Compared to deciding on just the right “something blue”, a bride’s most vexing question hovering over her gown just might be, “Something old, something borrowed, or something new?”
Let’s not hem or haw or pretend that, for many a bride, there’s anything more thrilling or memorable about her wedding day than that unforgettably perfect gown. Every woman wants eyes to sparkle, heads to turn, jaws to drop, and most importantly, for the heartbeat of the one she loves to splinter a rib or two.
Here’s where reality cuts in: chances are, until it either ends up passed down as a cherished heirloom or donated to a worthy thrift store such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill, a bridal gown gets a couple sterling hours of storybook usefulness before being retired to an uneventful, anticlimactic life in storage.
That certainly leaves room for pondering the sensible question, why buy the dress at all? After all, decades of grooms have been simply having themselves measured for rented tuxedos they merely return with their thanks after the wedding’s dust settles. Does owning the dress really matter as much as the memory of how once-in-a-lifetime beautiful a woman looks in it when she says “I do”?
- To Rent
We’ll get down to the brass tacks right away: a rented bridal gown, depending on the style, will ordinarily range from $200 up to around $2,000 – quite a healthy range of differently priced styles to play with amidst any scale of budget. Many venders require an upfront damage deposit of at least $200. You can expect to get your gown somewhere between 1-5 days before your wedding day with an expectation that it will be returned the day after, though some will generally rent dresses up to one week at a time.
If you keep comparing price and the inevitable utility of the dress and just can’t rationalize paying even the lowest price you’ve found for a bridal gown you love, remember that renting can cut cost by as much as half. Think of it another way: you get to wear a gown that retails for thousands of dollars potentially for as little as a few hundred bucks and pocket the rest toward a down payment on a house, new furniture, or even just a little extra to pad out the cost of the honeymoon.
Shop smartly, and you may even happen across a package that throws in accessories such as the veil and shoes at minimal extra cost. Unfortunately, your actual fit may be hit-or-miss and selections will often be limited to a “what you see is what’s available” set of choices. With no option to strategically let a dress out or take it in or up except sometimes at an additional cost, if the dress that steals your heart doesn’t fit, it’s simply on to the next one.
Rental bridal gowns more often come with a no-alterations stipulation, but are often rented in immaculate condition with no need for repairs or dry-cleaning anyway. As long as it’s unharmed after the occasion itself, you can drop it off the day after en route to your honeymoon. Speaking of, rentals are a wise consideration indeed for destination weddings in locales such as Hawaii and Las Vegas, where wedding dresses “for hire” are somewhat of a norm.
Of course, there’s also the enhanced stress of responsibility for the return condition of the dress. You’re ultimately on the hook for any damages, but if the wear and tear should drastically exceed your deposit or render useless for future rentals, you could be forced to purchase it outright.
- To Buy
If you’re set on buying, you have three general options from which to choose.
A custom-designed or couture dress is both the pinnacle of quality and a likely bank-breaker. A designer or dressmaker will personally measure you to design and stitch a personal one-of-a-kind bridal gown that will leave your loved ones speechless at a cost starting often from $1,000.
The next step down from a customized-from-scratch bridal gown is to visit a salon or retailer to try on a sample designer dress – usually in sizes 8, 10 or 12 – and place a custom order. As with a custom-designed or couture gown, you may need a few fittings to have the dress cut perfectly to your size, but at costs that start in the $600 ballpark as opposed to four figures.
The least-expensive but most straightforward choice is to just purchase a ready-to-wear dress right off the rack. Alterations will ultimately be your call, but if it just happens to fit like a glove or close to it, the gown is yours to take home at prices starting around only $250.
The richest “pro” of all? Your bridal gown is 100% your responsibility to alter, embellish and care after forever more. As a bonus, you also now have a cherished heirloom to pass down through your family as a remembrance of where a brilliant new chapter began.
Setting sentimentality aside, your choice ultimately comes down to your own practicality and sensibilities, since – couture or custom-designed gowns possibly aside – no one present at your wedding will plainly see what it ends up costing you to look undeniably, radiantly ravishing as you walk down the aisle. A grander affair laden with pageantry should absolutely inspire a worthy exclusive designer dress. However, what’s really the point of spending so extravagantly as part of an otherwise intimate, low-key wedding? Let your heart and budget be your guide.