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What's Not To Love About a Pre-Loved! As Inflation Drives Up Wedding Costs, Brides Are Opting For Secondhand Dresses

Pre-owned clothes have both financial and environmental benefits.
UPDATED JAN 22, 2024
Cover Image source: Pexels/Daniel Moises Magulado
Cover Image source: Pexels/Daniel Moises Magulado

It's a dream come true for brides-to-be to plan their own wedding, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. Inflation has been taking a toll on weddings as well. As a result, more and more brides are seeking alternative options to make their special day affordable and yet no less fun.

One trend that is growing in popularity is that of secondhand wedding dresses. Pre-owned clothes have both financial and environmental benefits.

Georgia Etheridge, a bride-to-be, has decided to buy a secondhand wedding gown, according to CBS News. Etheridge explains that her dress had been intended for another bride whose wedding plans were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The rising costs of weddings in the United States are a significant factor driving brides like Etheridge to explore secondhand options. According to Zola, an online wedding planning site, the average cost of a wedding in the country in 2023 is a staggering $29,000. With inflation pushing prices higher, brides are feeling the pain. Many of them are now turning to pre-loved wedding dresses as a solution to keep costs under control without compromising on style and elegance.

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Sarah Ghabbour, the owner of Loved Twice Bridal, a consignment shop in Beverly Hills, California, witnessed the changing dynamics of the bridal industry firsthand. Ghabbour opened her store during the peak of the pandemic and noticed a shift in consumer behavior. Traditionally, bridal dresses were considered final sales with no possibility of exchange. However, Ghabbour explains that the modern bride, who often pays for the gown herself, values flexibility and affordability. 

Women who frequent thrift stores for their everyday outfits and garments find it natural to visit thrift-shop for their wedding dresses too. In June 2022, a 32-year-old Ohio bride Jillian Lynch, who works as a talent associate for a non-profit, is a passionate thrifter and she found her wedding dress at a thrift store, per Insider.

After four days of thrifting, Lynch decided on a mid-length Camilla Coelho slip dress and paid only $3.75 for it. The same dress was being sold on Revolve for $220 at the time. 

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Environmental awareness is also driving brides to make sustainable fashion choices which is one of the factors contributing to craze for secondhand wedding dresses. TerraPass, a social enterprise that provides carbon offsetting products, reports that the average US wedding "creates about 400 to 600 pounds of garbage and emits 62 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere," per La Laurel.

Ghabbour explained that producing a single wedding dress requires approximately 2,300 gallons of water. By choosing a pre-owned dress, brides can contribute to reducing their carbon footprint while still looking stunning on their big day. It's an opportunity to make a positive impact without compromising on style or quality.

The popularity of acquiring pre-loved wedding dresses is rapidly growing. As per thredUP, an online resale platform, secondhand retailers have witnessed a remarkable 23% surge in sales of white cocktail and special occasion dresses this year compared to 2019.

Besides financial considerations, brides are also looking for gowns with a distinctive backstory. Brides now have the opportunity to discover gowns that have never graced a wedding, infusing their love story with a touch of serendipity.

It is clear that the trend of secondhand wedding dresses is here to stay because they are enabling brides to look fab and care for the environment without breaking the bank.