7 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding Dress

beautiful wedding dresses on a hanger

Your wedding dress might be the most expensive dress you'll ever wear—and deservedly so. Your wedding is a big day and a once-in-a-lifetime fashion opportunity. According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding dress in 2019 was $1,600, but costs can go considerably higher. An over-the-top designer gown can easily top $5,000 or even $10,000.

Can you find a dress you love without breaking the bank? Here are seven ideas for saving money on a dress, plus a few hints on how to pay for it.

Wear a Family Heirloom

Wearing a dress that belonged to your mom or grandmother carries true sentimental value. It will also save you on the cost of a gown. But choosing to wear a vintage dress isn't necessarily free. Depending on the age and condition of the dress, restoring and altering it can cost a few hundred dollars or more. If you're interested in this option, look for a wedding dress restoration specialist who can help you evaluate the dress's condition and what might be needed to wear it safely on your special day.

Shop for a Vintage or Previously Worn Dress

If a family heirloom isn't an option, you can also buy a vintage dress—or check out pre-owned options on sites like Nearly Newlywed or Stillwhite. Pre-owned marketplaces are especially useful if you have your heart set on an expensive gown: Many are available at 50% off or more. Bonus tip: You can also sell your dress on these sites after the wedding to recoup some of your cash.

Consider a Micro Wedding Dress

A micro wedding dress is, thankfully, not a teeny-tiny wedding dress. Rather, micro dresses are simpler and less expensive than most traditional gowns.These dresses gained popularity during the pandemic, when weddings themselves underwent a bit of downsizing. It only makes sense: If you've chosen an informal or outdoor venue, a dress made from acres of watered silk and 18,000 Swarovski crystals might not be the right vibe, regardless of budget.

A micro dress could save you some serious cash. For example, dresses in the micro dress collection from David's Bridals range from $139 to $749. But the styles are unmistakably bridal, and one may strike just the right chord—especially if your wedding will be intimate in scale.

Think Outside the Bridal Shop

Self-described micro dresses aren't the only option, either. While visiting a traditional bridal salon to try on dresses is a rite of passage for many brides, online sources for wedding gowns abound. The range is considerable, from Anthropologie's BHLDN to bridal boutique Azazie, and even sites like ModCloth, Etsy or Amazon.

Rent a Dress

Although it might not be for the sentimental, renting a wedding dress could be your ticket to wearing an expensive dress for a fraction of the purchase price. Sites like The Dress Outlet and Rent the Runway offer a range of fashionable dresses. According to Brides.com, some bridal boutiques may also consider renting you a dress. Ask around to see if local shops are open to this arrangement.

Shop Sample Sales

Sample dresses can be marked down by 50% or more, but you may have to work to snag one. Check with your favorite designer or local bridal boutique to find out when and where they sell samples—typically once or twice a year. Alternatively, The Glamour Closet has samples for sale year-round, with showrooms open in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Pro tip: Industry insiders say January is the best month to shop for a wedding dress because that's when designers introduce their new lines. This also means that shops put the styles they're retiring on sale.

Budget for Accessories and Alterations

Your dress isn't the only cost to consider. You'll need undergarments, shoes, jewelry and a veil or headpiece if you choose to wear one. Each of these items can increase costs significantly, so shop around for the best value. Also be mindful of alterations, which can easily run into the hundreds of dollars. Choosing a dress with fewer intricate details can help keep alteration costs down. Also consider a corset style, which offers a bit of adjustability without a formal alteration.

How to Pay for Your Wedding Dress

Unless mom and dad did you the favor of setting up a trust fund for just this purpose, consider these options for paying the bill:

  • Save up. Even if you only save part of your total cost, it helps. You'll rack up less debt and reduce the amount of interest you'll pay. Bonus: You can charge the entire purchase to maximize rewards, then pay it off as quickly as possible to minimize interest. Need a little help saving the money? Consider a money-saving app or use the automatic savings features in your banking app.
  • Use credit cards wisely. Using a credit card to pay for your wedding dress can be a smart move, whether you need the financing or not. Since your dress is likely to be a large purchase, the rewards you earn can be significant. If you've been thinking about applying for a new rewards card, a wedding dress can make a great inaugural purchase. And if your credit is good, you may be able to take advantage of introductory 0% APR offers—from your current card issuer or with a new 0% APR card. Just be sure to pay all or as much as possible off as soon as your budget allows.
  • Consider a personal loan. Financing a wedding is a big undertaking. If you've decided to borrow to cover expenses, a personal loan that can help cover your wedding dress and other expenses might be worth considering. Personal loans often charge lower interest rates than credit cards do, and they give you a limited timeframe in which to pay your loan back, so you don't end up with revolving wedding debt that goes on indefinitely. That said, saving up as much as possible so you can avoid going into debt to pay for wedding expenses is your most savvy financial move.

Carry On in Style

With some creative sourcing and smart shopping, it's possible to find a great dress that won't break your budget. If you also cultivate good credit, you'll have a variety of ways to pay for it as well—and that leaves room for the many other expenses that go into a magical day. Best wishes!