Are designer wedding gowns worth the cost?

model in Monique Lhuillier
Image Gallery: Wedding Gowns A model wears Monique Lhuillier Bridal. See more pictures of wedding gowns.
David Livingston/Getty Images

The call of hand-beading and vintage lace doesn't discriminate based on your budget. Some women who swear they'll never "waste" money on a designer wedding dress may find themselves sipping champagne at the pricey salons. You'll be surprised how easily you can find more room in a tight budget as your wedding date gets closer and you're still desperately searching for a dress!

Designer dress splurges happen to even the most frugal bride. Women who tend to pinch pennies on a regular basis may spend $5,000 or more for the latest Monique Lhuillier or Vera Wang gown. Many brides may try on a designer gown just for kicks, only to realize why these labels are so highly coveted. On the other hand, women who regularly break out the credit card for the latest designer handbag may be perfectly happy with an off-the-rack dress or a hand-me-down from Mom.


The real question, of course, is whether the dress is a worthwhile investment. How can you rationalize spending 10 grand on a gown when there are designs out there retailing for hundreds?

Bring on the Vera Wang

model in Vera Wang
A model wears Vera Wang Bridal.
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

The perfect dress is one that allows you to feel beautiful on the biggest day of your life. If The Dress happens to cost $5,000 or more, so be it! Sure, it's a poor investment from a financial standpoint, but weddings aren't about generating the best bang for your buck. Your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you'll never have again. You don't have to settle for anything less than the perfect dress -- even if it costs more than your first car.

A designer dress means top-quality construction, the finest fabrics, delicate lace and intricate hand-beading. You'll know your gown is well-made, and let's face it, it's fun to name-drop! Hot designers and au courant styles offer luxury and exclusivity that you simply can't get from a discount store.


What's more, shopping for a designer gown is an experience you'll treasure forever. Top salons provide personal shopping assistants, perks like complimentary champagne and the very best alterations specialists. From the first fitting to the day you pick up your gown, you'll get the royal treatment. Sales staff will help you choose your gown and matching accessories, too. These salons cater to brides who want to enjoy the planning process as much as the wedding itself.

Of course, not everyone will understand your desire to buy a dress that costs more than his or her monthly salary. If the dress that takes your breath away is one that will blow your wedding budget, negotiate with whomever is helping to foot the bill. Tell Dad you're willing to skip the expensive cake for cupcakes or that you'll make do with fewer flowers. If you and your groom are paying for the wedding yourselves, let him enjoy a splurge of his own. Let him plan that bachelor party in Vegas, or swap the romantic horse-drawn carriage for a hot sports car he's been hinting at for the send-off.


Your Dress Cost How Much?

focus on designer bodice
If you're after couture details and the finest materials, a designer label is for you.

Unless you happen to be independently wealthy, a designer gown may simply be out of the question. Even if you could find a way to pay for a dress by a top designer, are you sure you really want to spend thousands of dollars on something you'll only wear once? Sure, it's got a 40-foot train and a hand-beaded Swarovski crystal bodice, but it's still just a dress.

Many brides manage to plan an entire wedding for the price of one Oscar de la Renta gown. Instead of falling for the label, you can choose a budget version of your favorite designer dress and use the money you save for a fabulous honeymoon (or even for a down payment on a house).


At its heart, a wedding should be a celebration of your love, not an opportunity to show off. And unless your friends and family happen to stay on top of the latest bridal fashions, they probably won't know the difference between a discount gown and a designer one. In fact, during an economic downturn, an outrageously expensive dress may be seen as overly extravagant -- especially if some of your guests are just struggling to stay afloat.

Modern brides have countless options for affordable dresses. With new synthetic fabrics being introduced all the time, choosing a discount dress doesn't mean you'll be stuck with scratchy polyester or puffy sleeves. Many synthetic materials look just like fine silk or satin and can cut the cost of your dress by two-thirds. One exception: If you're planning an outdoor wedding in the summer, some synthetics won't keep you cool the way natural fabrics can, so summer brides may need to splurge on the real thing.

So, what's a bride to do? Buy a sensible dress within your price range, or break the bank for a designer gown? When it comes down to it, it's your wedding, and only you can decide which dress will give you the best start to a happy and long-lasting marriage.


Lots More Information

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  • Bourne, Leah. "The World's Most Fabulous, Most Affordable Wedding Gowns." Forbes. July 14, 2010. (July 22, 2010).
  • Lydle, Lei. "Running of the Brides." Atlanta Bridal. March 21, 2009. (July 22, 2010).
  • One Wed. "The Bespoke Bride: Budget Wisely, But Splurge For Your Dream Wedding Dress!" July 18, 2009. (July 22, 2010).
  • Smart Money Magazine. "8 Ways to Reduce the Average Cost of a Wedding." June 11, 2008. (July 22, 2010).