Wedding Wednesday: Preliminary gown shopping

It's a little early for me to be picking a wedding gown, but I thought I'd share how I've done my research. The websites I've been using probably aren't the ones you'd expect.

The Knot is the grand dame of wedding websites. There's no escaping it. I find the 457 things on my "to do" list wee bit annoying, though. The Knot reminds me that the wedding industry is a big business. As one magazine editor put it, the wedding planning process is the one time that many people are willing to completely ignore their income bracket and over spend. That's not to say I don't use The Knot. I do and I love their regional magazines. I've found it very helpful at times. I just have to remind myself that a lot of what they deem necessary is not required.

The Knot has a wedding gown search engine, but I have two problems with it. First of all, it isn't up to date. For example, the newest Amsale dresses on The Knot's website are from Spring 2010. There are no images from the company's Fall 2010 show. While it's nice to use The Knot's search function to limit dresses by silhouette, neckline, or price, at this stage, I'm just looking to get a feel for different designers. I don't have a particular dress in mind.

The second problem with The Knot is with the size of the images returned. The main search page gives tiny thumbnail images of dresses. Getting a large image of a dress on The Knot takes a few extra clicks and when you're just browsing, it gets a little tedious after a while.

This is NOT a dress I'm considering

This is where an unexpected resource comes into play...

New York magazine posts pictures of every outfit that comes down the runway during fashion week (ready to wear and bridal). They organize everything by designer and season. It's much easier to browse there than on wedding websites because you can flip through large images quickly. No need to go back to a page of thumbnails to see another dress.

It's nice to have dates tied to the images, too. I've found that the Monique Lhuillier dress I love is quite old and has been updated for the current season. I don't really like the updated version.

Now, pictures of models in wedding gowns are great, but pictures of real women in those same gowns are even better, in my opinion. That's where the pre-owned wedding gown sites come into the picture. On the pre-owned wedding dress sites, brides selling their dresses usually upload a good number of pictures. They also include height and size information, so it's easy to see how dresses look on people who might be around my size.

Screen shot of a search from

Another nice detail is that most listings include information about the original price paid for the dress along with the asking price. On The Knot, you get a ballpark figure because dresses are rated on a scale ($-$$$$$).

The pre-owned sites I've found are, Once Wed, Bravo Bride, and Recycled Bride.

I would love to know how you all found your wedding gowns and if you did online research before buying. I've been enjoying my searching so far!


  1. Happy planning and happy Thursday!
    The dresses are beautiful shown above!

  2. ElizabethhackettsmithAugust 5, 2013 at 3:29 PM


    My sister in law wore the Monique Lhuillier dress that you've posted in your picks at her wedding in October 2010. Not sure if this helps, but she was able to order it through the Plumed Serpent in Connecticut. I, too, wore a Monique Lhuillier gown when I got married in December 2005 and was so impressed with her attention to detail and the quality of the article.

    Best of luck!

    Elizabeth Hackett Smith

  3. Aimee@ the Functional SpaceAugust 5, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    I love that Monique Lhillier too! I wanted something like that but knew it wasn't meant to be on my Rubenesque frame! I had a small wedding and the tiniest of budgets. I didn't know about the pre-owned sites then. I totally would have been willing to go that route. I was actually afraid to go shopping and fall in love with something I couldn't afford. I ended up ordering a simple dress from JCrew that I loved (for the price I loved it alot!). Now it just hangs in the back of the closet. But because it wasn't something expensive I wouldn't have any problem turning it into something else and wearing it again.

  4. I found mine (Watters 9040B) in a local shop and they told me it couldn't be ordered in time (3 mos) so I ordered online from Pearls Place in Louisiana. Fab experience, great price. I recommend calling them to see if they carry your final choice and get pricing.

  5. I've been having such a fun time watching your pinterest pictures of dresses, there is so much more choice now than when I was getting married, or at least, it's easier to find the choice. I fell in love with a dress that was as much as my whole wedding budget so I brought a camera into the changing room and took a photo of myself in it and of lots of details on the dress and then my mom and I made it. Well, mostly she made it. I love it all the more because of it and we were able to make some changes to the origional design so that it suited me a little more. I think if you find something really outrageously priced that you love, it's worth talking to a seamstress to see what it would cost to have something made.

  6. This is so helpful. I am going wedding dress shopping with a good friend on Sunday, so I am going to share your post with her.

  7. I love the idea of pre-owned wedding dresses. Such a great way to get something lovely but not spend as much money.

    I never tried on any dresses for my wedding. Not one. I had my dress made, so there were three fittings and I was done.

