08/18/2014 12:25 EDT

Wedding Dresses From St. Rita Monastery Are A Bride's Blessing


Looking for a wedding dress? It might be time to "get thee to a nunnery!"

But wedding dresses can't be bought at a convent or monastery, you say? As a matter of fact, now they can.

According to the Daily Mail, thrifty brides are heading to St. Rita monastery in Italy (a medieval complex located in the central Umbrian Hills), to make their wedding dreams come true.

In the past, the monastery was home to St. Rita, who was an abused bride and widow before becoming a nun. The complex has, for many years, been a pilgrimage site for Italian women who come to pray to St. Rita to protect their marriages. While on their visits to the complex, many women leave behind wedding dresses as an offering of thanks.

The monastery has collected hundreds of gowns, and has been operating as a second-hand wedding dress shop for a few years now. Though what was once a place frequented by women from disadvantaged families, is now a place for brides of all types trying to keep their costs low.

The operation is run by Sister Maria Laura (and her team) who oversees the ever-expanding collection of gowns that come into the complex regularly. Over the years, helping brides find "the dress" has turned into a full time job for Sister Maria, a former seamstress and designer, who also alters the gowns to perfectly fit her brides-to-be.

When it comes to paying for the gowns, many brides leave a donation -- some up to $1,200 -- while others leave nothing at all. Some women also return their dresses after their weddings, so that others can have a similarly wonderful experience.

In Italy, the expectations for lavish wedding celebrations continue to be high. Editor-in-Chief of Vogue bridal Italy, Giuliana Parabiago, told the New York Times that they're "incomparable to elsewhere in Europe."

Sister Maria is a godsend (literally) for brides who want a lavish wedding but don't have the budget. And with her past experience, she has managed to turn an unlikely place into an amazing atelier, and all the while, helping people along the way.

Click through the gallery below for a little wedding inspiration:

Photo gallery Fall Wedding Dresses 2014 See Gallery