Why Are Wedding Dresses So Expensive?

Updated October 15, 2021
Why Are Wedding Dresses So Expensive?

Budget typically isn’t the least important factor in the choice of a bridal gown.

An expensive wedding dress can soar the total expenditure of an already costly event sky high. Hence, many novel brides wonder what factors contribute to the price of their dream dress.

Wedding dress creation involves significant amounts of opulent fabrics, decorative elements, and intense labor. Like with any product, the more resources and time are spent on production, the higher is the cost.

Not all factors affecting wedding dress prices are rational, though. For example, a bridal gown is an exciting purchase that makes any woman feel like a princess for a single day.

Marketers and salespeople know it well, exploiting this for their advantage. The desired designer name seen in favorite movies is another common reason for a hefty price tag.

The most expensive wedding dress in the world reaches the $12 million mark, while the average wedding dress price in the US is about $1,250.

The hefty price tag of even the most average wedding dresses might leave you wondering: “Why are wedding dresses so expensive?”

Luxurious Materials

Material is what legitimately makes a wedding dress expensive, as luxurious fabrics can’t be cheap.

Some of the most popular wedding gown materials include silk, chiffon, organza, crepe, dupioni, and batiste. These are natural fabrics whose production typically involves intense labor.

Another reason for the high price tag of some fabrics is exclusivity. It takes thousands of silkworms to produce a single kilogram of silk.

The farming of silkworms is resource and time-consuming, which affects the availability and, consequently, the final cost of fabric.

The modern market offers plenty of synthetic alternatives to luxurious natural fabrics.

For example, traditional organza production uses silk. Nowadays, it often uses polyester or nylon. Its artificial analog also replaces silk itself in cheaper wedding dresses.

There is one issue: synthetic fibers don’t let your body breathe, and the visual difference is always noticeable. In addition, natural fabric texture and soft luster are nearly impossible to replicate.

The fabric volume also matters. For example, A-line, short, or column dresses tend to be cheaper than layered gowns.

Sparing on wedding dress material isn’t the best idea if you wish to look phenomenal and feel comfortable all day long regardless of the weather.

Natural, high-end fabrics look timeless, drape beautifully, and make you feel exceptional on such an important day.

Design Details

This point doesn’t relate to simple wedding dresses. But if minimalism isn’t your way to go, expect the cost of the dress to be higher due to sophisticated decoration.

Beads, lace, sequins, and other design details may seem minor. The tricky part is, wedding dresses are usually generously decorated with these elements.

Even though the price of a single bead is low, the total cost quickly adds up due to the high number of beads required. Furthermore, low-quality lace and beads can ruin even the look of a dress made from a gorgeous fabric.

Appliques and embroidery require not only a lot of material but also extensive labor. The embellishments are often hand-sewn. The hand-decorating process may take more time than making the dress itself.

Even machine-made adornment can’t be cheap as professional embroidering equipment costs a fortune.

Not only do decorative elements affect the price of a dress, but essential ones such as buttons, padding, and zippers also do.

Even if they’re invisible to others, high-quality components enhance the bride’s confidence. They also ensure a perfect fit even in the case of an otherwise inexpensive wedding dress.

Intricacy & Labor

Expensive wedding dresses often feature intricate design, and this doesn’t only relate to decoration. Even the most minimalistic dresses can have a complex construction requiring extensive calculations for correct modeling.

The process of sewing a wedding dress involves multiple steps. Upon developing a design concept, the designer must draw a pattern on paper.

This pattern is the guide to creating a toile prototype to ensure the pattern calculations are correct. Only afterward, the actual dress sewing happens.

All these steps require hours of labor, inevitably raising the dress price.

No matter how beautiful a dress is on the hanger, the bride’s final appearance depends on how it fits.

Women have different bodies, and even two women wearing the same dress in the same size won’t look the same. Thus, a dress purchased in-store often needs altering to fit impeccably.

Many brides prefer made-to-order dresses created by custom design and measurements. An exclusive dress sewn personally for you can’t cost cheaper than a mass-produced one.

