Ask Belle: Affordable Dresses for Wedding Season

Feb 10, 2015

Dear Belle,

My husband and I are invited to five weddings this spring/summer. The weddings will be with the same groups of friends and family so I want a couple of new dresses.  I’m looking for colors other than navy or black and I need to spend less than $150 per dress.  Suggestions?

Sincerely, Steph

Attending multiple weddings in a single season is always a challenge.  You wind up spending most of your “fun money” traveling, buying gifts, and dressing for the occasion.  And when you’re going to see the same people at each event, wearing the same dress to each ceremony becomes an unattractive option.

When I need a dress for a wedding or other semi-formal/cocktail event, I always start at Nordstrom.  They even have a section called “wedding guest” that you can peruse.  Not all of the dresses are winners, but some are lovely and affordable.  Here are a few of my favorites.

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BB Dakota Rhianna Dress ($98)

Not into pink?  This dress comes in three other colors.  Like pink?  I adore this pleated, chiffon maxi dress.

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NYDJ Jodi Dress ($100)

If you need or want to purchase multiple dresses, it’s probably a good idea to buy at least one that you can also wear to work.  This NYDJ dress is good for that.  Add a big, colorful necklace and metallic pumps to jazz it up for a wedding.

This sleeveless Adrianna Papell dress in a lighter blue is also a good choice.  Wear it with a navy or grey blazer for the office.  I also like this black and white printed dress from Ellen Tracy.

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Halogen Pleated Fit and Flare Dress ($98)

For a wedding that falls in the more casual category, this printed dress is a nice choice.  You can also change it up with dressier footwear and jewelry.  Looking for a more modern print?  This Vince Camuto dress, in a bold geometric print, is a good choice. Plus-size?  This floral and stripe dress has a unique pattern and color combination.

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Adrianna Papell Lace Dress ($113)

There are so many lace dresses for sale these days that if you don’t like lace, it can be tough to find anything else.  This dress comes in a unique teal color that works for any season.  This BB Dakota dress comes in eight colors including a lovely shade of burgundy.

Plus-size?  This Marina lace dress comes in four colors.  This gorgeous 3/4 sleeve Adrianna Papell lace dress also comes in seven colors.

Need an affordable solution?  Thrift shops, consignment stores, and eBay are all great places to find gently worn dresses for special occasions.  Also, if you have friends who wear the same size, I suggest borrowing clothes.  People might recognize a dress that you’ve worn before if you’re wearing it, they’re less likely to recognize it on someone else.

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  1. Meredith says:

    This specifically is the scenario in which I find Rent the Runway to be the most awesome thing ever. For the price of one dress you have options for every event you will go to, and you don’t have to figure out what to do with that dress once you are finished with it.

  2. J says:

    Serious question: do people really remember that you wore the same dress to two weddings, a few months apart? I can barely remember what I wore to the last wedding without looking at photos, let alone what someone else wore. It’s always seemed to me like a basic dress that you can accessorize with different shoes, scarves, jewelry, hats etc. was sufficient for at least a handful of weddings.

    • Helena says:

      I don’t think people remember, unless it’s a particularly memorable dress. But it’s vaguely depressing to wear the same thing to several occasions in a row, even with variations on accessories. By the 3rd or 4th repeat, you look around and think that all the other guests look fresher and swishier.

    • Liz says:

      Photos are where I would notice it most, especially if it’s anything more than the most basic black dress.

      Also, photos matter! You may think I’m silly for saying it, but I think that they do. Most of the only decent photos I have with friends and our significant others are ones take at galas/weddings/fundraisers etc when there is some professional photographer around. These are the pictures I end up ordering from a couple’s photographer or the event photographer to frame around my home and office. Because of that, I wouldn’t want to be in the same thing in all of them.

    • I have a few dresses that I have worn to multiple weddings and I don’t think it’s been an issue. I’d rather spend more on things I love and re-wear them.

      I have pretty much worn the shoes I wore to my wedding to every wedding since then (where else can you wear 5 inch heels)and somebody did notice – but maybe that’s because I looked like a giant.

    • Lexi says:

      @J- agreed. Not sure why the expectation is to spend so much money

    • Belle says:

      I don’t think two weddings is where it’s a problem. I’ve had friends who might have 4-6 weddings in a single summer. If you’re seeing the same people, it can be noticeable. If you’re not seeing the same people, you can probably just re-wear and reaccessorize the same two dresses.

  3. B says:

    Rent the Runway all the way! There is a great selection of short dresses under $50. I’ve figured out through experience that when I think I will buy a dress that works for work and weddings, I’m never 100% happy with it for either occasion, so its so much easier to rent.

    • Anna says:

      Yeah, rarely do I find a dress for $50 that is nice or fun enough for a wedding. Even when I do, I rarely wear the dress again. I’d much rather spend $50 on something really great, wear it once, and return it. The last wedding I went to, I ended up needing jewelry as well, so I got the Pro membership. It ended up costing me a few bucks more, but for all future rentals I get free shipping and free insurance.

      • Liz says:

        I got the pro membership last year – seven weddings in three months, plus two galas! I got all my dresses from rent the runway and took advantage of the second style for $35 for rehearsal dinners.

  4. Kat says:

    There is also a Rent the Runway subscription service that a coworker of mine purchased for this exact reason. $49/month for 3 items with free shipping: https://www.renttherunway.com/unlimited

  5. Charlotte says:

    While I enjoy the lace overlay look, I’m worried it’s a trend with an expiration date. I already have two lace dresses (one more suited to warm weather, one more early spring appropriate). If you do another wedding-guest-dress post, could you include a few more non-lace options? Thanks!

  6. Debbie says:

    I suggest Marshalls and TJ Maxx too!

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