Beautiful white wedding dress on bride walking in garden

What Does the Average Wedding Dress Cost?

We Have Answers
BY C&C EDITORS / 11 18 21
Photo by Roberta Facchini Photography

Understanding Wedding Dress Costs

You’ve dreamed about that fantasy wedding gown for months (OK, maybe years), and now it’s finally time to buy The Dress! The one thing you probably weren’t dreaming about? The price tag. No matter your budget, you’re likely wondering what the average wedding dress cost is in order to get an idea of what’s “reasonable”—and what’s not. There are actually no clear-cut guidelines because the average cost of a wedding dress largely depends on your location, the dress designer, the materials used, and a few other key factors. That said, here are some helpful recent statistics:

  • In past years, brides spent an average of $1,631 on a wedding dress—not including accessories or other wedding-related outfits.
  • The average wedding dress cost from luxury and couture designers starts at $2,000 to $4,000, while more affordable bridal shops offer dresses under $500.
  • Wedding dress alterations typically range from $300 to $800.

In any given year, there are about 2.5 million weddings in the United States alone, and every bride has a different budget and spending preference. Which is why we’ve created this detailed guide to understanding the average wedding dress cost today, and broken down how the price is affected by materials, embellishments, alterations, dry cleaning, and more.

Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress on twirling bride
Erika Delgado Photography
Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress with plunging neckline
Larissa Cleveland Photography

1. Average Wedding Dress Cost by Location

Just as the price of a house varies enormously nationwide, so does the average cost of a wedding ceremony and reception. Which means that if you’re choosing between a wedding in Wichita or Washington, DC, your expenses are going to be totally different. That being said, a national average is still a helpful benchmark. So, exactly how much does a wedding cost across the country? According to a recent wedding statistics study, the average American couple spends around $33,931 on their big day.

No surprise, New York City tops the list for most expensive destinations, with couples shelling out an average of $96,910 for ceremonies and receptions in the Big Apple. On the other hand, the least expensive U.S. wedding destination is Idaho, where estimates are closer to around $16,366. You can expect wedding dresses to follow the same trend, with higher prices in expensive urban areas and lower costs in rural locations.

Of course, the average cost of a wedding dress also varies internationally. When crunching the numbers for the United Kingdomthe average wedding dress cost was identified as £2,083, which translates to about $2,955 in U.S. dollars. Bridal gowns in Mexico retail for around 15,000 pesos ($754.84 U.S dollars), while the cost of a wedding dress in Canada is about C$1,500 ($1,241 U.S dollars).

Average Wedding Dress Cost: High-low hem white wedding dress
Benjamin Wheeler

2. Average Wedding Dress Cost by Materials

Now for the fun part, with probably the most variety. There are endless wedding dress fabrics on the market today, ranging from countless types of silk and satin to lace, organza and so much more. As you might expect, not all materials are created equal, and your selection plays a significant role in your wedding dress cost. Brides generally pay more for luxurious fabrics like silk, charmeuse, hand-embroidered lace, and certain types of satin. If you’re looking to reduce the price tag, look for dresses made with blended or synthetic fabrics like polyester, or other lower-cost options like chiffon, taffeta, crepe, and rayon.

The amount of detailing also changes the construction of the dress and the labor that goes into it, which drives up the overall wedding dress cost. Expect the price to rise with the amount of beading, embroidery, appliqués, crystals, and other embellishments. High-quality materials that take hours and hours of labor to create by hand, such as handmade lace, are going to be more expensive than machine-made options.

3. Average Wedding Dress Cost by Designer Brands

What’s in a name? A heck of a lot when it comes to the cost of a wedding dress. Not only are luxury and couture wedding dresses more likely to be made with high-quality (and high-priced) materials, but the designer name in and of itself raises the price tag significantly. The average wedding dress cost is usually between $2,000 and $4,000 for luxury brands, although the most extravagant gowns can exceed $10,000 (Oscar De La Renta gowns cost $14,000 on average). But some luxury designers have multiple collections at different price points, such as Vera Wang Collection, which starts at $2,900, versus the brand’s Luxe Collection which begins at $6,900. Similarly, red carpet favorite Monique Lhullier offers wedding gowns ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 as well as her more conservatively-priced ML Monique Lhuillier line with ready-to-wear pieces (some of which can work as wedding dresses) which retail for  $400-$700.

One way brides can save money is by buying a wedding dress from a licensee designer, usually produced somewhere outside of the U.S. For these mid-range brands, the average wedding dress cost is under $2,000, and they’re more likely to be constructed with synthetic materials and machines. Some examples are Stella York, Morilee, Maggie Sottero, Allure Bridals, and Essence of Australia.

