How Much Do Wedding Dresses Cost?

There is a catchy Biblical parable (Matthew 22:12) of how a ‘wedding crasher’ got caught and thrown into a dungeon because of his outlandish attire. However, one does not need a graphic antiquated analogy to appreciate how a proper wedding outfit satisfies the need for security (especially for the guests) and approval (especially for the limelight couple).

But if there is one real worry that eclipses all the trivial concerns, it is the amount of money spent on the wedding attire. The importance of a proper wedding outfit has created a 3-billion dollar industry as of 2017. 

Dress for bride

In the United States, the average wedding dress costs roughly $1,050 – also the same national benchmark figure for the groom’s attire.

Bridal website, The Knot’s 2017 Real Weddings Study reveals that the average price of a wedding dress in the US is $1,509. They came up with the said figure by interviewing nearly 13,000 brides and grooms who married last year.

Another fashion store who conducted a survey was LYST. They interviewed 100 brides and found out that the average cost they’ve spent on a dress was $998. The figure was also calculated based on searches and sales from over 12,000 of their featured brands. 

Wedding dresses belonging in the $500 price range are generally machine-made. It means that hand-detailing was minimal. Most low-cost dresses were also made largely of synthetic fabrics.

If you have a budget of around $2,000 to $4,000 (mid), you can buy a designer dress that is made of silk or other natural fabric. With the said price, a salon will measure you and order the wedding dress from the designer. Often, the said cost includes payment for alterations so the gown can fit you perfectly.

A high-end wedding dress, on the other hand, is possible for those with a budget of $6,000 and up. The said price range equates to a dress that is hand-detailed to perfection and fits perfectly on you.

Most importantly, the exact cost figure may vary significantly depending on each of these cost factors:

1. Body Type

When it really comes down to it, around two-thirds of all the entire cost considerations can be addressed by understanding one’s body type. The myriad of physical variations in terms of height, girth, and specific body shape renders a standard size category unfeasible. Granted, physical shape is already complex as it is.

Unfortunately, the human body is malleable enough to change in a relatively short amount of time. In fact, a curious statistics concluded that around 90% of all brides tend to lose several pounds 4 to 6 weeks prior to the wedding day. The extent of modification of the body’s shape directly dictates how much one would pay for the cost of alterations. A bridal tailoring shop in Texas called Sew Wedding Dress has quoted a broad median cost for each area of dress alteration:

  • Hem: $140 to $225
  • Sides: $50 to $200
  • Bustle: $55 to $95
  • Cup size: $20 to $40

While alterations are also meant to completely overhaul the bridal gown design, it is more practical to limit spending on alteration costs solely for necessary size adjustments. Wearing a less-stylish dress is nothing compared to something that restricts both movement and breath!

Body weight and shape are only relative but not absolutely identical. Case in point; some people barely look different even after losing 10 pounds while others no longer resemble their previous appearance after recently gaining 5 pounds. You may want to meet with your personal tailor more frequently than once a month in order to have an objective and updated assessment of your body shape, especially if you are following a fitness program.

Fortunately for the grooms (and the groomsmen), their attire does not require the same level of intricacy and hard work as that of the bridal dress. The key to avoiding alterations (or replacements) is to choose a suit or tux tailored to a certain body shape with at least an extra 5 cm. allowance for physical mobility. Pages like Real Men Real Style offer a definitive guide to choosing the right wedding apparel for men.

2. Wedding Theme

Another factor that affects the wedding dress price is the kind of wedding the bride and the groom would have. The material and style used to fashion the bride’s wedding attire would have to agree with the physical and sentimental atmosphere of the ceremony and reception.

Case in point; a strapless sheathe dress with leg slits feels comfortable and looks appropriate for an open-air beach wedding. However, it looks informal and feels too exposed for a traditional church wedding inside an air-conditioned cathedral. You can explore detailed specs defining over 9,005 different wedding dress styles at The Knot.

You will be on the safer side of the wardrobe budget if you schedule your nuptials on warmer seasons. Outdoor winter ceremonies can multiply the overall wedding dress price by threefold considering the need for extra layers of premium durable fabric (e.g. cashmere scarf, hooded cape, gloves, thermal underwear, etc). One of the key advantages of getting married outdoors at a tropical destination is that you can literally cut down the dimensions of your textile.

3. Accessories

Just like your ordinary casual and formal attire, the wedding outfit also entails other items aside from the top, bottom, and footwear. When it comes to accessories, we’re not merely talking about lavish but optional jewelry.

