashion designer, this could be the option for you. Our tips: try on a bunch of dresses to see what suits you best, leave yourself a solid six to eight months, and choose a dressmaker you know and trust.
32. Check out the ASOS Marketplace.
See what’s new in ASOS’s collection of new, pre-owned, and vintage wedding dresses. You might be surprised by what you’ll find.
33. Browse Etsy for the best in vintage and handmade.
Etsy is, of course, renowned for its selection of vintage and handmade clothes and accessories, which makes it the perfect spot to browse for both vintage and handmade wedding gowns and accessories for the big day.
34. Wait for bridal sample sales.
Ready, set, shop! A sample sale amongst a hoard of bridezillas can be a bit intimidating. So, go in with a game plan, and you just might walk out of there with your dream gown in hand. Savvy brides have also been known to shop non-bridal sample sales to find their perfect dress.
35. Shop Net-A-Porter.
If diamonds a girl’s best friend, then Net-a-Porter is a fashonista’s best friend! From Lanvin to Marchesa, Net-a-Porter offers stunning bridal gowns for only the chicest of brides.
36. Visit bridal expos and bridal shows.
There’s never a bridal show too far away! Take a look online and find one near you. While these shows can be overwhelming, just keep your eyes on the prize and you’ll find a gown in no time, or at least come away from the experience with great ideas.
37. Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses is a second-hand wedding dress paradise.
You need a ‘something borrowed’ for the big day, so why not make it your dress? With everything from Oscar De La Renta to Monique Lhuillier, PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com is a second-hand bridal paradise.
38. Wear your mother’s or grandmother’s dress.
Blessed are those whose have a mother or grandmother with good style. Take advantage of the chic freebie—alter it if you need to—and remember that those of us who were left with tacky white messes are beyond jealous.
39. Make an appointment at The Sample Room.
The stuff of wedding dress shopping legend, The Sample Room, located in New York City, sells designer bridal samples (either discontinued styles or overstock) at prices up to 75 percent off of retail. With prices like that, its worth the plane ticket to New York no matter where you are.
40. Visit Shopbop to find the perfect trendy option.
Browse Shopbop’s online wedding boutique which, as far as we concerned, should be the cool bride’s first stop. With prepaid returns you really can’t go wrong!
41. Try your dry cleaners.
Many dry cleaners sell items that were never picked up, including—you guessed it—wedding gowns. Hey, at least you know it’s clean!
42. Visit designer consignment shops.
Designer consignment shops house such beautiful items, many of which are hard to imagine someone actually wanting to part with. Lucky for you, they have! Shop around for a great price on a beautiful designer bridal gown. No one has to know where you bought it.
43. Buy your dress at a designer trunk show.
The beauty of the trunk show is that the designer will likely be there. Of course, you want the opinion of your mom and your friends, but it pays to hear the designer’s thoughts, as well. Keep an eye out for when your favorite designer is in your area and make that the day you shop for your dress.
44. Rehab an old wedding dress.
It’s hard to forget the scene in “27 Dresses” when Malin Akerman cuts up her mother’s wedding dress to create her own (beautiful) modern version. We love this idea! Just be sure to ask your mom (or sister or BFF) permission first.
45. Craiglist like a pro.
There is really everything and anything on Craigslist—old furniture, rental apartments, and wedding dresses. You never know what you’ll find, so you might as well look.
46. Pre-order a dress straight from the runway on Tinker Tailor.
Tinker Tailor, a new e-commerce sit from Moda Operandi alum Aslaug Magnusdottir allows you to pre-order designer fashions while customizing the look, including choosing fabric and color. It’s the perfect place to pick out a truly one-of-a-kind wedding dress.
47. Buy a dress from a friend on Facebook.
Put a status update on Facebook saying that you’re looking to buy a pre-owned wedding dress, and chances are you’ll have 20 comments in a matter of minutes. (Which begs the question, what did we do before Facebook?)
48. Comb wedding chat boards.
Wedding chat boards, like the ones found on TheKnot.com, are a great place to glean knowledge about stores in your area you’ve never heard of, or to hunt a perfect second-hand dress.
49. Browse retailers like Topshop, Zara, and H&M.
Fast-fashion retailers are getting savvier and more stylish lately, and plenty carry white dresses. This is especially helpful if you’re having a low-key or casual affair.
50. Put a request on TaskRabbit.
TaskRabbit is great for more than just finding someone to do an errand for you—the site actually has a section for sewing. Put in a request for a seamstress to make a wedding gown for you and cross your fingers. Good luck!