Looking for a budget-friendly wedding dress option? Consider buying second hand

Smart brides these days are saving big bucks by going secondhand. After all, most wedding dresses are worn for only a few hours and cost on average $1,800, with many going for thousands more.

Buying preowned is not only a way to feel and look beautiful on a budget, but a more environmentally responsible alternative. And the market is hot, as many women are selling even new gowns that they purchased to wear at weddings that were canceled, postponed or downsized because of the pandemic. And no worries about COVID supply chain-delivery issues.

“I love when my brides go secondhand for their wedding dresses,” says Emma Thurgood, a New England intimate wedding photographer from New Britain. “Not only is it economical, but environmentally friendly for those who want their wedding to be more sustainable.” 

Buying online

There are many ways to find a gently loved dress of your dreams online, including Facebook Marketplace, craigslist.com and eBay. There are also numerous sites that focus on secondhand dresses and offer large selections of discounted designer gowns in all shapes and sizes. 

Some of the popular websites to buy secondhand at affordable prices include preownedweddingdresses.com, nearlynewlywed.com and oncewed.com. At the stillwhite.com marketplace, you’ll find more than 67,000 designer wedding dresses for sale by owner. Among them, a never-worn, size-2 $3,400 mermaid-style, button-back Monique Lhuillier dress from the Bliss collection for $1,000. And a size-12 Vera Wang, strapless Chantilly lace Delaney dress that originally sold for $6,000, for only $600.

Or head to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Wedding Dress page on Facebook where you’ll find women who will give or loan their dresses for no cost to another bride to keep the chain going. You’ll find everything from a size 0, 80-year-old vintage satin hoop dress complete with shoes, slip and veil, to a slinky Badgley Mischka scoop-neck column gown with back bow accent in size 16, all for free.

Just note: before searching online for a dress, head to your local boutique to get a sense of what style, size and designer looks good on you. On some of the above websites, you can add an alert to notify you when your dream dress or something from your fav designer is listed for sale.

Also, experts say, be prepared to pay for cleaning, alterations and custom additions. Always check if it’s returnable should the dress not fit or be as described. 

A bride wears a custom upcycled wedding dress, sourced FROM a vintage dress from an antique shop and a lace T-shirt from Goodwill for less than $75.

Emma Thurgood

Buying local

If you’re in the market for a preowned dress — especially something unique or vintage — start looking at thrift stores, consignment boutiques and antique shops. Let the owners know what you are looking for, so they can give you a heads-up as soon as something appropriate comes in.

You can buy off-the-rack secondhand dresses for a steal at numerous Connecticut stores, including Stork & Fashion Exchange in Westbrook, Brides to Be in Glastonbury and So Many Dresses in Hamden. Many also sell bridal accessories and bridesmaid and mother-of-the-bride dresses.

Resell to recoup costs

The best thing about buying preowned — if you’re not the sentimental type, or just a savvy shopper — is that you can recoup most of your money by reselling your dress back after the big day, notes Thurgood. You’ll make some cash, save room in your closet and your dress will have another life. Did we say smart?

The Fall/Winter 2022 issue of The Connecticut Bride is on sale now. Pick up your copy at one of these locations.