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July 13, 2021 4 min read

Cars, houses and wedding dresses all have something in common: there’s no one answer to the questionWhat’s a reasonable price to pay for one?


So learning that the 2020 Brides American Wedding Study reports the average cost of a wedding dress is $2,439, or that wedding website The Knot claims that in 2019 the average wedding dress went for $1,631 (including alterations), doesn’t mean that either price is “reasonable”.  The cost of a wedding dress is likely to be just one expense a couple faces when planning -- and budgeting -- an event as important as a wedding.


Which means that the more fashion conscious you are, the more likely your wedding dress budget will exceed the average -- possibly by thousands.  The less fashion conscious you are, the more likely your reception budget, say, will exceed your wedding dress budget -- again, possibly by thousands.

Lace wedding dress

Major Factors Affecting the Cost of Your Wedding Dress


Let’s take a look at major factors influencing the cost of your wedding dress:


Customization.  The cost of a wedding dress generally declines as you move down these 4 tiers:

  • Bespoke -- a from-the-ground-up custom-designed wedding dress that reflects your personal preferences and requirements
  • Made to measure, wherein a couturier adapts an existing wedding dress design to your size, shape, and proportions
  • Made to order, where the bride tries on a handful of sample size wedding gowns in a boutique, the shop orders her ideal style according to the closest standard size fit and then alters it accordingly
  • Off the rack, where the bride acquires the wedding dress as is and must have any alterations performed by an independent tailor
Wedding dresses on a rack

Fabrics: 

Expensive materials like silk, lace, tulle and charmeuse can add quite a bit to the cost of your bridal gown.  If you’re looking for a low-cost alternative, consider polyester.


Embellishments:

 Insisting on distinctive add-ons like beading, appliques and lace can boost the price of any wedding dress.  The low-cost alternative?  Select a simple wedding dress design and glam it up with accessories -- earrings, necklaces, shoes and so forth.


Designer Names:

 Just as you’ll pay more for a Ferrari than a Toyota, you’ll pay more for a Vera Wang or Oscar de la Renta bridal gown than one from an online retailer like Needle & Thread or Riki Dalal.  Unless you’re deeply brand conscious, shopping lesser-known wedding dress designer names online can be a major money saver.


Alterations:

 Whether a wedding dress is made to measure, made to order or off the rack it will need to be altered to fit properly.  Minor dress alterations may cost as little as $75; major ones may run $500 or more.  (Don’t forget, too, that custom wedding dresses can take up to a year to order and have alterations completed.)


Seasonality:

  Everyone knows that the best time to save on a winter coat is to buy itafter winter is over.  Wedding dresses are no different, so you’re more likely to land a good deal by shopping winter or summer bridal gown clearance sales.  You can also save by taking advantage of a sample sale (more about which below) or trunk show, where wedding dress prices are typically reduced about 20%.  In addition, buying during the off-season gives you ample time to have your wedding dress altered.


Preservation:

 Once your nuptials are over, whether you plan to donate, resell or keep your wedding dress forever you’ll want to have your bridal gown professionally cleaned and cared for. The average cost of wedding dress preservation ranges from $250 to $750, so it's a sizable additional cost you’ll want to factor into your wedding budget.

Wedding dress on a hanger

Money-Saving Idea #1: Take Advantage of Sample Sales


These days many online and offline bridal designers and boutiques sell high-end sample wedding dresses at attractive discounts of 50% or more.


Among these is Carine’s Bridal Atelier in Washington, D.C.; Ceremony Bridal Studio in Barrie, Ontario, Canada; David’s Bridal throughout the United States; Jacqueline’s Bridal in Wellesley, Massachusetts; Mia Bella Couture in Del Mar, California; and the Gown Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri.



Money-Saving Idea #2: Avoid Buying What’s New


The major factors affecting the cost of your wedding dress make a couple of pricey assumptions.  First, they assume your wedding dress is new and second, that the dress has never been worn -- at least not down the aisle.


These assumptions overlook the serious savings you can pocket by purchasing a previously owned wedding dress, or by simplyrenting the bridal gown instead.


Online sites like Borrowing Magnolia, Stillwhite and Poshmark have created a wedding dress marketplace that allows anyone to, as Borrowing Magnolia puts it,Say yes to the pre-owned wedding dress! and save literally hundreds of dollars in the process.  (Even better, these sites will help you sell your wedding dress once you’ve celebrated your wedding day.)


What’s more, clothing rental sites like Rent the Runway, Lending Luxury and Poshare make it easy to, as Poshare explains, find your perfect look, hire it for the special event, enjoy the wedding dress for the number of days you choose and simply return it to the lender.  Hire a stunning wedding gown for as little as $75?  Remarkably, these innovative sites make such dramatic savings a reality.


Lastly, global online marketplace Etsy sells uniquely affordable vintage wedding dresses -- many of which ship free -- for brides who seek one-of-a-kind preowned bridal gown styles.



What About Wedding Dress Pricesau Canada?


The price of bridal gowns in Canada is comparable to those in the U.S. -- Canadian wedding site Wedding Bells reports they average $1,779.


Interestingly, the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s website reports that many wedding dress makers offer bridalwear options that cost under $500. Prominent among them is Montreal-based retailer Le Chateau, whose Wedding Boutique prices the majority of its designs under $500 and boasts that all are made in Canada.  Not to be outdone is the Australian label Ever New’s Canadian site, which features an Ivana Wrap Frill Midi Dress priced at just $189.99.



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