In the market for a wedding, prom or special-occasion dress? Even though my family lovingly brands me as a hopeless romantic (agreed), I simply can’t reconcile the fact that a gorgeous designer gown to be worn one day for a once-in-a-lifetime event can easily cost a lifetime savings. Let’s face it, high-end designer gowns can readily cost upward of $50,000.

“Modern Family” actress Sofia Vergara’s Zuhair Murad custom gown I am sure cost quite a pretty penny when she wed Joe Manganiello in November. The ceremony reportedly cost $4 million.

Unless you enviably roll in the cash with the celebrity or royalty crowd, you can find equally bedazzling yet cost-conscious style through websites and shops that smartly cater to the Everyday Bride or the Everyday Prom Queen. And even the Everyday Mother of the Bride.

If I were to walk down the aisle again, then I would ideally do it in a SoCal beach setting this time around. And my first visit would be to Borrowing Magnolia, an Athens,Ga.-based website that rents (or sells) designer gowns from such luminaries as Reem Acra, Monique Lhuillier, Amy Michelson and Badgley Mischka at sometimes up to 85 percent off the retail price.

Just for fun, I chose the Jenny Packham “Kristene” dress ($960 to rent) at the easy-to-navigate site

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 2.56.13 PM

You can use the site’s search filters to browse through a collection of utterly beautiful wedding gowns to borrow and then select up to three dresses to try at home for $99. That $99 will then be credited toward a dress rental or sale. After your big day is over, all you have to do is pack the fancy frock up and pop it in the mail.

For a broader spectrum of dresses that nicely — and affordably — fit the bill for weddings, proms and cocktail parties, then consider Rent the Runway. With a rental price of $175, the Marchessa Notte Rose Gown was an incredible deal that would make any bride blush. It normally sells for $1,235.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 2.59.18 PM

And I was equally intrigued by the Erin Fetherston dress for $65 to rent, which would be perfect to wear as a guest to a cocktail party or a wedding.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.00.19 PM

If you want to purchase your wedding dress with hopes of someday giving it to your daughter, then Nearly Newlywed’s online boutique is the place to be. The pre-owned Carolina Herrera “Charlotte” dress, a regal A-line beauty in silk taffeta, can be purchased for $4,000 — a nice drop in price from the original price tag of $6,690. (And then you can sell back your dress, too, to recoup some of those big bucks.)

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.02.00 PM

With an open heart and mind, I also resoundingly say “I do” to J.Crew’s collection of reasonably priced wedding attire for just about everyone in the bridal party — the groom included. With my beach-theme dream wedding in mind (picture the ceremony at one of my all-time favorite hotels: Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica, I found a romantic gown ($595) featuring a sweetheart neckline that reverses to a sexy open back that (according to the description) promises to draw a few gasps from the audience. Made from dreamy crinkled silk chiffon, the fitted bodice is accented with a waist-cinching panel of crepe de chine that flows into a floor-skimming skirt. Must. Have. Now.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.03.59 PM

But my fickle heart also belongs to the oh-so-feminine gown I discovered at Anthropologie’s website devoted to everything bridal. Inspired by literature, love and European design, the stunning ivory dress I selected features an illusion neckline, lace applique, a tulle overlay, and, for a modern twist, a delicate scattering of sequins. Best of all, the gown was originally $1,000 and has been marked down to $400.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.04.47 PM

If you’re lucky enough to live in a large metropolitan area, then check out the sample sales bridal and special-occasion dress shops often offer. Otherwise, I found some swoon-worthy sample-sale gowns from David’s Bridal at An organza trumpet-style wedding gown had me from hello. As with any sample sales, be sure to know what restrictions on returns might apply. And don’t expect perfection, as a general rule of thumb. If you’re OK with a tear in the lining or imperfect seams in the skirt, then gladly enter this union.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 3.05.55 PM

This article was written by Suzette DeSart for The Daily Clutch


We were not paid to write this story. The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.