Sure, a wedding dress could cost as much as a car, but there are ways to keep expenses down so it’s closer to that of a nice bicycle. Below are a few factors that can make the difference between attainable and exorbitant.
Who’s the Designer of the Wedding Dress?
The most expensive gowns tend to be designer gowns, which can cost even more than custom-made dresses. Many brand-name frocks can easily break into five figures. “If you go with a specific designer, for instance, Monique Lhuillier, you are going with a price point that starts at $5,000 and the sky’s the limit,” says Tashina Hunter, owner of Miss Tashina, a custom bridal studio in Los Angeles. When you’re buying a high-end designer dress, in addition to quality and expertise, you’re paying for the name… and bragging rights.
Are You Opting for a Trendy Wedding Dress?
If you’re looking for a dress that embodies the latest in bridal style, you will likely pay a premium. “A lot of the pricing is trend-driven,” says Tashina. “A couple of years ago, the all-lace trend was suddenly at the forefront. If it’s what’s in fashion, you’re expected to pay a certain price.” So if you’re looking for a sleek Meghan Markle-style boat neck gown, don’t say we didn’t warn you if you also get a case of sticker shock.
Don’t You Also Need Wedding Shoes, Accessories, and Undergarments?
You want your dress to fit you beautifully, and in order to achieve that, you need tailoring. According to Tashina, alterations usually add at least a 25% extra expense on top of the cost of your dress. Add to that a veil, which can range from $100 to $1,000, or a tiara, which starts around $100. Then there are the undergarments. Many brides buy corsets, special bras, or shapewear, which are expensive. And unless you’re a barefoot beach bride, don’t forget the shoes.
What Kind of Fabric and Details Will the Wedding Dress Have?
Whether you’re buying off the rack or choosing custom, the fabric of the dress can impact the price. If you’re willing to go synthetic, you will save. “The fabric industry has changed so much that they can make a polyester feel like a silk,” says Tashina. “Sometimes it fools me.” On the other end of the spectrum, the price of dress can soar if you’re buying a bespoke dress and choosing very fine textiles. “There are times that we get lace that costs $1,500 for a yard,” says Kelima, owner of the custom bridal atelier She Will Be Loved. The price of the dress could also rise in correlation with the amount of intricate detailing that’s involved. “If you look at a gown and see a lot of beadwork or floral applique or handwork, it tends to be in the higher price range,” says Tashina.
Who is Making It?
If the bride is going with a custom gown, it’s the labor that ends up driving the cost of the dress. “We are priced between $2,200 and $3,000,” says Shareen Mitchell, owner of Shareen Bridal in New York City and Los Angeles. “We should probably be more expensive because the level of service we provide is very high. I probably see a bride at minimum 6 to 7 times before she is out the door with her dress.”
Bridal studios that do custom work have significantly higher overhead than brands that outsource to factories and may offer transparency that companies that mass-produce their garments cannot. “Because we are located in North America, it’s a very different cost factor than being in a country outside of these financial standards where things can be done inexpensively,” says Kelima. “You have no idea how things are being done unless you’re there.”
Ridiculous Price Story:
Mariah Carey spent a reported $250,000 on a Valentino gown for a wedding that never took place. In addition to suing the ex-fiancé who jilted her (she won), Carey went on to burn the dress in a music video, in true diva fashion.
The Biggest Mistake People Make:
Wishful thinkers will buy a wedding dress that’s too small with the hope that they’ll slim down in time for the wedding. Or else they’ll purchase an ill-fitting dress that needs so much alteration that you end up spending more on tailoring than you would have on a dress that fits. Two sides of the same coin, both disastrous.