Average Wedding Dress Cost: How to Get the Best Dress for Less Money

But still look like a million bucks.
Average Wedding Dress Cost

The most exciting part of planning a wedding for almost any bride is choosing the gown she’ll say “I do” in.

Whether you have Pinterest boards full of images or faithfully scroll through Instagram looking for inspiration, if you’re a bride-to-be, you probably have a lot of ideas on what style of wedding dress you’re looking for. But, do you know the average wedding dress cost? How much do you want to spend?

If money is no object, you can spend millions on your wedding gown à la Serena Williams. While her $3.5 million Alexander McQueen dress designed by Sarah Burton was indeed spectacular, it’s far out of reach for all but the most affluent. So, how much can you expect to spend?

Average Wedding Dress Cost

If you’re like most brides in the U.S., your budget will probably range anywhere from $500 to $4,000 with the average wedding dress cost coming in at $1,631. Some brides will even stretch their budget for a $13,000 designer gown from Pnina Tornai.

But how much will you need to spend to get your dream wedding dress? 

To help you decide how much you’ll need to budget, we’ve put together a helpful wedding dress cost shopping guide that will see you through one of the biggest decisions you’ll make about your big day.

wedding dress cost

If You Have a Small Budget

Inexpensive yet beautiful wedding dresses have become easier to find in recent years as designers realize that not all brides can or want to spend more than $1,000 on a gown. Brands like David’s Bridal, Reformation and Missguided are creating dresses that don’t compromise on style for thrifty brides. 

So, how much does a wedding dress cost with one of these retailers? The average dress cost ranges from $600 to less than $300, making these wedding dresses a real bargain for any frugal bride.

The cost reduction comes down to one thing: the fabric. As gorgeous as silk, lace and tulle are, they drive wedding dress cost up dramatically. 

If you want to keep your spending in-hand, look for bridal retailers that sell polyester wedding dresses. Poly fabrics may be cheaper, but that doesn’t mean low quality. In fact, polyester can offer a nice smooth finish without the bumps or irregularities that often appear in silk.

Consider Embellishment

The cost of a wedding dress is also impacted by fussy detailing and enhancements. Beading and lace are beautiful, but the more that appear on your wedding dress, the higher the price tag. 

Instead, why not opt for a plain gown and have a seamstress apply embellishments? Not only will that drive down your wedding dress cost, but you’ll have the chance to customize your bridal gown.

Let’s take a look at the most popular embellishments and how you can use them to add visual interest to a plain wedding dress.

Lace

Nothing looks quite as lovely as a lacy wedding dress. Rather than paying the hefty price for a lace dress, you can have your seamstress apply lace details to an unembellished gown.

Lace can be used to create long or cap sleeves or even an illusion neckline on a strapless dress. It can also be used to create an overlay to all or part of the dress.

If you want to keep it simple, try adding lace appliques to the bodice and hem of your wedding dress.

Beading

Beading can be added to the bodice of a simple wedding dress for some extra glamor. Unless you’re experienced with clothing alterations, we recommend having a professional seamstress do this for you. 

One thing to keep in mind is, if you opt to cover the entire bodice in beads, you may experience some shrinkage — and that can impact how the dress fits you. If your wedding dress is already snug, you may want to stick to beading along the neckline.

Photo By Perth Wedding Photography

Sequins or Crystals

If you want a little bit of bling added to the simple fabric of your wedding gown, sequins or crystals could be just what you need.

While some sequins or crystals can be affixed to fabric with hot glue, we don’t recommend going near your wedding dress with a glue gun. Instead, opt for the varieties that can be sewn to your dress. Again, unless you’re proficient at coming up with a becoming pattern and hand sewing, it’s best to take your wedding dress to a seamstress.

Photo By R. Williams Wedding Designer

Waistbands

If you want to skip any major alterations, a belt or ribbon are perfect accessories for enhancing your wedding dress.

Belts specifically made for wedding dresses are usually decorated with rhinestones, crystals or beading and can add a nice little pop to a plain gown. 

If you’re not into sparkle but still want to add visual interest to your wedding dress, why not use a silk ribbon as a belt? You can tie it around your waist to form a bow in the front or back. You can also attach the ribbon to the dress if you’re worried about it coming undone.

If You Want a High-End Gown for Cheap

If you love designer gowns but can’t make your budget stretch far enough to buy that $7,000 Lazaro wedding dress you’ve had your eye on, there are a few different ways you can cut your dress cost substantially.

Photo By Borrowing Magnolia

1. Buy Used

If you want to get a leg up on the ‘something old’ tradition, why not save a few bucks by shopping for a used wedding dress?

Many bridal salons sell used dresses and could have just what you’re looking for. Another great option is Borrowing Magnolia. Many of the wedding dresses featured on Borrowing Magnolia are less than $1,000. Even the gowns with higher price tags still offer substantial savings.

