Wedding Dress Guide for brides

Photo by Hannah Sharpe

Wedding Dress Shopping Guide

Wondering where to start on your wedding dress shopping journey? From our years of experience working with brides planning elopements and small weddings, we compiled a list of some of our favorite wedding dress options. Our wedding dress shopping guide is the perfect place to start your research.

If you know how to shop for a wedding dress, then browse these dress categories filled with different designers and tips:

wedding dress guide to buy a dress

Photo by Photo By Julieta Featuring a Stella York Wedding Dress

How to Shop for a Wedding Dress:

Decide Your Budget

There is no rule on how much you should spend on your wedding dress. It all really depends on what you’re comfortable with, and what your wedding day vision looks like. For elopement brides, we have seen them spend an average between $200-$1,500 on their bridal gown. It’s also important to consider any alterations you would need for your dress.

Photo by Henry Tieu Photography featuring BHLDN Dress

Think About How You’re Going to Shop

Deciding which dress is going to be “the” dress is a bit stressful, to say the least. Many of our members have gone through this, so we completely understand when brides get overwhelmed at the thought of wedding dress shopping. Thankfully, there are different ways to shop for your wedding dress now including sample sales, consignment, trunk shows, and online!

Sample sales usually happen at least twice a year in local bridal shops. This is when the bridal store sells their old sample inventory to make room for bridal styles for the new season. We love wedding dress shopping during sample sales because you can find a gorgeous designer gown for up to 70% off retail. However, all sample sales are usually in sample sizes and are final sale. What is a bridal sample size? Most bridal samples are bridal size 10 or 12, which is the same as a dress size 6 and 8. However, some shops do hold plus-size sample sizes! Reach out to your local shops and ask what sample sizes they have available.

Trunk Shows are perfect for brides who are looking for the newest wedding dresses from a given designer. Bridal shops will hold these events during specific times of the year to allow brides to check out the new collection before anyone else. This is also a great time to snag a small promotion on these dresses that range between 10-15% off.

Online shopping gives you the most flexibility, especially planning an elopement. We personally love online wedding dress shopping because returns and sales are easy. Some of our favorite online bridal shops include BHLDN, ASOS, and Lulus.

Consignment is a great option for brides trying to save money. Buying a secondhand gown will also allow you to have a top designer dress for about 60% off the retail price. A great idea is to find consignment shops online, such as Still White.

how to shop for a wedding dress

Photo by Allison Slater Photography Featuring Willowby Gown

Consider When and Where You’re Getting Married

When shopping for your wedding dress, you should also think about when you’re going to get married. This includes what season and how far ahead your wedding date is. Planning an elopement doesn’t take as long as a traditional wedding, so this is something to consider when dress shopping. The average time to receive a bridal dress is usually 6-7 months. Another important thing to consider is where you’re going to say “I Do”. Our best places to elope list can give you an idea of what other brides wore on their wedding day.

Photo by Henry Tieu Photography featuring BHLDN dress

Think About Wedding Dress Styles

When it comes to dresses for your wedding day, there are a lot of styles to consider. There is everything from big ballgowns to short dresses. When planning an elopement, it’s important to remember not all wedding dresses will make a good elopement dress. Check out our elopement dress guide if you have your heart set on planning an adventurous elopement.

Here are some wedding dress styles to consider:

  • Ballgown
  • A-line
  • Fit and Flare
  • Mermaid
  • Separates

Photo by Toni G Photo featuring ASOS dress

Don’t Forget About Bridal Accessories

We love bridal accessories. As you try on wedding dresses, think about what accessories you would love to incorporate. Consider what type of veil you would want, and what type of jewelry would match well. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then check out how these adventurous brides styled their bridal look.

Wedding Dress Options

With so many brides coming to our site for inspiration, we thought it was only fitting to create a comprehensive list of some popular wedding dress options you can consider when shopping for your perfect dress.

 

Wedding Dress Designers

For some brides, their whole wedding day revolves around the dress. If you’re a bride who wants a gorgeous wedding dress, despite the higher cost, then this section is for you to get some inspiration. It’s also important to note that not all of these designers will carry dresses in a higher range. If you’re a bride on a budget, you may find a dress you love with one of these designers since most of them have lower range options as well!

Do you need more designer inspiration? Check out these 8 Wedding Dress Designers for Elopements.

 

Allure Bridals

Allure Bridals is all about the detail. You can find a dress that caters to every adventurous bride. From ballgowns to fit and flares, and from dramatic backs to simple drapings. This bridal designer has 7 categories of bridal gowns to explore, and we are sure you’ll find something you love.

