So, you want to wear a black wedding dress? Awesome.

While you'd like to think that buying a well-made, affordable black wedding dress would be easy, sadly: you'd be wrong.

Would-be black-dressers are torn between paying exorbitant prices through a bridal shop, or settling for a poorly-made LBD off the rack just to save money, but the stitching and fabric quality on those off-the-rack options rarely rise to the level of wedding-worthy.

And that's to say nothing of the perpetual plague of SIZING INEQUALITY in wedding wear (and all clothing), especially for women and femmes.

Why? Because of what's often called the "wedding tax".

(Yeah, it's a THING.)

But whereas there are good reasons why weddings cost more than other kinds of parties (increased work and liability for venues and vendors, etc.), the reality is that while "wedding dresses" are usually well-made using quality materials, they are not inherently better than any other kind of well-made dress, like say a high-end prom dress, a handmade vintage party dress, or any other special occasion evening wear.

Put the word "wedding" in front of the word "dress", and the price quadruples.

Under normal circumstances, black dresses are not known to be prohibitively expensive (unless you're wearing some serious designer nonsense).

This "wedding tax" effect is even more pronounced with black wedding dresses because they are seen as an unusual or specialty item.

Big chain bridal stores want you to believe that you have to shop with them.

That somehow they've got the best selection (nope) or the best prices (nope again).

So, what to do?

Animated GIF of a cat photobombing a wedding portrait of a bride wearing a black wedding dress.

Who's cat is that? This sweet furbaby decided to photobomb during J&J's couple time at Camp PaQuaTuck in Riverhead NY. We eventually figured out that he was the "camp cat" at the site; J&J were honored that he chose to bless their wedding day <3 Photographed by Adrienne Catanese for Heather Davis / NeverThereYet Photography October 2022.

Think outside the (big chain bridal shop) box.

Formal wear shops that are not necessarily "bridal" are your best bet:

I got my own black wedding dress for under $400 (including alterations) at Merrily Couture in Mount Sinai NY. It was originally intended as either a prom dress, or a mother of the bride dress, I can't recall. BONUS: Merrily Couture had an excellent inclusive range of sizing: I purchased my dress in a size 16 (what I wore at the time), and I remember seeing sizes 18, 20, 22, and 24 all available in the same design and on the same rack.

Black-dress bride Jess (seen above) also recommends looking beyond traditional bridal shops to find your perfect black wedding dress:

"I found [my dress] at Estelle’s Dressy Dresses in the prom section ☺️

And I got the [black] flower girl dresses on Amazon! They were less than $40. My dress was around $600 which is a steal!!!"

Another option: go custom-made:

Hire a local dressmaker, or even a well-vetted Etsy seller, to MAKE your dress for you. This can be surprisingly affordable when compared to big box bridal stores, and has the added bonus of (sometimes) offering more inclusive sizing depending upon the expertise of the dress maker.

Love the thrill of the hunt? THRIFT a black wedding dress!

For those on a super tight budget, you can't go wrong with that old standby: your local thrift shop. Ah, thrifting...a cheap and easy source of dopamine on those days when the strain of adulting becomes too much, and you just need to unplug your brain while you wander the aisles touching random sweaters.

NOTE: Thrifting your wedding dress requires some advanced shopping skills; if you're a thrift newb, don't be afraid to recruit your bestie who loves to thrift and always finds the hidden gems. Thrift early, thrift often, and keep trying until you strike gold!

How do I know so much about finding the perfect black bridal gown? Well:

I wore a black wedding dress when I got married...

I felt amazing & everyone loved it

Especially my dear hubby, who also looked great in his black suit, dark plum shirt, and long black beard.
We got married on Friday October 13th (spooky) 2017.

Photo credit: Heather Davis / Never There Yet Photography
Dress: Merrily Couture in Mount Sinai NY