Mission Impossible: Finding a wedding dress under $500

When John and I first started dating I knew that he was the one. There was never a doubt in my mind that he truly was the man I was meant to spend the rest of my life with – who I was always meant to spend the rest of my life with. So it wasn’t long before in the back of my mind, I was picturing us together, and me in a white dress …

We started dating in March 2012  and by October 2012 after only 7 months, I had the exact concept of what our wedding day would look like in my mind – not because I was planning a wedding before we’d even gotten engaged, but because I saw myself spending the rest of my life with him. And with that dream of spending a life together, I was envisioning the day that he and I officially became “we”.

It still as clear as day in my mind – that vision of the day that we commit our lives to one another. Romantic, quiet, surrounded by our immediate friends and family, him in a simple casual and relaxed outfit of pants and white button up shirt with suspenders and tie … and me … walking down an aisle in a strapless drop waist ivory tulle ballgown with a romantic belt made of rhinestones about the waist. We’re in a private setting, it’s just us and a handful of people, we exchange our vows, our rings, and it happens … the kiss. The romance of the day and me in that dress … brings me to tears of joy whenever I think about it.

Source: http://www.jlmcouture.com/Lazaro/Bridal/Favorites/Style-3108

Source: http://www.jlmcouture.com/Lazaro/Bridal/Favorites/Style-3108

Now I know (believe me, I KNOW) that the dress is not what makes or breaks a wedding day. I’ve done this before – I’ve been here. I know that it’s not about a wedding day or blowing the budget on your wedding. No. It’s about the marriage. And not starting a marriage so far in debt because of this “dream wedding.”

So when I set out to look for my dress, I knew that it was next to impossible that I would find THE dress I was dreaming of. I even told my mom about this dress … and my sister … and several of my friends. I knew that finding a tulle ballgown was going to be next to impossible with my budget of sticking to under $500. Second dilemma – our wedding being less than 3 months away it needed to be off the rack with need for minimal alterations so it would be available by our wedding in August 2013.


Source: http://www.artwedding.com/beaded-sweetheart-satin-and-tulle-ball-gown-with-basque-waistline.html

The first store we went to, the first dress I tried on I was glowing! I was beaming ear to ear! It was NOT a ballgown at all … but it was very pretty and it fit me very well. It was over my budget at $699 and needed alterations in the bust to bring it in (not usually a problem for me). I tried on four more dresses and none of them came close … I thought that I had found the dress I would get married in. It was beautiful and made me feel like a bride … and so I had the store hold it for me while I continued shopping at my next appointment that day.

My second appointment of the day was at Memories Bridal in downtown Kalamazoo. I had made the appointment because at the very least, I wanted to try on some really pretty dresses, even if there wasn’t one in the store under my tiny budget. So I walked in without expectation of finding my dress – none. I sat down with Lindsay, my consultant, and started telling her about our wedding, where it was, about my fiancé and then about the dress. I was hesitant to tell her exactly what I wanted … because I knew it was impossible. But I told her anyway, preceded with me proclaiming “I know, it’s impossible to find such a dress in my budget…” Lindsay didn’t miss a beat in confirming “I have exactly what you want in that price range.”

Skeptical, I followed her upstairs. This is a gorgeous boutique with dresses upwards of over $4k hanging on their racks … how would they ever have a dress in my price range. … in my size???

She pulled it off the rack. A drop waist strapless ivory tulle ballgown with a rhinestone belt … it was a size 10 (my size) and it was on their discontinued sales rack … for only $399. My jaw literally dropped to the ground. We picked out 4 more dresses and went to the dressing room. MY gown was the first one I put on. And as Lindsay zipped me up and I looked up and saw myself in the mirror, I felt the waterworks starting … Not a doubt existed in my mind that I’d found it.

I walked out of the room, already teary-eyed, and walked up to the pedestal in front of the mirror … my mom and sister were silent. I turned to look at them and saw my sister’s mouth and eyes both wide open (which in sister language means OH MY GOSH THAT’S THE FRIGGIN BEST THING ON THIS PLANET). My mom was just shaking her head back and forth ever so slowly with her mouth slightly open … finally saying, “Oh my gosh … I have goosebumps …”

We tried on the other dresses … none of them were the dress I was looking for. After the third dress I quickly requested, “Can we put MY dress back on now?” And it was official. It was MY dress.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have done this – to have come in not only under budget but to have found it. The exact dress that I would marry the man of my dreams in. It was exactly as I had envisioned it … as though I knew it was there waiting for me!

While we were there, I was hit with a SECOND deal that I couldn’t pass up. With every bridal gown purchase, brides are given a $50 coupon for any accessories. We tried on a few different necklace and earring pieces and found the set that just “made” the look. Retail $56. With coupon $6. Now that’s a win!

Favorite Wedding Dresses from BHLDN


Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here

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