How to Find a Wedding Dress in a Time Crunch

Whether you have a month or a week, there are ways to get a wedding dress in a time crunch. Find a dress in no time with our expert-advice for down-to-the-wire wedding dress shopping.

By Laura Hensley

bride and groom get married
Photo by Erin Bedenbaugh Photography

Whether you’re enjoying a shorter than average engagement, you’re suddenly eloping, or something happened to your chosen wedding dress (it’s ruined, it’s not arriving on time, it doesn’t fit after alterations, whatever!), you need a new dress ASAP.

First of all, as with all wedding planning turns of event, stay calm. There is a solution. There are plenty of ways to secure a wedding dress quickly in a time crunch. If you find yourself looking for a last-minute gown, here are some options.

Shop for your wedding dress online.

Ah, the Internet. Just like you can order makeup and groceries online, you can shop for new and gently used wedding dresses, too.

  • Buy new. Online retailers like Zola and many others stock wedding dress collections in a variety of sizes and styles—typically at lower price points. Many of these online shops offer express shipping, meaning you can count on getting your outfit in time for your big day.
  • Look for pre-owned. There are also websites dedicated to reselling previously loved wedding dresses. Sites like Preowned Wedding Dresses and Nearly Newlywed carry a selection of designers and sell gently worn or new gowns up to 60% off retail price. Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and score a dress with its original tags still attached for a fraction of its original cost.
  • Use social media. You likely turn to social media for wedding advice and inspiration, so why not use it to find a dress? Many brides will resell their dresses on Facebook wedding groups or through Facebook Marketplace, meaning you can see how the gown looks at a real wedding and ask the seller any questions you may have. If a seller lives nearby, ask to try on the dress first.
  • Borrow your dress. If you don’t want to commit to an online purchase or aren’t sure about the fit, consider renting a wedding dress. Sites like Rent the Runway charge a relatively affordable fee to borrow a wedding dress for a set period of time, allowing you to rent a few options to try on at home. Plus, rental sites typically feature customer photos and reviews so you can see what other people thought of the dress. The best part? Rental dresses often ship within a few days.
INLINE HaleighNicolePhotography 1080x720 Sasha&Joey Photo Credit // Haleigh Nicole Photography

Visit vintage or consignment stores.

If you want a one-of-a-kind dress, shop vintage. Search online for local vintage dress shops in your area, or see what an online retailer’s shipping policies are.

While vintage gowns are great because they’re unique, keep in mind that sizing varies depending on when the dress was made. A silhouette from the 1950s, for example, may fit very differently than a gown from the 1990s. You also want to consider any alterations or handy work a vintage gown may need and factor that into your timeline.

Consignment stores are great places for scoring designer deals—and last-minute wedding dresses. Upscale resale boutiques often accept wedding dresses in mint condition and sell them at a discounted price. Because consignment stores’ stock changes regularly, call ahead to see what they have in at the moment. It will save you time from jetting around town.

Search sample sales or off-the-rack wedding dresses.

If you’re not an online shopper and want to try on a wedding dress in-person, think about heading to a retailer. Many big box stores like Nordstorm and Macy’s carry off-the-rack wedding dresses, and brands like Anthropologie even have in-house wedding lines.

Even if a store doesn’t stock wedding dresses per se, a white number can often be styled into a wedding dress with some accessories that will give you that desired bridal look.

Don’t pass by bridal boutiques either. While it’s true that you need time for a custom-ordered gown, many bridal stores have sample dresses for sale, and you can often score a great deal on them. Bridal designers also often exhibit at wedding shows or host pop-up events where they sell off-the-floor models. Scan online for wedding shows in your area.

INLINE BrettBrooner 1080x720 Lombe&Mitch Photo Credit // Brett Brooner

Keep an open mind.

If you’re shopping for a last-minute wedding dress you’ll need to be a bit flexible when it comes to styles. While you should never buy something you don’t like or feel comfortable in, you may need to be open to a design or silhouette you previously didn’t consider.

If you end up buying a dress that wasn’t what you originally pictured you’d wear on your big day, keep in mind that your wedding dress is only one part of your bridal look: consider your shoes, hair, makeup and accessories. All of these elements can help bring out your personality.

Because no matter if you buy your wedding dress a year or a week in advance, the important thing is you’re marrying your best friend—and your happiness will look fantastic on you.

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