There are indeed fashion ornaments that one simply can’t do without in a wedding. In fact, over 54% of the American brides wear a veil during the ceremony. The average cost of a veil is anywhere between $250 and $300. By comparison, this range nearly competes with the classy and high-tech Armani wrist watch for the groom.

Some couples would deem the average veil price too steep for a smart budget. Hence, you can always opt for a DIY variety. It is possible to craft veils at roughly $25 (or even less).

Some brides who do not necessarily prefer a distinctive formal wedding would normally replace veils with other types of headwear. These are the following alternatives to a bridal veil that costs less than $50 featured at Best Bridal Prices:

  • Hat: starts at $45
  • Tiara: starts at $35
  • Headband: starts at $25
  • Hair comb: starts at $19
  • Hairpin: starts at $15

The one comparative advantage that groom’s accessories have is that they tend to be useful in a wider range of formal (and even casual) settings. One can think of an item’s long-term value when it comes to narrowing the choice between buying and renting. One of the most useful (hence, cost-efficient) items to buy is a stylish wristwatch.

4. Apparel Store

Where you obtained your wedding attire is just as important as how you acquired them. In fact, the wardrobe’s manufacturer/creator can directly impact the wedding gown price. The argument between renting and buying has pretty much raged throughout the entire history of modern weddings. Considering how the market forces are driven by these two alternatives of a consumer transaction, it is safe to say that both options are recommendable depending on specific conditions.

One of the strongest reasons to opt for buying is the idea of repurposing it. A wedding dress is one of the few precious (and the most popular) wedding heirlooms there is. Unfortunately, you’ll be spending up to $200 several times for professional cleaning and preservation. Renting a dress, on the other hand, is far cheaper and more cost-efficient since you only get to have your dress cleaned up once and it forbids you from spending on alteration fees.

If you intend to buy a dress, it is important that you won’t exceed beyond $1,000. Fortunately, there are a number of online shops across the United States selling in this price range. These are the following outlets and their possible number of items available under $1,000 as of January 2018:

  • House of Brides1,445 dresses
  • David’s Bridal375 dresses
  • BHLDN77 dresses
  • Nordstrom38 dresses

While you can significantly reduce the price by renting a wedding dress, it does not always follow that the style also gets downgraded. In fact, you can wear quality designer apparel for an incredible bargain starting at $30! There are around 100,000 options available at Rent the Runway.

When it comes to groom’s attire, you can make the most out of the $100 average tux rental fee by leasing it 5 months in advance. The last 5 months before the wedding day is a perfect opportunity to attend as many formal events as you can for you to acclimatize to the fitting. Also, you can avail a higher discount for tux rental cost by renting as a group. In fact, the groom may be able to lease his attire for free if all the groomsmen rent their suits or tuxes at the same store.

Some Tips To Save Money

With the price reaching the thousand-dollar mark, is there any way to save on costs? Apparently, there are ways to cut down on the wedding dress expense. Here are some tips:

  • Do a pre-shopping online.

Whether to get an idea of the prices or hunt for a shop, the internet is a treasure trove of information for a wedding dress.

Most online shops post their prices on their web sites. An example is which features photos of several wedding dresses and their prices. By just browsing, you can gather information on different costs depending on the style of the bridal gown.

  • Plan your budget ahead and try sticking to it.

Before you shop, establish your budget for the whole event. Doing so will help you easily allocate the expenses, including the money for the wedding dress.

When shopping, try to stick to the allocated budget for the bridal gown. Exceeding the set amount will cost you additional expenses that may derail your plan.

  • Stick to your budget by planning in advance.

Look for a wedding dress as soon as you have a set budget for its purchase. Ideally, you can start looking as early as 8 to 10 months prior to the big day. The earlier you move, the more likely you’ll find bargain shops. If you’re lucky, you might be able to purchase a bridal gown using less than your allocated budget.

  • Consider buying a pre-owned dress.

Several web sites sell used bridal gowns at discounted prices. Just make sure that the seller has already established a good reputation among customers before you make a purchase. If all goes well, you might be able to save as much as 90%.

  • Buy a wedding dress from the last season.

If you want to save some money, do not follow the trend. It’s obvious that in-season bridal gowns will cost more. That said, you could instead opt for a style from last year. Most of your guests wouldn’t even realize you did, anyway.

You should also remember to fit your wedding dress while wearing undergarments that go well with it. A pair of shoes similar to the one you’re going to wear will also help. This way, you can imagine how the gown will feel in the actual event and request alterations if necessary.

No matter what kind of dress a bride wears, she will be the most radiant in her big day. A wedding is not about the price of the bridal gown, but more about celebrating love. Best wishes!    

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