Price Range: $800-$4,000

Online Shopping: No, only store locations

Delivery Time: 12-20 weeks

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“I love this Allure dress for brides who elope because it is one that will fit any theme anywhere and anytime.  This dress is elegant and would look beautiful on all brides whether she be modern, classic, vintage, boho, country, or romantic.” [Lavel Marie]

 

Essense of Australia

essence of Australia wedding dresses

Photo by Katy Sergent

This wedding dress designer has a little bit of everything for every bride. Essense of Australia has 13 dress styles to explore including ballgowns, lace, and boho. Essense also carries different designer labels, including Martina Liana, Stella York, Sorella Vira, and All Who Wander. All these dresses are light, airy, romantic, and perfect for your elopement adventure.

We listed 5 Reasons Why Essense of Australia Wedding Dresses are Perfect for Elopements.

If you love wanderlust and boho vibes, then check out Introducing: All Who Wander Boho Wedding Dresses.

Price Range: $1,000 – $3,000

Online Shopping: No, only store locations

Delivery Time: 12-14 weeks

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“I love this option because of their boho-chic style that connects so well with such organic elements that are found while eloping in the mountains! This one, particularly, had such a beautiful train and lace detail, it coordinated perfectly with the mountains and the floral crown and bouquet that Rachel had chosen. I love it when a bride isn’t afraid to let her train down on the trails!” [Katy]

Maggie Sottero

maggie sortero wedding dress

Photo by Wild Connections Photography

Maggie Sottero wedding dresses are perfect for budget-friendly brides, and also for brides looking for a showstopper dress. Their website has an awesome style quiz and style search to help you navigate the beautiful gowns they have to offer.

Price Range: $1,200 – $4,000

Online Shopping: No, only store locations

Delivery Time: 12-16 weeks

 

Hayley Paige

If you are a bride who has dreamed of a gorgeous ballgown to wear on your adventurous elopement, then Hayley Paige should be your dress designer of choice. These dresses embody the “fashionable bride with an eclectic yet romantic twist.” These dresses are absolutely gorgeous, and there a variety of styles and even colors, including her famous blush dresses, available.

Price Range: $2,500 – $8,000

Online Shopping: No, only store locations

Delivery Time: 4-6 months

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“The california sunset made this slight pink tulle dress really turn into a princess moment! [The bride] loves all things glitter and sparkly, and I think this dress suited her perfect.” [Shelly Anderson]

Affordable Wedding Dresses

Even though the designer wedding dresses that we mentioned are gorgeous, they may not be within every bride’s budget. Adventurous brides may also decide to elope because they are conscious of staying within a budget. This is why we are going to break down some affordable wedding dress options for brides who want to look gorgeous without spending thousands on their dress.

If you are looking for an affordable wedding dress, then read our 16 Cheap Wedding Dress Options for Elopements.

 

Anomalie

anomalie wedding dresses

Photo by Whitney Tracy

As we wrap up some of the designer wedding dress options we mentioned, it is important to mention options such as Anomalie. This website allows brides to be the designer of their own dress! That’s right! For our elopement brides, this concept is amazing because it allows you to create a special dress that will look at how you want it to. This option is also a great option for brides who want a show stopper dress without the high price tag that comes along with it.

Price Range: $800 – $2,000 (depending on design)

Online Shopping: Yup

Delivery Time: 5-6 months

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“With nearly unlimited stylish options, including a fun quiz to get you started, it’s the perfect solution for brides who are struggling to either find exact what they want or don’t have bridal boutiques close by to visit in person.” [Whitney Tracy]

 

David’s Bridal

David’s Bridal wedding dresses is the dress option that will give brides the same boutique shopping feel as they look for their dress. Brides can shop online and in-person, and there are also sales that are always going on! We love it when our brides find a great deal on a dress they love.

Price Range: $40 – $1,500

Online Shopping: Yes and Stores

Delivery Time: 6 – 8 weeks (depending design)

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“David’s Bridal can be a great choice for brides who elope, because of their huge selection of off-the-rack and sample gowns that won’t need alterations. And of course David’s Bridal is known for being affordable, with lots of dresses to choose from for less than $200.” [Nina]

 

BHLDN 

BHLDN wedding dresses

Photo by Made to be Mine

BHLDN wedding dresses are an awesome alternative for a bride who wants something beautiful. Their dresses range in price from to cater to brides who are looking for something for inexpensive, or for brides who want a more extravagant dress. There are also some awesome deals on the site throughout the year!

