Why are wedding gowns so expensive? The experts weigh in

Joyce Young Design Studios satin dress
Satin dress with embroidered detachable train, £POA, Joyce Young Design Studios

If we had a penny for each time someone grilled us about the seemingly extravagant cost of nuptials, we’d be able to host a big day every weekend from now until the end of the year.

It’s always a hot topic, with couples being routinely questioned and shamed about their budget, no matter which end of the spectrum they’re sitting at – and right now it’s almost turning into a competition, who can spend the least, rather than the most, on their wedding.

The thing is, there’s a very good reason for those price tags, tags that suppliers, in actual fact, agonise over. You’re paying for people’s hard-earned skills and invaluable time, for ever more expensive ingredients and materials (cheers, Brexit), for vast quantities and venue maintenance, and for event management on a scale you’ve likely never experienced before.

Bespoke two piece by AJR Designs
Bespoke two-piece, made to order, AJR Designs (Photo: PJ Phillips Photography)

Nowhere is this truer than with the gown. If the most you’ve ever spent on occasionwear in the past is, understandably, around the £100 mark, of course wedding dresses in the region of £1,000-£3,000 are going to be spenny in comparison. So why exactly do they cost this much? A few of Scotland’s top designers shed some light.

“The fabrics, for one thing, play a big part. Laces, silks and beaded fabrics are pricey because they are high quality and time-consuming to make. Cheaper dresses often won’t offer layers and support and use fabrics that are much thinner and simpler.

“When I design a gown, the amount of time it takes to make sure that everything is done to an exacting standard is substantial. Of course, less costly options are available, but you’ll find that something, somewhere has been compromised.”
Ailsa Rendell, AJR Designs

Glitterati bespoke gown
Bespoke gown with trumpet sleeves and full train, made to order, Glitterati (Photo: Boyd Photographers)

“It is important to understand how much talent, time and money goes into producing British-made bridal gowns. Designers firstly have to get to know their customer, take on their ideas and assure them they are on the same page by supplying research and sketches.

“This can be a long process, especially if it’s an unusual piece. Fabric also has to be sourced and a mock-up of the design is then developed – all before manufacturing can begin. Construction can take anything from days to weeks, depending on the complexity of the garment. All in all, if you want quality and UK provenance, expect to pay more than gowns mass-produced overseas. I believe it’s definitely worth it.”
Catriona Garforth-Dev, Catriona Garforth Bridal and CG Loves

“A wedding gown is not simply a ‘white dress’: it’s the quality and quantity of the materials used, the internal structure and boning, the underskirts, the linings and the workmanship. These are the basics.

“If you decide to go bespoke, your dress will be individually cut from a new pattern (based on your measurements), and machined and fitted by a highly trained expert. If you’re smart with the fabrics (provided they don’t compromise the dress), it’s possible for a bespoke gown to come in on budget.”
Moira Withers, Glitterati

Klara dress and Kate duster jacket from CG Loves
Klara stretch crepe dress, from £769.99, and Kate duster jacket, £449.99, both CG Loves

“What does ‘expensive’ mean to you? A lot of money to one person isn’t necessarily the same to another. It’s all subjective. A bespoke dress will usually have a higher cost and there are plenty of reasons for this.

The process begins with a sketch. Fabrics – normally silks, quality laces or embroideries – are bought in especially. There will be several fittings, the first in a toile, followed by one in silk once it’s cut. It is very labour-intensive, but the end result is an immaculately fitted dress.”
Joyce Young, Joyce Young Design Studios

Pamela Fraser Designs gowns
From left: Ruby silk viscose mix fit-and-flare gown with open back, £1,100, and Daisy gown with floral bodice, high neck and cap sleeves, £1,250, both Pamela Fraser Designs (Photo: Photography by Emilie)

“At first glance, a bespoke wedding gown may seem extortionate. But the cost is based on the personal service offered, as well as the sourcing of beautiful fabrics, pattern cutting to produce a toile, the expertise and the hours spent actually making the dress.

From my perspective, having a bespoke gown made is value for money, compared to buying off-the-peg and then having to shell out even more for alterations. People think having a gown made is out of their reach, but I disagree. It offers flexibility.”
Pamela Fraser, Pamela Fraser Designs