I Spent $15 On My Wedding Dress and Have Zero Regrets
How one Philly bride thrifted and saved her way through wedding planning.
Per The Knot, the average cost of a wedding dress currently hovers around $1,600. But that doesn’t mean everyone shopping for one drops what can amount to more than a month’s rent on the purchase! South Philly bride Christiana Light, who wed husband Alex at the MAAS Building in Kensington in March, spent just $15 on her wedding dress. Here, she explains the why and how—and also shares a few other ways she saved money while wedding planning.
This story is part of Philadelphia Wedding’s on-going Real Talk series, where real Philly couples share their unique approaches to wedding planning and marriage. If you have a unique story or experience worth sharing, we’d love to hear about it.
I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere New York. My family always emphasized being frugal. My grandparents lived through the Depression era, and those kind of morals were impressed upon me.
Not spending a ton on the wedding … is very in line with [who my husband and I] are. We wanted it to be relaxed. If you’re spending $60,000 on a wedding where everyone’s wearing black tie, it’s not that relaxed, easy kind of feel.
But I do think that it’s good to have an investment together going into marriage. We ended up buying a house before we got married. We went a little over budget, but we love it and it’s the one thing we’ve really spent money on because it’s also an asset. It will pay for itself.
I’m not much of a wedding dress person. I never could imagine myself spending thousands of dollars on one.
I never stepped foot in a wedding dress store. I ordered a couple from Nordstrom that were just white dresses. I also bought a short cocktail dress from T.J. Maxx, but I wound up wearing that to our rehearsal.
A couple of months after we got engaged … my mom and I were traveling in California, and we both like going to thrift shops. We were in an American Cancer Society thrift store, and there was this wedding dress that I tried on and it fit almost perfectly. I’ve lost a couple people in my family to cancer, and it just seemed like it was kind of meant to be. It was $30 and it was marked down fifty percent, so I paid $15 dollars for it.
I bought it, and we didn’t even have a date for the wedding. So I got it thinking, this is $15, so I can think about it. Then my mother-in-law got it professionally ironed and it looked so much better. I thought I would have to have it dry cleaned, but it was fine.
Of all the things we spent money on, the only thing we didn’t really need to spend on was the $100 altering the dress. Whoever [first] wore it must have been a similar height because the length of the dress was perfect. The only thing the seamstress did was take it in a little bit at the hips, which wasn’t really necessary.
It turned out way better than I would have thought. After our ceremony, I changed into a different dress that was from Nordstrom Rack. I honestly thought that dress would photograph a little bit better, but really the white dress looked a lot more flattering.
It was really representative of what we were going for overall. Just having a really fun, really relaxed time. There were a couple French friends who came and one of them had a little boy. He was so energetic, he was running around. He was on top of my dress with his dirty feet and I didn’t care! I spent $15 on it. It was so relaxed, and that’s what we really wanted.
My bridesmaid dresses were also $15. I’ve been in weddings, and one of the other important things for us was making sure that our friends didn’t have to pay a lot of money to be in ours. My friends are mostly not from the area, so I wanted to pay for their dresses. I asked everyone for their sizes, and I went to H&M and found a dress that I saw someone at work wearing. It was $15. So I bought all the dresses for everyone, and then I used Rit Dye to dye them. My mom said I was crazy, until she saw them for the first time.
We also thrifted our dishware. Some plates came from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Washington Avenue, but most of them came from my mom. She goes to yard sales, and she also bought some from T.J. Maxx that were cheaper than a couple of dollars. She got the cobalt blue glasses from an old co-worker. Afterwards, we gave some away.
I looked into renting, but it was a lot more expensive. The silverware we bought was from IKEA. It was something like $130 for silverware for everyone, and we ended up giving it to my friends.
Sustainability was definitely an added benefit … but honestly, we just wanted to eat off of real plates and save money.
I think what some people lose sight of is … that it doesn’t matter how much you spend, or how much effort you put into it. [Your wedding] is probably going to be memorable and emotional either way.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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