Ready to Rent

CTW Features

Savvy car buyers often avoid buying a brand-new because of the immediate depreciation.

The same principle can apply to wedding gowns. If you buy a gently used bridal frock, you can easily save 20 percent or more.

Even better, if you can simply borrow it, you may save more than 10 percent to 30 percent of your wedding budget. Either way, you can fulfill one of the four commandments of your wedding day of wearing “something old” or “something borrowed.”

Founded by Jacqueline Courtney, a former fashion publicist and one-time bride, is one website tapping into the mindset of saving money during one of life’s most expensive events and even leaving a minimal carbon footprint.

The new site, which launched in April, offers a lineup of near-new designer bridal and party gowns, including Monique Lhuillier, Reem Acra, Melissa Sweet, Pronovias and Oscar de la Renta, at 30 percent to 70 percent off. Another price comes with it – the resell price that the company will buy it back for after your event. If you want to hold out for more dollars, you can let the site consign it for a flat consignment fee of 30 percent of the asking price.

“After having access to celebrities and editors and designers, I expected that option in wedding gowns, but what I saw didn’t fulfill that need … I didn’t want just any rental bridal gown, I wanted Reem Acra,” Courtney says. “I wanted to bring that experience to brides-to-be of saving money yet wearing something beautiful.”

Nudging them along the sales process are perks such as letting them alter the gowns, such as the hem or the waistline, the quick shipping – one week compared to an eternity of three to six months for a custom-made gown – and the availability of plus sizes. So far, Courtney has obtained most of her gowns from former brides, sending out inquiries on Craigslist and scouring sites like eBay. As a startup company, her parameters are loose when it comes to the cost or designer of her ideal gowns. “I think great style extends beyond that,” she says. “There are no rules, but for now, the majority of our gowns are from the last couple years.”

Joining in the race to woo bride’s wallets is’s new “Wedding Lounge,” which also launched online in April as a complement to the site’s vast resources of designer gowns, often at 90 percent off. There, brides can find bridesmaid gowns, rehearsal gowns and wedding accessories ready for rental and arranged by occasion – such as the bridal shower or the engagement party – that always arrive with a free backup size. Wedding stylists are available six days a week to answer fit questions or provide styling advice, perhaps helping manage the unease of “renting” these milestone-event ensembles.

“With the stress of finding the dream wedding dress, we hoped to reintroduce the fun in shopping for all of the other special (and also important) dresses for brides and guests alike,” says Jenn Hyman, co-founder of Rent The Runway.

Still, the question lingers if brides are willing to eschew the buying experience that they envision will occur at a bridal salon, such as the outpouring of service, maybe the uncorking of a Champagne bottle and the sheer impact of all those mirrors. Design houses continue to open up such luxe boutiques, including the May opening of JLM Couture’s first store on tony Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood, Calif., complete with regal interior pillars.

“We think more and more brides are getting use to the idea of renting gowns, but we’re not 100-percent there,” Courtney says.

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