Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Wedding Dress Rental: One Special Day Needn’t Stuff Your Closet Forever

What’s white, covered with lace, used once and has an average cost of $1211? If your answer was the American wedding dress, you’d be correct. While we have nothing against the institution of marriage, the marital-industrial complex has become so powerful, so inflated, that many couples have become convinced they need to spend an average of $28K on their weddings according to a 2012 survey by The Knot and The Wedding Channel. While some expenses, like the $12K for venue, might be tough to save on, the wedding dress–a bulky, single-purpose, single-use, non-transferable hunk of lace, silk and taffeta–is a perfect place for cost-cutting.


The Japanese–as they are wont to do–have a solution: rent your wedding dress. According to Rocket News 24 of Japan, the practice has become quite popular. The cost of the dress is actually worked into the overall cost of the wedding venue, many of which keep a bank of dresses at their disposal. The dresses are not necessarily cheap, costing as much as 150,000 yen ($1,450), though that’s for a high end dress that’d probably cost ten times that amount–a bargain if you’re into that kinda thing.

The practice, while not common, is done in the US. We visited Rent the Runway and they had a few options, all top designers and under $200 for a rental (though most looked like white evening dresses rather than traditional wedding dresses…not that that’s a bad thing). If you’re in LA, One Night Affair does high end wedding dress rentals. In fact, it seems like the best bet is to do a local, not national, search for rental places.

There is also Little Borrowed Dress, which specializes in bridesmaid dresses. They offer sets of dresses in a set number of styles and fabrics (12 and 18), in cuts that are “designed to fit and flatter all body types.”

Rather than cheaping out (not that cheaping out is a bad thing), renting a wedding dress, at least in Japan, is a reflection of care, as Rocket News states:

Some Japanese women we spoke to said that the very reason they want to rent their wedding dress is because of how important the ceremony is. Obviously, if we’re talking about the exact same item, it’s cheaper to rent than it is to buy. Just as there are companies that rent high-end sports cars to drivers who could never afford to buy one, choosing to rent a wedding dress gives the bride access to designers and quality far beyond what she could purchase at that price point.

Makes sense to us. And the ability to return the dress when you’re done–not carting it from house to house, storing it in a plastic bag, never to be worn again (a practice all too common in the American home)–is a big bonus.

Wedding image via Shutterstock

  • Gary Pete Overton

    In the late 80’s and early 90’s I was a wedding photographer in Birmingham, AL. There was a lady there at that time who rented out wedding dresses. She did very well at it

  • Kathy C

    I sewed my own and saved quite a bit of money. It probably was under $40 and was silk satin. As sewing is becoming more popular among the DIY set more brides might consider this option.

    • Anna

      I too sewed my own: Vogue designer pattern, and silk that I obtained for $25 total from a big city discount place. My sister wore the dress a few years later, so total cost per wear was well under $25.
      If a bride-to-be doesn’t sew, possibly her mother does, or some of her mother’s friends. She might even have a dressmaker sew her dress from her own choice of fabric and pattern. The cost would undoubtedly be lower than the overpriced dresses at bridal boutiques (and think of the cachet of saying modestly, “I had it made”).

  • Matt

    Great article!!! Every bride to be should read this!!!

  • Maggie

    Here in Hong Kong, brides generally rent dresses. There is even a street full of bridal shops with racks of dresses to rent. Also brides tend to wear more than one, so it would be too costly to buy them all. And in a place where apartments for most people are very small, there is no room to store an old dress. But there still are plenty of designers selling over-priced dresses to the wealthy, in case anyone was concerned for our billionaires. 😉

  • Dorme

    Where I come from (Europe, Slovenia) this is very common and there are many boutiques which both sell and rent wedding dresses. Even those brides who actually buy their wedding dresses (often buying used) usually don’t keep it afterwards, but pass or sell it on. I had my own dress made in such a way I was later able to convert it into a cocktail dress I now often wear in spring and summer. The extra fabric (mostly lace) was converted into my children’s christening clothes. All it takes is a shift in perspective, but that’s usually the most difficult thing of all.

    • Lucy

      Nicely put. Yes, a shift in perspective would probably not just save on wedding costs, but the entire world! (BTW I eloped which also saved a lot of money and stress, not just for us, but family and friends who come from all corners of the globe.)