How to Save Money on a Wedding Dress

Whether you’ve dreamed of yourself in a beautiful, flowing white dress since you were five-years-old, or you’ve only started to even consider it post-ring, the bridal dress is often a major component of a wedding. There are so many styles available that searching for and trying on dresses can be a long, fun and exciting journey for both the bride and the entire bridal party.

Many wedding dresses are made with premium materials and involve complex and intricate designs. As a result, the perfect dress naturally comes with a corresponding premium price tag. In the UK, the average amount spent on a wedding dress is £1,300, though it can often be double or even triple this. When you consider that the average cost of a wedding is £20,775, this may sound like a lot, but it’s proportionate with the cost of many other professional wedding services, including photographers and videographers. 

However, there are plenty of ways to save money on a wedding dress. In this post, we’re going to explore the tips and tricks you can use to help you stick to your budget while still getting to wear a gorgeous gown on your big day. 

Why are wedding dresses so expensive?

Photo © Kate Joseph Bridal | See their Bridebook profile

Wedding dresses come with a premium price tag for several reasons:

  • They’re made using very high-quality materials
  • They can come with complex and intricate adornments 
  • They’re often handmade by a highly skilled and experienced dressmaker
  • They’re highly customised both in terms of style and fit
  • It’s tempting to choose a well-known, high-end designer to mark the occasion
  • They usually involve tailored service and consultations to get it just right

As well as these, wedding dresses have great sentimental value and are massively important to many brides. As a result, many brides-to-be are willing to pay premium prices to get the dress of their dreams. After all, this isn’t any old day. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime celebration, which deserves an outfit like no other. 

Do you need to wear a bridal dress on your wedding day?

Photo © Oui Madame Bridal Atelier | See their Bridebook profile

While a white dress is traditionally worn by a bride in western countries specifically, you by no means have to wear one on your own wedding day. What you wear at your wedding is down to you, the style and theme of your wedding, and any religious traditions you may wish to stick to.

A white dress may be what many brides choose to wear, but there are plenty who don’t and opt for an alternative instead. Examples of these include:

  • A non-traditional dress, which may feature colours or be black
  • Religious or cultural attire, such as a saree, kimono or hanbok
  • Trouser suits or jumpsuits, which are stylish and modern but still elegant
  • A two-piece ensemble, such as a skirt and top

Many non-bridal dresses can also be expensive, but are often far more affordable than traditional dresses worn by brides in the West. 

12 ways to save money on your wedding dress

Photo © Rachel Lamb Bridal Design | See their Bridebook profile

If you’re keen to wear a traditional dress on your big day, there are plenty of ways to save money if you’re willing to compromise a little. Below are 12 ways you can make a saving when buying your wedding dress. And for more tips, check out our ultimate guide to saving money on your wedding.

1. Browse affordable designer ranges

Photo © Catherine Blades Couture | See their Bridebook profile

Have you always wanted a stunning Vera Wang gown to get married in but aren’t sure your budget can stretch that far? Well, did you know that most wedding dress designers have a cheaper line available at bargain prices? That means you can go to your favourite designer and not have to break the bank to buy a dress. And for reference, for Vera Wang, it’s the White collection.

2. Look out for sample sales

When it comes to gorgeous designer gowns, boutiques and designers themselves will host sample sales at the end of seasons. You can find some absolute gems hidden among the endless racks; so as long as you’re willing to forego the typical bridal boutique shopping experience and service, they’re definitely worth it. Contrary to what some believe, the dresses are rarely permanently damaged – although they sometimes come with minor easily repairable flaws. In sample sales, all sales are final, which means no returns – so inspect your potential dress carefully for any imperfections before you buy.

Photo © Georgina Scott Bridal | See their Bridebook profile

3. Check out some local charity shops

Photo © Bridal Reloved | See their Bridebook profile

Why not consider a preloved gown from a local charity shop? Remember, most brides will only wear their dress once and only for half a day, so the majority of the dresses you’ll find in a charity shop will be as good as new. It’s also a lovely sentiment to wear a dress that’s previously given so much joy to a happy couple. The only thing to bear in mind is that it’s unlikely you’ll find a dress that fits you perfectly, so you’ll have to take it for alterations and be prepared to compromise. 

4. Buy an off-the-rack dress

Photo © Lucy Hart Bridal | See their Bridebook profile

A great tip to save some pennies is to buy a dress that’s made ready to wear. It may need a little bit of tweaking, which can ramp up the cost, but the price of an off-the-hanger dress will generally be much lower than that of a made-to-measure gown. This approach can also save time, as it doesn’t require many months of creation and fittings. That said, if the creation and fitting experience is important to you, and you want a bespoke gown, you can’t expect to pay cheap off-the-rack prices. That level of service, and quality, is naturally going to cost. So it’s important to weigh up what’s most important to you when shopping around.

