General Info, Wedding Tips

7 Ways to Save Money on Bridesmaid Dresses

Theres a few ways you can save money on your bridesmaid dresses, but still get the look you want.

We know that wedding dresses can be (very) expensive. What may surprise some people is the cost of the bridesmaid dress or outfit too. In NZ, an average spend on a bridesmaid dress is anywhere between $100 to $400 – that’s a lot to think about, especially since there usually are two or three people to buy for.

Bridesmaid outfits typically aren’t created to be scene-stealers; the bride should be in the spotlight. Perhaps the most famous bridesmaid dress of all time was Pippa Middleton’s; her Sarah Burton designed dress cost between $5,000 and $15,000. While it didn’t steal the spotlight, it definitely stole a few headlines, and caused a number of Google searches for her derrière.

Why Are Bridesmaid Dresses So Expensive?

Stick the word ‘wedding’ in front of any service or product, and it suddenly doubles in price. That’s largely because that’s what we are willing to pay for things; in theory, you’ll only get married once so might as well make sure it’s done right. And, that includes beautiful bridesmaid dresses.

You can, of course, ask your bridesmaid to chip in to cover the cost, but they may not be able to afford to. Ignore the old ‘hem it and you’ll wear it again’ trope… most bridesmaid outfits are only good for one outing, and then they are consigned to the back of the wardrobe.

Ways to Save Money on Bridesmaid Outfits

Luckily, there are a few ways you can cut the cost of your bridesmaid outfits and have a more affordable solution that still looks great.

1. Rent

Not only are you saving the world by reusing a gown, you’re saving money. You’ll find rental shops in most major cities, and there are some online too. The downside of these gowns is that you can’t do significant alterations.

2. Buy Second Hand

If you’ve only got one bridesmaid, or you’re not set on matchy-matchy, go op-shopping. Even better if one of you has some experience sewing or designing, so you can see if something could be altered to make something amazing.

If you don’t have the time and patience required for opshopping, often you can find whole bridesmaid dress sets for sale on TradeMe or Facebook marketplace. It’s a sustainable way to find your bridesmaid outfits without costing an arm and a leg.

3. Buy Online

Buying dresses online isn’t the risky proposition it used to be. There are plenty of reputable shops online that can provide dresses without having to pay for the bricks-and-mortar store overheads. Many of them also can send you sample dresses to your home before you commit. This means you can assess the quality, the style, and make sure the colours are what you want, all in the comfort of your home.

4. Keep It Simple

The more complicated the dress is, the more it will cost. That means lace, luxe fabrics, sequins, beading, crystals, and designs with lots of tailoring are going to cost more. Choosing a simple design with an easy-to-wear fabric like chiffon helps keep those costs down.

5. Buy Off the Rack at an Affordable Store

We all love Forever New, but it’s not the most affordable option. There are plenty of stores in NZ that provide economical dresses; it’s just that sometimes they can look poor quality. If you start your shopping early, and don’t have a set idea in mind, you may find some amazing bargains that could look incredible, especially with tailoring and adding some details.

6. Wait for a Sale

If you’ve got a bit of time up your sleeve, you can always wait for a sale. If it’s a retail store, you could be gambling a bit because your dresses might be sold before that. Big retail sales tend to happen at the end of each season, Black Friday (the day after the American thanksgiving), Easter, and Waitangi Day.

7. Mix It Up

If you want identical dresses for your bridal party, it starts to limit you in terms of what you can buy. The more limited the selection, the bigger the cost gets. If you are happy to allow them to mix up the colour or style a bit, you’ll find much cheaper options. And, it can look really smart too; black dresses (which in general are the exception to the rule and can be worn again) can look great and cohesive together, while still allowing for individual style.

Remember Other Bridesmaid Costs

It’s important to remember there are other costs involved with your bridesmaid’s overall look. The dress might be the biggest cost, but you’ll need to pay for more than just a dress.

Dress Alterations

Regardless if you spent $30 or $3,000, there will be alterations. This isn’t just things like hem adjustments, but it’s about making the dress fit your bridesmaids. If your attendant has a gorgeous hourglass figure, it’ll need the waist tailored in to give her shape. If it’s a strapless dress, it may need adjustments around the bust in order for it to stay up comfortably, without your bridesmaid tugging on it all day.

The more alterations, and the more complex/embellished the dress is, the more expensive it becomes,

However, this can make the day much more comfortable for the bridal party and elevates the look from ‘Budget Shein’ to ‘luxe’.


Shoes, bags, and jewellery are as important as the dress itself. Also the underwear; a good strapless bra is worth every cent and provides comfort and support. There’s also the bouquet, any headgear, and makeup and hair.

It quickly adds up, so make sure you budget accordingly.

Number One Tip For Saving Money on Bridesmaid Dresses

Don’t leave shopping until the last minute. The enemy of good budgets is stress and the time crunch. Avoid this completely by starting shopping early, finding out what you want, and giving yourself plenty of time to wait for the sales, or the right dress top pop up on TradeMe.

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