Aside from sample sales, buying a pre-owned wedding dress is a great way to get a steep discount on a designer wedding dress. With steep discounts ranging anywhere from 25-50% off (and more!), websites with pre-owned wedding dresses are also an amazing resource for finding wedding dress styles from previous seasons that are no longer in stock.
While pre-owned wedding dresses are great in theory (hey, it’s just like shopping at a vintage/consignment store, right?!), there are several things you want to consider before buying an online wedding dress, let alone one that has already been worn. Read on for the top 5 tips for buying a pre-owned wedding dress, and the best sites to find them.
1. Go To a Reputable Source
Make sure you’re buying a pre-owned wedding dress from a reputable website. Not only will some resale websites protect you from a misrepresented listing (like Tradesy) or offer returns, but most will do their best to block potential/known scammers. Reputable websites will also have or work with a payment method that will protect both parties (like Escrow.com, which holds the money as neutral third party until the payment clears and the buyer has received the dress). Our favorite (safe) sites for pre-owned wedding dresses are NearlyNewlywed.com, OnceWed, Tradesy and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.
2. A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words
I would give dresses with pictures of the seller actually wearing it more clout than listings with photos taken from other sites. It’s not to say that listings with photos of a model wearing the dress aren’t real, I just have to question why a bride wouldn’t include a real-life photo of the wedding dress. If it’s because the seller doesn’t want to share a personal wedding photo online for everybody to see, ask if she has one she can e-mail you. Better yet, see if the seller will FaceTime with you and show you the dress.
3. History Lesson
Most pre-owned wedding dress sites will list the dresses’ history (IE: I’m the first owner, etc.). If not, make sure you find out that information before you buy. You’ll want to if the seller is the only one who has worn the dress, if they have the original receipt, what store they bought it from, if the dress has any visible wear and tear (such as dirt on the bottom), and if the dress has been cleaned (or altered, as mentioned below).
4. Measure. And Measure Again.
If you find a dress you like online you need to a) find out how true to size the designer typically runs and b) what alternations were made to the dress (if any). You also need to know what the current measurements of the dress are. When in doubt you’re better off going a size up vs. down since you will have better luck taking the dress in vs. out. Also, as a tall lady I will also warn you other tall ladies that length is not something that is easily added. Be sure to ask the bride for her personal measurements as well to see how you compare. Tip: Don’t take your personal measurements at home. Go to your local tailor and have them measure you for a wedding dress.
5. Return to Sender
While some sellers and websites offer risk-free returns (like NearlyNewlyweds.com, which is pretty awesome) or returns with a small re-stocking fee, others won’t. Make sure you find out not only if returns are accepted, but where it’s being shipped from, who pays for shipping (and returns), and how it will be packaged.
6. Send Your Payment…Carefully
I once made the mistake of buying something from Etsy with a CHECK. Yes, a CHECK. How dumb is that? Don’t make the mistake I made, which resulted in a cashed check and no reclaimed wood console for me. Credit cards are best in terms of protection (a check or money order offers zero), but since most personal sellers can’t accept one make sure you pay with reputable source such as Escrow.com if dealing with an individual seller (which protects both parties, as mentioned above). I would also be weary of dealing with Paypal for a purchase this big, as they send the seller your payment before your dress is received.