With twelve spin-offs of Say Yes to the Dress, buying a wedding dress isn’t just a big decision—it’s a form of tradition. Typically, parents are invited along with best friends and/or siblings. There may be champagne, and you usually make a big day out of it. You’ll visit multiple boutiques and stores, and try on lots of dresses and styles, too. But that commercially accepted form of wedding dress shopping isn’t for everyone. Like we’ve seen with unique wedding registries and casual tux alternatives, breaking wedding tradition seems to be the new tradition. And that’s where buying a secondhand wedding dress comes in.
We’ve already tracked new wedding traditions, like renting a wedding dress. The cost to rent is much lower than the cost to buy. But, of course, you can’t keep your rental for an anniversary or your children. If you want a budget-conscious alternative that you get to keep—consider buying a secondhand wedding dress.
With designated websites like PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com and StillWhite.com or broader marketplaces like Poshmark and eBay, buying a secondhand wedding dress can save you a significant amount of money. (We’ll get to those details in a minute!) But, as with any decision, there are cons for every pro. Keep reading as we examine the pros and cons of renting a wedding dress.
The average national cost for a wedding dress is roughly $1,500, depending on who you ask. That accounts for about 5% to 8% of the overall wedding budget—again, depending on who you ask. All of this makes your wedding dress a great spot to trim your budget. After all, buying secondhand can save you an average of 50% on your wedding dress—no matter how high the list price is. At half the cost, your designer dream dress may fit into your budget now. A 50% savings can also keep you within your limits if you’re planning a wedding with a tight budget. Either way, you’ll be saving significant money.
Of course, you may save some money, but you’ll have fewer options to choose from. Because buying secondhand isn’t as popular as the group shopping tradition, you don’t have as many options, either. You won’t be able to walk into a bridal store and try on a dozen dresses in a single visit.
Bonus Tip: If you don’t know what style you want, we suggest trying on dresses at a local boutique before you start shopping.
This might mean looking harder and waiting longer to find your dream dress. If you choose to buy your wedding dress secondhand, we recommend giving yourself an extra month or two to find The One, to account for the extra searching.
With leftover food and unused decorations, weddings have the potential to produce quite a bit of waste for a single day. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan your dream wedding! But it does mean you might want to know how to reduce waste and plan a more eco-friendly wedding. Well, buying a secondhand wedding dress can do just that! Reusing and recycling clothing keeps plastic out of landfills and reduces air pollution caused by pesticides. You can also hunt for sustainable caterers and venues, but buying a secondhand wedding dress is a great way to ensure some part of your wedding is green.
Will Need Altering
Yes, it’s possible to find your dream dress secondhand—but it most likely won’t fit like your dream dress. A secondhand wedding dress has already been altered to fit the original wearer, so you’ll need to make your own changes. They could be simple, like shortening the hem or adding buttons or loops for the bustle.
Bonus Tip: Buy a dress a size or two too big so you can alter accordingly.
Of course, this will add to the overall cost of the dress, so buying a secondhand wedding dress might not be the money-saving move that you want it to be. However, it’s important to remember that every dress needs altering—new or used. So don’t get too discouraged if you need to make minor alterations. Just consider the cost if they are significant changes.
While you may not have variety, secondhand stores offer unique styles that you won’t find at a David’s Bridal or Kleinfeld. That is, secondhand stores won’t just have styles that are “in” or trending. Instead, you’ll see vintage dresses, handmade dresses, and limited quantity styles. It may have been worn already, but it’s still a unique dress that your guests probably haven’t seen before. And if you don’t like your options—check back in a week when new inventory is added. Secondhand stores are always adding to their inventory. Some even do so every day! So keep hunting for your dream dress.
It’s Been Worn Before
As we mentioned before, a secondhand dress has, of course, already been worn. That means a risk of flaws and tears, and that it’s been in someone else’s photos, too. Of course, we would never advocate that you buy a wedding dress that has rips, tears, stains, etc. But a dress that’s been worn before isn’t in perfect condition. Certain fabrics, like lace and tulle, wrinkle more easily. Always be extra careful about checking for flaws—ask to see the dress in person beforehand, if possible, and double check the return policy.
Remember that this dress may be a unique style, but it’s not unique to you. If you don’t tell anyone, they will probably never know—but you will. So, just make sure that won’t take away from your special day!
Buying a secondhand wedding dress can reduce waste and your overall budget, but you won’t have the same options as a department store or local boutique. No matter where you buy your dress, you’ll still need to make some sort of alteration and before-and-after cleaning—there’s no way around that! Ultimately, it depends on what your priorities are and what will make your special day feel special.
Would you ever buy a secondhand wedding dress? Why or why not?