How Much Does a Custom Wedding Dress Cost?

Angela Kim fitting a new bride with a custom wedding gown

Unfortunately, there really is no simple answer to this question. Obviously, a lot depends on the bride and her budget, and if you do some searching, you’ll quickly find vendors offering different levels of customization and service.  So to compare prices among custom wedding dress vendors is often an apples to oranges comparison.

Of course, a lot of this depends on what these vendors mean by “custom” and how much personalized service they offer.

Angela Kim consulting with a new bride for a custom wedding dress

My service angelakimcouture.com produces one-of-a-kind, couture custom wedding dresses starting from $3500.  This is a base cost that includes all necessary consultations, fittings, and mockups for a relatively simple design. The total cost, of course, depends on a number of factors like fabric selection, complexity of construction and embellishments. 

To get a little perspective on the question, though, let’s first take a look at wedding expenses in general to understand how your dress fits into the bigger picture.

Hannah wearing her custom wedding dress from Angela Kim Couture

Oksana wearing her custom wedding gown from Angela Kim Couture

The Average Cost of a Wedding Dress

According to wedding industry resources like Wedding Wire, and business sources like Business Insider and Motley Fool, the cost of your wedding dress isn’t likely to be your biggest expense in planning your wedding.  Venues and catering, travel, rings, videography and photography are generally estimated to be some of the greater expenses. Comparatively, these sources estimate that for an average wedding, your wedding dress could be around 5-7% of the total cost.  Martha Stewart suggests a more realistic figure of around 10%

According to the 2020 Brides American Wedding Study, an “average” wedding dress costs around $2450.  Factor in alterations and accessories (which can easily add another $1000 to the total), and Ms. Stewart’s estimate makes sense, given that the average American wedding in 2021 is estimated at around $30,000.

Angela Kim Couture wedding dress on dummy

Shopping for Your Wedding Dress

Obviously, every bride is unique and has different priorities when it comes to budgeting for her dress. But when it comes to choosing the dress itself, I’ve never heard a bride say that what she really wants is an “average’” dress.

Even brides on a budget want to look beautiful on their big day, and shopping for just the right dress is still a big part of the process. Unfortunately, dress shopping isn’t always the greatest experience for many brides, for one reason or another, especially at lower price points.  And it often seems impossible to find something that you like, can afford and that fits perfectly off-the-rack, without the need for alterations — or customizing.

Designer dresses will most often be priced well above the average, as you would expect. If you’re an experienced shopper or just lucky, you might find one on sale — but even expensive gowns will need to be altered or customized in some way to achieve the best possible look and fit. 

Custom wedding dress sketch by Angela Kim Couture
Custom wedding dress fitting session with Angela Kim Couture

What Does “Custom” Really Mean?

These days there are many kinds of wedding dress vendors that offer varying degrees of what might be called “customization.”  Customized usually means adding to, subtracting from and mixing and matching pre-fabricated pieces and dresses.  Made to order means that you’ll select a dress from a collection, and the closest standard size to your measurements will be altered to fit you. Made to measure means that a pre-existing design will be used to construct a new dress to your measurements.

Custom or bespoke means that a new design will be created specifically for you, based on your preferences and choices. Couture means that everything is an original one-of-a-kind design, including custom fabrics and lace, hand embroidering and beading, and the placement of details and motifs to your specifications.

Angela Kim Couture custom fabric design

Custom handmade fabric detail

The Couture Process

As a designer, I encourage my potential clients to go to some shops and try on some wedding dresses in order to get a sense of what they like and what they don’t like.  However, working with a designer to create your dream wedding dress is a different experience than buying a designer dress and having it fitted or customized.  

From the very first consultation, a custom wedding dress designer will be thinking about how best to design your dress specifically for your body. She’ll be able to guide your vision for your dress with a knowledge of the right fabrics, construction and details to achieve a flattering, perfect fit for your shape.  

The design process for couture dresses involves a series of consultations, fittings and mockups. Each dress requires hundreds of hours to create, and usually takes from 6 to 12 months to deliver.  

Angela Kim Couture Design Sketch

Having a Couture Wedding Dress Custom Made Just for You

There are a lot of good reasons to have a wedding dress custom made just for you.  Getting a perfect fit and expressing your personal style come easily to mind, but let me suggest some other reasons you may not have thought of.

If your taste in wedding dresses runs toward the more luxurious end of the spectrum but your budget won’t allow for your favorite Lee Petra Grebenau or Berta design, a custom wedding dress might just be the solution to achieve the look you want.  For my brides, fabrics and details can be sourced from the same vendors as these brand names to create a design just for you, inspired by your favorite looks, at a significantly lower price.  

Natalia wearing her custom wedding dress from Angela Kim Couture

Breigh wearing her custom wedding gown from Angela Kim Couture

Preparing your wedding, however lavish or intimate the event itself, can be stressful for many brides. The cost of your wedding dress is an investment — it’s not just about the dress itself, but about creating an experience that will always be remembered. 

Working with a designer to create your dress is an opportunity to relax and have some fun. Many of my brides bring a family or friend to their fitting sessions, which often occasions some happy laughs and even some sentimental tears. It’s actually my favorite thing about  working with my brides — bringing their vision to life and creating the perfect look is fun, but helping to create the perfect memory is priceless.

Lacey wearing her custom wedding dress from Angela Kim Couture

The Big Picture

So while your wedding dress may not be your biggest wedding expense, it’s certainly one that will have a lot of influence on how you remember your big day.  And even how you remember the days leading up to your big day.  Many women never take the opportunity to have the experience of having a dress designed just for them.  Your wedding is the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to a luxurious, fun and memorable experience. And create exactly the right look to bring out the best in you.