Online services have taken the scene by storm. Just think about it — how much time do you spend shopping online? Searching for the perfect boots, work attire, cocktail dress, etc. By the time you realize it, you’re already 35 pages deep into Macy’s shoe section. With the uprising of online shopping, consumers are looking for simple and convenient services that won’t take a lot of time out of their day-to-day schedules. Whether you’re the one getting married or you’ve been shopping around for your wedding, you’ve probably come across websites and designers that are offering bridesmaid dress rentals. It’s the latest in wedding apparel trends and leave a lot of brides and bridesmaids wondering, “but is it worth it?” Well, my friends, I’m here to let you in on some of the secrets of buying, renting, what all goes into the process, and what I honestly think is worth your while. From the style options to the pricing, here’s everything you need to know about bridesmaid dress rentals.
To write the article, I definitely did my research. I looked at the policies and programs of four different dress rental companies and summed everything up from how the buying process works down to pricing. There are four main categories and I’ve given a winner to each one. However, this is based on opinion, so some of you might totally disagree with my preference and that’s totally okay! Buying and renting both have their pluses and minuses so it’s all about finding which method will work best for you. Now that that little disclaimer is out of the way…let the battle begin!
Renting: If you’re looked into renting bridesmaid dresses, you’ve probably already noticed that the number of different styles is very, very limited. Think about it, when a company chooses to start a rental service, there is a lot that goes along with it. They have to have a huge inventory with a warehouse to store them in, they need to pay for dry-cleaning after each use, and they also have to cover your shipping fees. That really cuts into their potential profit so the less styles they have, the safer off their business will be. Unless it’s a company like Rent the Runway, most sites only offer 5-10 styles available for rent so the options for styles, colors, and even size are going to be fairly limited.
Buying: Your options are pretty much endless! As long as your wedding date isn’t too close, you can buy any dress from any shop or website and feel confident that you had a large range of options to choose from and that all your bridesmaids will be guaranteed the same style in their perfect size!
Winner: BUYING. This is hands down the winner You get way more options and will have a much easier time outfitting your entire bridal party, especially if the girls are a broad range of sizes.
Renting: This really will depend on the company that you’re going through. However, the majority go a little something like this: You browse their selections online, fill out a form (anywhere from 3 months before the wedding date to just a couple weeks before), submit your requested dress, color, and size, and based on availability, that style will be shipped to you, roughly 3-5 days before the event date. Many companies are now even offering a second size, free of charge, just in case the size you originally requested doesn’t fit. After the wedding, you ship back the dress in the pre-packaged envelope that they provided, and you’re done.
Buying: The process of buying a bridesmaid dress is really similar to shopping for anything else online. You browse the online selection, select the style, color, and size that you need, and place your order. Because most wedding apparel is manufactured overseas and almost all dresses are not made until the order is placed, shipping can take anywhere from 8-14 weeks. If you’re unsure about size or style, a company like Kennedy Blue, offers an At Home Try-On service that allows you to try on the dress(es) you’d like to order before you buy! Each At Home Try-On kit includes up to three bridesmaid dresses or one bridal gown, a measuring tape for sizing, and any fabric swatch colors of your choice.
Winner: BUYING. Overall, the process is just a lot simpler and more convenient. Rather than stressing over sending back the dresses and not knowing whether the sizes you rented will even work, I’d feel way more relaxed knowing that the dress I ordered is exactly what I want.
Renting: Renting a dress is obviously going to be cheaper than actually buying. Most companies price the dresses between $75 - $115, which is still a substantial amount for a dress that’s only going to be worn one night and can never be worn again. While shipping is included, be mindful of any damage or late fee’s that can increase the cost anywhere from $25 - the full retail price of the dress.
Buying: Depending on the style, most bridesmaid dresses can run anywhere between $100 - $300. Spendy? I know. Kennedy Blue's dresses all fall within the $145-$190 range so they are way more affordable than other brands. However, although the dresses come at a higher cost, they also become a permanent part of your wardrobe! Don’t believe they can be worn again? Make sure to pick a style that actually has re-styling potential and head over to the Kennedy Blue Instagram for inspiration on how to wear your dress again.
Winner: TIE. It’s clear that renting is 100% the cheaper option if you’re looking at price and only price so i’ll definitely give it that. However, depending on the dress that you order, the price difference may not be that significant and being able to re-wear your dress is a serious advantage in my book. For instance, I’m a bridesmaid in an upcoming wedding and we were all told to choose our own short black dress. Although mine is technically a bridesmaid dress (I picked Kennedy Blue’s Harper!), I chose a dress that I loved and that I would wear again!
Renting: Let’s just put it this way, if you’re renting a dress and it doesn’t quite fit…welp…too bad! Although most companies offer an additional free size, there’s always the chance that the neither size is going to fit you just right. In fact, bridesmaid dresses are made to fit a broad range of girls! A size 6 needs to fit a girl who’s 5’2” and girl who’s 5’9” so whether it’s a hem or a slight strap adjustment, alterations are almost always going to be expected.
Buying: With services like the At Home Try-On, you're able to try on a dress and take your measurements to find our what size would truly fit you best. Obviously, once you own the dress, it’s yours to do whatever you may please, so alter at your hearts desire! However, just know that once the dress is altered, it can’t be returned so make sure you find a good quality, affordable seamstress that you trust!
Winner: BUYING. Although alterations are kind of a huge pain and an extra expense, they are totally worth it. As a bride or bridesmaid, you’re going to be in a ton of pictures and standing up in front of a heck of a lot of people, so ensuring that your dress fits properly is going to be key! You don’t want to look back at pictures and be totally embarrassed by how frumpy your top looked or how you kept tripping over that extra long skirt.
Keep in mind, even though I am totally “team buy”, there are definitely bridal parties where rentals are going to be a better option! For instance it might be great for parties where everyone chooses their own style, brides who are looking for high-end ready-wear looks for their maids, or parties who are in need a dresses quicker than a retailer can manufacture them. However, for wedding parties that are looking for a more traditional look, buying is definitely going to be the better option. You’ll have more options for styles, colors, and sizing, you can get the dress to fit perfectly how you want, and you’ll be able to re-style it and wear it again.
Let’s Chat! What are you and your bridal party planning to do for the big day? Does renting sound like the better option for your ‘maids or will you all be purchasing your dresses?
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Taking Your Measurements
For the most accurate measurements, do not measure over your clothing. Your measurements should be taken while wearing undergarments similar to the ones you will wear with your dress. The measuring tape shouldn’t be pulled too tight or have too much slack, and should always be parallel with the floor.
Wedding apparel is typically sized differently than retail clothing, so keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to find yourself requiring alterations.
Wrap the tape around your back and under your arms at the fullest part of your bust (not underneath the bust).
While standing up straight, bend at the waist to one side. Take the measurement where the natural crease happens in your side. This should be a few inches above your belly button. Stand up straight and do not “suck in” when taking this measurment.
Standing with your feet together, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips and butt to get this measurement.
Compare these three measurements to the Kennedy Blue size chart above. It is very important that you order the largest size that corresponds to your measurements. For example, if your bust measures 40.5” (size 12), your waist measures 31” (size 10) and your hips measure 41.5” (size 8), we advise that you order a size 12, and get your dress altered down to custom fit your body.
Depending on the fabric, a dress can be altered down up to 2 full sizes, but can be very difficult to let out as there is only about .5 inch of fabric to do so at the seams.