You made the heartfelt choice to part with your wonderful wedding dress but now you have another choice – sell it or donate it? While your mother’s generation of yesteryear saved their dresses for their daughters, your daughters will act the same. Customs and fashion have forever changed. Some brides today also have a sensibility of wanting to give their dress a second life, of wanting others less financially strong to enjoy their dress. By default, but also primary for some, this process also promotes recycling as a new dress is not required to be manufactured.
You’ve made the decision to get rid of the dress, determine how much time and energy you want to allot (listing on different websites, interacting or waiting months answering questions, etc). If you don’t want to have to deal with all of that and you want to help a charity cause, donating is better. You may want to consider Brides Against Breast Cancer as they have been around since 1997. Click here to fill out your dress donation form.
The natural instinct for a bride is to simply sell their dress. You paid lots of money for your dress so why not recover some of it back? But you ask “how much is my wedding dress worth?” As someone that has overseen the selling of 1,000s of preowned wedding dresses, the rule of thumb is to sell for 50% of what you bought it for. Not bad right? The Couture or trendier dresses may sell for a little more and lower priced ones for less. But now the hard part of deciding how much money and effort do you want to spend to sell the dress?
The typical effort to sell a dress is likely much more grueling than you realize. While a few people will sell their dress quickly this is not the norm. Pulling from lots of personal experience of selling directly or through websites as well as industry knowledge, with less than 20% of dresses selling within a year that will mean you will likely spend one year on this venture. After an ad is placed, think of all the time needed to monitor the ad, reply to the inquiries, and deal with all types of buyer prospects at all times of the day. Then once you think it is sold, about 50% of the time the buyer will return your dress and additionally there’s a chance it got damaged when it was tried on. Many first time brides are not clear that wedding dress sizes need to be normal size plus four so when they try a dress on damage can occur. Other potential selling problems are shipping costs and potential shipping damage.
The risk is not just in the time invested. An unsold dress can be lots of hassle, it uses up storage space at your home, and it will lose financial value over this year. The sooner you decide to sell your dress the better. Most dresses older than 3 years are VERY hard to sell, again wedding fashion is fickle. When most people reach the one year mark in total frustration, they either just dump the dress for a cheaper-than-normal price or even drop off to Goodwill where it has a lot lower chance for a second life.
Brides ask why is it so hard to sell a used wedding dress? Because many dresses can be bought new online cheaply and conversely pre-owned dresses only appeal to a small but increasing percentage of brides. Most women want a new dress for their special day. Donating tends to save time and allows you to share the love of your dress with another bride.
COST TO ADVERTISE YOUR DRESS RANGE FROM FREE TO PAYING A FEE TO PAYING 50% OF SALE PRICE
There are a lot of options and they have different costs.
- List for free on a classified site like Craigslist or Facebook marketplace.
- List for free, but pay 50% of the sale price, like with consignment.
- List for a fixed fee, typically $20-$50 all-in, but you keep sale proceeds.
- Donate to general charity, like Goodwill, and get a tax receipt.
- Donate to a wedding dress charity, like Brides Against Breast Cancer, get a tax receipt, and give your dress a second life with another bride.
Let’s explore all of these options in depth.
YOU PAY NO UPFRONT FEE TO ADVERTISE YOUR WEDDING DRESS
The old traditional method was finding a bridal salon or consignment store to sell on consignment. This cost nothing upfront takes no ongoing time commitment, and you have the comfort of having a personal relationship with the reseller. They earn 50% of proceeds so if the dress sold for 50% of retail then you get 25% of what you paid). Unfortunately, stores selling wedding dresses on consignment shops are decreasing and not all are run very well. I am told about 50% of dresses will sell as there is also a markdown period.
Over the past 10 years, a few wedding dress rental companies emerged and disappeared. The premise is that you could have your gown rented out 2-4 more times and recover up to 50% of the retail price. Major clothing rental companies, such as Rent the Runway, are not strong with wedding dresses as they don’t allow altering which is a MUST for wedding dresses.
You can list an ad on classified websites like Craigslist, eBay, or Facebook Marketplace. Like with paid web listing sites the odds of selling are less than 20% over 12 months.
YOU PAY A FEE TO ADVERTISE YOUR DRESS
Many believe you get what you pay for so maybe paying to advertise is better. So what’s the cost to sell a wedding dress online? You can pay to list your dress on many large wedding dress websites for $20-$30. But as most dresses will not sell quickly you’ll be lured by these sites to spend $10-$50 more in extra promotional ad fees. So likely you’ll spend $30-$80 in total and a ton of time. Many websites say “dresses sell within a year but it depends on the dress, price, condition, etc…” Again this is not the case and most dresses will not sell.
YOU DONATE YOUR WEDDING DRESS TO A GOOD CAUSE WITH A GOOD REPUTATION FOR RESELLING DRESSES
By donating you help a charity cause which is great. When you donate to a wedding dress charity, often with a singular focus such as breast cancer, your dress has a greater chance for a second life. You will also be comforted that you helped another woman buy a nice dress at her needed price, often discounted up to 80%. With the average price of a dress and accessories at $1,900 in 2018, many women simply can’t afford to pay full price.
The type of charities range from general ones such as Goodwill and Salvation Army to wedding dress charities such as Brides Against Breast Cancer and Rachel’s Gifts. Most wedding dress charities support one mission, like breast cancer causes or fabricating baby bereavement dresses. With wedding dress charities you have a higher chance the dress will be used by another bride, versus your dress possibly being packed into a large shipping container box, sold by weight, and sent to a foreign country.
The potential financial benefit of donating is you get a 501c3 donation tax receipt which may help offset your taxes. You need to get professional tax advice. But to share an illustrative example: you bought a dress for $3,000, your tax preparer says you can declare its once-worn value at $2,000 because the reduction of $1,000 was effectively a rental fee. If at a 35% tax bracket, this deduction would allow you to save in 35% of $2,000 or $700 in taxes. This amount is close to the same net cash benefit with other methods but you have helped a worthy charitable cause.
Donating is Easier and Helps a Good Cause While Selling Gets You Cash in Hand But Can Be a Big Hassle
In summary, if you want the most money for your dress then you need to accept there is a high chance you will waste lots of time and hassle during a year period where it won’t sell. If you want the most convenient way to part with your dress and at the same time help a charity and potentially get cash back via a tax deduction, then donating it may be best. Brides Against Breast Cancer has been helping women since 1997. Click here to donate your wedding dress.