Like millions of other people around the world, I woke up recently to a flood of photographs and highlights from the hugely anticipated royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. But unlike most of those people, I found myself disappointed.

I was not one of the many young women who counted down the hours to the big day, I did not wake up to watch the procession, and I did not gather with girlfriends beforehand to guess what kind of dress the bride might wear.

But when I finally saw the news, and the dress, I couldn’t help but react.

The bride looked beautiful. Her dress was clean, simple, and stunning, a classic and elegant gown created by Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller. It really was a dress fit for a duchess, and it was undeniably lovely.

It also cost over a quarter of a million dollars.


As soon as it was seen, fashion stylists and experts got to work, estimating that its final price tag likely ranged from $270,000 to $340,000. By anyone’s standards, that’s a lot of money for one dress, especially one that will be worn only one time.

That’s what had me disappointed.

It was probably preposterous to hope that Meghan Markle would turn a royal wedding on its head and do something different, something less expensive and more frugal, but then again, everything about her, and this relationship, has been different from the beginning. I don’t mean what most people talk about – that she’s older, divorced, biracial, and American – but rather that she’s a nontraditional, creative, down-to-earth, jeans-and-t-shirt kind of woman who’s never shown an affinity for anything exorbitant and over the top.

In other words, she’s the kind of woman who could have worn a $500 dress, or one she’d sewn herself, and no one would be all that surprised. If ever there were a bride with the entire world’s attention who could have made wedding-day frugality the new fashion, Meghan Markle was probably her.


Duchess Kate Middleton’s wedding dress sparked a trend in more modest, long-sleeved dresses; Meghan Markle had the opportunity to start a trend of her own by showing women around the world that one needn’t spend enormous amounts of money on a dress to look beautiful while getting married.

Oh well. Maybe next time.

Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wearing an expensive wedding dress; women do that all the time now. But there’s also nothing wrong with wearing an inexpensive wedding dress, and refusing to get swept up in the materialism that marks many modern weddings.

Not long ago, a bride might sew her own dress, alter her mother’s or grandmother’s hand-me-down, or simply wear her Sunday finest down the aisle. And if you think a royal wedding is no time to be economical, remember that 70 years ago, Queen Elizabeth II used coupons to pay for her dress.

Today, the increasingly common custom is to throw frugality out the window on one’s wedding day and buy the most expensive gown one can (or can’t) afford. That’s not just discouraging, it’s sad.


Every year, the average amount spent on a wedding dress goes up, and more and more women seem to feel pressured to break the bank in order to feel beautiful and make their big day special. Huge celebrity weddings like Harry and Meghan’s tend to cement the notion that spending more money equals a more memorable, impressive, and worthwhile event.

And with a $70-billion-dollar wedding industry working hard behind the scenes to propagate that idea, it’s no surprise that so many brides allow a most sacred and personal moment to become such a commercialized affair.

So in this way, planning a frugal wedding isn’t just about saving money; it’s about trying to keep at bay the corrupting influence of consumerism in order to focus on more important things like the magnitude of getting married.


Moreover, frugality doesn’t necessarily even have to be about dollars and cents – it can be about time and energy, too. When describing how to cultivate the virtue of frugality, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.”

In the context of a wedding, that admonition could translate to “waste no time or energy stressing over the perfect wedding dress.”


Alas, almost every bride does, and no doubt Meghan Markle did too.

It’s understandable, of course, but still unfortunate, that this is so much of what the modern wedding has become – an enormous expense of time, effort, and money on a dress designed to impress others rather than “to do good to others or yourself.”

Maybe someday a future duchess will remind the world that it doesn’t have to be that way. Until then, maybe everyday brides around the world will start a new trend by bringing back the old custom of more simple, frugal weddings. Spending less money (and energy and time) doesn’t mean you can’t still have a fairytale wedding. And for the women who disagree, maybe it’s not frugality they need to work on, but humility.

Chelsea Samelson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Post, The Hill, National Review Online, The Federalist, The Week magazine, and others. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.