  8. I'd better hold off on doing such things; May scare the heck outta Ryan! :) Ok, maybe I'll just peek a little...

  9. I didn't do much in the way of fact I got something totally different than I expected! I basically checked out 3 bridal boutiques - the Saks in Tysons and in Richmond, and a little snooty boutique in Alexandria. I tried on a 2-piece Monique L'hullier dress in Saks I liked, then found out the Alexandria boutique was having a trunk sale (20% off?). I ended up buying the lace top there, then snuck a picture of the skirt I liked and had it custom made for about 1/4 the price. I opted against the absurdly expensive $250 ribbon and got one from M&J Trim for ~$20. I loved my dress but the top was a bit big on me by wedding day! I still have it!

  10. It is never too early to shop for a gown - haven't we looked at them our whole lives? I love the Amsale dress - wow. I went to one shop, tried on two dresses, loved the second. Done. But then I'm not a big shopper. Things have changed since that day - we've been married nearly 30 years. Have fun with the process.

  11. Um, I think I just found my ideal wedding dress. That Monique Lhuillier is GOREGOUS! Simple but elegant, and NOT boring. Holy cow. Too bad I'd never spend that much.

  12. My favorite site was Once Wed and this one
    You will want to see if they do wedding gowns (not sure if they do) which was started by the Broke Ass Bride ( is more budget-friendly.

    This site is great for finding things area-specific:

    This site offers cute bridesmaid dresses for rental

    AND in case you wanted one more:
    For a small price you get designer dresses to rent.

    Style me Pretty has a pretty comprehensive vendor guide as well:

    Also, if you haven't already, check out This was my favorite site for inspirations when I was planning my wedding.

    I'd try to stay clear of The Knot and other corporate sites. They and all other "bridal magazines" are just ads repackaged to look like magazine layouts.

    Have fun!

  13. My mother got married during WW II when fabric was rationed. Luckily her mother had enough beautiful satin to have a gorgeous gown made. After the wedding her gown was loaned to several friends for their wedding. Kind of like a good luck charm. And, Eco friendly before it was in vogue.
    As you know, I went the resale route because I got married 2 mts after getting engaged and that was the only option at the time. My budget was very tight, so freeing up my $ for other things was great.
    Because all my sisters were taller than my petite mother, it was never even a consideration to wear her dress so she had it made into vestments for the priest to use. I thought that was a nice touch.

  14. The internet was my best friend during the planning process. I did do gown research online but because I'm a plus size gal my choices were limited. I bought my dress at David's Bridal. I browsed styles on their website and took printouts to the store so I wouldn't get overwhelmed. I love the idea of pre-owned dresses.

  15. For the jewish orthodox brides there are lending societies (Gemach's) for everything from gowns, decorated hair pieces, veils, shoes, flowers to coat racks. Sometimes the items are free. I borrowed my gown from one and only had to pay a dry cleaning fee.

  16. Maybe I'm old fashioned but I wanted my wedding dress to be brand new. However, I ended up with 3 wedding dresses at a fraction of their price even though I bought new. During my search, I saw many more at unbelievable prices...just by searching.

    I would say first get an idea of what you want. Is it a traditional wedding dress or something that would be an evening gown, too? If it's the latter, check stores that sell formal wear for white/ivory dresses. Often when the label "wedding attire" is slapped onto an item, the price goes way up.

    Second, I would check clearance sections and sample sales and if your wedding is further away, wait for the slow season to buy. In the dead of winter here, there are a lot of sales on wedding dresses. Sometimes you can get thousands off if it's a designer brand.

    Unlike off-the-rack clothes, wedding dresses are often tailored afterword anyway. A good one can truly work magic on a gown so you find THE dress at 70% and just a size or two bigger, it may be worth it to spend $100-300 tailoring it.

  17. Ah, I would love to share my story! I fell in love with a dress that was a bit beyond my budget so I very hesitantly began scouring the once used websites. Considering that I'm 5'9+ and fairly slim, I thought my chances of finding my dress (Monique Lhuillier) were slim to none (haha) but alas, I found the dress in my exact measurements! The seller was extremely friendly and with a little help from, the transaction was a smooth one. Upon receipt of the dress, I realized that the measurements were far from perfect, the dress was much larger than expected, but with the help of a great seamstress (a must have if you are going to purchase a used dress!), I am able to wear my dream dress. Thank you!

    I'm from the DC area - a little bit of a hike from C-Ville (although I am moving to C-Ville in a month!), but if anyone needs a fantastic and somewhat budget friendly seamstress (considering the quality of the work - and she can make beautiful dresses from scratch), I'd be happy to share.

  18. I had my gown custom made in Harrisonburg by Kathleen Temple. I gave her pictures of 2 gowns that I loved and said I want the top of this one and the skirt of that one and that is just what I got! She was wonderful to work with and I still love my dress (even after working as a bridal consultant in a bridal salon). You can find her at:


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