If you are on a tight budget you may be considering purchasing a used wedding dress. If you leave your options open and allow plenty of time for used dress shopping, you can wear the wedding gown of your dreams while saving several hundred dollars.

Be aware when you buy used — or any gown that isn’t straight from the designer — that it may be in less than pristine condition. Expect to have it cleaned or to make minor repairs.

Before looking at used gowns, research the various designers’ styles so you know which brands tend to have “your look.” While you are doing this, also decide what features you want your wedding dress to have. For example:

– What general style do you prefer (a-line, mermaid, etc.)? 
– What color will your gown be (ivory, white, pink, etc.)? 
– What necklines are acceptable to you (sweetheart, halter, etc.)? 
– How long will your gown be and will it have a train? 
– What type of detailing will it have (seed pearls, rhinestones, beading, etc.)?

Also, like everyday women’s clothing, sizes vary depending on the brand. Each designer publishes a measurement chart. Using those charts, figure out your size in each of your preferred designers’ gowns (Remember that in all likelihood your wedding dress will need to be altered, whether you purchase it used or straight from the designer).

After completing your research, you are ready to begin looking for a used wedding gown. There are several places to find used gowns. You’ll want to set up notices, put in requests, and monitor each of them:

– Consignment stores can be a good used gown source. If you are lucky enough to have a local used formal wear store, alert the owner that you are looking for a dress.

– Craigslist is a very active used-goods marketplace. Find your local Craigslist, open a free account, and make an “item wanted” post. Do searches for the terms “wedding gown” and “wedding dress” in the clothing section — and monitor new listings often — to see what is currently being sold.

– There are several Websites that specialize in used wedding attire and/or create a buyer/seller marketplace (hint: search “used wedding dresses” or something similar in your favorite search engine).

– Buy at auction. By far the largest auction site is eBay, and they have an extensive bridal gown section. Many were worn once or are sales samples.

– While not technically “used,” bridal store floor samples are a great bargain. Most stores sell their last-season samples for $99 and up.

Other Ways of Finding Inexpensive Wedding Gowns

If your heart is set on a designer dress, but you don’t have a designer wallet, you might find a designer sample dress for a fraction of the cost at one of the above-mentioned floor sample sales.

You could also buy a designer duplicate. These resemble — but are not completely identical to — an existing designer gown. In general, you order the gown based on a photo of an existing dress. A seamstress, usually in an Asian country, then recreates the general look of the pictured gown — often for around $100. There are both positives and negatives to this approach. Whether a dress like this is right for you depends on your own priorities: If you expect the same quality of material and exact detailing as a designer original, you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a way to very inexpensively purchase a formal wedding dress that will look good on you for a day, then consider this option.

A final way to find an inexpensive bridal gown is to consider a white or ivory bridesmaid dress to wear as an informal wedding dress. Because bridesmaid dresses are generally much less expensive than bridal gowns, you can save hundreds of dollars with this approach.