Say yes to the non-traditional dress


It’s the big day. You’re marrying the person of your dreams. And you have nothing to wear.

Nine months before my wedding, I had this recurring nightmare. My wedding dress was supposed to be the one piece of my wardrobe I’d thought about all my life. I felt like I couldn’t begin to plan my big day until I knew what I was going to wear.

Through all the sequins, taffeta, and lace I found myself wrapped up in when I began my search, I realized that perhaps the thousands of strapless bridal gowns paraded before me weren’t quite my style. Maybe my bridal gown would be less traditional than I thought.

Sound familiar? If the current image of bridal beauty doesn’t work for you, then a non-traditional bridal gown might be the right fit. Finding the perfect unique wedding dress can be accomplished in a few simple steps.

Budget money and time

Before you even begin looking for a dress, plan a budget for the cost of the gown and any associated alterations. You’ll want to pick an end date to your search so you will have a beautiful, appropriately altered dress for your big day. Alterations can take anywhere between one and three months, depending on what you need to get done, so the trick is to contact your seamstress early and communicate your needs clearly.

Find the right style for you

After you’ve decided on a budget, decide on the general style of dress you envision for yourself. Have you always wanted something with a big skirt? A sweet tea length dress? Or maybe a slim A-frame would better suit your needs? Make sure this vision matches the atmosphere of your wedding. If you’re unsure, visit the local thrift shop and try on a few formal gowns. Examine the silhouette to see what looks good on you. Take a friend with you and make it fun.

Often, loved ones will have opinions on what kind of dress a bride should get. Remember, a graceful bride is a happy bride. Take these considerations with respect and give them a try if you feel comfortable. But remember this decision is ultimately up to you.

Start your search

Once you have a general sense of what you like, start your non-traditional search. There are many options here. Department stores like Macy’s have formal dresses by many designers. Begin to explore. Department store dresses can cost less money than traditional wedding gowns, and give the bride a variety of options. Stores like Nordstrom even have wedding gown departments where a bride might find something unique. You can also go to the store and try on the designer before you purchase a dress to make sure you like the cut and fit of their fashion.

Another place to find a non-traditional wedding dress is online. The World Wide Web is full of beautiful and unique dresses, but one place to start is, which features many custom-made dresses at a variety of prices. Auction sites like may also sell what you’re looking for, though nothing is guaranteed.

I used a combination of the above methods to find my gown. I spent hours on the Macy’s website, pouring through pages of their women’s formal wear before I found a designer I thought made beautiful dresses, and even one style I especially adored. Chiffon layers fell diagonally from an empire waste. Light caps crawled over the delicate shoulder. It was heaven. The only hitch? It didn’t come in white.

Undeterred, I went on and continued my search, all the while keeping my dream dress in the back of my mind. Weeks went by and I found a few other gowns that piqued my interest, but nothing that stuck with me, so one night, on a fluke I visited eBay. After a few lucky searches, I found my dress, in my size, in ivory white. I placed a bid and watched the auction with ridiculous focus until it ended the next day. I was the winner. I had potentially found my gown.

Decide and stop

Whether it is through in-store visits or smartly navigating the returns policies of online vendors, select a manageable amount of dresses to try on in person. Besides my eBay dress, I had tried on two potential dresses at department stores within driving distance. Either of these dresses would have worked for my wedding, so I felt at ease because I knew I had options.

When trying on gowns, wear the underwear you want to wear on the big day. Think about the logistics of your wedding: Is the dress appropriate for the weather? Does the dress allow for dancing? Are you comfortable in it? Don’t worry about things like length, which can be changed with alterations.

My department-store-via-eBay chiffon dress made me feel smooth and elegant. I knew it was the one before I zipped it up. If your reaction isn’t this immediate, try on as many gowns as you need to, and stop when you find one that makes you feel beautiful and confident. Bonus points if it makes you or a loved family member cry tears of happiness.

Congratulations, you’ve just found your non-traditional gown.