The second-most thrilling part about getting married, after getting engaged to the person you love most in the world, is shopping for a bridal gown. Some women have waited their entire lives to walk down the aisle wearing a dress they sketched in pencil in their sixth grade notebooks. The rest of us? We have no darn clue where to begin or whether we're a princess, trumpet-style, lace or boho bride.
Your first instinct might be to make an appointment with a traditional bridal boutique — which I highly recommend because nothing is more fun than trying on dresses you would never have pictured yourself wearing — feathers? Ten-foot train? Bring 'em both on. But maybe you don't consider yourself a typical bride. Perhaps, either because of budget, taste or a combination of both, you're looking to simplify your wedding dress shopping experience. These seven popular and trusted brands, whose clothing you might already have in your closet, design wedding dresses that score major points for being inventive, just plain beautiful, and — in many cases — affordable.
The brand that has become synonymous with ethereal, bohemian clothing has blessed us this year with its first-ever bridal collection, which includes the kind of flowy, lacy, romantic gowns of your vintage-loving, festival-partying dreams. Prices range from about $500 to $4,000. Expect high-waisted maxi skirts and crop tops, tiered skirts, dramatic trains and lots and lots of lace.
Vintage enthusiasts have been relying on ModCloth to make them feel Mad Men glam for years, and those same women who grew up with the online brand will be thrilled to learn they offer a line of bridal gowns fit for the Betty Draper bride. If price is a concern, ModCloth should make you very happy: You can score an elegant, tea-length layered dress for $200, a ballroom gown for $397 or something more whimsical — like their Venice Vows dress (pictured here) for just $92.
H&M doesn't boast an exclusive bridal line (yet), but the trendy retailer seems to be dipping its big toe in the wedding waters because, every so often, they'll experiment with one or two truly interesting bridal looks. You have to be savvy and swift to get your hands on one, but if you're lucky enough to snag an H&M wedding dress like this one, you'll save a lot of money (this Long Lace Dress is just $149) and it will appeal to the minimalist-who-still-yearns-to-look-interesting in you.
Ann Taylor has scored a stellar reputation as a brand that working women turn to when they want quality office basics — suits, dresses, skirt and blouses — that are cut in a way that make women feel feminine, smart and beautiful. Their no-nonsense wedding gown line suits the consummate professional who favors clean embroidery, modern column styles, and quality fabrics like silk charmeuse and duchess satin. Prices range from about $200 to $950.
The clothing on Asos.com reminds us of what our cool, older sisters might have worn. While they don't feature a specific bridal line, there are so many bold, pretty and note-worthy gowns on the site that daring brides will scoop up for their big day. The greatest reason to buy a "wedding gown" from a brand that doesn't make wedding gowns? You save big-time on prices — I'm talking less than $200 in many cases.
You may not be immediately familiar with the brand name BHLDN — until you learn it's actually Anthropologie's mesmerizing bridal line. Their wedding gowns are the perfect marriage of Hollywood glamour and vintage boho, complete with drop-waists, tulle, gold and silver beads, and lace appliqués. Whether you're a Marilyn, Zelda Fitzgerald or some combination of Kate Hudson and Grace Kelly, you'll find something that inspires you. Prices range from $160 for simple, but lovely, tulle skirt and camisole to $3,320 for a structured short-sleeve gown with sheer panels that Ava Gardner would have killed to wear.
Everyone already knows that J. Crew has been quietly selling bridal gowns for years — but did you know their styles have evolved from minimalist and sort-of preppy to more eclectic? Don't get me wrong: If you're in the market for a sleek and streamlined slip dress, ala Carolina Kennedy, J. Crew won't disappoint. But you should also be on the lookout for short and sassy cocktail styles and thoroughly modern bridal jumpsuits. Prices range from $150 to $2,800.
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