When it comes to finding your wedding dress, it's certain to be an entertaining (and time-consuming process). Boutiques, bridal salons, and trunk shows are the norm — and you'll most likely be perusing magazines and Pinterest to boot. But for some brides, the traditional dress search route didn't apply, for better or for worse. Here, five brides share the crazy true stories of how they found their wedding dress.
"My mom, dad and I were having dinner at their house shortly after I got engaged. We were talking about dresses and I had no idea what kind I'd want. The talk shifted to my mom's wedding dress, which was preserved in a box in the attic. After dinner, dad and I climbed up the creaky stairs leading into the attic, located the dress and opened the box, which had been closed for over 25 years. The dress was in near perfect condition! No bugs, no yellowing — near perfect. I stepped into it, my dad zipped it up, and over the clothes I was wearing. He immediately started to tear up, saying the last time he saw it was on my mom on their wedding day. I decided right then that I was going to wear my mom's dress!" —Amanda
"I was 22 and a college senior year. I was on a budget. Beyond that, I simply didn't buy into the "bride" myth that everything needs to be expensive and pristine to be special. I like vintage looks and trendy bridal dresses look so 'samey' (and even silly after a few years). It took me about 20 minutes to purchase my dress. My mom was a college librarian. A co-worker had a daughter divorcing who planned to unload her 15-year-old wedding gown at a garage sale. They were selling it for $150. They agreed to let me preview the dress before the garage sale so there I was, in a community college library bathroom trying on a musty dress delivered to me in a paper Trader Joe's bag. Other than being a teeny bit long, it fit perfectly. Thankfully, the style was simple so despite already being 15 years old, it didn't appear terribly dated. I did end up having the length altered and the seamstress also removed some gratuitous '80s sleeve puff. I got a million compliments on my dress and I love that my wedding photos look noticeably different from those of friends who married around the same time. One thing that always amused me is my dress was not white — it was slightly off-white. People's "shocked" comments were amusing considering I got married in 1997, not the Middle Ages." —Carolyn
"I googled 'wedding dresses' and fell in love with the first one that popped up. It was on a Pinterest page and I had to do some research to find the designer. Unfortunately, the dress was several seasons old and was no longer being produced. Determined to have it, I found a company that sews dresses within three weeks. All they needed was the designer name, style of dress and personal measurements. Three weeks later, for only $300, I had my dress. Crazy, how easy it can be. Never had to step a foot into a bridal shop and spend hours with the stylist or drag all my girlfriends or family members for feedback." —Ariane
"It wasn't my first rodeo (third marriage) so I wasn't looking to spend a lot of money on a gown. After looking at a few retail and resale shops, a friend sent me a message about a local church having a giveaway of wedding gowns. Apparently, they received a donation of these gowns from a resale shop going out of business. I arrived bright and early the day of the giveaway and started shopping. I tried on two or three gowns, and the third one was the charm. It fit perfectly and I looked radiant. Everyone was 'oohing' and 'ahhing' over the dress on me. They took pictures of me in the gown to put in their church newsletter!" —Shannon
"I got married October 2016. My grandaunt made the dress by hand. She found fabric from all kinds of places to keep the cost within my budget. We found costume satin at a local fabric store, shipped lace from China, materials from her garage, and used a combination of things we inherited from my grandmother. I don't know of many other brides who used zip-ties for the boning in their wedding dress, but it turned out to be absolutely beautiful and no one could tell the difference from a dress that cost thousands of dollars!" —Cara
Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW is a New York City-based marriage therapist and author.