Style & Fashion

Online Retailers And Startups Are Changing The Wedding Market

Written by Timothy Werth

Online retailers are shaking up the wedding market. According to the New York Times, entrepreneurs are finally getting a leg up in the wedding market as clientele turn toward casual and inexpensive trends.

Recent reports have shown that the wedding apparels market is set to expand dramatically by 2025. The USPTO received 500,000 patent applications just last year. But weddings in today’s market have been changing just as much.

Bogged down by student loan debt, credit card debt, and other financial insecurities, many couples are reluctant to spend a lot of money on their wedding ceremonies. In fact, in lieu of wedding gifts, many wedding couples have asked instead for donations toward a down payment on a house.

But there’s a difference between not having the finances for a big wedding ceremony and not wanting to celebrate your love. And that’s where entrepreneurs are making a niche for themselves.

By using technology, entrepreneurs like Leslie Voorhees Means are changing the wedding dress shopping experience and even the ability to for brides to customize their dresses.

“The whole premise is that a wedding dress is the most special garment a woman will buy, but it’s sold by a broken market with low customer satisfaction,” said Means. Means founded the custom-made wedding gown startup Anomalie with her husband Calley in 2016.

The average cost of a wedding gown in the U.S. is $1,509, according to online registry and planning site The Knot. And that’s without any alterations. In comparison, the groom’s suit costs only $286 on average.

Calisa Hildebrand, a communications consultant in San Francisco, said that when she asked to make alterations on a dress in a standard wedding boutique, the price of the dress skyrocketed to $3,000 to $3,500.

“It’s supposed to be a wonderful moment,” said Hildebrand about finding the perfect wedding dress, “but it was mortifying.”

Hildebrand later purchased a dress at Anomalie for $1,500 where the average cost for a custom-made gown is only $1,400. For Means, the goal is to give brides the ability to wear a wedding dress they love without going so over-budget that the couple can’t pay for caterers or wedding jewelry.

Caterers serve party sizes of 100 to 250 people on average and less than a third of couples are willing to spend over $1,000 on diamond jewelry. If a wedding dress goes over budget, the couple might not be able to afford either.

But budgeting for a custom wedding dress in the U.S. isn’t the only problem brides are facing, which is where Chicago-based startup Brideside comes in. Brideside, founded in 2014, is an online retailer that sells designer dresses and accessories for the entire bridal party in one place.

“We developed the brand with best friends in mind, knowing that they had different budgets, different tastes, and different sizes,” said Brideside co-founder Nicole Staple.

Staple and co-founder Sonali Lamba said they know from experience that it’s difficult to get the bridal party together during the planning process because they’re not always in the same city.

Brideside allows them to choose bridesmaid dresses and accessories together with the help of stylists who can advise their customers both online and in person. This is especially convenient because 50% of cell phone users use their phone as their primary Internet source.

Online rental service Rent the Runway has also recently entered the bridal market to offer brides the chance to rent their gowns. Founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, the company doesn’t currently offer classic gowns but rents long or short dresses that can be worn for less formal weddings.

“At this time, we don’t rent traditional bridal gowns, as we know many brides want their wedding day dresses tailored, and we don’t have that option with Rent the Runway at the moment,” said Hyman.

“We’ve heard from brides that they’d love to have the option to rent a wedding gown, so you never know what we will do in the future,” Hyman said. “If the demand is there, nothing is ruled out.”

About the author

Timothy Werth