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So you've completed the daunting task of finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with — congratulations! Now, the real work begins: finding a dress. All kidding aside, the process of searching for a wedding dress that you like, that fits, and that’s within your budget can be — and usually is — quite overwhelming.
Luckily, the options have gotten a lot better in recent years, thanks to additional low-price brands (beyond just David's Bridal), stores that specifically cater to "untraditional" brides, and more varied e-commerce options for skipping the whole bridal salon experience altogether.
To help you navigate the sea of choices, we’ll start by pointing you in the right direction. Scroll on for a comprehensive list, in no particular order, of gown shopping destinations across the country (and around the web).
The selection here is, in a word, romantic. BHLDN offers soft, vintage-inspired styles that seem like they could've been passed down through generations. Hardly a surprise, considering it's the wedding arm of Anthropologie (most BHLDN boutiques are actually located inside an Anthro, save for a few freestanding stores).
Expect lots of tulle and lace and delicate beading in a palette ranging from ivory to champagne to blush — there's nary a stark white style to be found. Search for one of the 14 locations closest to you, or shop the selection online (the dresses are all returnable within 30 days). Prices range from just over $200 to $3,000.
Seeking to eliminate midday appointments, pushy salespeople, and general frustrations, Molly Kang has set out to give brides the shopping experience she never had: being able to order luxury, direct-to-consumer, customizable gowns (think color changes, addition sleeves, bows, etc.) online, with the option of sample try-ons.
You won’t find any cupcake gowns here, but there is a fair amount of sophisticated styles (named after stylist celebs and literary icons), from fitted to fuller skirts. The best part: Everything falls below the $4,000 mark. Alteration responsibilities are left to you, but guidance on local seamstresses is available on request.
The self-billed "anti-bridezilla showroom" in downtown Manhattan is a smart first stop for the soon-to-be bride who gags at the idea of traditional anything. There's still a distinctly wedding-y vibe, though, with original collections of gowns (priced from under $1,000 to $6,750), veils, crowns, and jewelry on offer online as well as in store. The style is laid-back and relaxed: think pink dip dye, bell sleeves, and the like.
Sizes go up to 24, and the site still has last spring’s collaboration with trend-forward plus-size brand Eloquii in stock. Not near New York City? The brand also offers Skype consultations with a gown specialist.
If you're getting ready to walk down the aisle but don't want to leave a big carbon footprint, the sustainability masters at Reformation have you covered. Several of its trademark floaty maxis are offered in wedding-friendly options like ivory lace and silk, and every style comes with a "RefScale" tracker of its environmental impact.
Factor in the under-$500 price tags (which is basically unheard of in the traditional bridal space), and this is pretty much the epitome of a clear-conscience shopping experience. Currently, though, sizes only run from 0 through 12.
The established luxury e-tailer launched its foray into the wedding world a few years back and has built out its bridal offerings to include everything from Stella McCartney and Self Portrait gowns to Roksanda jumpsuits.
If you're high fashion but low on patience, this is the place to start for modern, buy-now, wear-now wedding gowns that can be delivered right to your door. Most dresses will cost you, but there are some under $1,500 worth checking out.
Because of course Shopbop has a bridal boutique. (Is there anything this site doesn't do?) In addition to traditional full-length options from heavy hitters like Reem Acra and Monique Lhuillier, you'll also find chic separates, playful cocktail styles, and a few rad jumpsuits from contemporary brands like Lover and Rime Arodaky all the way up to high-end designers like J. Mendel.
So regardless of whether you’re looking to spend $300 or $7,000, you’ll probably click on at least a few contenders.
The OG destination for the bride on a budget, David's Bridal has seriously stepped up its game in recent years. With exclusive collections from Vera Wang, Zac Posen, and Jenny Packham, among many others, the affordable wedding chain definitely merits a second look.
The website allows you to browse by silhouette, designer, and price, and also boasts extensive plus-size and petite assortments — a major value factor when you consider the typical tailoring costs for wedding gowns (hint: they're not cheap). Prices for dresses cap off at $2,000, with a very substantial selection under $1,000.
Yes, that's right — the e-comm giant that has outfitted many a wedding guest actually offers a modest selection of affordable dresses specifically for your big day, too. If you're in the market for an on-trend dress that leaves enough money left over for a kick-ass honeymoon, start here. Dresses can go for as little at $98 and generally cap off under $400.
This is arguably the most well-known bridal retailer, despite it only having one US location and no e-commerce. Yet make an appointment on any given day, and you'll see throngs of brides-to-be from all over (and, usually, a few opinionated critics-in-waiting) ready to say yes to the gowns of their dreams.
