Buying vs. renting a wedding dress - the pros and cons

Out of all the things you’re budgeting for when it comes to your wedding, your bridal gown is one of the most expensive items for sure.

But, when it comes to buying or hiring, which is the better option?

Arguably, from a budgeting point of view, renting is cheaper, but what needs to be taken into account is that this often comes with contracts. And it’s those terms that could be very tricky to navigate.

On the other hand, buying a dress is also no trip to Mandalay. Ask yourself: is it worth purchasing an expensive gown if you’re only wearing it once? And what about the hidden costs you didn’t budget for?

Here’s a handy guide to help you decide.

Buying a dress


You’re not restricted in terms of choice and making alterations

Once you buy the dress, you can alter it to your heart’s content. Sometimes you have to make size adjustments or you might want to add some more detail to your dress, and if the dress is yours you can add and remove details at will. Your creativity options are wide open.

Also, if you damage your dress, like spilling red wine on it, then you won’t have to worry about costs.

Obviously no one wants this kind of thing to happen on their big day, but at least you know that you don’t have to be on edge all the time, wondering how much you’ll have to pay after you return the dress in less than a perfect state.

Your dress options are a lot wider

Certain shops only allow you to rent from a pre-selected range of gowns. This means you’ll have to search more extensively when you’re renting, whereas if you buy a dress, you won’t have to limit yourself. 

Also, according to, in many cases dresses come in specific sizes, so once you select your dress, you won’t have much room to make any alterations – unless you have permission.


It’s more expensive

Wedding dresses can easily cost up to a R100 000 or more, so you need to carefully consider whether you can afford it.

You’re only going to wear it once

Bridal gowns aren’t what one would call an investment. Sure, it could be seen as an heirloom piece to be handed down to a daughter or niece some day, but it’s not like you’re going to be wearing the dress to an event any time soon.

Dress maintenance costs money

So now that you have the wedding dress, you can’t just pack it away and let it gather dust. Nor can you simply throw it in the washing machine.  

According to it’s usually always best to seek out the services of a professional wedding preservationist who will - based on the type of material and embellishments on your dress - judge which method will work best to remove stains and to get it looking as pristine as possible. 

Renting a wedding dress


The cost

This one’s a no brainer. You save a lot of money by choosing to rent your dress instead of buying.

According to, some rentals also include accessories like veils and tiaras in comparison to bridal boutiques where you have to usually purchase them separately.

Storage space won’t be an issue

The great thing about renting is that while you need to ensure that the dress is picture perfect when you return it, you don’t have to deal with maintaining the quality or using a (sometimes) large amount of space required to store a wedding dress.  


Liability costs

Big tip: if you are renting, make sure that when you receive the gown, you take photos of its condition, as proof. Check to see if there are any other marks or spots on the dress, make note of them and report it to the rental service so that they won’t charge you if you got the dress in a less than stellar condition.

You shouldn’t get a dress that is damaged, but it never hurts to be careful.

You won’t have the dress as a physical reminder of your day

Yes there are photos, but nothing beats being able to take your dress out on a whim to examine and relive the moment while you’re holding your dress.

Alterations are limited (or sometimes not allowed)

If you do need alterations, a few boutiques might offer to make adjustments at a cost, but otherwise, giving your gown a personalised touch probably won't be possible.

Did you buy or rent your wedding gown? Which would you recommend to brides-to-be? We’d love to hear from you.

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