The True Story Behind How I Found My Wedding Dress for $35 the Day Before My Wedding



Yes. That title is 100% true and 100% not clickbait.  But before we get into the story, I have to provide some context.

The context

When my husband and I decided to get married, we both knew that we didn’t want anything over-the-top for our wedding.

Three reasons.

Reason One: Laziness. I don’t like wedding planning and let’s be real, as the woman, I would have been charged to do the majority of the heavy lifting, which is not something that I saw value in— neither short-term nor long-term.

Reason Two: Cost. The average national cost for a wedding in the US is close to $30K. I had just finished expensive grad school and he was just cleaning up his credit and getting out of debt, so to put ourselves deep in the debt hole again, for a big party was the antithesis of all of the hard work that we had done with our finances.

Reason Three: My mom’s wedding. As a little girl, I always saw pictures of my mom’s wedding, which she did in a courthouse in Canada in the late 60s. And I thought she looked beautiful. She wore a white suit, some white gloves, and a white hat tilted to the side. She was (and is) a real glossy pet. So somewhere deep in my subconscious her simple and elegant move to matrimony was my gold standard.

Bonus reason: Dress Shopping. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good thrift store (sometimes) because it’s a one-and-done thing. But with dress shopping for a wedding, I feel you have to find the perfect dress. And we can thank infomercials like Say Yes to the Dress for that. Yep, I said it. Sexy, savvy infomercials.

The dress journey

 My two girlfriends, my mom, and I went to David’s Bridal for our first (and last) round of gown shopping three weeks before my wedding day. I tried on six dresses before I was done. And before my mom and I could duke it out on the plush carpet of  gracious salespeoples’ showroom, we decided to leave with some dignity and go for lunch.

Over lunch, she wanted to know why she was cursed with such a hardheaded child (mind you, I was 32, but that’s ok) and I wanted to know why this woman wouldn’t leave me the hell alone. My girl Sherri was trying to play referee, but she wasn’t successful. My other friend, Aleia, exited stage right for another “appointment” for the day. I bet she was very happy.

We ate our greasy burgers and fries in silence.

For the remaining weeks leading up to our exquisite 25-person wedding in my childhood living room, I went solo and virtual for dress shopping. By this time, I had already bought a beautiful Ralph Lauren cocktail dress from Macy’s which I really loved, but my mom hated it because in her words “wedding dresses are supposed to be long, Kara.”


So to please my maternal unit, I was shopping online for a “long dress.”

What I had learned from our David’s Bridal showdown was that I wasn’t into traditional wedding dresses. No Cinderella. No Mermaid. No Bling. No Couture. The dresses I tried on were absolutely beautiful, but not me. I didn’t want extravagance or glamoooooour.

I wanted exquisite simplicity, elegance, and classic beauty.

I also wanted a red lip and a flower in my hair.

It was one week before my wedding day and I had yet to find that long dress that would both pacify my mother and speak to my style. I was getting nervous. I had already bought five dresses online and none of them worked. I settled on a one-shoulder number that was simple and beautiful, but not as elegant as I would have liked.

I reasoned to myself, “At least I have my Ralph Lauren, which by that time, I had decided to wear for the wedding brunch. But something in me couldn’t get away with settling. Even the most anti-wedding bride wants to feel beautiful and confident on her wedding day. So the day before my wedding, I changed course, got up early and hit the streets, hoping that I would get lucky.

There was this one hole-in-the-wall spot I would always go to for new brand name dresses at super deep discounts. (No, they were legal. These places buy clothes that are a few seasons old in bulk.)

So at 9am, I’m at my spot. It’s empty and I go straight to my favorite racks. I comb through all of them looking for thee dress, but found nothing.

I saw a few cute things from one of my favorite designers, Donna Ricco, but nothing for a wedding.


I was beginning to panic. Really, really panic. I’m the ultimate procrastinator but have always been able to eek out a win.

So out of cheer desperation, I ask the manager, “Hey, do you happen to have wedding dresses in a size 6 or 8?”

And guess what he said?

He said, “No, but we do have some Calvin Klein gowns downstairs.”

Wait. What? Stop playinnnnnnng.

I push past homeboy and run downstairs and there they were.

At least a half dozen of the most gorgeous, simple, elegant, and classily beautiful halter ivory gowns with cross-straps in the back that I’ve ever seen hanging up on some random exposed pipe.

And they were in my size.

I stepped out of my makeshift dressing room—a corner in the empty basement with a wall of mirrors—and started to cry.

I had found my dress. I had found my dress.

But there was no price tag.

“How much?” I yell upstairs, expecting and willing to pay anything.


Wait. What? Again.

I didn’t ask him to repeat the price because I didn’t want it to change.

I paid my $35 and walked out of that shop relieved and very prayerful.

I could hear one of my mom’s favorite sayings, “God takes care of fools and children.”

Yes, ma’am.

And I was both.

If you want a low-cost beautiful wedding dress like me without the drama or foolishness that I went through or have a beautiful gown that you want to sell, the good people at PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com , the sponsors of this post, can help. They have over 20,000 designer gowns at a fraction of the retail price.  And they help past brides sell without commission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *