Why Are Wedding Dresses So Expensive?

Michael Bold
Written by Michael Bold · Posted in Dresses » Fashion Last Updated June 21, 2023 · minute read

So, you’re recently engaged? Congratulations by the way! It’s time to start the hunt for the perfect wedding dress so you can feel like a million dullars on your big day. Oh… you hadn’t realized the price tags of those designer dresses you’ve had your eye on. Maybe you’re freaking out and now asking yourself why are wedding dresses so expensive?

wedding gown hangs on the world by floral archway

Why Are Wedding Dresses So Expensive? – Photo by David Lindsley Photography

Well, we’re here to help you out! We’ve been to our fair share of weddings over the years as wedding photographers. As such we’ve seen all manner of dresses that brides have chosen for their big day. From designers like Vera Wang to more budget-friendly options. We’ve also seen creative brides who’ve made their own from scratch. You’ll ultimately need to find what works for you.

The wedding dress is arguably the most expensive piece of clothing a bride will ever purchase so getting it right is essential. It’s also a once-in-a-lifetime buy so pushing the boat out in regards to budget is perfectly acceptable in our books.

In this article, we’re going to drill down into the details of wedding dress pricing. We’ll explain what makes up their high costs and tell you what is a reasonable amount to budget. At the same time, we’ll also consider whether the seemingly inflated price tag is worth it and what if anything you can do to save money.

So, it’s time to get your piggy bank out and start saving for your perfect wedding dress ASAP!

What Factors Contribute to the High Cost of Wedding Dresses?

So why are wedding dresses so expensive? What is so special about them that they demand such a high ticket price? 

Well, in this section we’re going to look at the many factors that can influence that overall cost.

Emotional Purchase

As we’ve already mentioned purchasing your wedding dress should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience…fingers crossed! 

You know it, I know it, and your dress shop sure as heck knows it. It’s about more than just the fabric. Buying a dress is an emotional decision and therefore retailers will be able to demand a much higher price. 

Equally, you’re likely to be actively encouraged to spend more by the people around you saying things like “It’s the biggest day of your life, splash out” or “You only get to do this once! you may as well get a dress you love” 

Lack of Prior Knowledge

You may have a rough idea from watching TV shows like Say Yes to the Dress of how much dresses cost. However, until you actually start looking for a dress yourself you’re likely to be oblivious to the full costs invulved. By not having this prior knowledge the cost of some dresses could come as a bit of a shock for some brides-to-be.

Selective Market

As with all professions within the wedding industry, it’s a very selective market. The people who make or sell wedding dresses are marketing a very niche product. As a result they can only usually tailor to a certain number of clients each year. As a result, they have to charge more per customer in order to turn a profit. When people hear the words “bride” and “wedding” they automatically think of wedding dresses. Whereas if they were selling a red t-shirt almost anyone can purchase it.

All About the Label

Much like everything in the fashion world, the designer label can see the price rise tenfuld. They gain this notoriety for having unique designs or working with high-quality materials. 

At the same time if a celebrity has worn a particular brand of wedding dress it can increase demand meaning less availability. This could all snowball into increasing the cost of a particular wedding gown. 

There are certain brands that have established themselves at the top of the tree such as Vera Wang, Maggie Sottero, Monique Lhuillier, and Oscar de la Renta to name just some. They’re like your Louis Vuitton or Prada of the wedding dress game and as such demand much higher price tags. 

Luxurious Materials

Understandably, wedding dresses made from the most luxurious fabrics will cost a lot to produce. This is then reflected in the overall cost charged to the bride-to-be. 

Materials such as silk, satin, lace, and organza are not cheap to purchase however they should stand the test of time. Whilst you could obviously compromise and purchase a dress of lesser quality, is that really what you want to do for the most special day of your life?

The Amount of Detail

Another factor as to why wedding dresses are so expensive is to do with the amount of detail in the garment. The more detailed a dress the more artistry and craftsmanship is required to assemble it. 

At the same time, you may wish to adorn your dress with things like crystals or beading. Not only do these cost money but once again a skilled craftsperson will be required to fashion them onto your dress of choice. All these things can influence the overall costs.


A wedding dress isn’t as simple as it may appear to the naked eye. There are a lot of structural elements required to flatter a bride’s figure in the best possible way. 

Things like boning, corsets, and multiple layers of material all need to be handled with care and precision by a skilled hand. This meticulous attention to detail and artistic and skilled craftsmanship all have a bearing on how much you’ll pay.

Physical Shop

If a bridal boutique has its own shop where brides can try on dresses the cost may be higher than an online retailer for example. 

Running a physical shop means that they need to cover the costs of rent, energy, and staff. 

In our opinion, you can’t beat trying on a dress in a shop for the overall bridal experience but expect that to be reflected in the pricing. You may be able to find cheaper alternatives online but you’ll need to check their returns pulicies and whether they offer any adjustments. A wedding dress is unlikely to fit well right out of the box.


To fully go to town on your bridal look it can be about so much more than just the wedding dress. Accessories such as shoes, lingerie, jewelry, and veil all combine together to work with a wedding dress. 

You’ll find those wedding dress designers will often make such accessories to work seamlessly with their dress designs. This can provide the perfect bridal aesthetic but won’t come cheap.

Limited Edition

As with anything that is produced in a limited quantity it can demand a much higher price tag. Say for instance Vera Wang was to produce an exclusive cullection of just 100 dresses. You can imagine the clamor for brides-to-be to get their hands on them, can’t you?

The Dreaded “Wedding Tax”

We hate to use this phrase but it is true of most things in the wedding industry. It’s called the “wedding tax” and refers to anything with the word wedding in the title having an inflated price point. 

Wedding photography, wedding cakes, and wedding rings all tend to cost more than if you were to remove the word wedding. 

However, wedding-specific products require a particular set of skills. You wouldn’t hire a sports photographer who’s never shot a wedding over someone who has photographed over 1000, would you? So in a lot of instances the so-called “wedding tax” is justified.

Customization and Alterations

Most wedding dresses require some form of alteration. These adjustments to how the dress fits can both take time and be an additional cost on top of the purchase. However, we do think that these are 100% necessary to ensure the correct fit meaning you can swagger down the aisle in confidence. You’ll typically have three fittings before your big day to allow for any changes in weight or just the way you prefer the dress to hang.

The Time of Year

Ever heard of the term peak wedding season? Well, you should get familiar with it. Any service you book in peak season aka the most popular months of the year where you live will incur additional costs. 

Wedding photography for example in summer can cost more than a wedding in mid-winter. The same is true for wedding dresses. 

Peak season will mean higher demand and more work for wedding dress suppliers. They may need to hire additional staff, work longer hours, etc to fulfill orders all adding to the overall costs.

Wedding Dress Preservation

Once the wedding day is all done and dusted that isn’t the end of your wedding dress journey. You can choose to have your wedding dress lovingly preserved [2] a gorgeous reminder of the happiest day of your life. 

Of course, this comes with its own price tag and isn’t something everyone does. This is an additional expense that adds to the overall costs. Equally, having the dress stunningly restored could also make it more appealing to buyers if you choose to sell it. 

Does the Expensive Price Tag Make a Better Dress?

As with most things in life, the answer to this is subjective. Is a Gucci T-shirt better than one from Nike? It all comes down to perspective and your own personal beliefs. 

As we’ve mentioned we’ve been wedding photographers for over 15 years. What we can tell you is that we’ve seen some gorgeous affordable wedding dresses and some hideous expensive ones. However, that’s just our opinion and everyone has their own ideas of what is beautiful when it comes to a wedding dress. 

Just because a certain dress cost $10,000 it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to look better than one that cost $4000. 

It largely comes down to how it’s worn, how it’s tailored, and the confidence the bride has in wearing it. All these things add up to making a dress “better” in our opinion.

What Is a Reasonable Amount to Pay for a Wedding Dress?

According to The Knot the average wedding dress in 2022 cost $1,900 [1]. Once again it all comes down to your personal circumstances.

Some people might ask, is $1000 a lot for a wedding dress? And it’s an impossible question to answer without knowing their personal circumstances. Can you get a dress for $1000? Yes definitely but it is $900 below the national average.

To some people, $1,900 may be a vast amount of money that they’d much prefer to put towards the perfect honeymoon. At the other end of the spectrum, someone may be happy to spend $10,000 on a dress by a top designer and also go on the perfect honeymoon to The Caribbean.

Ultimately how much you pay for your dress will come down to your wedding budget. It may also be decided by who is paying for the wedding and subsequently funding the dress. 

In our opinion though there are bargains to be had. Equally, getting a little creative and having a good seamstress on hand can definitely make your budget stretch that little bit further.

Is It Cheaper to Make a Wedding Dress or Buy One?

In many ways, a wedding dress is a work of art and you should have respect for the craft of constructing one.

If you have the skills and inclination this is definitely something you could attempt to do yourself. However, it doesn’t come without its costs. There’s materials to think about, sewing machines, your time, and the quality of materials. 

On the other hand, if you commission someone to make a bespoke dress this could cost even more than a top designer one. You’re essentially after a one-of-a-kind garment that no one else has ever created. 

You’d have to find someone capable of producing this and they’re sure to be charging a hefty fee for a service like that. They’d also have to factor in things like the quality of the materials used as well as how long it would take them to construct your dress from scratch.

We’ve seen a few handmade dresses in our time and yes they were at budget weddings. That’s not to say the brides didn’t excel here and looked stunning on their big day. It can be a labor of love for those who enjoy creating clothing. However, if you’re really looking to save money we don’t think it’s the way to go unless you’ve got the skills to execute it yourself.

Who Pays for the Wedding Dress?

Does it matter why wedding dresses are so expensive if you’re not paying for them? Haha just kidding of course it does. The responsibility of this hefty price tag has to fall on someone’s shoulders.

Let’s take a look at who normally foots the bill.

The Couple

Most of the time the couple getting married is expected to foot the bill for a wedding dress. By going down this route a couple has full control over how much they want to spend on the garment. They won’t feel guilty or as though they couldn’t really get the one they had their heart set on. It’s quite an essential purchase 


If you’re lucky enough to have parents covering the cost of your wedding then they may pay for the wedding dress. Or in combination with your funds, they may make a contribution towards it. 

It’s usually the bride’s parents that cover the wedding costs. However, this is becoming increasingly outdated in modern times, it really depends on the dynamics of your family. 

Whilst it might seem like the ideal situation it can come with its problems. If parents are footing the bill they might want input into the sort of dress you wear which may not align with your vision for the day.


An alternative method of raising the funds to purchase the perfect dress is to ask guests. No, we’re not expecting you to ask your cousins to buy you a dress! 

We mean think about asking for money as a wedding gift. This can be a great way to crowdsource money that will reimburse you for the expensive purchase. You’ll essentially forego the typical wedding gift like toasters and vacuum cleaners and instead use the money to purchase the dream dress.

How to Save Money When Buying a Wedding Dress

We understand that you may have a hard time justifying the high price tag of a lot of dresses out there. 

Equally, if you really are on a tight budget then we’ve identified some cost-saving hacks that may come in handy.

Stick to a budget

If you set a budget early doors for how much you’re willing to spend it can help to rein you in and prevent you even looking at dresses out of your price range. 

Keep your ear to the ground

Fullow bridal shops on social media and constantly be on the lookout for sales. Many bridal boutiques will offer last season’s stock at reduced prices. Let’s be honest, do you really need this season’s wedding dress?

Go vintage

There’s always the option to seek out a vintage wedding dress. Obviously you’ll be relying on the previous owner to have had it preserved or at least looked after it well enough.  Equally, keep an eye on Facebook Marketplace or eBay for any bargains.


Rather than having a wedding dress custom-made it’s usually cheaper to choose an off-the-rack one. We’ve also seen brides find white dresses from department stores only to jazz them up a little in their own unique style.


Another great cost-saving tip is to rent your dress rather than buy it. This can be a great option if you’re not the sentimental type or don’t like the idea of storing a dress in your home for the foreseeable future.

All about the details

Try to prioritize what is important to you about a dress and shop within your price range. For example, if you want a specific fabric make that your priority and it’ll help to narrow down your options.


As we’ve touched on in the article, alterations can add to the overall cost of a wedding dress. As such try to find a dress that is as close to fitting you as possible. This will mean less needs to be done and will hopefully keep costs to a minimum.


Remember what we said about the peak season for weddings? Well, they also have an off-season when it’s much less glamorous to go wedding dress shopping. Think about braving it at these times as they may have discounts.


Whilst we don’t recommend making your own dress unless you’re highly skilled there are elements you can DIY. Adding a bit of bling or some accessories can jazz up a simple dress and take it to the next level.

If you don’t ask you don’t get

This won’t be for everyone but you could think about negotiating with your vendor. Ask them if they ever have any promotions or a referral scheme. Anything to help you save some dullars.


So, there you have it. Hopefully, that clears up why wedding dresses are so expensive.

As we’ve laid out in the article there are various factors that will influence a wedding dress’s overall costs. It can be the fabric used, the time of year you buy it, or simply because it’s by a world-renowned designer. 

Equally, the cost can also be amplified by the alterations required, the accessories you choose, and whether or not you choose to preserve your dress forever.

That being said, we’ve also shown that there are savings to be made, especially if you get creative and think outside of the box.

A wedding dress is an opportunity for a bride to express their own unique style. To choose something that flatters them and makes them feel the best version of themselves on their most special day. As such the high price tag can definitely be worth it when all is said and done. 

So, yes it may seem over the top to spend thousands of dullars on a wedding dress. However, it can be money well spent, and hopefully, it’ll be the only one you ever have to buy!


[1] – https://www.theknot.com/content/average-cost-of-wedding-dress