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Budget Bridal Attire

Dear Cheap JAP,

I’m going to be getting married in a few months. Everything about it is completely non-traditional – a justice of the peace sorta thing. I need your advice on good websites to find cute dresses. It doesn’t have to be white – I’m looking for an amazing dress under $300 that I wouldn’t have an excuse to wear otherwise (I live in the particularly unglamorous hills of Western Pennsylvania). I’ve tried, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, J. Crew etc. I’m looking for something slightly dressy – but not prom dress territory – something you would wear to a holiday party. Any suggestions?

Thanks, love the site!

Firstly, a big fat Mazel Tov to you and your beau! I’m uber impressed by your low-key approach to the whole wedding thang, and seriously honored to help. Based on the stores you mentioned, I’m guessing you want something in the under $500 range, yes? I’m also guessing said stores’ cocktail dresses were missing that attention-grabbing, special occasion-esque quality; I don’t care how big or small the wedding is, EVERY bride deserves to feel like the star of the show whilst tying the knot. What you need is a retailer that specializes in stunning, one-of-a-kind pieces at decent price points.

One word: The “formal dress” category is chock full of unique, beautifully crafted pieces. Here’s six to get you started.

Both the Cream Couture Dress and the Key Lime Couture Dress are by Julia Lovan Designs ($350 each). I think it’s totally badass that you’re not tied to wearing white, hence the inclusion of the lime number. A fantastic alternative to the standard color scheme, methinks.

The Ruffle Dress ($290) is a bit more casual, but I think the stunning cut and ruffle details make for a glorious fusion of cocktail wear and bridal attire. The pearl and lace dotted neckline on the Silk Taffeta Wedding Dress ($265) scream Victorian mini. Awesome. I’m skeptical of whether or not said neckline can accommodate a bust above a B-cup, but it’s a stellar option if you’re on the small side.

The gathering on the Peaceful Afternoon Dress ($515) is TO DIE. And I know you said nothing long, but I had to include the Eco Chameleon Wedding Gown ($360) anyway. Why? Because it can be tied into three different styles! Amaaaaazing!

The obvious question here is Do They Have Your Size? Yes. How do I know this, in spite of the fact that I don’t have this information? Because EVERY SINGLE DRESS pictured is MADE-TO-ORDER, i.e. you send them your measurements, they send you the dress. The exact turnaround time varies for each designer; most dresses are finished within three to five weeks.

Do keep us posted on your final decision. That I’ll be needing pics of you in your custom-made dress should go without saying. ;)


Cheap JAP



I too have been looking online for my wedding dress, and I have found that some bridesmaids dresses (in any color on the rainbow) are much cuter than traditional gowns. Personally, I’m a bit obsessed with this one, but it may be a bit simple for your taste: Anywhoo, just a thought. From one bride-to-be to another, best wishes and send pictures!!!!!!!!!!


Just wanted to add that I bought my wedding dress for $120 from Neiman Marcus. It was the last one on clearance from the previous season. It was the first and only dress I tried on.


For a second I thought YOU were getting married. I almost had a heart attack and started screaming “NO, TOO YOUNG. RUN CHEAP JAP, RUN!!!!!!”

Also, those dresses are gorgeous.


I have that ruffle dress in black. It’s great. Went to her shop in Portland to get fitted for it.


LOVE the peaceful afternoon dress! almost wish i was getting married right now so i could buy it.


Beautiful dresses – but wasn’t she looking for ones under $300?(that’s what her email says)

Please, please tell me that you just didn’t read that part and aren’t recommending $515/ $350 dresses to a poor bride that wants to spend under $300.

That would totally be a sneaky magazine move yo. ;)


I got married in a $4 dress from a yard sale. It was green. My more traditional SIL bought a dress at a flea market: made from a white damask table cloth, it was $11.

I’d recommend Forever 21 since this is likely a 1-time wear. Ross has lots of inexpensive dressy stuff.


Yes, the answer is always etsy! I’d for sure check out the vintage section, there’s always great stuff there too.

Wanted to say thanks up to jenilane, she linked to two things from my shop!

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