Gently Used Wedding Gowns — More than a Fashion Statement
You can use eBay and Craigslist to buy anything from boats to aquariums to musical instruments. And when it comes to your wedding day, you can use them to buy your dress, centerpieces, or other décor — but huge Internet marketplaces make this task seem daunting. Some sites, like PreOwned Wedding Dresses, Recycled Bride, and Bride Share, and have narrowed the focus to make online shopping for gently used wedding items simple for brides-to-be.
PreOwned Wedding Dresses: Vera Wang and David’s Bridal All in One Place
After struggling to sell her wedding dress, Josie Daga was inspired to start a website to help brides with the same problem. Daga first attempted to sell her dress on eBay, but received $200 bids for her $3,000 gown.
“I had no intention of starting the site, but I couldn’t sell my dress!” says Daga, who launched PreOwned Wedding Dresses in 2004. Running the site is now her fulltime job.
Daga doesn’t think it’s difficult to convince brides to buy a used dress for their big day. “It’s a dress that’s only been worn ONE time — it’s not a big deal,” she points out.
With over 4,000 dresses and 125 designers — from Vera Wang to David’s Bridal — brides have a wide range of choices. About one-half of the dresses are listed at $1,000 or less, making the decision to buy used even easier.
For a bride considering selling her wedding gown, Daga suggests pricing it at 50 percent off its original cost — if it’s less than three years old and in good condition.
Selling time can take up to a year, but averages at 70 days, Daga notes. “A really hot dress, I’ve seen sell in a single day, though,” she says.
The listing fee for Daga’s site is $25, which helps pay for promotion. PreOwned Wedding Dresses is the top Google search result for “used wedding dresses.”
When buying a dress, Daga recommends Escrow.com for payment. It acts as an intermediary between the buyer and seller, offering protection for both parties.
A notable feature of the site allows users to save a list of their favorite dresses, which show up when they log on. If one of the dresses on the list drops in price, the user is notified via e-mail. It’s also easy to find the perfect dress because of the organized sections, like Dresses We Love, New This Week, Most Viewed, and Best Deals.
Besides dresses, Daga’s site also sells secondhand accessories.
Daga authors three blog posts each week. “I like to write about things that help you cut your budget without looking like it,” she says. Her blog features sections like Budget Ideas, Buying and Selling Safely, and Green Weddings. Emily’s Bride Blog appears on Wednesdays: A real-life bride writes about her experiences planning her upcoming nuptials.
One of Daga’s clever budget-cutting tips is to set tables for ten instead of eight. With fewer tables, there’s less cost for rentals and linens. Brides won’t have to worry as much about cutting their guest lists — and no one will notice the change.
The ecopreneur has trouble picking a favorite from the many dresses she’s seen on the site, and proclaims, “I’m a sucker for weddings!” She does mention a dress by Catherine Walker, a British designer who worked with Princess Diana.
People want beautiful dresses, no matter their financial circumstances. Daga says there’s “no question” that the negative economy has positively impacted her site. “The economy has helped people focus on practicality,” she says. “Buying a brand-new dress is impractical. After the recession ends, I hope the new sense of practicality lingers.”
Recycled Bride: One-Stop Shopping
Tracy DiNunzio lived in Mexico and attended the Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende while working toward her master’s degree in fine arts for painting and printmaking. There, she was inspired by the locals’ outlook toward their personal belongings.
“It was a different culture,” DiNunzio recalls. “They look at stuff differently. They don’t throw things away. So, I stopped throwing away things that could be re-used.”
This increased awareness was an inspiration for her site, Recycled Bride. The site acts as a marketplace where brides-to-be can buy used wedding dresses, décor, and rings, among other items. Brides whose weddings have come and gone can sell their gently used items.
“I also launched the site because I wanted to do something with an environmental twist,” DiNunzio says. She likes knowing that brides who use her site feel good about what they’re doing. “For me, it’s something that’s very positive,” she comments. “It creates good karma and good energy around your wedding.”
The site launched in September 2009, and is expanding at a rapid-fire pace. Over 1,000 members now browse the more than 1,500 listings on the site. DiNunzio says that membership is more than doubling each month, and web traffic has been out of control. The first week of January saw more than 5,000 visitors.
Like Daga, she believes that the recession has impacted her site in a good way. She notes that she’s seen a lot of sellers. “More people want to sell their stuff to make money,” she says. “It’s a big motivator.” She shares Daga’s hope that once the economy rebounds, the trend toward buying resale items stays.
After her own 2008 nuptials, DiNunzio realized that she had way too much leftover stuff that she didn’t need. She ended up selling everything except for one of her two wedding dresses and her shoes, which she dyed black and wears all the time.
DiNunzio says that the most popular category on her site is wedding dresses. Wedding dresses are the most expensive item, so that’s why brides want to buy them used. A lot of women find beautiful, luxurious dresses they love but can’t afford. Instead of buying a new, cheap wedding dress, they look for a gently used luxurious dress.
DiNunzio also authors a blog on her site which was recently named a Top 100 Wedding Blog by BrideTide. There, she writes about environmental issues and provides tips for stylish, eco-friendly, budget-conscious weddings. She also writes about relationships and lifestyle.
She notes a recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency, which says that 44 percent of greenhouse gases are emitted from manufacturing and transporting non-food related products. Because of this, she says that when you buy a product, you should look at how much use you will get out of it. When you buy new items for a wedding, they will only be used once for about eight hours.
Bride Share: The Online Wedding Co-op
Dana LaRue started blogging about planning her budget-friendly wedding in May 2008 on The Broke-Ass Bride. She posted an idea about starting an online wedding co-op, and the interest from readers inspired her to launch BrideShare.net in July 2009.
BrideShare is set up like a social networking site. Brides create profiles to browse other brides with similar taste or in a similar location. Through these connections, they can then share décor, glassware, etc.
“The main point of the site is to facilitate those introductions,” LaRue says. Brides can also buy and sell items.
Brides who use this site are typically arranging their own weddings. With the recession, they also have to be more creative. “The trend in weddings is going toward people trying to express themselves,” says LaRue. “The best way to do this is to be involved in the wedding planning.”
LaRue sees a lot of brides trying to share small items like candles, linens, stemware, baskets, and paper for invitations. Some popular items she’s also noticed are lanterns and vases. She points out that buying in bulk is cost-effective.
Like Daga and DiNunzio, LaRue has also had brides list their wedding dresses for sale on her site.
“People are becoming less attached to keeping it forever and having their kids wear it,” she explains.
For her own wedding, LaRue was contacted by another bride whose wedding was scheduled two months later at the same venue. The other bride offered to share most of the décor items and split the cost. This ended up saving each bride about $2,000.
LaRue felt flattered that the other bride had approached her and liked the design ideas on her website. With that positive feedback and the money-saving opportunity a site presented, she decided to launch BrideShare. The site now has more than 2,000 members.
LaRue says she never found eBay or Craigslist to be very effective, because people misrepresent items, overcharge, and have hidden motives. But on a site focused solely on wedding planning, everyone has the same motives. It draws people in who are more likely to be trustworthy.
“The site creates a community,” LaRue says.
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