For most brides, buying a wedding dress is a new experience. Here’s my breakdown of how much it could cost you.
Not knowing how much wedding dresses cost is absolutely understandable. Even if your best mate is on her fourth husband by now, she can’t definitively answer you how much your wedding dress will cost, because it depends. It’s a bit like saying, ‘how much do cars cost?’. It depends! So not having a clue about the cost of wedding dresses is usually the starting point for most brides.
We live in a very different world nowadays to most of our parents, and when it comes to the buying of wedding dresses for example – that has changed considerably. In the old days, your newly engaged Mum would wander down to her local wedding dress shop and have a browse of their styles. This shop was the same establishment that her Auntie chose her dress in, her sister bought hers there and every other bride in a 5-mile radius also picked up their dream gown there too. Her choice was limited to the wedding dresses that the shop had chosen to stock their rails with. There’s nothing wrong with this and your Mum never thought of going further afield to find her dress, because why would you – Auntie Cath got her dress from there, and she bloody loved it! Along with this tradition of buying local comes the matter of pricing. The gowns were priced according to the locality. If you lived in a working class town for example, the gowns were priced and selected based on the average savings a family could afford to put aside for a dress. You didn’t know what prices you were getting in to before you went, but you knew you wouldn’t be shocked and ashamed when you found out the wedding dress cost. The system worked and did so all over the world for generations because people were living in a bubble, a localised reality that did not need or factor in things that occur outside of it. The internet burst that bubble.
When brides begin their wedding dress shopping in 2020 the world is their oyster. Their local bridal shop pales in comparison to the internet when it comes to choice. A bride now could purchase a couture gown, handmade by expert craftsman in Israel, in a style that matches their idealised Instagram dream, online and for less than their high street shop is selling a Mori Lee dress. The kind of scope you have online is just not possible to find within a physical location, not within our current realm of possibility anyway! But when it comes down to the wedding dress cost, for me, the price is not based on the gown. It’s not based on the fabric, it’s not based on the stitching and it’s not based on the brand name. No, the cost you pay is based on the service provided. When you buy a wedding dress online there is no warmth or feeling from either party. A bride may superficially love ASOS, but she feels no human connection to it and you are simply a number to them, a spike in their sales figures. But with a wedding shop, be it local or not, you get a personal service. Your dream wedding dress is found by someone who cares how you look in it (usually, have heard some horror stories…) and they have shown up to work that day knowing that their time is going to be dedicated to you. In a world where human interaction is disappearing at a rapid rate (especially in 2020…) I believe this is something we should hold on to, dearly. Not many of us will ever have a private shopper too! So take the opportunity while you can!
There are always two sides to every argument and as I said earlier, the internet gives you choice. If you are not able financially, physically or emotionally to visit a bridal shop then that is when buying your wedding dress online is a god send. You can browse, pick and pay for your gown from the comfort of your sofa without ever feeling anything other than joy. That is something to celebrate.
Because all brides are different I have broken down how much wedding dresses cost into different price ranges based on where they are bought from, in order for you to better decide which is right for you.
A Breakdown of Bridal Pricing
Bridal Cost in Wedding Shops
Average Wedding Dress Cost: £900 – £3,000
The destination for most brides will be a dedicated bridal boutique to begin the search for their dream wedding dress. In most wedding dress shops, you will find gowns by a range of designers which vary in average cost.
A good wedding dress shop owner will stock her store with a varied selection of gowns from different brands in order to offer as much choice as possible in terms of style, and price.
The average prices of a wedding dress by one of big brands such as Essense of Australia or Maggie Sottero is around £1,500, but it could be more or less depending on the style.
There are a whole range of factors that can influence the wedding dress cost, such as the embroidery, the quality of the fabric and the detail of the design.
If you’re looking to bring your wedding dress price down, you should make a beeline for the sample sales held by bridal boutiques. If your heart is set on a designer wedding dress but you want to save some pennies, they’re a great choice and could save you around 60-70%. Or keep an eye out for their Designer Weekends/Trunk Shows in which they’ll showcase the latest collection from a certain designer with a discount if purchased during that time.
