By Joseph Pisani
New York — Dalia Rhodes’ wedding dress went down the aisle twice: Once at her wedding in 2015, and again a year later after she sold her gown to a stranger online.
“I just wanted someone else to enjoy a pretty dress,” says Rhodes, who used the website Once Wed to sell it for $800, about half of what she originally paid.
Instead of holding on to wedding dresses for decades, many new brides are willing to swap them online for cash. Several websites cater to them, including Still White and PreownedWeddingDresses.com. And other online marketplaces, such as eBay, Tradesy and Letgo, are filled with thousands of wedding dresses looking for a new bride.
Just the idea of buying a used wedding dress was “shocking and horrifying” before 2008, says Tracy DiNunzio, the founder and CEO of online clothing and accessories marketplace Tradesy. That began to change about a decade ago during the recession, when cash-strapped brides were looking for a deal, she says. Now millennials, who seemingly are not as attached to material things as past generations, are putting up their dresses for sale, says DiNunzio.
“The money is worth more to them once the wedding is over than keeping a dress,” she says.
But don’t expect to make quick cash. Not everyone wants a used gown, so it can take weeks or months to find a buyer who also happens to love the style and can fit into the dress. Well-known designer names, such as Vera Wang and Monique Lhuillier, sell faster. Some brides list their dresses on multiple sites, hoping to reach as many brides-to-be as possible. And the sites typically let listings stay up for as long as needed, charging a one-time fee or taking a percentage when it is finally sold.
Rhodes, who listed hers on Once Wed for free, says it took about four months to find a match. To make sure the dress didn’t get damaged during shipping, Rhodes, who lives in Austin, Texas, wrapped the dress in “like, probably, six pounds of Bubble Wrap.”
The buyer, Heidi Cundari of Thunder Bay, Canada, says she opted for a used dress to keep costs down. She searched several preowned wedding dress websites before she fell for Rhodes’ tulle and organza gown.
“It seemed wasteful to spend thousands of dollars on a dress for one day,” she says.
Dresses listed on Once Wed take about six months to sell and go for an average of about $1,600, says Once Wed founder Emily Newman. She says more women are listing their dress for sale before they even get married, so they can ship the dress out once the ceremony is over.
Some sites have seen their popularity soar recently. Still White, for example, says sellers earned $500,000 through the site in the past month, up 50 percent from the same time last year.
“Modern brides are less sentimental, more budget savvy, eco-friendly and are comfortable making large purchases online,” says Still White’s co-founder and CEO Bruno Szajer.
Rhodes says she did hold on to two keepsakes: Her veil and belt, which she says her future children are more likely to wear than her dress.
Cundari, meanwhile, says she plans to keep the dress and not try to sell it again. Last month she sent pictures of her wedding to Rhodes, so she could see the dress in its second trip down the aisle.
“We kind of forged a long distance friendship,” Cundari says.