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Ready to Rent Wedding Gowns

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

The same principle can apply to wedding gowns. A gently used bridal frock can bring savings of 20 percent or more. Even better, a borrowed dress can save more than 10 percent to 30 percent of a wedding budget. Either way, a hand-me-down gown, either purchased or borrowed, can fulfill one or two of the four bridal commandments: “something old” or “something borrowed.”

NearlyNewlywed.com is a new web site that taps into the mindset of saving money during one of life’s most expensive events as well as leaving a minimal carbon footprint. Founded by Jacqueline Courtney, a former fashion publicist and one-time bride, the site offers a lineup of nearly 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. The company also will buy back the gown for a resell price after the wedding, or the bride can consign the dress to the site for a flat 30 percent fee of the asking price.

“After having access to celebrities and editors and designers, I expected that [rental] option in wedding gowns, but what I saw didn’t fulfill that need,” Courtney says. “I didn’t want just any rental bridal gown; I wanted Reem Acra. 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 alterations, quick shipping – one week compared to an eternity of three to six months for a custom-made gown – and the availability of plus sizes.

To date, 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 flexible concerning 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 of years.”

Joining NearlyNewlywed.com in the race to woo brides’ wallets is RentTheRunway.com’s new “Wedding Lounge,” a complement to the parent site’s vast resources of designer gowns, often at 90 percent off. Brides can find bridesmaid gowns, rehearsal gowns and wedding accessories ready for rental and arranged by occasion such as the engagement party or the bridal shower. Orders 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 dresses for brides and guests alike,” says Jenn Hyman, cofounder 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 – 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.

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

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