Get your dream gown, for a fraction of the cost, with these budget-friendly tips.
By Lilly Blomquist
Updated on 11/29/22
Bride in a long-sleeve, off-the-shoulder dress with a trail of buttons down the back
PHOTO BY LARA ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY
The dress you choose to wear down the aisle is a once-in-a-lifetime fashion moment, and for a milestone as momentous as your wedding day, you’re probably on the hunt for a show-stopping design that encompasses your style and personality. “On your wedding day, you are front and center, and you will look back at the photos of you in the dress for the rest of your life, so choosing the perfect one has a lot of significance,” shares wedding planner Heather Lowenthal.
While shopping for your dream dress is a magical experience, there’s no question that it also comes with a hefty price tag. Today, the average cost of a wedding dress is estimated to be around $1,800. That total includes expenses that cover goods and labor, given that a bridal gown is a unique design that takes time and effort to create. “Wedding dresses are not mass produced and are individually made, which drives up the cost,” bridal stylist Jackie Avrumson says. “Especially in a post-Covid world, fabric prices alone have increased worldwide.”
Luckily, you don’t have to break the bank or sacrifice style to find a stunning getup that suits you. From shopping sample sales to attending trunk shows, there are many budget-friendly ways to cut costs on your gown. Ahead, here are nine savvy shopping tips to save money on your wedding dress.
MEET THE EXPERT
Heather Lowenthal is a wedding planner and the owner of Posh Parties, which is based in Palm Beach, Florida. She’s been working in the wedding industry for 15 years.
Jackie Avrumson is a bridal stylist and consultant located in New York City. She’s had more than 20 years of experience in the bridal fashion space.
Andrea Pitter is a fashion designer with 15 years of experience and is the CEO of Pantora Bridal.
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Shop Off the Rack
Buying your wedding dress off the rack is one of the most economical and gratifying ways to shop. Since bridal salons want to keep their stock up to date, they need a place to unload their inventory, Avrumson explains. So, certain shops will offer a selection of pre-made ensembles that you can purchase “off the rack.” “This saves you money because you aren’t having a dress made from scratch or having to customize it, which drives up the pricing,” Lowenthal notes. Made-to-order dresses take up to one year to produce, but with a gown off the rack, you can bring it home with you that very day—at a more affordable price.
Just because you decide to purchase an off-the-rack design doesn’t mean that the quality suffers. “No matter the circumstances, you'll always need to do alterations. So, if a zipper needs to be fixed in the process, you will spend less than stretching the budget on a full-price dress,” Avrumson says.
Select a Simple Style
While ornate dresses covered in sequins, lace, and beadwork are beautiful, they’re also costly. “The more intricate details like beading and customizations, the more labor and expense will come along with your dress,” Lowenthal states. Instead, settle on a simple gown with minimal adornments. If you’re hesitant to fully ditch the embellishments, complete your outfit with detailed accessories, such as a pearl-encrusted belt or a cathedral-length veil trimmed with lace. You can also scout styles that feature just a layer of sparkles or embroidery on the bodice versus a decked-out gown from head to toe.
Browse Trunk Shows
If you’ve had your eye on a certain bridal designer, attending a trunk show is your best bet. Bridal salons often host trunk shows with a range of samples from a specific designer, and you can purchase the styles at a discounted price. “Generally, during these events, stores offer an incentive of 10 to 15 percent off,” says fashion designer Andrea Pitter. Not to mention, you’ll get to try on gowns that aren’t normally sold in stores. Call a nearby bridal shop or visit a designer’s website to see when the next trunk show is being held.
Check Out Sample Sales
Want to score a designer dress that’s drastically marked down? Shop sample sales. Bridal boutiques and designers organize these sales—usually once or twice a year—to clear out last season’s styles and make room for newer designs. The best part, though, is that you’ll be able to find statement-making looks that are up to 70 percent off. Check your favorite designer’s website or a local bridal salon to find out when they’re planning on selling samples.
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Rent Your Dress
Although it might not seem like the most sentimental choice, renting your wedding dress will save you loads of money. And since you’ll probably only wear your bridal whites once anyways, renting an ensemble will also clear out space in your closet. On websites, such as The Dress Outlet, Rent the Runway, and Borrowing Magnolia, you can find chic designer looks for much less. Specifically, renting a dress that normally costs four figures will usually drop down to three figures, for instance.
Don a Family Heirloom
There's nothing more nostalgic than wearing a wedding dress that’s been a part of your family history. Opt for something in your mother, grandmother, or aunt’s closet and bring it to a seamstress to make adjustments that suit your style. “In this process, the bride will be able to pick out fabrics and trims to enhance the dress at a significantly lower cost, [rather] than making custom changes to an existing designer dress, which will only drive up the price significantly in the ordering process,” Avrumson mentions. As a bonus, this heirloom gown can function as your “something borrowed.”
Opt for a Pre-Owned Design
Since brides typically only wear their wedding gowns on the big day, selecting a second-hand alternative is basically like buying a brand-new design—with a huge price reduction. According to Avrumson, you can find a style that’s at least 40 percent off. When taking this route, make sure to select a gown that’s in great condition, and bring it to the cleaners to freshen it up. Check out resale websites like Preowned Wedding Dresses, Nearly Newlywed, and Stillwhite for affordable designer options.
Repurpose Your Ensemble
Although wedding dresses usually only make a one-time appearance, choosing a versatile option that you can rewear will decrease the overall price. “Getting multiple uses out of your dress helps bring your costs per wear down,” Lowenthal reveals. Whether it’s a traditional white getup or a colorful ensemble, being strategic with your selection will make you fashionably prepared for future black-tie events. Plus, recycling your wedding wardrobe is a sustainable choice.
Sell Your Gown
If you’re still leaning towards splurging on a full-price designer dress, you can always sell the gown after the wedding is over. That way, you’ll get back a portion of the money that you originally spent, so it will seem like you bought the design on a discount to begin with. Head over to websites like Stillwhite or Sell My Wedding Dress, or use Facebook Marketplace to offer another bride a budget-friendly option.