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ONCE upon a time, women who bought their wedding dresses secondhand to cut costs may have kept it a secret; today they have bragging rights. Frugality is in.

“There are so many better ways to spend your money,” says Emily Cayton, 24, of Del Rio, Tex., who bought her $2,200 “dream dress” for $600 on for her December wedding. “If you can possibly find it cheaper, why not be proud of finding a good deal.”

At a time when the average cost of a wedding is $28,082, and the average dress is $1,075, according to the American Wedding Study 2009, and designer gowns sell for as much as $10,000 or more, a growing number of brides on a budget are looking to save money and be eco-friendly by renting or buying used dresses and other items for their weddings.

Whether they are billed as “once worn,” “pre-owned,” or “lightly loved,” Web sites like, and offer listings for hundreds of dresses at substantial savings, in all sizes, styles and prices.

Even previously owned high-end couture gowns from designers like Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier, and Amsale sell for 25 to 50 percent or more off the original retail price, giving brides a realistic alternative to finding “something affordable without sacrificing quality,” said Nina Willdorf, the author of “Wedding Chic: The Savvy Bride’s Guide to Getting More While Spending Less” (Perigee Trade).

“Smart shopping to find value for less is really chic right now,” Ms. Willdorf said. “It’s not like buying a used sweater that’s been worn for years. A wedding dress has been worn once and only for a matter of hours.”

She does caution that such shoppers need to budget for possible alterations and cleaning bills which can add hundreds of dollars to the cost. “Whenever possible, make sure a used wedding dress has been cleaned to ensure there are no stains and smells,” Ms. Willdorf said. “You don’t want it to smell like someone else’s perfume. You want it to smell like you.”

Planning a wedding?  Tell us how you’re saving money.

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