Why wedding dresses are so expensive?

There are two sides to this argument. Some say that because bridal dresses use exquisite fabrics and handcraftsmanship, the price is always going to be high. Others claim that bridal designers and shops do charge a premium for their dresses.

As an independent wedding dress designer, I think both of the arguments are partially right, but at the same time, they fail to see the whole picture. To understand why wedding dresses are so expensive, I think you should understand the process of how a wedding dress is made from designing to when you pick it up from the bridal boutiques.

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Typically, a small designer creates a collection once a year in the range of 10-30 dresses; a bigger designer may do two or more collections ranging from 50-100 dresses. Each collection would normally take 6-12months to complete the designs and make sample gowns ready for brides to try or for bridal boutique owners to choose from.

Many brides still prefer to try dresses on in store as part of the ‘getting married’ experience. So most wedding dress designers choose to sell their dresses to bridal shops rather than selling to customers directly, although some designers do both. The markup from a wedding dress designer to a boutique owner is normally around 2.0-2.5x, which is on par with other fashion designer brands. From a boutique to customers, the markup is usually between 2.5-3.0x. This markup sounds higher than other fashion retailers, but the truth is bridal dresses sell a lot less than other fashion items. For boutiques, in order to provide a physical shop experience, paying staff, and all the other running cost of the shop, they do need a higher margin than most other fashion retailers to make a living.

So the conclusion here is that bridal dresses do have a slightly higher margin than other fashion items, but this is largely due to the demand for wedding dresses being a lot lower. Also, brides often require a more personalised one-to-one service, so boutiques have to have a higher margin to break even.

For the other direct-to-consumer designers, things do not get easier. Often the brand still needs to open their own shops in order to provide for brides across different locations to try on the dresses. So they still pay shop and staff costs on top of their design and production costs. Not to mention the cost of marketing, making themselves known to the brides is a sizable investment. That’s why some smaller designers can’t afford to sell their dresses directly to customers because it requires a large marketing budget in order to get brides in the door.

Now you understand there are a lot of ‘other’ costs when it comes to making and delivering a wedding dress to you. Let’s look at the production side of making a wedding dress.

A wedding dress often costs £1000+, while a party dress at H&M only costs £30. How come there is such a big difference. Some designers will tell you because wedding dresses are using more luxurious materials and all the details are handcrafted … what they said is often true, but in your head, it still does not add up.

We have to look deeper into the differences between the fashion businesses. For a wedding dress, generally, girls only need to purchase one in a lifetime, while you may buy 10 or more different pieces of clothing each year. The demand for wedding dresses is a lot less, hence the business size of a wedding dress designer is tiny compared to a fast fashion group. Apart from using better quality materials, wedding dress designer have to pay a lot more for fabric compared with those fast fashion giants, often the price of a fast fashion dress is not even enough for a wedding dress designer to buy the fabric, not to mention there are still costs to cut the fabric and sew the dresses together.

Fast fashion clothing is made in batches with a ridiculous amount of volume, so cutting machines can cut hundreds of fabrics together, and a sewing production line is streamlined, so each of the sewing machinists can only sew a part of the cloth really quickly without changing any of the settings.

While wedding dress production is very different, a made-to-order dress is often hand cut one piece at a time, while for a made-to-measure dress, the technician will need to make a new pattern based on clients measurements and then cut the fabric accordingly. When it goes on to the sewing, these wedding dresses are often made by a small team or even one person, who is a lot more skilled then a fast fashion worker on the production line, as they are required to complete higher end finishes and they will have to use different techniques and change the sewing machine settings each time when the dress requires a different seam line. Wedding dresses with beads are often very pricey, this is because a lot of beadings are individually sewed on by an experienced craftsperson.

Ok, now you understand why a wedding dress will cost £1000 plus, but there are wedding dresses selling for £5,000 or even £10,000, why? For dresses over £2-3k, a lot of the expense will be paid for the fame of the designer. This is like if you invite a local pub singer to sing at your wedding, s/he may charge you £1000, but if you arranged for Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran to sing at your wedding, you would pay a fortune. That’s why the royal dresses are so costly, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress was estimated at £250,000 while Meghan Markle’s was even more.

The good news is that you don’t have to sell your house to buy a wedding dress from Aneberry, we design our dresses in-house and take a direct to consumer approach to pass the savings onto our customers, we use finest fabrics and ethical dressmakers to sew our dresses. Our prices are between £800 - £1500.

View our collection here, book a free appointment at our London Oxo Tower studio to try our dresses.

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