Price Range: $200 – $2,000

Online Shopping: Yes and Select Stores

Delivery Time: 12 – 16 weeks

 

Lulus

We love how online stores are becoming an amazing resource for brides and providing more affordable options for brides. Lulus wedding dresses are literally made for our elopement brides. These dresses ship quick, have free returns and are super lightweight and easy to transport during an adventurous elopement.

Price Range: $40 – $350

Online Shopping: Yes

Delivery Time: 1-2 weeks

 

ASOS

Photo by Adventure & Vow

This is another online resource for brides on a budget and needs a dress fast! ASOS wedding dresses are just as convenient as the Lulus option, and they also have plenty of styles to choose from.

Price Range: $100 – $500

Online Shopping: Yes

Delivery Time: 1-2 weeks

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“I love the style of these dresses with cool textures, and they are also easy for brides to move in for adventuring!” [Traci Edwards]

 

Azazie Wedding Dresses

Azazie’s website is known for their bridesmaid dresses, but did you know they also have plenty of beautiful wedding dresses? Azazie wedding dresses are more affordable than dresses from a bridal boutique, and you have the bonus of trying on your favorite dresses in the comfort of your home! 

Price Range: $150 – $800

Online Shopping: Yes

Delivery Time: 8-10 weeks

 

Used Wedding Dresses

used wedding dresses

Photo by Lydia Trudelle

We love it when brides aren’t afraid to find a good deal. Used wedding dresses are becoming more of an option for brides with websites such as Poshmark, Preownedweddingdresses, and Stillwhite. This option allows you to buy a designer wedding dress at a more reasonable price. There are also store options such as Goodwill and Consignment shops. One of our favorites, however, is when brides wear their mother’s wedding dress!

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“This was consigned at a thrift store for less than $5. This bride went to a thrift store and bought a dress that suited her and didn’t break the bank. This is the perfect option for the bride who wants to elope because eloping is not about the materialistic matter, but what is the heart behind eloping… to marry the one whom you love.” [Lydia]

 

Amazon

We bet you’re surprised to see Amazon on this list. Amazon is not only taking over the eCommerce world, but it’s definitely become an option for elopement brides around the world. We highly recommend to read reviews of these dresses, and we also recommend checking the return policy if something does not fit right. Besides those two tips, you can buy over 50 wedding dresses to match the price of a Haley Paige wedding dress.

Price Range: Depends!

Online Shopping: Yup + potential Amazon Prime shipping!

Delivery Time: 2 days – 2 weeks (depending on the seller)

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“This bride, Sami, ordered her dress off of Amazon. We love when eloping brides can freely express themselves through their unique wedding dress. A bride’s dress is a big part of the wedding day, so we believe that their dress, traditional or not, should speak to who they are.” [Maddie, The Photographer]

 

eBay

Photo by Hannah Sharpe

This is another website you can find an affordable wedding dress. We also suggest our brides to do their research when buying from eBay. We love some of the finds that our brides tell us about. These eBay wedding dresses are gorgeous and easy on your wallet!

Price Range: Depends

Online Shopping: Yup

Delivery Time: Depending on the seller

Why this photographer loves this designer: 

“This dress was bought on eBay for £12 from an Unbranded Chinese manufacturer. I loved this option for this gorgeous bride as it meant she could run into the sea and on the beach without worrying about keeping it clean. The fabric was perfect for a Seychelles elopement as it kept her cool and still able to move around. Who says you need a designer wedding dress!” [Hannah Sharpe]

 

Non Traditional Wedding Dresses

Despite what your grandmother and aunt may think, you definitely can wear anything you want for your wedding day. Gone are the traditions where people think brides have to wear white. Brides can wear anything, especially if they decide to have an intimate elopement with the one they love. After all, some brides don’t see themselves wearing a big ballgown, so why should they?

Instead, they want something they feel comfortable in. As we work with different couples and photographers, we realize many brides are turning to non-traditional wedding dresses including short wedding dresses and colored wedding dresses.

 

Short Wedding Dresses

When it comes to elopements, sometimes long dresses may prevent you from truly enjoying your adventure. Some brides prefer to go with cute, short dresses for their wedding day, and that is completely fine! We love seeing these adorable looks during elopements, and we are all for it. Some stores you can find short wedding dresses include David’s Bridal, Nordstrom, BHLDN, and ASOS to name a few. Shorter gowns tend to also be more affordable! So not only will you save more money on your special day, but you will also be able to hike, jump, dance, and stretch easily!

