Guide to Buying Your Wedding Dress from the US

January 7, 2009 by  
Filed under Advice & Ideas, Wedding Dresses

Bargain designer bridal gowns on a budget? What bride could resist the chance to have the designer wedding dress of her dreams and a reduced price tag – not many! If you’re after a Maggie Sottero, Mori Lee, Alfred Angelo or even a Dessy but can’t afford it, then more and more brides are heading to on line companies who can supply them with the wedding dress their dreams and taking advantage of much lower prices that offered by UK retailers.

What’s The Catch?

Essentially there is no catch. You’re buying the same the dress however as the US bridal market is considerably larger than the UK, there are advantages in that they can charge lower prices due to high volume demand. US bridal companies are also much more internet savvy, with many bridal houses and wedding dress suppliers being extremely well established in the on line wedding market. Good news for the real budget savvy bride.

Is It Worth It?

A good question, so lets do a quick few sums to see if it is as good as it sounds.

Example (based on current exchange rates) and on the Alfredo Angelo Mellisa design UK retail price £975 and a US retail price (taken from the House of Brides) of $799.

Item US Price UK Price
Dress £529 ($799) £975
VAT @15% £79 £0
Duty @12% £63 £0
Shipping £15 0
Total £607 £975

SAVING = £368

Based on these calculations you could be saving yourself a tidy little sum.

Remember, exchange rates vary so costs will go up and down and therefore so will the savings however the base price tag is typically so much cheaper you are likely to make significant savings.

Additional Costs?

Remember that it’s not only the cost of the dress and shipping you need to concern yourself with but you may be liable for VAT on the dress as well as the shipping (15%) but you may also required to pay what is called an import duty. Of course duty can vary but on average this is approximately 12% and the actual amount of duty is based upon the type of fabric and general description. Remember to add both the VAT and the duty to any calculations that you are making.

Other additional costs to consider include any alterations you may have to make to bridal gowns.

What Risks Should I Consider?

If the price is really too good to be true, then frankly it probably is. Use reputable, well known suppliers such as House of Brides to avoid the chance of ordering a counterfeit wedding gown. Some sites are open about the fact you are actually ordering a similar bridal gown based on the well known styles and designs of the major wedding dress designers. If you’re happy to do this, then this is not a problem but just remember to ensure that you are fully aware before ordering.

Also, consumer protection laws in the US are different for the UK. Most notably order cancellation in the UK is 7 days but only 3 days in the US.

Internet Auctions Sites

Of course, cut price wedding dresses are available at popular online auction sites including eBay. This is another viable option to obtaining a bargain on your wedding dress but again remember to use only reputable and recommended suppliers.

Most internet auction sites for large bridal gown suppliers are purely another outlet and they will also have a full company website also. If you choose this method, then consider:

  • Where is the company based – don’t assume you are ordering from the US
  • If you make a payment via paypal you will have minimal protection as paypal does not offer the same protection as paying with your credit card.
  • Check for feedback to evaluate the experience of other buyers.
  • Try and use recommended eBay sellers only for peace of mind.

What About Sizing?

US clothing sizes are different from the UK so remember this when you are ordering. If you’re a size 10 in the UK, typically this means you are a size 6 in the US however each dress manufacturer may have different sizing guidelines. Ensure that you know exactly how to convert your measurements into the right size. A good on line site will have a facility to assist you.

What about Delivery?

Delivery is key consideration. Remember to order in plenty of time to ensure your chosen gown arrives promptly just in the same way you would from a bridal shop in the UK. When you order for the US, if you are required to pay additional fees then you will receive notification from the courier. Payment will be required prior to completion of delivery.

What are the Drawbacks?

The most obvious drawback is that you are unable to try any gown on before purchasing. Ensure you know what styles of dress suit you before ordering THE dress for your wedding. Have a look at articles that discuss the various types of dress styles around and what suits certain body shapes to help you.

If there is a problem with the gown upon arrival and it cannot be easily rectified then you need to consider whether the dress can be returned.

Is it Worth It?

If you are considering buying a wedding dress that has a high price tag then yes – it is viable option. However, if you are planning on spending a low figure on your bridal gown then the costs may not be justified if you also include potential VAT, duty and alterations costs. Many brides are overjoyed with their wedding dress and the fact that they save oodles of cash in the process so it’s definitely worth considering if you are on a tight budget.

Quick Facts Summary

  • Use recommended suppliers only and ensure they offer secure payment methods. On line companies such as House of Brides are well established.
  • If possible pay by credit card to take advantage of protection offered by UK credit card companies where purchases between £100 and £30,000 are protected by law.
  • Orders from the US can be cancelled but must be done so within 3 days.
  • Order well enough in advance to be able to rectify any problems that may crop up.
  • Remember to add VAT (15%) and duty (up to 12%) to any calculations you make.
  • US sizes are different from the UK. Refer to our handy sizing guide to help you pick the correct size.
  • Ensure you have more than an email address to contact the company including a phone number so you can speak to a human being.
  • If using an internet auction site used recommended suppliers only.

Where to Shop?

So now you know the facts where should you shop. We recommend checking out the following sites that are highly rating by previous brides and that stock many designer gowns and accessories:


House of Brides is one of the largest on line bridal houses in the US stocking Mori Lee, Alfred Angelo and Dessy to name but a few. The offer a bridal gown range comparable to Maggie Sottero as well as extensive bridal accessories and stunning bridesmaid gowns. Great offers on free accessories when ordering your wedding gown


Another large on line bridal company. Offers various designs including Forever Yours, Mori Lee and Impressions Bridal. Also stocks bridal accessories including tiaras and shoes as well as bridesmaid dresses.


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