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Fact: Wedding dresses aren't cheap. Generally costing at least four figures (sometimes more), the price of a gown sounds even more expensive when you consider that you'll only be wearing it once in your life (unless you get creative and wear your dress again, of course). "The average bride spends between two and five thousand dollars on the wedding dress alone," says Rent the Runway's style director, Blaire Walsh. "When only wearing that dress for approximately three to five hours, it just doesn’t seem worth it when you can focus on making your wedding dreams come true by having that firework sendoff or an extravagant Parisian themed dessert table for your guests to indulge in."
If you'd rather spend more on your honeymoon budget than a pricey gown, renting is a popular alternative that allows you to save money while still wearing an expensive dress down the aisle. It's up to you and your partner to prioritize what really means the most for your wedding day, says Walsh. "Why not splurge on that funky brass band you keep thinking about and save costs by renting your wedding wardrobe?"
Some bridal boutiques offer this option in lieu of buying if you only want the dress for the wedding day. There are also plenty of online wedding rental services with a wide range of styles to choose from. This generally works in the same way as any other online shopping experience—only you send the garment back after you're done wearing it. When you're thinking about renting a wedding dress, there are a few important things to consider. Let's narrow down the decision-making process, shall we?
Meet the Expert
Blaire Walsh is the style director at Rent the Runway.
Pros of Renting a Dress
You'll Save Money
This is probably the biggest pro of all and likely what got you considering renting to begin with. With renting, dresses that were way over budget can suddenly be in the realm of possibility. Because you're only borrowing the dress for a night or two, you just may be able to snag a dress by your dream high-end designer that you'd never be able to afford otherwise. Renting a dress is a much cheaper option than buying one and often brings wedding dresses that cost four figures down to three instead.
You might be able to save on accessories too. Some wedding dress rental companies provide packages where you can tack on a veil, shoes and other accessories for a reduced price.
You Don't Have to Preserve, Store, or Dry Clean It
Wedding dress preservation comes at a cost. A lot goes into making sure the delicate fabric of a wedding gown doesn't yellow over time. But with a rental, there's no need to worry about where you'll keep your gown after the big day or how you'll preserve it. Rental companies also typically include dry cleaning with the service. Dry cleaning for a gown can cost up to $200, so consider those savings a major win. Just send it back, and you're done.
You'll Have a Hassle-Free Destination Wedding
Renting a dress can be very convenient for destination brides, as some destination salons allow you to rent your dress. With this option, there's no need to worry about packing or wrinkling your dress—and there's no chance of the worst-case scenario: lost luggage.
Cons of Renting a Dress
You Could Have Limited Options
If you're looking for a very specific style or are a picky shopper, renting may not be the best choice. Not only can style options be more limited, but you may find that certain dresses aren't available on the date you need it. Even if you do find a gown you like, it may not be in your size and you're usually not able to make alterations so it fits you like a glove.
If you're ordering online, there's always the chance that the wedding dress of your dreams arrives and looks completely different than in the picture. Luckily, most rental services give you the option to order dresses just to try them on before committing to renting them for the big day, but that comes with a cost.
You're Responsible For Damages and Fees
When renting a dress, fees can quickly add up. You may have to pay extra for shipping, insurance, and late fees if you're running behind. You also risk paying for any damages. From wine spills to lipstick stains, torn hems to busted seams, your wedding dress can go through the wringer on your big day. While insurance covers minor issues, brides usually are responsible for the cost of the dress if there's any significant damage.
You Won't Get the Sentimental Aspects
If you want to keep your dress forever and possibly pass it down to the next generation, rental probably isn't for you. For some brides, an heirloom wedding dress holds memories of a lifetime, and renting a dress takes away the sentimental value.
Renting a dress could also take away from the dress shopping experience with family and friends. If you dream of saying yes to the dress in a room full of your closest loved ones, renting may not be for you.
Tips for Renting a Dress
Read Customer Reviews
When renting online, make sure to see what previous customers are saying about the dresses you're eyeing. "Have an idea of your sizing, but also make sure to read up on our customer reviews," says Walsh. For anyone familiar with online shopping, you know how every brand may not fit the same, even in the same size.
Use Filters When Browsing Rental Sites
"Site browsing can be a bit overwhelming at times so keep an open mind, be flexible in what you're looking for and utilize [website] filters," Walsh says. Narrow your search by filtering things like color, length, silhouette, shape, sleeves, body type, and embellishments.
Don't just search the bridal section, you can just as easily find your dream gown by browsing all dresses with the color filter set on "White".
Don't Worry About Getting it Right On the First Try
Part of the fun in renting is the lack of commitment. "If a style doesn't work simply return and pick out another style," says Walsh. You may have to pay a fee for the swap, but it's a small price to pay to find your dream gown commitment- and pressure-free.
How Much Do Rented Dresses Cost
Depending on where you rent from, you could end up saving thousands of dollars on a dress. You can typically rent wedding dresses for as little as about $50-$600, but they can also cost much less or more depending on the dress and rental company. On the more expensive end, designer gowns rent for a fraction of their purchase price, anywhere from $500 to $2,000 is common. Some websites, like Rent the Runway, are structured as a subscription service, so you pay a monthly fee for access to certain style selections.
Where to Rent a Dress
If you're sold on renting your wedding dress over buying, there are several options to do so. You have websites that are solely dedicated to renting wedding gowns, fashion rentals with select bridal options, boutiques both selling and renting, as well as local salons that may offer rentals.
Even if your local bridal boutique doesn't advertise rentals, it doesn't hurt to ask and you might be surprised at how they're willing to accommodate your needs.
- Rent the Runway: 1 Swap Plan for $89/month; 2 Swap Plan for $135/month; Unlimited Swaps Plan for $159/month
- Wedding Dress for Rent: up to 70 percent off retail price; $100-$500 security deposit
- Poshare: wedding dress rentals from $60-$800; shipping fee
- Lending Luxury: wedding dress rentals from $50-$140, shipping included
- Rent from Lael: dress rentals from $35-$65; shipping fee; 50 percent retainer deposit