 

Two-Piece Wedding Dress

If you aren’t committed to a full dress, you can absolutely mix and match pieces to create your dream bridal look. We love it when brides mix different textures and even different colors for their bridal outfit. Remember, it’s your day, and you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. Consider shopping around different bridal stores or your favorite online stores to mix and match a two-piece wedding dress look. If you do, tag us @wanderingweddings, we would love to see what you create!

 

Bridesmaid Dresses

Photo by Malachi Lewis

One of the best parts about eloping is that you do not have to worry about anyone out staging you that day. You can wear whatever you like, and you’ll look absolutely beautiful. So if that means you love that dress online that is labeled, bridesmaid dress, we say you should totally go for it!

Hi-Low Wedding Dresses

Hi Low Wedding Dresses

Photo by Sierra Katrina

Did we mention elopements are adventurous? Sometimes our brides look for a dress they will feel beautiful in and have plenty of room to move in. If you are looking for something different and fun, then we suggest looking into a hi-low wedding dress option! This particular dress is both a two-piece AND hi low wedding dress. The designer is Alicia Rueda.

Why this photographer loves this option: 

“This option is perfect for brides who want to turn a cheek or simply be in their element on their wedding day. It’s also a great reminder that we don’t have to follow any rules when it comes to tying the knot.” [Sierra, The Photographer]

 

Sequin Wedding Dresses

Maybe lace isn’t your thing, and you want to stand out in your portraits with something bold and elegant. A sequin wedding dress may be your best bet. You don’t even need to spend a lot to look amazing! This wedding dress is from ASOS, and it is just under $200!

Why this photographer loves this option: 

“The ASOS dress is unique, and the sequins really stand out and give texture to the bleak landscape.” [Lindsay]

 

Pantsuit Wedding Dress

Maybe you aren’t a fan of dresses at all, and you want as much room to move as possible. A pantsuit wedding dress may be the perfect fit for you if you are not feeling any of these dress options. If you are wondering if you will still look like a bride, we can reassure you 100% that you will! We love it when brides are bold enough to make a statement on their wedding day. There are also multiple online stores and bridal stores that carry pantsuit options!

 

Colored Wedding Dresses

Since we love elopements, it is no surprise that we also love new traditions. After all, your wedding day should be something that you want that represents you and your partner. You should also never feel obligated to fit into the standard wedding model that most people think. We are loving brides who are brave enough to wear a dress that is not even close to white! We put together some inspirational colored wedding dresses for you to pin on your wedding boards.

 

Black Wedding Dresses

Some brides love to do the complete opposite of what is expected during a wedding, and we love it! Black wedding dresses are bold, gorgeous, and perfect for Fall weddings. Emily Johnson, owner and lead photographer of City to Summit Elopements, recommends Sew Romantic Designs if you are looking for black wedding dresses.

Why this photographer loves this color: 
“I love this dress so much for brides who are eloping because it is the perfect mix of romantic and non-traditional. Not every bride is drawn to white and I love that Sew Romantic Designs gives them the option to kick tradition out the window and wear something that they love, no matter the color.” [Emily]

 

Red Wedding Dresses

Photo by Lyndsie Lord

If you are looking for something bold, then red is always a good option if considering on wearing a color other than white. You can then play “lady in red” because that would be super fitting. Red wedding dresses are also a great option for holiday and winter inspired elopements. Azazie is one example of a great place to find red wedding dresses.

 

Blush Wedding Dresses

blush wedding dresses

Photo by Olga Merolla

Maybe you want to make a bold statement, but also stay true to a true bridal look. A good alternative for you to consider would be a blush wedding dress. Blush has easily become a popular color many bridal stores have started to carry. What color wedding dress are you considering wearing?

 

Blue Wedding Dresses

Blue wedding dresses are just magical. We love how this color pops against these mountains in Italy. This particular colored wedding dress is from Modeca. If you are interested in wearing something other than white, then we highly recommend asking your local bridal stores or asking for different color options online! The wedding industry is more than aware that brides want to wear colors other than white. Go for it! 

 

Green Wedding Dresses

As you can tell from our previous color categories, there is no limit to what color you can wear for your wedding day. Wearing a color other than white can actually showcase your personality. It is also a wonderful way to wear a color that means something to you or your relationship. The designer of this dress is Odelia Bridal.

 

Gold Wedding Dresses

gold wedding dresses

Photo by Wild Connections Photography

We love it when brides go against the normal standard of weddings and wear something bold and beautiful. Gold wedding dresses are actually really beautiful against natural backdrops such as forests, waterfalls, and mountains. We also love how this dress gives this bride an elegant and sophisticated look.