Wedding dresses from designers like Carolina Herrara can be had for as much as 76 percent off the retail price.

The other great thing about Borrowing Magnolia is that it inspects all of the wedding dresses listed on its site to make sure they are not only high-quality but in pristine condition.

Photo By Wedding Dress For Rent

2. Rent Your Dream Dress

If you’ve always dreamed of walking down the aisle in a designer wedding dress, but your wedding budget is limited, renting your dream dress may be the answer.

Renting a wedding dress has many advantages. From driving down the cost of a designer dress to avoiding cleaning and preservation costs, more and more brides are opting to rent a wedding dress.

A high-end wedding gown rents for a fraction of its sticker price, enabling you to nab the look you want for as little as $500. 

There are websites that specialize in renting wedding dresses and bridal salons that sell and rent used gowns.

Here are some great options to get you started:

  • Wedding Dress for Rent: Up to 80 percent off wedding dress retail value with a $100-$500 security deposit. 
  • Poshare: Wedding dress rentals range from $60-$800. Shipping extra. 
  • Janet Mandell : High-end wedding dresses from designers like Oscar de la Renta, Vera Wang and Carolina Herrera, for $1,500. 

3. Trunk Shows and Sample Sales

Attending trunk shows and sample sales can be an excellent way to save money on an expensive wedding dress.

During a trunk show, a specific designer will display his or her wedding dresses at a bridal salon, making it an ideal way to snag exclusive, new designs, at a deep discount. Trunk shows are typically held on a weekend and the designer or a brand representative will be in-store for the event.

If you’re OK with wearing a wedding dress from last season, sample sales can save you a lot of money.

Generally held in the summer and early winter, sample sales give brides the chance to buy a wedding dress off the rack for 10 percent to 50 percent off the normal sticker price. Typically, the gowns featured at a sample sale have been tried on before and are available in a range of sizes.

Photo By David’s Bridal

If You Want a Specific Designer

If you want to purchase and keep your wedding dress for sentimental reasons, but are still angling after a designer dress on a tight budget, you may need to alter your expectations a bit. Even if you can’t afford a $10,000 Vera Wang gown, the good news is, there are ways to keep your dress cost down and still get a dress from your favorite designer. 

If you love Vera Wang, for instance, but don’t have the budget for a wedding dress from her more expensive luxe collection, you can snag one of her White collection gowns. Made for brides on a tighter budget, the line is still stylish but is made of lower-priced materials. They also aren’t special-order or custom-made like her designer dresses.

Consider Two Wedding Dresses

More and more brides are opting for two wedding gowns so they can rock different looks at the ceremony and reception.

But can you do it on a smaller wedding dress budget? Yes! With careful planning, buying an additional wedding dress for your reception is doable. Once you start your dress hunt, be sure to shop for both looks at the same time. This will not only help you stick to your overall wedding dress budget, it will help you keep cost in mind when you choose the styles you love.

So, if you plan to purchase a traditional wedding gown for your ceremony and something sexier for your reception, don’t forget to budget for alterations to both dresses.

Budget for Wedding Dress Alterations

It’s crucial to remember that the sticker price of a wedding dress will not be the final price you’ll pay. Unless it fits you perfectly, you’ll need alterations.

The average price for wedding dress alterations is between $100 and $150 but can add up to an additional $500 onto the cost of your dress. Less expensive dress alterations, however, may cost as little as $50.

There’s no way to know how much or how little work your wedding gown will need, so make sure your wedding budget includes a healthy amount for any necessary alterations.

Don’t Forget Accessories

Alterations aren’t the only miscellaneous item you’ll need to budget for. Accessories are also a key part of your overall look for your big day. Not only will the right accessories enhance your wedding dress, they’ll give you confidence that you’re looking your best.

Accessories are especially important if you’ve opted to save money by buying a simple wedding gown, so be sure to make room for shoes and jewelry in your wedding budget.

While the average cost of wedding shoes is around $100, you can find amazing bridal footwear at a much lower price if you shop sales. Keep in mind, you don’t have to buy your shoes at a bridal salon. Any shoe store that sells dress shoes will do — and they tend to be less expensive than bridal boutiques or salons.

For jewelry, choose one standout piece. Not only is it budget-friendly, but wearing one piece ensures your bling doesn’t outshine your dress. Less is more is the cardinal rule when it comes to wedding accessories. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a better idea not only how much your dream wedding gown will cost, but how you can stay on budget without sacrificing the dress you really want, it’s time to get shopping!

Whether you opt for a simple dress that you can embellish yourself, an off-the-rack wedding dress from a bridal retailer or a gown from a sample sale, financial planning is key to your success. 

And remember, you don’t need to spend thousands on your dress to look gorgeous on your wedding day. If you love your dress and feel beautiful in it, it’s money well spent whether you paid $300 or $3,000.

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