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Ways to Score a Free Wedding Dress

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Looking for ways to score a free wedding dress for your big day? Check out our advice and suggestions for how to find free wedding dresses.

Jessica Bishop Headshot

For over a decade, one of our most popular (and most commented on) posts was about a free wedding dress. The free bridal gown in question was given away by one of our readers in 2011. (Side note: we love the hearts of our savvy readers!)

Brides from all over the country left comments on this post regularly looking for free wedding dresses. So many brides are burdened by financial hardships and are unable to afford to buy their own wedding dress.

Unfortunately, that particular wedding dress was spoken for and given away long ago, so we archived the post. But we didn’t want to leave all the brides out there looking for free dresses hanging.

So below, we’re sharing some resources for current or future brides who are looking for ways to score a free wedding dress for the big day.

If you want a free dress, keep these things in mind:

  • Selection will be limited. Finding free wedding dresses isn’t easy, but it can be done! Be prepared to spend extra time, and know that you won’t have many options to choose from.
  • Lower your expectations. It’s definitely possible to find a free wedding dress, but it’s much less likely that it will be the designer gown you’ve always dreamed of.
  • You will probably need to pay to get it altered. If you can get a wedding dress for free, you’ll likely need alterations to ensure the dress is a good fit.
  • Don’t forget to budget for cleaning. Whether you choose dry cleaning or another option, you’ll likely need to get your dress cleaned before or after the big day.

With that being said, it IS possible, but it can be tough! Think you’re up for the challenge of finding a free wedding dress? Here are 5 avenues to explore and some challenges you might face:

1. Borrow your Wedding Dress from a friend or family member

I would say that the easiest way to get a wedding dress for free is to borrow a dress that belongs to a friend or family member.

It never hurts to ask those close to you, especially if you’re in a financial bind. You might get lucky and have someone willing to share their special dress with you!

Potential Challenges: Finding a friend with a dress in a style and size that also works for you could be difficult. If you’re just borrowing the dress, you more than likely won’t be allowed to alter it if the lender wants the dress back after your big day. Be sure to clarify those expectations upfront to avoid any issues!

2. Trade or Barter to get a Free Wedding Dress

Do you have a skill or trade or expertise to share in exchange for a wedding dress? It never hurts to ask your local bridal shop if there is anything you can do to get your wedding dress for free.

Whatever your talents are, try to use them to your advantage. Maybe you can offer them a service such as accounting or marketing or graphic design in exchange for a wedding dress.

And if you don’t have a professional skill to trade, perhaps they need some extra help in their shop during their busy season or a babysitter for their kids.

Potential Challenges: A bridal shop might not be interested in bartering. Check out sites online where people are selling their used wedding dresses and consider offering them a barter as well!

3. Search for Free Wedding Dresses Online

Check out sites like Craigslist and Freecycle where you can search for wedding dresses in your local area that are being given away for free.

You can also check out your local newspaper classifieds and other such classified sites on the web. Consider joining some wedding Facebook groups to see if any brides are offering up a used gown for free.

Potential Challenges: You might end up finding a free wedding dress online, but more than likely, it will need to be altered and/or professionally cleaned prior to you being able to use it. Keep these expenses in mind when considering your options.

4. Enter Contests to Win a Free Wedding Dress

This isn’t a guaranteed way to get your wedding dress for free, but it never hurts to try! Consider entering a wedding dress giveaway for your shot to win a free bridal gown.

Many wedding retailers, local wedding vendors, big brands, and wedding websites will occasionally host wedding contests or sweepstakes for wedding items, including wedding dresses.

Sign up for email lists with the bridal shops in your area, enter contests online, and do Google searches for free wedding dress contests.

Potential Challenges: It’s not a guarantee, so don’t rely on this method. But it couldn’t hurt to enter as many contests as you can while exploring your other options.

5. Free Wedding Dresses for Military Wives

Did you know that military brides can get get a free wedding dress through the Brides Across America program? Brides have to qualify in order to be eligible. The bride or the groom must have been deployed within the last five years or have an upcoming deployment.

Bridal shops all across the US host events each year where military brides can pick out a free wedding gown. You can see a list of upcoming Brides Across America events here.

Potential Challenges: Each salon has a different number of gowns and sizes available to give away. Prior to the events, BAA provides each salon with a complete list of the attending brides and their sizes to make sure that a good selection is available. Most gowns require alterations, and any associated costs are the bride’s responsibility.

6. Other Wedding Dress Charities

There are other similar charities that offer free dresses for women who meet certain criteria. There are charitable options to shop for a free wedding gown for First Responders and other emergency service workers. So if you’re an EMT or a police officer, you could get a gown on the cheap or even free. The same goes for first responder brides as well as paramedics, firefighters, etc.

Many of these organizations are able to make gowns available for free thanks to generous donations of wedding dresses from previous brides who wish to show their appreciation. Additionally, some bridal salons will donate unsold inventory to be given away for charity.

Can’t Find a Free Wedding Gown? Try these Options Instead

If all else fails and you can’t find a free wedding dress, you can at least score a cheap wedding dress. Shop an affordable bridal retailer or consider purchasing a used wedding gown to give a wedding dress new life!

Have you found a free wedding dress to use for your wedding? How did you do it?

Want more wedding freebies? Don’t miss this post:

Jessica Bishop Headshot

Jessica Bishop is the founder of TheBudgetSavvyBride.com, and has worked in various areas and roles within the wedding industry since 2007. She is the author of the best-selling book,The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner & Organizer and also hosts The Bouquet Toss Wedding Planning Podcast. Jessica's expert wedding advice and savvy savings tips have been featured by Good Morning America, COSMOPOLITAN, Glamour, and more. You can learn more about Jessica on her personal blog and professional website.