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Is an Expensive Wedding Dress Worth it?

Even the most frugal bride-to-be is sometimes tempted to buy an expensive designer wedding gown. More and more, brides want something unique that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to wear any other day of their lives. But is the huge price tag worth it?

From a purely financial standpoint, an expensive wedding dress is a very poor investment. However, if you’re wealthy or if you are completely satisfied with sacrifices you’ll have to make for the experience of wearing an expensive wedding gown, then yes, perhaps an expensive wedding dress purchase can be worth it.

I’ve personally ordered and tried-on affordable wedding dresses from Lulus, ASOS, and other online dress shops (for all under $300) in my search for a LESS expensive dress! So be sure to check out my wedding dress reviews here before you go.

Why an expensive wedding dress is a bad investment for most people

The average woman in the U.S. spends $1100 on her wedding dress (Source) and a couture wedding dress can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to 6 digits of madness. Unless you’re independently wealthy, that’s probably going to hurt.

Just to put it into perspective, you could take a vacation in the Caribbean for $1100. You could take a group of friends out to a really nice dinner. You could pay for a million and one really fun experiences with $1100.

Honestly, a dress = a vacation!!

The reasons it’s a bad investment are that (1) There are a lot of MUCH cheaper dress options and most of your guests won’t ever know the difference and (2) Much like a car, the value of the dress depreciates when you wear it (unless you happen to be famous) and you can’t resell it for the price you paid for it or more. Obviously, many people don’t plan on reselling their wedding dresses, but you could!

Why pay so much money for a dress you’ll wear for a few hours? Why put yourself in debt for vanity and social pressure?

In my opinion, it’s like purchasing an incredibly beautiful piece of art that you will keep on the wall for only one day and that will begin to lose value as soon as you take it down. I know there are the photos to consider as well, but I personally think beautiful photos can be taken with cheaper dress options too…

Why do we all fall for these prices? Why would otherwise sensible people spend this amount of money on a dress? I mostly blame shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” and these weird little girl princess wedding fantasies that we all continue to stoke in our society.

If you have lots of money, great! Buy an expensive dress. But if you don’t… I can’t get my head around any of the reasoning to make that purchase.

If you’re interested in the details of wedding expenses and why weddings are more expensive now than they used to be, you can check out my article 3 Reasons Why Weddings Are So Expensive.

And it doesn’t help that we have to watch celebrities and people on Instagram wear lavish expensive wedding dresses! This only adds to the pressure to buy, buy, buy…

But unless your guests are really horrible people, no one is going to judge you for saving money on your wedding dress (like I said, most people won’t even notice).

An expensive wedding dress is worth it if you’re rich

So, yes, there are also arguments as to why an expensive wedding dress is worth it (for some people).

The luxury craftsmanship of expensive wedding dresses is an art. The designers are artists and their work takes years of mastery to get as good as they are. Their masterpieces take hundreds and even thousands of hours to complete.

You may also be asking yourself at this point, “Is a Big Wedding Worth it?” If so, check out my related article linked here on the pros and cons of having a big wedding and decide if it’s really the right fit for you and your partner.

The makers of Meghan Markle‘s 16-foot designer wedding veil had to wash their hands every 30 minutes to keep it pristine! There’s no doubt that designer pieces are an amazing display of craftsmanship and precision.

But does that mean us who are working normal jobs should feel immense social pressure to break the bank for these dresses, and feel bad when we can’t afford to buy them? I don’t think so!

Yes, if you have the money and an expensive dress is not going to drown you financially, then like any beautiful work of art, it is worth the money it costs.

However, I still cannot fathom a woman who is struggling financially in any way, a person who will go into debt, purchasing an expensive wedding dress.

Advantages of a cheap(er) wedding dresses

If we get a hold of ourselves, and stop ourselves from slipping down the dangerous slide of the “I deserve this dress!” and “This is my day!” and “This only happens once!” kind of mentality, we’ll realize there are many advantages to getting a cheaper wedding dress.

One advantage is the peace of mind for the money saved. You’ll be comforted knowing that the $1,000 to $5,000 dollars you were going to drop on one day is available for other, more meaningful purchases (such as an EXPERIENCE, and not a thing!).

Another advantage is that you’ll feel less insecure and more FREE. An expensive wedding dress comes with anxiety. You’ll tell yourself that you have to look perfect because you spent so much money. You’ll be afraid of every little movement in case you get the dress dirty. Don’t you want to feel as comfortable and stress-free as possible on your wedding day? I do!

If your dress was cheap and it gets dirty while you’re dancing, who cares??

Finally, a cheap wedding dress gives you more of an option for a “costume change.” Instead of buying one expensive wedding dress, why not get two cheap dresses – one for your ceremony and one for your reception?

For people who are indecisive about dresses or hairstyles or whatever, cheaper purchases give you the possibly of wearing two looks! And you can do it for less than the cost of what most Americans spend on one dress.

“Cheap” doesn’t have to mean deprivation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – cheap provides you with liberation!

ALSO, remember that your wedding dress doesn’t have to be limited to white, no matter what anyone tells you. If you doubt me, check out all the celebrity brides that have worn colors other than the traditional white on their big day in my article No, Your Wedding Dress Doesn’t HAVE to be White.

How to find a discount on (or alternative to) designer dresses

Okay, so once we’ve decided to fight the wedding industry power and go against the expectations of “Say Yes to the Dress!” and whatever other thing makes us feel insecure for not wanting to pay $1,000+ for a dress, how can we find the cheap options??

Take some time and look at styles that you’re into. Decide generally what types of dresses you like. Short, long, etc. It’s good to be flexible but you should have a general idea in mind for what you’d like to wear.

If you want something fancy, consider buying a previously-worn dress. Previously-worn, remember, means that it was only worn for a few hours. You can find some nice designer “used” dresses for really good prices. Research and ask about pre-owned wedding dresses in your area.

Don’t overlook vintage stores. Sometimes they have incredible bargains and you can end up looking like you’re at a Great Gatsby party, usually with just a few alterations.

Keep an eye out on e-Bay and Craigslist for cheap gowns! You never know what will become available – especially if you’re looking at the end of high wedding seasons (such as end of summer). The Facebook Marketplace on your Facebook app is a good place to look for second-hand wedding dresses too.

Then, there are always sample sales where you can get designer dresses for a bargain. These are discontinued samples from bridal salons that may have slight imperfections. But they’re usually in very good condition and much cheaper than the full price you would normally pay.

Finally, consider borrowing a dress from a friend or family member. Why not? This is a good way to save a bunch of money (it’s free!) and share a connection with someone special to you on your wedding day.

I’ve also made a video about WHY wedding dresses are so expensive, which I’ll drop below. Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for TONS of wedding topics just like this one! 🙂


Brittany is a writer and teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.