Affordable wedding dresses

My friend Amanda is engaged and getting married on the beach in Hawaii this May. I agreed to aid in the elusive wedding dress search.

My mission (should I choose to accept): Find a wedding dress under $500 without puffy sleeves or a puffy skirt or a train. Strapless is out (I hear ya, sister). Must be beach-appropriate, but she's a bride, after all. Short or long are both ok.
Let's do this thing.

By Alfred Sungs Bridal. From The Knot.

By Aria. From The Knot.

From BCBG.

From David's Bridal.

"Genevieve" from Flutter Boutique. (Comes in ivory).

From J. Crew.

From J. Crew.

From Jessica McClintock.

From Jessica McClintock. Only $180!

By Moonlight. From The Knot. (Yes there's a train, but I thought the bodice detailing was pretty).

"Patricia" long. From Flutter Boutique.

Silk chiffon dress from Flutter Boutique. (Comes in ivory).

"Yvette" floor length. From Flutter Boutique.

A few tips:

1. Calling a dress a "wedding gown" automatically makes it more expensive. White party dresses can be bridal... and cheaper.

2. Also look for bridesmaid dresses that come in white (like some of the ones above).

3. Some retail stores, like J. Crew and Ann Taylor, want your wedding business! They're not always in the "budget" range but usually have a few good options.

4. Be sure to take your measurements carefully if ordering a dress online (maybe order two sizes, but check the return policy first!). A tailor or skilled seamstress can take up length, take in extra fabric on the sides, and shorten straps or sleeves pretty easily. It's easier to take in than let out, and bridal sizes often run small (to add insult to injury).

5. If you find a great dress that's out of your price range, take note of the designer and style name (and your size if you tried it on). You can find lots of wedding dresses on ebay or craigslist or

6. Believe it or not, Target has wandered into the bridal world. See here.

Good luck Amanda! Let me know if you need anything else!