Lorena Gallardo, 40, of Kansas City, Kan., listed the wedding gown she wore for her July 2 nuptials in the classifieds section of TheKnot.com over Labor Day weekend. She hopes the dress, for which she paid $1,400, plus tax and alterations, will fetch $900. "I am selling it because I don't need it anymore," says Gallardo, "and I don't have the space for it."
She's not alone. With the ink barely dry on their marriage certificates, and piles of thank-you notes yet to be written, many brides are wasting no time getting their summer wedding dresses on the block for fall gown-buying season, hoping to cash out on their substantial investment and eliminate a storage issue.
Tracy DiNunzio, founder of the RecycledBride.com, an online wedding marketplace, says an uptick in engagements over the summer spurs a surge of brides-to-be doing dress shopping in the fall, which makes it a great time to sell a used gown. The average selling price on her site is $450, which includes dresses from $50 to those that cost more than $10,000.
Another reason to rush a wedding dress to market is to stay current with the fashion trends. Julie Jones, owner of couture consignment shop EncoreBridal.com, recommends that brides sell soon after the wedding so the designs don't become outdated. A dress from a 1998 wedding? Probably only worth its value in the raw material.
"The best time to sell a dress is in the first year after the wedding," says Jones. "That will get you the most money and the quickest sale." The gowns for sale in her shop have to pass strict muster. They are "walk-down-the-aisle clean"; are typically more than three years old; and are desirable designer labels, such as Vera Wang, Monique Lhullier or Oscar de la Renta, which cost at least $2,000 retail.
As one of the most expensive dresses many women will ever wear, the wedding gown was once sacrosanct, and simply had to be saved. Special boxes, elaborate preservation techniques, and bestowing the dress on a daughter or niece are part and parcel of wedding gown tradition. Or if you're Adrienne Maloof, a star on the The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, you frame your gown in glass and put it on display, like a treasure from Versailles.
But today, with more online marketplaces available to resell gowns and other wedding gear, brides are increasingly selling the dress after the wedding. According to Brides.com, women spend more than $1,000 on average for a gown. There are well over 2 million weddings in the United States each year, which means steady stream of buyers and sellers for wedding dresses.
"I think this generation is not as committed to the tradition to keeping the dress in a box and carting it around to every place you live," says Jones. "What people didn't know was an option [in the past], is now an option."
Selling the dress also provides funds that can be used elsewhere. "A lot of people are on the fence [about selling their dress]," DiNunzio says. "But we have had heard so many stories of people who sold the dress and paid for honeymoon, or found out they were pregnant and paid for the nursery. I would say that even if you're unsure, put it up and name your price."
10 Tips for Selling Your Wedding Dress
1. Don't wait. The most popular dresses are those from within the last three seasons. Anything that is more than five years old is unlikely to sell for much.
2. Have your gown professionally cleaned as soon as possible after the wedding. Even clear stains from water, sweat or white wine can cause discoloration over time. "Used dresses sell best if they are professionally cleaned and sealed," says Lori DeBacker, who operates Sellyourweddingdress.com. Dry cleaning costs between $150 and $800, depending on the gown, material and location.
3. Price it right. Once-used items normally fetch 50% of their original retail price. Never-worn items with original tags are usually discounted 20% to 30% off retail. Dresses from popular designers like Vera Wang or Monique Lhullier can be priced for 25% to 30% below retail if they are recent. For unworn dresses, include a link to the original retail item so buyers can see what sort of a deal they are getting, and possibly try one on at a dress shop.
4. Describe the dress accurately, including the fabric, finish, details, length, size, item number, and any alterations that were made. Don't forget to include the train and veil in the description as well.
5. Provide good, clear photos of the dress, preferably on the seller. It is much easier for buyers to see the garment on a figure, rather than a hanger. Photos should include front, back, sides and details.
6. Be willing to negotiate and be willing to ask for a best offer if you are a committed seller. Even older dresses can sell -- sometimes for the material alone -- if the price is low enough.
7. Use an online bridal marketplace or consignment shop. You'll get more views in a specialized online marketplace or consignment shop, rather than Craigslist or eBay.
8. Be a good communicator. Don't only communicate through email or text: Get on the phone and chat with potential buyers, says DeBacker. "Buyers, look for dresses in your area," she recommends. That way, you can meet with a seller in a public place to try a gown on.
9. Consider donating your dress to an organization such as Brides Against Breast Cancer or The Bridal Garden in New York City, which will resell it and donate all proceeds to charity.
10. If all else fails, make a Halloween costume. Bride of Frankenstein or Bridezilla? Or take new "trash the dress" wedding gown photos.