Here comes the bride… all dressed in — rentals?
It’s not as catchy as the original, but it’s the new normal for modern-day couples planning weddings.
With inflation and supply chain issues driving up costs, wedding vendors have continued to raise their prices, making traditional weddings more expensive than ever before.
The average cost of a wedding in 2023 is estimated to hit $29k. Before the pandemic delayed weddings and caused a more crowded market, the average price was ~$24.7k.
With increased economic hardship, shoppers are growing savvier and more budget conscious, and are turning to creative solutions when planning their weddings.
And innovative new companies are popping up to meet the need: From those that rent out flowers and diamond jewelry to those that sell pre-worn dresses, businesses are finding ways to deliver dream weddings for a fraction of the cost.
An added bonus to these budget-friendly solutions: sustainability. Particularly for Gen Z shoppers who are more ethically conscious when consuming, with 73% saying they’d pay more for sustainable products.
Brands that have positioned themselves at the intersection of sustainability and cost-effectiveness are now reaping the benefits.
Stillwhite, based in Australia and founded in 2010, is an online marketplace for pre-worn wedding dresses. Co-founder Ingrid Szajer says that brides are drawn to the idea of buying pricey designer dresses they otherwise couldn’t afford at a lower cost.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in sales over the past few years. Brides spent $18m on wedding dresses through Stillwhite.com in the last 12 months, which is almost double over the same period two years ago,” says Szajer.
She also notes that the company’s customer base has broadened: Pre-owned dresses were once sought after just by young brides with extremely tight budgets or mature brides who weren’t feeling as sentimental about their dresses.
Today, Szajer says her customers are aged 25 to 35, and simply are savvier shoppers interested in getting the best value for their money.
The same trend is taking place in the floral industry, where Something Borrowed Blooms is turning the market on its head with silk flowers for rent. From bouquets to centerpieces, the company offers all the arrangements a typical florist would, but for 70% less.
An average order for a wedding with Something Borrowed Blooms is ~$500, while the average cost of fresh florals is closer to $2.4k.
Co-founders Laken Swan and Lauren Bercier say that cost savings is the biggest driver for customers choosing to rent silk flowers versus buying traditional arrangements. Fresh florals are not only more expensive but also less reliable as the industry is controlled entirely by quick-moving supply and demand.
The founders have seen a significant increase in the average order value over the last few years as more couples are willing to explore the idea of artificial flowers to cut costs:
“We’re still in the early stages of the rental revolution. Years from now we’ll question why we ever purchased fast fashion or one-time-use items. It will be the norm,” they say.
There are also companies that allow couples to repurpose fresh flowers, like Bloomerent, where customers can opt to reuse florals from someone else’s wedding (or to lend their florals to be reused for some cost savings).
When it comes to big-ticket items in small packages, there are few things more expensive than diamond-encrusted jewelry. And being covered in bling is something many envision for their nuptials.
That’s where Verstolo’s rental program comes in: Clients can schedule a complimentary consultation (in person or virtually), rent the jewelry of their choosing for the entirety of their wedding weekend, and send it back when they’re done.
And this all comes for a fraction of the cost — VP of sales Lauren Grunstein says customers pay around 1% to 3% of the retail cost for the jewelry they rent. Verstolo’s average rental price is ~$500, while some pieces retail for upwards of $50k.
“Consumers are savvy now,” says Grunstein. “They’re spending so much money on their wedding and for them to wear fake jewelry doesn’t resonate. But it also doesn’t make sense for them to spend $30k on a pair of earrings they’ll never wear again.”
She also notes that millennials came of age with Rent the Runway, a company that normalized renting clothing and accessories as a viable option.
Renting, which was once for niche, budget-strapped consumers, or for wedding staples such as tents and chairs, is becoming an increasingly popular and sought-after option for those who prioritize sustainability, but also flexibility and increased choices.
And with younger generations prioritizing traveling, it makes sense to save all those wedding checks for a honeymoon, anyway.