5. Shop vintage

Photo © Fairytale Occasions | See their Bridebook profile

If you’re having a vintage-themed wedding, vintage shops are great places to find stunning dresses in a great variety of styles. In fact, you might not even buy a dress that was intended for a wedding at all. White Gatsby-esque evening dresses can look just as impressive as a specially made gown. When browsing, make sure to check the dresses for signs of wear and tear (especially on the hem and the armpits) and think of any potential alterations you might want to make ahead of buying. Then, you can put your bridesmaids in dresses of a complementary style.

6. Call in some favours

Photo © TH&TH Bridesmaids | See their Bridebook profile

This one might be a bit of a stretch, but if you happen to know a fantastic seamstress or dressmaker, you’re one lucky bride. It’s sometimes cheaper to have a dress made by a seamstress (especially if they’re not that experienced), and even more so if you ask for mates’ rates.

7. Shop on the high street

Photo © Lisa Lyons Bridal | See their Bridebook profile

Many high-street retailers, like John Lewis and Next, have a beautiful range of bridal dresses that are fabulous, elegant and – most importantly, if you’re on a budget – affordable. Dresses from popular high-street brands can cost as low as £60, but make sure you shop early in case you need to take it for minor alterations. And again, weigh up your priorities, and manage your expectations. A high-street dress is unlikely to rival a bespoke custom-made designer dress, but if you’re on a budget, may be the best option for you personally. 

8. Consider renting a dress

Photo © Wilden Bride London | See their Bridebook profile

It might not be something you immediately think of as an option, but did you know that, along with wedding suits, you can also rent wedding dresses? If you’re excited to wear a gorgeous, flowing dress but can’t stretch your budget enough to cover the cost, renting can get you into that perfect bridal gown. The only downside is that you’ll have to give it back, so won’t be able to hold on to it for sentimental reasons. Plus, just make sure you’re aware of the return policy, because if you return it late, the fees can sting.

9. Choose a dress with a minimalist style

Photo © Laura Loves Bridal | See their Bridebook profile

As we’ve already covered, one of the reasons wedding dresses can be so expensive is because of the high-quality materials and craftsmanship that go into creating them. So, one great way to lower the cost is by choosing a dress with a simple or minimalist design. The fewer intricate details there are, the less work it will generally take, which can help keep costs down.

10. Hire an up-and-coming local seamstress

Photo © Sew Handy | See their Bridebook profile

Sometimes it can be more affordable to hire a seamstress – particularly if it’s a seamstress with less experience. Of course, a seamstress with decades of experience will produce a fantastic dress, but it will come at a price. By using a less-experienced and local seamstress, you’ll get a beautiful bespoke dress but not have to pay as much. Also, if they’re local (and outside of London) you won’t have to pay for shipping or as many travel costs.

11. Shop online

Photo © HEMYCA | See their Bridebook profile

Online retailers, such as ASOS, can have a wide range of dresses to suit a selection of tastes, styles and budgets. The cost of a dress will often start around £100, but if you keep your eye out for a sale you might be able to pick up a stunning dress for as much as half this amount. The main risk is that you might not like it as much in person as you did when you saw the images, so make sure you know the returns policy before purchasing.

And again, the quality is not going to match a custom-made ensemble, in the same way that the experience of browsing online will be vastly different to trying on dresses in an independent boutique with your bridal party. Part of the service involved in choosing a bridal boutique is getting fitted by a professional with years of experience and benefiting from their expert advice through tailored, one-on-one consultations. But if a finding a cheap and serviceable dress is your only priority, this is of course a perfectly reasonable option. 

12. Sell your dress after your wedding

Photo © Sarah Willard | See their Bridebook profile

Know you absolutely want to wear a certain dress, which means that renting, borrowing or buying online are out of the question? You can still splurge and buy an extravagant dress, because there’s always the option of selling your dress once you’re done. Unless you’re particularly sentimental or want to pass it on as an heirloom, sites such as Vinted, Stillwhite or even Facebook Marketplace are great. You more than likely won’t get your money back, but you could still get a huge chunk of it, which you could then reinvest into your honeymoon.

Plan your dream wedding with Bridebook 

Here at Bridebook, we have a fabulous selection of brilliant dressmakers and bridal boutiques to suit any style and budget, including The Bride’s Wardrobe, The Dressing Rooms and Anita Massarella Design Couture. Sign up today and start planning your dream wedding!

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Happy Planning!