Reality TV aside, Kleinfeld boasts an impressively large roster of designers (including a fair amount who cut in plus-size), an entire accessories floor, and on-site tailoring (for a flat fee). It also offers a “modesty” consultant who will oversee alterations for brides who need to adhere to religious guidelines. Gowns typically begin at $2,500 (with a limited selection below that), but most run above $3,500.
The department store’s online wedding shop features a wide range of contemporary and higher-end designers, with a notable selection of cocktail and tea-length options as well (City Hall brides, take note). And, somewhat surprisingly, there’s a solid selection of dresses under $2,000.
In-store wedding salons, where you can shop labels like Marchesa and Carolina Herrera, can only be found in the New York City and Beverly Hills locations, but gowns can be shipped to any Saks in the US, should you want to order online and pick up in-store. There’s also the added bonus of having accessories, shoes, and jewelry departments at your disposal, for those that appreciate a good one-stop shop.
If you're aiming for your royal wedding-meets-Oscars moment, there are a lot of dresses you’ll want to see at the seven-story Pronovias flagship store in midtown Manhattan. Dramatic silhouettes and winding trains are some of the hallmarks of the brand, because, really, if not for your wedding, then when?
If you're ready to get your princess on but can't make it to New York, the site offers a lengthy list of retailers in 42 states where you can shop the collections. Gowns begin around $1,500, but most will cost you at least $2,000.
For a chain, every Lovely boutique offers a remarkably personal experience in a straight-out-of-Pinterest environment. The selection of designers varies by location, but the overall vibe is romantic and unfussy (this is not the place to go if you're in the market for a super pouf-y, Mariah-style ball gown).
Unlike many stores, Lovely will let you go through the racks yourself first — where more obscure designers like Rue De Seine ($2,350 to $3,950) sit alongside bigger name brands like Watters ($1,800 to $3,500) — as opposed to demanding you relinquish control to a sales associate.
With the exception of a small selection for purchase online, the majority of Nordstrom's wedding dresses are available at its in-store Wedding Suites, located at 17 stores around the country. True to its aim-to-please customer service model, the department store carries everything from $800 Jenny Yoo dresses to $10,000 Oscar de La Renta gowns and offers a free "wedding stylist" service that’s also available to the entire wedding party by appointment.
Don't live near any of the wedding suites but still need to pick someone's brain? The stylist service is also available by chat or phone.
Launched last fall "for the bride who's looking for a chic alternative to everything else in the market," the FWRD Wedding Shop lives up to its credo. In addition to high-end heavyweights like Lanvin and Prabal Gurung, you'll find picks from edgier labels, like separates from Rodarte and dresses from up-and-comers like Houghton ($2,243).
There’s a healthy dose of ultra-modern pieces, like separates, suits, and cut-out styles, so if your vibe is more Brandon Maxwell than Badgley Mischka, this is the mothership. Just don’t expect to spend less than a few thousand on anything that isn’t on sale.
Self-dubbed the "modern woman's personal atelier," Fame and Partners allows for a totally customizable experience. In addition to asking your height and hemline preferences with every style, details like color, skirt shape, and neckline are all up for modification on the site.
Plus, everything is under $400 and available from sizes 0 to 22, and if time isn’t on your side, there's an "express making" option, which will have your dress ready to ship in six to nine days.
Priding itself on an intimate experience, this sister-owned, three-store chain (Nashville, Seattle, and San Diego) hand-picks gowns that will reflect your personal style (read: won't look like every other bride).
The gown selection is mostly light and unstructured, with bridal favorites like Hayley Paige and Claire Pettibone included in the roster next to lesser-known labels worth discovering, like Alexandra Grecco and Flora. At all three locations, dresses range from $1,600 to $7,000.
Not to be outdone by ASOS, Topshop has officially entered the bridal game as of this spring. Though the bridal offerings are sparse — currently there are only five limited-edition styles on the site that are going quickly — they all retail for $1,500 or less. The brand offers a personal shopping option by appointment, as well as the added bonus of bridesmaid dresses and accessories.
For die-hard, need-to-have-it-before-anyone-else types, Moda Operandi offers a chance to pluck gowns straight from the bridal runways — styles that typically don't even get seen in stores, let alone on IRL brides, for several months.
This fall, it upped the ante with a range of exclusive gowns by 10 different designer darlings, including Rosie Assoulin ($3,995) and Delpozo ($6,300). Be advised, though: Every collection is available for a limited amount of time, and if you can't make it to the New York showroom for a private "white glove" appointment, the first time you'll be able to try on your gown is when it is delivered, typically four to seven months after placing your order.