- According to industry sources, the average cost for a wedding dress is between $2,439 and $1,000.
- Things like fabric quality, custom details, designer labels and other factors determine how much any one wedding dress will cost.
- Don’t forget the cost of alterations, dry cleaning and preservation.
- You can save money by renting a dress, buying one secondhand or selecting a low-cost retail option.
- If you can’t afford your dream gown right now, you can budget, save or even borrow money—just make sure you’re making wise decisions that won’t hurt your financial future.
For many brides, the perfect dress is one of the most important components of their dream wedding. And even if you don’t have a strong opinion on what you’ll wear to walk the aisle, you still have to wear something, right?
With thousands of options and thousands of price points, it can be hard to make a decision. Let’s look at what wedding dresses cost on average, what goes into that cost, ways you can save money while still looking stunning and how to know how much you should spend. If you don’t have the cash on hand for your desired threads, we’ll also explain some alternative ways to pay for a wedding dress while staying on budget.
Inside this article
How much does a wedding dress cost?
Like most costs associated with a wedding, what people actually spend on wedding dresses is all over the place. According to WeddingWire, the lower cost range is $100 or less. On the other hand, designer gowns can easily top $10,000.
Here’s the average cost of a wedding dress according to three industry sources.
|2020 Brides American Wedding Study||$2,439|
|The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study||$1,800|
|WeddingWire's Wedding Dress Cost Guide||$1,000|
And the wedding dress is here to stay, it seems. According to the Knot, wedding dresses continue to be de rigueur, with 99% of survey respondents who identify as female saying they wore a dress for their wedding.
What determines that price?
While you can find a wedding dress at any price point, there are a few things that determine the price of a gown. Here are the major factors that impact the total price tag:
Brand: A dress from Oscar de la Renta or Vera Wang is going to cost far more than a dress from David’s Bridal. Designer gowns often use high-end or rare materials, employ detailed embellishments and offer a hands-on fitting process that adds to the overall cost.
Material: Generally, a dress with silk, lace, crystals and other high-cost materials will have a higher price than a polyester or viscose gown. If you want a dress with high-end or hard-to-find fabrics and embellishments, it will bump up the cost.
Customization: Dresses that are hand-crafted—think ornate embroidery, beautiful beading or fragile lace—will cost more because of the time and effort it takes to create them. Similarly, if you want to modify a dress, you could see a big leap in price—making changes to sleeves or necklines can be difficult, time-consuming and, yes, expensive.
Alterations: Even basic alterations, such as hemming the dress or taking in the bodice, can add quite a bit to your total. The more ornate the dress and the more changes are required, the higher the cost can climb.
Costs that might surprise you
Even if you’ve found a dress in your budget and have factored in the cost of alterations, remember that there are additional costs that might surprise you. Here are some things you will need to factor in both before and after the wedding:
Specialized undergarments: A wedding gown is not the kind of dress you wear everyday and might require some unique underwear to achieve the right silhouette. For instance, depending on the neckline, you might need a special bra—or if you want your full skirt to really swish, you might want to buy a crinoline.
Accessories: You have the ring sorted out, but what about all the other options that can take it up a notch? What about a tiara? Veil? Shoes? Jewelry? Those things can really add up.
Dry cleaning: After the dancing and toasting and cake-eating, you’ll probably want to take your dress to the dry cleaners. Again, depending on the delicacy and detail of your dress, the cost of cleaning can come in north of $200, according to WeddingWire.
Preservation: If you want to have your wedding dress around for years to come, you’ll need to preserve and store it carefully. According to Brides, a wedding publication, not preserving and storing your dress properly can invite yellowing, brown spots, mold or mildew, permanent creasing and other damage. A good preservation kit can cost as much as $400.
How much should you spend on a wedding dress?
“Everyone's budgets and priorities are different, so there's no rules about what to spend on certain aspects of the wedding,” says Jessica Bishop, the founder of the Budget-Savvy Bride.
