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

How does work: utilizes a multistage process to protect both the buyer and seller:

  1. Both parties register for accounts at Agree to the terms of the transaction, which includes payment of the 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 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'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 has verified the Buyer's payment, the site authorizes the Seller to ship the merchandise. Seller submits tracking information to Buyer and the site. verifies shipment.
  5. The Buyer has limited days to inspect and accept the merchandise.
  6. Once the Buyer accepts, sends the Seller a check.
Something Lovely: How to Buy a Pre-Owned Wedding Dress Online