Keep in mind that a custom dress will always be more expensive than a gown you buy off the rack—and most high-end designer wedding gowns are going to be custom-made for you. Custom dresses have many advantages, of course—including the most precise of measurements for your body, and exquisitely handmade details—but the average wedding dress cost for a custom gown is upwards of $6,000. Another factor to keep in mind, newer gowns that are fresh off the runway are going to be higher-priced than gowns from previous seasons, so choosing the most cutting-edge style is just one more thing that can drive up the cost of a wedding dress.

Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress with pink and grey lace embellishments
Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress with tulle trumpet sleeves
Varga Murphy Studio

4. Average Wedding Dress Cost by Budget

But what about the average wedding dress cost for brides on a budget? Many couples don’t have the means to spend thousands (and thousands) on a wedding dress, while others simply prefer casual celebrations that only require a low-key ensemble. After all, a decadent Vera Wang couture gown that’s dripping with beading and lace could feel out of place at an intimate backyard reception. Thankfully, many brands have recognized the growing need for approachably-priced, less formal options, and added budget-conscious wedding dresses to their product lines.

There are a few go-to’s if you’re looking for larger retailers specializing in affordable wedding attire, including David’s Bridal (where the average wedding dress cost is $599), Anthropologie’s BHLDN, and Azazie. Gowns from these shops can still be stunning, but will likely be mass-produced with synthetic fabric in order to keep production costs and price tags low. You can also find excellently priced wedding attire from ready-to-wear retailers, like ASOSLulusModCloth, ReformationRevolveShopbopJ. CrewNordstromEtsy, and even Amazon. The average cost of a wedding dress from one of these retailers generally ranges from $100 to $1,000.

For the savvy deal-hunter who’s looking for a designer dress at a discounted price, discounted spin-offs of high-end  e-commerce sites, like TheOutnet (Net-a-Porter’s discount sister site) and Saks Fifth Avenue’s Saks Off Fifth, are excellent resources for high-end brands for less. Rent the Runway is another great option for budget-conscious brides, where you can borrow designer dresses for a fraction of the cost. And if you’re open to designer resale, or “gently used” options, you can buy a secondhand wedding dress (at a steep discount!) from websites like Still White, Nearly Newlywed, and OnceWed.

Sample designer wedding gowns, which have been tried on (and maybe used for photography) but never purchased, also tend to be less expensive alternatives at bridal boutiques. Searching for local sample sales in your area can also lower the cost of a wedding dress—though bridal sample sales are famously some of the most cutthroat!

Average Wedding Dress Cost: Wedding dress with peach ombre fringed train
Jake Rosenberg

5. Average Wedding Dress Cost… for Celebrities and Royals

Celebrity wedding dresses typically fall into that “luxury” category—because they can! Case in point, the lace Oscar de la Renta gown worn by Amal Clooney, which cost a whopping $380,000. And if you think that’s crazy, consider the custom-made Givenchy gown worn by Kim Kardashian to wed Kanye West, which reportedly cost $500,000.

Let’s not forget the realm of royalty. Like Kate Middleton’s truly unforgettable wedding dress—a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen gown made with premium fabrics like French Chantilly lace and English Cluny lace—which  is estimated to have cost somewhere between $332,00 and $434,000. Or Meghan Markle’s equally iconic wedding dress—an off-the-shoulder long-sleeved Givenchy gown designed by Clare Waight Keller— which was likely around $265,000. And although Princess Diana’s wedding gown by David and Elizabeth Emanuel cost a mere $127,000 in 1981, the equivalent in today’s currency would be closer $490,000—in large part thanks to the 10,000 pearls and a 25-foot train.

Wondering about the most expensive wedding dress of all time? One top contender is the Renee Strauss and Martin Katz 2006 collaboration that featured 150 carats of diamonds. Yes, you read that right. The price of such a resplendently ornate piece of full-body jewelry is said to be anywhere from $12 million to $16.2 million!

6. Average Cost of Wedding Dress Alterations

While you might assume that the cost of a wedding dress starts and finishes with the number listed on the price tag, when budgeting for a wedding dress, it’s important to account for alterations. Nearly every gown needs some sort of tweaking to ensure a picture-perfect fit. The most common alterations include taking the side seams in or out, hemming the skirt, adding ties or buttons for a bustle, mending fabric, shortening straps, inserting bra cups, and adding sleeves.

So how can you anticipate the cost of wedding dress alterations in advance? It really depends. Simple changes, like shortening the hem, may cost anywhere from $100 to $300 (the more layers of fabric, the more labor and cost required). Meanwhile, you could easily pay several hundred dollars for significant alterations to an embellished gown that requires a change in its construction—or even because the simplest of alterations are that much more labor-intensive.

Bridal shops regularly add the cost of wedding dress alterations to the final price tag as a flat fee upon payment. While this drives up the average wedding dress cost, it could possibly save you money down the road, depending on the work you need done. Always do your research and make sure to factor alterations into your budget. Keep in mind that most brides need two or three fittings when altering their gown, so allow plenty of time to avoid additional rush fees.

Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress with bow bell sleeves and satin train
Larisa Shorina Photography
Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress, form fitting with v-neck and pearl detail throughout
515 Photo Co.

7. Additional Expenses for Your Wedding Dress

You’ve already learned about the average cost of a wedding dress and alterations. But depending on the circumstances, some brides may have additional dress-related expenses before and after the big day—specifically shipping and dry cleaning. Here’s what you need to know about the price of shipping a gown, as well as the cost to dry clean a wedding dress.

Wedding Dress Shipping Cost: 

Whether you’re getting married in a faraway destination, or you happened upon your dream dress while shopping out of town, many brides need to ship their wedding gown to or from the wedding destination, which of course, raises the average wedding dress cost total. It’s hard to estimate the exact price since there are so many variables, such as the box size, delivery method, weight (most dresses weigh about five to ten pounds), and distance. But it’s important to note that most retailers will charge additional fees for door-to-door tracking, insurance, and a signature requirement.

Wedding Dress Dry Cleaning Cost: 

Wedding gowns hold precious memories, so many brides want to cherish theirs for years to come—maybe even hoping to pass it down to future brides as a family heirloom. But if your gown is going to stand the test of time, it needs to be properly cared for. The first step is bringing your dress to a specialized dry cleaner within days or weeks of your wedding. They’ll clean your gown with virgin solvent to ensure it doesn’t yellow, crease, or form brown oxidation spots. Different dresses require different cleaning methods, which affects the price of preservation, but you can generally expect the cost to dry clean a wedding dress to fall between $240 and $285.

Average Wedding Dress Cost: Two white wedding dresses, a classic gown and a two piece with lace crop top and full-length skirt
Hannah Costello

BONUS: Wedding Cost Breakdown—What Other Expenses Will You Have?

Of course, the wedding dress cost is just one of many expenses you’ll have on or leading up to your big day. It’s important to understand other estimated payments that may lie ahead so that you can make a budget and plan accordingly. So how much does the average wedding cost? According to a recent study, it comes to around $33,931, and that number continues to climb each year. 

The most expensive element will probably be your wedding venue. The average cost of a wedding venue depends largely on the type of location you choose—such as a country club, barn, luxury resort, local park, botanical garden, or backyard—but some estimates range from $15,000 to $42,000. Venues with more offerings and infrastructure (day-of coordinator, food and drinks, in-house decorations, etc.) will cost more than empty event spaces, though a blank slate can also mean additional costs like restrooms or a remote kitchen. Your chosen wedding venue will also have an indirect impact on your wedding dress cost—for instance, you’re likely to shop for a more formal dress if you’re tying the knot at a big, fancy Texas hotel ballroom than you would for a rustic reception in a refurbished barn.

In terms of all the other wedding vendor costs, you can expect wedding flowers to cost about $2,000 on average, although couples can easily spend more or less depending on the flower arrangements they choose. The typical wedding cake cost is about $500, while photographers tend to charge around $2,000 to $3,000 for a wedding package or day rate. You’ll dish out around $3,700 for a wedding reception band, or you can opt for the slightly lower wedding DJ cost of about $1,200. And while there’s a ton of variety based on who you choose, generally the wedding planner cost is going to be a minimum of $1,500.

Remember that these numbers are the combined national average (inclusive of the very lowest and the very highest rates across the country), plus these elements still only account for a fraction of your wedding day expenses. You’ll also need to budget for catering, transportation, videography, invitations, favors, an officiant, bridal accessories (such as shoes, jewelry, and a veil), the groom’s outfit, and much more. Many brides also like to change into a second dress for the reception or an after-party. Like a puzzle, you can adjust any of these elements to save money or splurge according to your budget—and it’s definitely easier if you understand the average wedding dress cost.

Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress with plunging neckline, lace detail, and long veil
Samm Blake
Average Wedding Dress Cost: White wedding dress with faint peach hue and full tulle skirt
Arrowood Photography

Find Your Dream Wedding Dress on Carats & Cake

We’ve got 10,000+ weddings with endless inspiration so you can see what brides wore at your wedding venue, in your area, or in similar styles, and learn exactly where their dress is from. Planning a mountain top marriage? A long-sleeved lace gown could be dreamy... Is barefoot in the sand more your vibe? A flowy wedding dress in a skin-baring silhouette is perfect for the beach...

No matter what you’re looking for, Carats & Cake has all the inspiration you need and connects you to wedding dress designers and boutiques in your area. We’re here to make the wedding process easier—and more exciting!—at every step of the way.

Average Wedding Dress Cost: Classic white wedding dress with full cascading skirt and open back
Chris Isham