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 probably only wear it once in your life (unless you choose a bridal look you can wear beyond the big day).
"The average bride spends between $2,000 and $5,000 on the wedding dress alone," says Blaire Walsh, style director at Rent the Runway. "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."
Meet the Expert
Blaire Walsh is the style director at Rent the Runway.
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 a gorgeous dress down the aisle. As Walsh points out, it's up to you and your partner to prioritize what means the most for your wedding day. "Why not splurge on that funky brass band you keep thinking about and save costs by renting your wedding wardrobe?" she says.
If you only want the dress for the wedding day, some bridal salons offer the option to rent a gown for the day. There are also several online wedding rental services with a wide range of styles. This generally works the same way as any online shopping experience—except you send the garment back after the event.
If 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?
The Cost of Renting a Wedding Dress
Wedding dresses typically cost between $50 and $600 to rent, but they can cost much less (or much 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. Some websites, like Rent the Runway, are structured as subscription services, so you pay a monthly fee for access to certain style selections.
The Pros of Renting a Dress
You'll Save Money
This is probably the biggest pro of all. With renting, dresses that were way over budget can suddenly be within 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 often brings wedding dresses that cost four figures down to three.
You Don't Have to Preserve, Store, or Dry Clean It
Wedding dress preservation comes at a cost because a lot goes into making sure the delicate fabric 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
This option can be especially convenient for destination brides, as some local bridal 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.
The Cons of Renting a Dress
You Could Have Limited Options
If you're looking for a specific style or are a picky shopper, renting may not be the best choice. Your fashion options could be limited, and certain gowns may be unavailable on your wedding date. 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 like a glove.
And when ordering online, there's always the chance that the wedding dress of your dreams arrives and looks completely different. Luckily, most rental services give you the option to try on gowns before committing to one, but that might come with an additional 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 and lipstick stains to torn hems and busted seams, your wedding dress can go through the wringer on your big day. While insurance covers minor issues, brides are typically responsible for the cost of the dress if there's any significant damage.
You'll Miss the Sentimental Aspects
If you want to keep your dress forever and possibly pass it down to the next generation, a 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.
It could also eliminate 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 an option for you.
Tips for Renting a Dress
Read Customer Reviews
When renting online, check out what previous customers are saying about the dresses you're eyeing. "Have an idea of your size, but also make sure to read up on our customer reviews," explains Walsh. Anyone who has done any online shopping knows that not all brands 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," recommends Walsh. Narrow your search by color, length, silhouette, shape, sleeves, body type, and embellishments. And don't just search the bridal section. You can just as easily find your dream gown by looking at all dresses with the color filter set to "white," if you're sticking with a traditional look.
Confirm with the rental service how long you're able to keep the dress. Every business is different, and you'll want to order the gown as far in advance as possible. Most companies, however, allow four to five days before the event. In addition, check if you can pay a fee to try on dresses beforehand.
Don't Worry About Getting it Right On the First Try
Part of the fun of renting is the lack of commitment and stress. "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.
Where to Rent a Dress
If you're sold on renting your wedding dress over buying, there are several options, including websites solely dedicated to renting wedding gowns, fashion rentals with select bridal options, boutiques both selling and renting, and local salons that may offer rentals.
Even if your local bridal boutique doesn't advertise rentals, it doesn't hurt to ask. You might be surprised at how willing they are 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
- Poshare: wedding dress rentals from $60-$800; there is a shipping fee
- The Dress Outlet: wedding dress rentals from $100; free shipping
- Dare & Dazzle: wedding dress rentals from $120; three-day try-on for an extra fee