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Something Lovely: How to Buy a Pre-Owned Wedding Dress Online

The average cost of a wedding dress is $1,100, and the average wedding reception lasts about four hours. Even for a dress girls dream of most of their young lives, $275 an hour is a bit pricey. Holy matrimony! Brides-to-be on a budget can cut costs by purchasing gently used wedding gowns online. It is, after all,  good luck to wear something “old” or even “borrowed” on your wedding day. The two best known websites for buying and selling pre-owned wedding dresses are OnceWed and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.

How does it work: A Seller sets up a listing on the site that includes pictures and a description of her dress and names her price. Buyers may contact the Seller through a protected e-mail system similar to Craigslist. The Buyer and Seller negotiate and arrange payment. The sites are free for Buyer and Seller.

How Much: Pre-owned wedding dresses are usually sold online for about half of their original retail price. However, if the dress is a relatively current style from a high-end bridal designer like Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier or Oscar de la Renta, the price breaks hit 20- to 40-percent under retail. Older style gowns and damaged gowns are priced at 90 percent below retail.

How it Fits: Wedding dresses rarely fit by the size on their labels. They run small—so much so, that you can wear a size 4 in normal clothes and need a size 12 in a wedding dress. The best way to tell if a dress is going to fit you is to compare measurements (hip, waist, bust, bra size) with the Seller. Make sure your measurements are the same or smaller than the Seller’s because it’s much easier to take a dress in then it is to let a dress out. Also, it’s crucial to find out the Seller’s height in her wedding shoes because her wedding dress was probably hemmed to that height.

How do I avoid scammers? Unfortunately, there are people out there trying to prey on women looking to buy a wedding dress online. Like any online purchase, remember due diligence:

  • Ask for several personal photos of the gown and her in the gown.
  • Request a scanned copy of the original dress receipt and, if possible, a receipt for the dry cleaning/dress preservation. Call the store to verify that gown was sold at that store.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true. Brides are not going to get an $8,000 Vera Wang wedding gown for $800. Steer clear of suspiciously low prices.
  • Do not purchase a used wedding dress online with a check, money order, wired money, cashier’s check, or PayPal. You should always arrange payment though escrow.com.

How does escrow.com work: Escrow.com utilizes a multistage process to protect both the buyer and seller:

  1. Both parties register for accounts at escrow.com. Agree to the terms of the transaction, which includes payment of the escrow.com transaction fee, a description of the item being sold, the selling price, shipping information, and how many days the Buyer has for inspection.
  2. There is a fee to use escrow.com. A $1,000 transaction has a $32.50 fee (check out the site’s Fee Calculator to calculate your fee).
  3. Available payment options include wire transfers, American Express/Master Card/Visa (credit card payments have a limit of $5,000 and are subject to escrow.com’s approval), check or money order (check or money order payments have a limit of $2,000 and are subject to a 10 day bank hold).
  4. After escrow.com has verified the Buyer’s payment, the site authorizes the Seller to ship the merchandise. Seller submits tracking information to Buyer and the site. Escrow.com verifies shipment.
  5. The Buyer has limited days to inspect and accept the merchandise.
  6. Once the Buyer accepts, escrow.com sends the Seller a check.

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14 thoughts on “Something Lovely: How to Buy a Pre-Owned Wedding Dress Online”

  1. yvette says:

    I was lucky enough to score one on Groupon, new for under $200. As a couponer I couldn’t have been more ecstatic!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was lucky enough to score one on Groupon, new for under $200. As a couponer I couldn’t have been more ecstatic!!

  3. You know, these used wedding dresses are not unlucky… They
    bring good fortune.  Marital bad
    luck happens when you go into debt for your weddings before the wedding. My
    daughter (CPA & budget-minded) bought a 2nd hand designer wedding gown for
    very little, and she’s been in a decently prosperous, blissful marriage since
    2000. The happy couple didn’t (and doesn’t) add unnecessary financial burdens
    to add stress to their relationship. These times add enough pressure,
    right? 
     

  4. I got my dress from an antique dress shop.  The owner used to run a bridal shop.  It cost me $200, and a friend of our family did the alterations for me as a wedding gift.  It was perfect.  I had no idea that people spend that much on a wedding gown!

  5. Jean says:

    Thank you so very much, this is a blessing for frugal brides, which there are more of them these days.  I have planned weddings for many years and to me this is a blessing. Thank myou for sharing.  I will also share with the brides.
    Blessings, Jean

  6. Julia Hunter says:

    I got my dress off of craigslist.  I got lucky, it was the same dress I was going to buy at a bridal shop and in my size (it was meant to be!) It was rather dirty, some food spots, make up and dirt on the hem, so it was priced real low.  I cleaned it my self (professional cleanings in my area start at $150).  I soaked the hem in oxy clean, used oxy clean on the spots and carefully cleaned the inside of the dress with a mild soap and water solution.  Steaming the dress got the last stubborn spots off.  I saved hundreds and got my dream dress.

  7. Deanna says:

    As a buyer & seller on Ebay who uses Paypal. I would say buyers are completely protected when purchasing. Buyers actually have more rights than Sellers. I would feel safe using Paypal to make a wedding dress purchase and wonder why the author suggest against it?

  8. Alyson says:

    I bought my dress on Ebay as well and had great success. As others have stated, I used Paypal so I was protected. My dress was new from a bridal shop. It didn’t fit perfectly, but fortunately, I was able to do the minor alterations that were required. I saved hundreds of dollars and had a beautiful gown. 

  9. Alisha Loveless says:

    I would buy on ebay for sure! I ended up getting mine off the rack during prom season. We only payed 175 and was lucky enough to have someone in the family who does alterations. I dont think theres ever a reason to pay into the thousands when you can find something with high quality online or during special events. 

  10. Anonymous says:

    I bought my dress on Ebay and used Paypal. Since they have a buyer protection plan, if the dress was misrepresented you can return it. I paid $65 and had $120 in alternations. My SIL also bought her wedding dress on Ebay after my success, and she paid $80 plus $150 in alterations.

  11. Susan says:

    Has anyone ever had any luck selling their wedding dress?  Where did you sell it?

  12. I bought my used wedding dress from weddingbee.com.  I go to that site all the time for deals on used items for my upcoming wedding.  I was able to get a $1000 dress, the slip and the matching veil for $700!

  13. Nicki Stone says:

    thanks for the info