Surviving wedding season on a grad school budget

Oh wedding season..that joyful time when you remember that you’ve spent an entire decade on your PhD while some of your friends have gotten jobs, houses, and, yes, found their for-life person. I am (mostly) at peace with this, especially because there is cake and wine. However, prepping for weddings can be a daunting task, especially if you’re tapped for the bridal party, which can cost over $1000! So, my first piece of advice as a grad student is that you communicate what you can afford to spend, before committing to being in a wedding party (this article spells out more of your rights and is totally fantastic). 

But, besides that, how do you minimize money spent on wedding apparel? Here are some of the tips I’ve gathered to survive wedding season. 

Use it again

This dress is actually a dress I teach in all the time but is also totally bridal shower appropriate. Other double duty bridal/daytime activity options: 1/2/3

Just add accessories

The way I maximize my teaching clothes is by adding a few extra, fancier shoes and purses. They’re easier to store and cheaper than buying a new dress–the black purse was $2 at Forever 21, and I’ve gotten all my heels secondhand on Poshmark. Can I just make a plug for the Steve Madden “Irenee” style? This 2″ block heel is my ride or die for weddings. I want them in every color. 


Recently, and on the brink of madness, I almost convinced myself to buy this $200 Likely dress (Becca from the Bachelorette wore it for a TV appearance…why am I such a sucker?!?). Then, I found one from the brand that I liked even more on Rent the Runway for $35. I am now a huge RTR believer. The whole process was so easy and they even send you a backup size. Now I’m eyeing this Free People style for a Fall wedding. 

And, if you already have shoes ready to go, you can just add a rental dress and you’re all set!


(Boyfriend guest appearance!) Capsule wardrobe saint Caroline suggests investing in 3 special occasion dresses, shopping for them slowly to find what you love. I’ve only found one investment dress so far. I bought this one for $120 in Norway, but I knew it would work for multiple seasons with different accessories. I still love it! I would also like to keep this in mind to find the perfect black dress for weddings and bachelorette parties, but I haven’t found it yet. Trying to be patient.


Thrifting can take a lot of time, but the discount on fancy clothes can be great! I got the above dress for $20 at Buffalo Exchange. I don’t recommend putting thrifting for a dress off until the last minute. The best dresses show up when you’re not looking 🙂 

I hope you’re enjoying this season of dancing the Cupid Shuffle repeatedly. If you’ve found the perfect LBD for weddings, please send it my way. And, if you have any tips for setting boundaries on bridal party spending, please reblog and add, because I can always use them! 🙂 

One thought on “Surviving wedding season on a grad school budget”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: