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How Much to Spend on a Wedding Dress – A Quick Guide

Bride wearing wedding dress siting on a chair

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If you’re currently engaged, you’re probably already thinking about your wedding dress. And while wedding dress styles and types are among the main factors to consider, one big issue is the cost.

Wedding dresses don’t come cheap, do deciding how much to spend on a wedding dress can be a daunting question.

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How do you set a budget for how much you’re going to spend on a wedding dress and why is this number so diverse between brides?

How much should I spend on my wedding dress?

Every bride wants something different. What do you want your dress to say about you? Some will want the prestige of top end designer brands such as a Vera Wang, others will want a very particular style which might only be available if you’re getting the dress made yourself or you may want the unique impact of a vintage heirloom piece.

Bridal magazines can be great for inspiration, but often only feature dresses which are more expensive than the average bride can afford. Ask friends and family, as they will have opinions to give you on what they might have spent.

Every bride is unique including you, so don’t waste too much time comparing yourself to others. Assess your budget yes, but more importantly assess how important your dress is to your special day and allocate funds accordingly.

What is the average cost of a wedding dress?

Bride wearing wedding dress

No matter which country you are from all brides feel they want to have a unique and intimate style for their wedding dress, but the average price doesn’t always indicate what you should spend.

Don’t lose sight of your personal taste, or what your heart tells you is right. So, consider everything from top end designer bridal dresses to vintage and mainstream retailers. Be comfortable with what your wearing AND what you’re spending.

Having said that, knowing what the average bride is spending will help you allocate your wedding dress funds. You’d be surprised how similar the price tags are across the globe.

  • USA – $1,631
  • Australia – AUD$ 2,475
  • Canada – CAN$ 1,323
  • UK – £1,385

While these prices only show the average, and you can find numbers on either end of the spectrum, it’s a good starting point. Do you want to go higher or lower?

Inexpensive wedding dresses

Cheap wedding dresses

Inexpensive wedding dresses have been on the rise over the last few years. Well known affordable brands have realized there is a huge demand for trendy and stylish wedding dresses that every bride can afford without compromising on style for the big day. From brands like Reformation to H&M, chic wedding dresses from as little as $350 are storming the catwalk.

More affordable wedding dresses means that brides can take advantage of trends that they perhaps wouldn’t want to if they were spending $1500+ on a dress. Did you know that internet searches for wedding jumpsuits have increased by 30% over the last five years?

There has also been a rise in brides wearing TWO wedding dresses, one for the ceremony and dinner and one for the late-night reception. So why spend so much on one dress when you can get two for a similar cost? You might also want two wedding dresses if you’re having a wedding abroad and then a ceremony at home as well.

Should I hire a wedding dress?

Wedding dresses to be hired

Hiring a wedding dress can be the perfect solution if your wedding budget means you can’t splash out on the designer dress of your dreams, or if you’re trying to plan a wedding in under six weeks. Not only is it cheaper, especially if you want to go with a very high-end designer, but it’s quicker to organize. Some wedding dresses can take six months to order so hiring a dress can give you lots more flexibility plus no need to worry about storing and dry cleaning your dress after the big day. Another huge benefit of hiring a wedding dress is that most wedding dress hires will also include accessories, such as a veil and shoes. When you add up all these savings it can go a long way to reducing the cost of a wedding dress and the entire ensemble.

Renting a dress can also be a clever option if you’re having a destination wedding or travelling far away for the big day. As you can potentially rent the dress from a local place and save the hassle of transporting a delicate garment.  

What about second hand?

Secondhand wedding dresses have had a bad rep. It’s not quite seen as vintage and superstitions means that some people are put off by the idea. However, a secondhand wedding dress can be a great option if you are looking to get something very special on a budget.

Not only are they a good choice if you’re on a tight budget but if you want to think about how your shopping habits impact the environment then secondhand dresses are a fantastic ethical option. If you’re willing why not go one step further and visit an Oxfam bridal store? After all, why have we abandoned single use plastics and not single wear outfits?

Creative ways to cut down on wedding dress cost

Bride and groom dress and suit

Some brides don’t want to spare any cost when it comes to getting the dress of their dreams. But if that doesn’t sound like you, with a little bit of preparedness and effort, you can significantly cut down on the price of your dress.

Be Sale Savvy

Think about savvy shopping. Just because it’s your wedding dress doesn’t mean that you can’t shop a sale or buy an ex display dress. Lots of bridal boutiques host sample sales and end of season events with high mark downs. The best way to find out about these is to keep an eye out on social media or even call around to see if stores will tell you if they are hosting one soon. If you do buy at a sample sale or ex display dress, make sure you check the quality of ask about any faults.

Have your dress custom made

When you work with a local tailor or seamstress you’re only paying for their time and skill and the fabric or embellishments. This certainly won’t have the mark up that some designer gowns have, and you can have a frank and open discussion with your seamstress about exactly what you want and what your budget is. Not only that but you’ll also walk away with a one of a kind dress. Even if you can’t get something made from scratch you could have a dress reworked or embellished, like giving the sleeves a modern update or shortening the length of the dress. 

Go non-traditional when shopping

It’s no secret that wedding purchases often have crazy high marks up. As soon as a venue hears you want to rent it for a wedding versus a party then the price can be considerably higher; the same goes for wedding dresses. Just because a dress is not advertised as a wedding dress doesn’t mean you can’t wear it as your wedding dress. You might want to wear a white cocktail dress or a silver full length gown. As long as it doesn’t have the word ‘wedding’ attached to it, the chances are higher that the dress will be less costly.

Hopefully these tips help you pick the right dress at the right price for you. At the end of the day, there is no way that it ‘should’ be done. Do what feels right.