• 04/24/2023

Where to Buy Wedding Guest Dresses: A Quick Guide to Popping Tags 

wedding guest dresses

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Your best friend invited you to her wedding. While you’re thrilled for her happiness, you’ve also worked from home for the past three years. As such, your wardrobe consists of leggings, shorts and pajama bottoms. Where can you buy wedding guest dresses without breaking out the credit cards or refinancing your mortgage?

In popular slang, “popping tags” means to cover yourself in glitzy bling. However, as Macklemore showed the world in “Thrift Shop,” you don’t have to be loaded to do it. 

If you received an invite for a mating you can’t miss but have nothing to wear, you’re in luck. Here’s your quick guide to popping tags — or where to buy wedding guest dresses on the cheap. 

1. Thrift Shops 

Here’s the bottom line: shopping for wedding guest dresses on the cheap is a hit-or-miss proposition. You might walk into the first shop and find a designer gown for pennies — your biggest question then becomes how much to list it for on eBay after the festivities. Conversely, you might see nothing but fuschia, polka-dotted leisure suits from the disco era. 

If you seek designer duds, a thrift shop is perhaps your best bet. Pro-tip: seek those in affluent areas. People generally aren’t too fond of traveling too far from their home base to drop off their unwanted duds, and sometimes you can find stuff with the original tags still attached. Allow yourself to bemoan how nice it must be to have money to spend on clothes you don’t even wear, then recenter your focus on gratitude as you scoop up that sweet bargain. 

Did you know that some thrift shops do more to help their community? For example, the Paw Prints chain benefits the Humane Society. Your patronage keeps unworn clothing out of landfills, helping the planet while providing meals to hungry puppies and kitties. Drop that humble-brag into the convo when someone mentions “only” spending a thousand bucks on their designer gown. 

2. Discount Warehouses 

Another method of getting designer wedding guest dresses at discount prices is to seek out slightly non-conforming goods. The “defect” may be as minor as an unevenly stitched seam that won’t detract from the overall look of the piece but is deemed too “imperfect” for upscale, discriminating shoppers dropping hundreds or more on a single skirt. 

You have two methods for accessing such goods. Depending on where you live, you may have a discount warehouse or outlet center near you. Small, independent retail outlets often operate inside traditional shopping centers these days, as many large-scale outlet centers have gone out of business. 

However, please don’t fear if you live miles from the nearest location. The internet picked up where brick-and-mortar stores left off, and you can find up to 90% off retail prices at online outlets, including Saks Off Fifth and Nordstrom Rack. Just be sure to order in plenty of time to avoid shipping delays causing a big-day catastrophe. 

Another option? Consider signing up for B2B marketplaces. What are those? They’re platforms where businesses sell goods to other businesses — like that shipment of designer dresses with uneven seams. Many will let you participate, even if your only business is a small eBay enterprise you do on the side, although you might have to pay a fee. 

3. Estate Sales

What happens when a wealthy member of society’s elite passes from the mortal realm? They leave their material possessions behind, and you can often score them for cheap at estate sales. 

Estate sales are fantastic for finding clothing. While you can expect to pay close to retail on large items like furnishings — or even more for antiques — most people lack the fashion knowledge to price designer pieces. 

Furthermore, it’s harder to find the right buyer for a size-6 dress than a chair that more or less fits all backsides. Those left behind often want smaller items like cocktail wear gone as soon as possible, so check your local events board or paper for upcoming events. 

4. Yard Sales 

Yard sales are a bit more hit-or-miss than the other options, which were already games of chance. Guess what? That makes the reward all the sweeter when you find the perfect wedding guest dress that looks appropriate for your friend’s big day without stealing her thunder. 

Your best strategy for yard sale shopping is to set your alarm and get out there first thing. You’ll avoid the midday heat and get the first stab at the best bargains. There might be one unicorn amid that sea of donkeys, but you have to make like the proverbial early bird to snag it before someone else does. 

However, if you’re truly destitute, give “closing time” a try. At this point, people are tired and ready to curb alert anything that hasn’t sold thus far — you could get a wedding guest dress for free if you’re lucky. 

5. IRL and Online Swap Meets 

According to Merriam-Webster, a swap meet is a gathering for the sale or barter of mostly secondhand items. Many communities have periodic swap meets or flea markets where individual vendors can peddle their wares. 

What if no such events are scheduled where you live before the big day? Once again, technology comes to the rescue. There are numerous online swap meets where you can find bargains or sign up to pitch your wares — keep it in mind for the next time you clean out your closet. 

Many social media sites also feature local directories, including spaces for individual community members to advertise secondhand goods for sale. Some notable examples include:

  • Nextdoor
  • Facebook Marketplace
  • Craigslist

6. Your Best Friend’s Closet

The phrase “something borrowed” might traditionally refer to the bride, but there’s no reason why you can’t ask for a little help from your friends, too. If you have nothing to wear for your BFF’s upcoming nuptials, why not ask her if you can raid her closet? 

If you feel it would be too impersonal to show up in one of your BFF’s cocktail dresses on her big day, choose another friend willing to let you raid their wardrobe. Offer to return the favor — if fashion isn’t your thing, treat them to coffee and pastries or a drink if you indulge. 

Where to Buy Wedding Guest Dresses 

Few things are more potentially embarrassing than having nothing to wear for a big event. How can you “pop tags” in style with the right wedding guest dress if you’re low on cash? 

You don’t need a bankroll if you know where to buy wedding guest dresses on the cheap. Best of all, you can also use these techniques to build a job interview or first-date wardrobe that will make your BFFs want to raid your closet.

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