More brides turning to secondhand dresses as inflation drives up wedding costs

Beverly Hills — Bride-to-be Georgia Etheridge is beaming in the months ahead of her big day. Her perfect, pearly fit is thanks to a secondhand gown. 

“A bride who had planned her wedding and then COVID happened,” Etheridge says of her dress’ history. “So this dress actually had never been worn to a wedding, so I’m giving it its first chance.”

According to online wedding planning site Zola, the average cost for a wedding in the U.S. this year is $29,000. As inflation continues to take its toll on the economy, Etheridge is part of a growing number of brides across the country who are finding bliss in pre-loved wedding dresses.

“The bridal industry standard is all sales are final, you simply cannot exchange your dress,” explains Sarah Ghabbour, who opened her Beverly Hills, California, consignment shop Loved Twice Bridal during the height of the pandemic.

“There’s been a shift in the market I think as far as value,” Ghabbour said. “The girl who is shopping nowadays, she’s typically paying for the gown herself.”

There’s also the environmental concerns. Ghabbour says that 2,300 gallons water are used to make a single wedding dress.

“If you can make any kind of impact on your carbon footprint, and it’s in your wedding gown, why not?” Ghabbour asks.  

The trend is catching on. Sales of white cocktail and special occasion dresses are up 23% this year, compared to 2019 at secondhand retailers, according to online resale platform thredUP.

Ghabbour says preowned dresses can cost up to half the original price.

“I definitely think secondhand dresses are here to stay,” Ghabbour said.

The soon to be Mrs. Stephens is putting the $4,000 she saved with a used dress towards other wedding details.

“He basically just gave me a high-five and said, ‘well done,'” Etheridge said of her fiancée when he learned of the savings.

She’s also thankful that her storied gown is now part of the fabric of her love story. 

“It’s like the sisterhood of the travelling wedding dress,” Etheridge jokes. 

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