Look- I’m not saying that traditional wedding dresses aren’t beautiful pieces of high-quality artisanship that are potentially game-changing for one’s self esteem. But the whole process of wedding dress shopping can be so alienating to a lot of people- most often to those with bigger bodies, disabilities, and trans & non-binary folks. Even those with especially strong body insecurities may feel uncomfortable going into a bridal salon, regardless of how kind and encouraging the consultants there are. And let’s not forget the price tag: the average wedding dress in Canada costs around fifteen hundred dollars. For ONE dress. That you (might) ONLY WEAR ONCE.
I’m not here to tell you what to do with your money. But the cost of a traditional wedding dress isn’t accessible for a lot of people. You can have all the confidence in the world about your body (and you should, because you’re frickin’ gorgeous), but if you don’t have that kind of money, the cost itself is alienating.
And all of the white that gets thrown at you… White, off-white, natural white, ivory, cream, blush, champagne… all very faintly different shades of the same damn colour.
So how do you game the system? How do you find a colourful dress, or a dress for less than a thousand dollars, or a dress that feels like it belongs at a Renaissance Fair because damn it, that’s what your heart desires?
First of all, consider dropping the word “wedding” from your search engine queries or conversations with dressmakers and vendors. It may not work for everyone, but if you’re looking for a non-white dress specifically, this may be your ticket to avoiding the Wedding Tax (it exists and it’s awful).
If you want something that’s made with weddings in mind, but isn’t a full-blown gown with all the trimmings, try looking at bridesmaid dresses, instead. You can usually pick from a wide variety of colours, since bridesmaid dresses are designed to be colour-coordinated with the rest of a wedding. You can easily find a dress, shoes, and accessories for only a few hundred dollars by sticking to the wedding party section.
If you want a little more sparkle or detail, take a look at prom dresses. Granted, some people may feel a little awkward about going into a dress shop as an adult and asking to see the prom section. If this is the case for you, try shopping online! It may lack the certainty that comes with being able to try a dress on in person, but if you know what you want, it may be the perfect place to find your ideal dress.
I always like to recommend checking out small, local businesses or independent dressmakers when possible. There are plenty of people (both here and all over the world) that run their own businesses and make ethical, high-quality clothing for casual and formal occasions. Since many of their pieces are made to order, they’ll be made to your exact measurements, which means very few (if any) alterations!
If you want to save the most money and make the greenest choice possible, shopping second-hand or wearing an heirloom dress would be your best bet. Wearing a pre-worn dress means that no new material (or potentially, carbon from transportation) will be produced or used. It also means that you’ll have the chance to wear a cute vintage or retro outfit on your wedding day! Wearing a pre-loved dress isn’t tacky and it isn’t bad luck- period. Those are just superstitions perpetuated by people who want you to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a dress you’re only expected to wear once. It’s an eco-conscious, budget-friendly, perfectly valid choice!