In 2014, the average amount spent on a wedding dress was $1,357, according to a survey of brides done by TheKnot. This cost was about 4% of the total average wedding budget of $31,213. Because these numbers are averages, they are likely pulled higher than the median by brides who spent much more than that. After all, Kim Kardashian reportedly spent $2MM on her wedding dress, while the most expensive gown currently known (adorned with 150 carats worth of diamonds) cost more than $11MM when created in 2006. Don’t let these reports scare you if you’re on a budget. Thrifty brides find ways to purchase gorgeous gowns for just a few hundred dollars.
- The Cost of a Designer Wedding Dress
- Why Wedding Dresses Cost So Much
- Where to Buy a Wedding Dress
- New vs. Used Wedding Dresses
- Cost of Wedding Dress Alterations, and Other Add-Ons
Even a very simple dress can cost a pretty penny if it carries the label of a famous designer, like Vera Wang, Reem Acra or Hayley Paige. Their wares can run into the multiple thousands of dollars—$2,000, $3,000, $5,000, $8,000 or more. Other name brands you might be familiar with, like J. Crew, offer less expensive but still beautiful designs. The following table shows the median price, as well as the range of what recent brides report they paid for some of the most popular wedding dress brands.
|Designer||Median Price||Lowest Price||Highest Price|
|Priscilla of Boston||$2,600||$350||$6,500|
And if you aren’t picky about the name brand on your dress, your choices expand even further, and prices drop even lower. Many bridal gowns can be had for less than $100.
Some of the important factors that go into the price of a wedding dress include the basic cost of the materials plus the labor required to sew it together plus the transportation to get it from its origination point to the bride. For rock-bottom simplicity (and minimal expenditure), you could get a very simple, short, white jersey dress for $29.99 from a fast fashion retailer like H&M.
About 11% of brides choose a non-traditional wedding dress—knee-length or separates or one that isn’t white, but most brides are looking for something special for their big day, and they’re willing to spend a lot more than $29.99.
As the materials get pricier—think silk instead of polyester—the core cost of the dress will rise. The table below shows how materials are priced by the yard, and how much more you might pay depending on what your dress is made of.
|Wedding Dress Fabric Cost Per Yard|
|Poly China Silk||$4.95|
|Noble Silk Duchess Satin||$29.95|
More volume and more decoration, like ribbons, buttons, beads, sequins and pearls, also increase the price. For example, a dress with 35 buttons down the back and a bustle would cost more than a similar dress that simply zips up.
Where you buy your wedding dress will play a part in how much you end up spending on it. Some of the cost of the business operations will be baked into the sales price. Also, different sellers are known for carrying higher, moderate or lower priced options.
Designer Salon: If price is no object, book a time at the Vera Wang salon (or another designer of your dreams) and have a fabulous time. For the rest of us, it’s worth exploring options for both online sellers and other places we can go to try the dresses on.
National Chain or Local Bridal Salon: A large majority, nearly 85%, of brides get their dress from either a local bridal store, or a nearby location of a national chain, like David’s Bridal, which has more than 300 stores mostly in the U.S. Both kinds of stores typically carry a large array of options to fit most price points. They may also offer dresses you can buy “off-the-rack” rather than ordering them. You might get a really great deal if you buy a sample—one that’s been tried on by other prospective brides. These are typically discounted by 50% or more.
Trunk Shows: You can also seek out trunk shows, which can occur at bridal salons or other locations. At these events, designers show and sell their latest collection—many of which are not yet available at stores—sometimes offering a discount of about 20%.
Department Stores: Certain department stores sell bridal gowns. Check the ones near you.
Etailers: Many online sellers, like lightinthebox.com, offer a huge array of very reasonably-priced dresses—many under $100. Dressilyme.com also has hundreds of good deals.
Some brides, especially those who have strong opinions about design or a hard-to-fit body type, opt for a custom-made gown. You could sew your dress yourself if you have the know-how, or put the task in the hands of a skilled friend or family member, a local dressmaker, or an overseas producer. This process is typically more time-consuming for the bride due to extensive consultations and fittings. Also, if the dressmaker lives far away, the gown may need to be shipped back and forth multiple times to get it just right, so make sure to build in transit time (and costs!)
The cost of a custom dress can vary widely. You might be able to have a seamstress mimic a designer dress for far less than the designer charges. Or you might pay more than a similar off-the-rack dress if you choose more expensive materials.
If you have nothing against a pre-owned dress (some cultures forbid it), you have an additional pool of possibilities. Check general consignment shops in your area to see if they have any wedding dresses, or try wedding-specific consignment stores. Many of these stores also sell their items online, or on a site like eBay, oncewed, preownedweddingdresses, or tradesy, so do some web shopping too.
|Designer||Average Resale Price||Average Original Price||Average % Recouped|
|Priscilla of Boston||$574||$3,039||20%|
You can also try to buy directly from another bride. Many women sell wedding dresses they own for a host of reasons. They might have found another they liked better and ended up buying two. Their plans may have fallen through. Or, they wore it, and don’t want to hang onto it. Along with the sites mentioned above, check Craigslist, weddingbee classified, or Kijiji if you’re in Canada.
According to our exclusive analysis, pre-owned dresses typically sell for about 40% of the new dress price, although it varies somewhat by designer, as shown in the table above. Buying preowned can mean prices 40 - 60% off on their wedding dresses, especially on expensive designer gowns. In rare cases, the discount is astonishing, for example, an $11,000 Reem Acra dress recently sold for $150 on Tradesy. However, a more typical transaction involves getting something like a Vera Wang Diana dress, which costs at least $8,000 new, for about $3,450 on eBay.
Buying preowned can have additional perks, too—no sales tax, usually, and you might get extras thrown in, like a beaded belt, a sweater or veil, each of which could cost hundreds of dollars if purchased new.
Depending on where you buy your dress, your payment plan could vary. Some sellers require full payment at the time of your order or purchase. Many allow you to put down about 50% or 60% when you order the dress; and pay the remainder on delivery. Some even offer a monthly payment plan.
As you’re planning out your wedding budget, remember to account for the costs you’ll incur on top of the purchase price of the dress. You may pay sales tax, depending on your state. You might also have to cover a shipping cost. And most brides get alterations.
Mainly due to the elaborate construction of many wedding dresses, the cost for alterations can easily rise into the hundreds of dollars, but prices will vary. Some stores, including every David’s Bridal, have an on-site alterations specialist whose fee depends on the complexity of the changes you need. Other bridal salons and stores charge a flat fee, reportedly as high as $695 at the famous Kleinfeld store in Manhattan; closer to $500 at independent bridal salons in other high cost-of-living parts of the country. You may be able to find an independent seamstress who can handle the fittings for less. Brides in smaller U.S. cities pay between $250 and $450 for their alterations. Rural brides, and brides who don’t need many changes to their gown, might get away with paying even less.
Don’t forget about the undergarments, overgarments and accessories you’ll want to wear with your dress. You might want to add items like a belt, a wrap or, of course, a veil. You’ll also need shoes and jewelry.
Once the wedding is over, many brides pay for a professional dry cleaning, which usually starts at $100. Some want preservation for the long-term. You can get a cheap option at David’s Bridal, their preservation service runs $130 and includes shipping both ways. Or you can go to a high-end professional and spend $1,500 to preserve an especially complex gown.
It can be expensive to be a bride—and the dress is only the start!