The wedding dress debate: How much is too much to spend on something you'll wear once?

There’s an obvious divide, in a world where weddings, money and fashion collide, between those that value forking out considerable coin on a wedding dress and those who consider the idea ludicrous.

So, in a society where consumerism is at an all-time high and weddings generate billions for the economy, how much should we really be spending?

According to Kathy Apostolidis, Director and planner of Nightingales Weddings, there really isn’t a hard and fast rule.

“There’s no ‘should’ in this equation, it really just comes down to how much can they afford? How much do they want to spend?

“There is no percentage of a wedding budget that someone should be spending, but I can tell you, for my clients, the average cost is between $8,000 and $12,000 for a dress,” she tells Mamamia.

Some of the Mamamia Team share their wedding dresses. (Post continues after gallery…)


Apostolidis acknowledges a “high-percentage” of these gowns are custom-made, therefore explaining why the cost is, objectively, quite high. The wedding planner adds she has noticed brides are spending more and more on their wedding dresses.


“This is their opportunity to get dressed up in that white dress, and for them, it’s like one of the highlights in their world from when they were young.

“They might have had these dreams of wearing that dress, whatever that dream looks like. The dress is the dream factor, and you can’t muck around with the dream factor.”

However, she says not every bride has to spend that much to find a dress they feel happy and confident in.

“Not going custom would definitely be more cost-effective. Also, look out for sample sales. This could be a great opportunity to buy a designer dress you have your eye on.

“The other thing to note, depending on the style, is that there are very beautiful evening dresses that could be worn as a wedding dress. All you need to do is buy a veil and some accessories.”

Apostolidis says any of the major department stores that stock the likes of Zimmermann, Rachel Giblert and Alex Perry might be worth having a look at.

Listen: Jessie Stephens thinks the royal wedding is going to be a waste of money. Post continues after audio.

“They won’t kill your budget but they’re definitely a lot more cost effective.”

So, to get an idea of exactly how much to spend, we asked eight women: How much did you spend?

Simone: $4,500

“For me, it was about being such a mis-match of sizes at the time – so off-the-rack was not an option. My K-cup breasts were not going to fit into anything remotely off-the-rack. At the time I was measured, my ribs measured at a size 12, my waist at a size 14 and my hips at an 18 – but to accommodate my boobs they were going to have to take a size 22 and cut it down. It just would have been a hot mess.


“So, I went to a dress maker and had something designed and made to fit for me. It had a strapless bra built into the bodice so for the first time in my life size I was about an 11. I didn’t have to wear a bra and that opened up so many more style options.

“And in the end the whole experience of having a dress made for you is delightfully fun.

“I recommend everyone to do it at least once.”

Lisa: $6,000

“I paid $6000 but sold it right after for $4000. Soooooo, $2000, really?”

Sam: $750

“I paid $750 for my wedding dress. And it was silk and custom made. It was very simple. But that was 15 years ago… F*ck I’m old. I was a child bride!”

Jen: $3,500

“I got stung by the cost of the veil that cost almost $1,000.

“My dress was made only because it was actually cheaper then buying off the rack and getting alterations.”

Alana: $5,000

“Mine was expensive because it was Italian lace, had embroided beading and was pure silk (Elizabeth Devarga). I think I spent about $1,ooo of the $5,000 on my veil (Peter Trends) plus a headband.


“Then there’s the jewellery, shoes etc. My justification was just that it was my wedding. I thought that was a good enough excuse.”

Jackie: $990

“Mine was $990 from Carla Zampatti, I bought it at David Jones off-the-rack. I have always loved her designs and had an idea in my head as to what I wanted from the start. I didn’t even go into her store – I literally picked it up, tried it on like I might a pair of jeans and bought it.

“I borrowed my sister’s veil and then spent $150 on shoes – black, which I still wear – and probably another $50 or so on jewellery.”

Claire: $4000

“I spent $4000, but more in alterations. The trick was I went to a private alterations lady who made me a veil for $50.”

Jordan: $7,500

“I’m going to say mine cost roughly $7500. It’s not crazy outrageous but for something I’ve worn once and is in a box in my cupboard… Yikes.

“It was professionally dry cleaned and then packaged in a box. It’s got a clear window on it so I can stare at its prettiness whenever I want.

“I’ve thought about selling it but it’s so sentimental and I always loved looking at my mum’s wedding dress when I was growing up. I was never allowed to try hers on until I was actually engaged, so I kind of like the thought of doing that with my own daughter. It’s silly but… what can I say.”

For more from Nightingales Weddings, you can find their website here and Instagram here.