Everything That Goes Into the Cost of a Wedding Dress, Explained

While the national average cost of a wedding dress is $1,631, prices are based on various factors.

Bride with Wedding Dress

PHOTO BY HANNAH PICKLE 

After years of pinning styles and dreaming about your “I dos,” it’s finally time to pick your wedding dress! While it’s thrilling to start looking, it can also be stressful—wedding dresses tend to be one of the most confusing choices for a bride. What makes it so tricky? Not just the plethora of choices, but deciding your price point as well.

While the national average cost of a wedding dress is $1,631 (including alterations), dress prices are based on various factors and generally range from $500 to $4,000. By shopping at large retailers and getting a machine-made gown, you can easily land on the lower end of the spectrum. While these dresses tend to have minimal embellishments and hand detailing, with some accessories and creativity, you can easily elevate your look.

To ease your mind (and your wallet), we called upon the experts to break down everything that goes into the cost of a wedding dress.

Money-Saving Wedding Dress Tips
Jiaqi Zhou/Brides 

The Fabric

Silk, charmeuse, excessive lace, and tulle are some of the more expensive fabrics that can add to the cost of your gown. Obsessed with the high-end feel but can’t acquiesce to the price? Consider polyester. “Polyester quality improvement has made rapid strides,” explains Kaity Gaskill, a buyer at BHLDN. “Now there are poly fabrications that feel even better than silks, and have a more consistent production quality (no bumps or irregularities in the fabrication).”

Meet the Expert

Kaity Gaskill is a buyer at BHLDN, the retailer that specializes in wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, bridal accessories, and wedding décor. 

Lace Gown
Photo by Carmen Santorelli

The Embellishments

Beading, hand-placed lace, and floating appliques are a few of the embellishments that can add up. “The more intricate the fabric and construction, like a fully-boned corset or ball gown, the higher the cost of the gown,” says BHLDN Bridal Stylist Lindsey Love. A tip if you’re after a glam look? Select a simple gown and have your seamstress add embellishments or up the “wow” factor with accessories like dangling earrings or a shoulder necklace.

Meet the Expert

Lindsey Love is a Bridal Stylist for BHLDN, providing a personalized shopping experience for brides and guiding them to the styles for their big day and beyond.

The Designer

Choosing a designer dress will also cost you more. Pnina Tornai, Vera Wang, and Oscar De La Renta are just a few that tend to be on the pricier end. Nowadays, online retailers such as Floravere, BHLDN, and Azazie offer stylish and on-trend dresses for a fraction of the cost. Bonus? These companies offer home try-on options to give you the flexibility of trying styles on in your own time.

The Accessories

While you might think your wedding look is all about the dress, your accessories play a huge part in bringing your vision together. Make sure you budget for things like jewelry, shoes, lingerie, and a veil or headpiece (which can range from $250 to $400).

If you’re going with an elaborate gown, keep your accessories lowkey. If you choose a more simple dress, use the extra space in your budget to glam it up with anything from belts to bold necklaces.

Wedding Shoes
 PHOTO BY ERICH MCVEY 

The Season

Not only will buying last season’s styles help you save big, but shopping in the winter and summer will also help you snag deals. Some retailers, boutiques, and designers have sales to clear out gowns from previous collections. Attending a sample sale or ordering your gown at a trunk show (which will usually save you around 20%) are simple ways to save even more on your ideal dress.

The Alterations

“You’ll typically need alterations for any bridal gown, whether it’s made to order or off the rack,” admits Gaskill. Unless your gown is custom made to perfection, there's a very slim chance that it will fit you flawlessly and will result in some alterations ranging from $75-$250. Plus, if you’re looking to make big changes to your dress, such as adding sleeves, changing a neckline or back, and adding a bustle, you can expect to pay upwards of $500.

The Preservation

While it’s not technically part of your actual wedding day look, cleaning and preserving your dress is something to budget for. Whether you’re looking to donate, resell, or alter and wear again, you’ll want to get the dress professionally cleaned after your day of dancing and celebrating. Since the average cost of preservation is between $250 to $750, it's a significant expense you’ll want to account for.

Additional Money-Saving Tips

Another way to save while searching for your wedding dress? “Shop reception, bridesmaid, and event collections,” says Love. “Non-bridal ivory dresses and unconventional event dresses can make your wedding vision come to life with a little out-of-the-box thinking.”

With online boutiques, seasonal sample sales, and the option to rent designer gowns, there are many ways for brides on a budget to save. Whether you choose to buy simple and add the glam, shop non-bridal or borrow, your perfect dress is never out of reach.

Related Stories