Meet the Expert
Jessica Bishop founded the Budget-Savvy Bride in 2008 as a way to help couples plan weddings on a budget. She’s the author of the best-selling The Budget-Savvy Wedding Planner and Organizer.
Without hard-and-fast rules, you’ll need to figure out what works for you and your partner. Set a budget ahead of time and don’t look at gowns outside of that price point. And remember that the dress’s price tag is just the starting point: You’re likely to have multiple other expenses.
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If you have your heart set on a pricey gown, you might want to look into cutting expenses elsewhere. If you can find a venue with a lower cost or limit your guest count, you may be able to fit a high-end gown into your wedding plan without going over budget.
Should you use a personal loan for your wedding dress?
You might be tempted to borrow for your garb, particularly if you already took out a wedding loan for other facets of your celebration and can simply tap those existing funds. But whether you should rely on debt to pay for a wedding dress is another question altogether.
Generally speaking, borrowing the money you need to afford a certain wedding dress isn’t the best idea. You’re adding interest and origination fees onto the already high cost of a dress…not to mention a dress you’ll only wear once. Try to sleep on the idea for a while and decide if it’s really worth starting your married life with that much more debt.
If you can avoid borrowing
You might be surprised at the great low-cost options out there these days. See if you can find a dress you love that you won’t have to take out a loan to afford. (Below we offer some great tips on finding a good deal.)
You could also take on some gig and freelance work and put that money towards a dress. A couple months of weekend work can add up quickly. Also, some credit cards offer 0% interest and no monthly fees for a certain amount of time—if you know you can easily pay off the balance before the interest rate and fees kick in, that could be a better option than a traditional loan.
If you decide to borrow
If after careful consideration, you have determined that your dream gown is worth the cost of a personal loan, it’s time to look for the best loan for you. Here are some important considerations:
Credit score: If you have a good credit score, you’re more likely to get a loan with a low interest rate. Check your score and see if you can boost it before you take out a personal loan.
Interest rate: Think of your interest rate as the price of borrowing money. Shop around and compare rates to find the lowest one—it will save you a lot of money over the life of the loan.
Fees: Many lenders charge fees, but you can find those who don’t. Make sure you include this in your calculations.
Term: This is the number of months it will take you to repay the loan. Usually, shorter terms mean higher monthly payments, but lower overall interest.
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Personal loans can be costly, but they’re not always a bad option. Take your time and do your research before you pull the trigger.
Are there ways to save money on a wedding dress?
Heck yes there are! In fact, thanks to the world of internet shopping, you have more options than ever. Here are some of the best ways to cut costs on your wedding dress.
“If a designer dress is part of your dream wedding, consider shopping for a pre-owned gown on sites like StillWhite or Nearly Newlywed,” Bishop advises. “You can save over 50% compared to buying a brand-new wedding dress, and wearing secondhand is also more eco-friendly!”
Rent a dress
Sites like Borrowing Magnolia offer designer gowns for rent at a fraction of the retail cost. It’s a great way to get your dream dress while saving money on something you’ll likely wear only once (assuming you don’t have the desire to one day pass it on to a family member). Just make sure you choose a reputable vendor, check reviews and understand the process for trying on, renting and returning dresses.
Choose a nontraditional option
Open to a jumpsuit? A colorful option? A vintage silk suit? You can likely find a stunning and unique outfit for your wedding without committing to the price tag of a classic wedding dress. You could also find a white dress that’s not marketed as a wedding dress and opt for glamorous accessories. You could pull a Caroline Kennedy and find a simple white slip dress for less than $100!
Shop at a budget retailer
Online shops like Lulu’s and ASOS offer wedding dresses in a variety of sizes and styles at prices that won’t break the bank. Try a few low-cost options and see how you like them—just make sure you can take advantage of the return policy if they’re not quite right.
Buy a dress that fits off the rack
If you can find a dress that won’t require any alterations, you’ll save both time and money. Look for something that won’t require multiple trips to a tailor to fit you correctly.
The search for the perfect wedding dress can be exhausting, but don’t settle for something you don’t love. With some research and some time, you can find a stunning gown that fits both you and your wedding budget.