A Couture Bridal Cost
Average Cost: £1,600+
If your taste is a little more high-end, maybe you should consider a couture wedding dress. They’re often stocked in flagship or standalone stores, and in specialist bridal boutiques – one of our favourites is Opus Atelier in West Kilbride, exclusive stockists of Berta Bridal in Scotland.
Blackburn Bridal in Blackheath is famous for its couture wedding dresses and they are priced between £1,600 and £6,000, to give you an idea.
In general, you can expect to pay upwards of £1,600 for a couture wedding dress, but usually closer to the £3,000 mark. For example, dresses by the super chic brand Pronovias, tend to cost between £2,000 and £4,000 on average.
Some couture wedding dresses can cost even more than that, a Vera Wang gown can be upwards of £18,000…! You better warn Dad now if that’s what you’re after!
Vintage Bridal Cost
Average Cost: £300+
If you’re more of a retro chick & you’re on the lookout for a vintage wedding dress for your vintage-inspired big day, you can expect wedding dress prices to be significantly lower or very much higher, depending on your taste.
Depending on what you are looking for and where you get it from, you could find a dress for as little as £300. But if you’re looking for a designer vintage wedding dress, the sky is the limit.
Of course, vintage-inspired designs by non-dedicated bridal designers will still cost the same as the other gowns in their collections, but you might stumble across a gem in a general vintage clothing store.
A High Street Bridal Cost
Average Cost: £50 – £1,000
If you’re looking for a wedding dress on a budget, the high street is probably your best place to start. These days you can get your hands on some beautiful gowns which look so much more expensive than they actually are. As someone who works in the wedding industry, I don’t like to say it – but it’s true…
Fashionista brides will love the high street, because lots of the available styles are heavily trend-led just as their non-bridal collections are. That said, you’ll still be able to get your hands on more traditional wedding dresses on the high street if you want to.
Depending on the brand, you could find a high street wedding dress for as little as £50! ASOS, H&M and Chi Chi do some great options. There’s also Monsoon, Coast, Ted Baker and Whistles who all have affordable wedding dresses at a slightly higher price point.
Charity Shop Bridal Cost
Average Cost: £50 – £100
Charities like Oxfam and the British Red Cross both have a number of dedicated wedding dress shops across the UK where you can find a great range of wedding dresses. The bridals you’ll find in-store are a mix of new and second-hand, and if you visit regularly enough, you have a good chance of finding one to fall in love with for as little as £50.
Brides Do Good is another great option. They sell luxury wedding dresses that have been donated and approved by brides, with up to 70% off the original price. The money raised goes towards ending child marriage, and they do regular pop-ups at Bicester Village and other locations across the country. The perfect mash up eh?! You’re doing good and you’re getting luxury for less!
Bridal Boutique Appointment Prices
Average Cost: £25 – £75
When looking at overall wedding dresses cost, you should take added extras into account so that you don’t get caught out further down the line.
There is sometimes a fee for appointments at bridal boutiques, although often only the higher end ones. Sometimes bridal boutiques will only charge at weekends, some will charge if you want the store to yourself and others will charge every day. These days, post pandemic, more wedding dress shops are charging for appointments as they need to be sure the girls visiting are the real deal. Time is money right now and they can’t afford to be mucked about.
On average, you can expect to pay between £25 and £35 in bridal boutique shopping fees, but remember that this will generally be discounted from the dresses price when you buy it.
Bridal Alteration Prices
Average Cost: £60 – £200
Don’t forget the your wedding dresses cost must include alterations! So many girls miss this off their budget, but they can end up costing you a quite a bit. Of course, this does depend on how much and what you need changing.
You can pay as little as £60 for minor alterations, but for more extensive work (like a hemline and bodice) you can be looking at over £200. As a guide, the most expensive part of the fitting is usually the hem; which can range from £70-£125.