You’re paying for one-of-a-kind craftsmanship with great attention to detail and numerous alterations. Rush orders also add up to the price, so order your dress in advance.

While it may be tempting to skip the alteration step, I advise investing in an experienced tailor. A dress fitting like a glove does not only look stunning but is also more comfortable.

You should be able to move and breathe freely without having to adjust the dress every time you raise an arm or sit down.

Shopping Experience

Shopping for a wedding dress is a memorable event. Bridal boutiques strive to provide the best service to boost your mood – and their chances of making a sale. This luxurious experience reflects in the final price of a dress.

It all starts with an appointment that ensures you get personalized help from a dedicated salesperson. After that, the boutique must find time solely for you, rejecting other potential buyers.

Not every appointment ends with a sale, though. So boutiques try to make up for the lost time and energy by earning more from closed deals.

In some cases, brides-to-be are offered champagne or other bounties during shopping, and these extras aren’t free either.

The shopping experience plays a significant role in feeling special. However, if your budget is tight, you may skip this luxurious ordeal.

Sure, a skilled salesperson can help to find a dress that suits you perfectly. But if you already have an idea of your dream dress design, you can likely find it on your own or order a custom one.

Designer Name

It isn’t a secret that designer clothing costs more than high street brand options. And many brides romanticize designer names, preferring to see “Marchesa” instead of “ASOS” on the label.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, especially if you understand how designers set item prices.

Some worldwide-known fashion houses exist for centuries and have built a good reputation, which allows them to set high prices.

Brands that have emerged recently but managed to gain broad exposure in the fashion industry may also charge higher rates due to surging popularity.

Not only does the brand’s history and popularity affect the product price. For example, branded wedding dresses typically feature extraordinary designs and are made from luxurious materials.

An additional point to mention is that high-end brands tend to pay their workers more than generic brands.

Now all designer wedding dresses are the same. The price difference between a dress from ready-to-wear and an haute couture collection from the same brand may be enormous.

Ready-to-wear collections production happens in large quantities for the general public.

They are usually machine-sewn and available in stores. Both high-end designers and street fashion brands make ready-to-wear collections.

The term haute couture, on the other hand, refers to exclusive collections produced primarily by hand in limited quantities.

High fashion is a form of art, and a wedding dress from such a collection is an art piece. Many celebrity wedding dresses are from haute couture collections.

Haute couture wedding dresses are often made using innovative advanced techniques and require extreme attention to detail. These gowns can only be purchased straight from a fashion show. You won’t find them in stores.

Some of the most famous wedding dress designers include Vera Wang, Zuhair Murad, Carolina Herrera, and Monique Lhuillier.

Naturally, not everyone can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single piece of apparel from a couture wedding dress designer. However, you can draw inspiration from designer collections for a custom gown.

Paying for Emotions

A wedding is considered a once-in-a-lifetime event, and brides feel pressure to find a genuinely extraordinary dress. In other words, the purchase of a wedding dress ties into our emotions, which makes us vulnerable.

Unfortunately, some salespeople exploit these emotions to convince women to buy a dress with a higher price tag.

The word “wedding” on its own inflates the price of a dress enormously. The same white dress may cost differently depending on whether you purchase it for a prom or a wedding.

The wedding industry is known for utilizing manipulation as a marketing trick.

For example, wedding boutique reps will try to convince you that although you’ll wear the dress only once, the memories and photos will remain forever.

That may be true, yet it’s crucial to reason and stay within your budget no matter how powerful the salesperson’s hypnosis is.


In the end, it all comes down to basic economics. The higher is demand, and the higher are prices, provided supply remains unchanged.

Most weddings happen in summer or spring, so the prices tend to surge during these periods.

It’s best to search for a wedding dress long in advance. For example, if you schedule the event for winter, summer is the best time to shop for a gown as the demand for long-sleeve models is low.

On the other hand, lightweight, open wedding dresses are the cheapest during the winter months.

Image credit: Unsplash

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