How to save money on your wedding guest outfit

It can cost a fortune to attend a wedding, but there are savvy ways to save if you plan what to wear, says Claire Spreadbury.

Savvy ways to save this wedding season
Two female guests at a wedding taking a photo Savvy ways to save this wedding season (Alamy Stock Photo)

Working out what to wear to a summer wedding can be a headache.

You might like something new and shiny, but whether or not you can afford to splash out, there are other things to think about, too. We’re all more aware of fast fashion and its impact on the environment, but do you really want another fancy outfit cluttering up your wardrobe?

Shopping for weddings has come a long way – and you can now save money and still look fabulous.

Try before you buy

If you are going to buy something new, one of the most difficult factors is the actual shopping.

We’re so time-poor, that finding a date to hit the shops can be difficult, and when you do, the stock is often hugely depleted, defeating the purpose of going shopping in the first place.

Many of us shop online. The size allocations are far more inclusive, but paying upfront and waiting for returned refunds can be a challenge – and it’s often not affordable without resorting to using a credit card.

Cefinn – the womenswear brand founded by Samantha Cameron – have just launched a UK-wide ‘try before you buy’ service, allowing you to try on up to eight different items – at home – with no payment taken.

Partnering with Harper – a retail tech service aiming to bridge the gap between shopping online and in real life – items can be delivered for a delivery fee, and then you only pay for what you keep.

Harper also works with multiple retailers, so you can order a selection of outfits. They also offer an optional styling service.

“Harper’s Try Before You Buy service offers shoppers the chance to try on pieces from a variety of brands, just like they would in store, without having to pay out up-front,” says Victoria Irving, Harper’s head of style service.

“The power of a good decision is strong when you can try on your entire wardrobe (if you wanted to) alongside your potential new pieces, to see which item compliments your existing pieces seamlessly.”

For a budget version, you can also do this through Next. Signing up for an account means you can order multiple items to try on at home – and then return anything you don’t like.

Try renting

Self Esteem wearing By Rotation x Tanqueray
Self Esteem wearing By Rotation x Tanqueray

If you’re yet to try renting occasionwear, we couldn’t recommend it more.

Renting offers you the opportunity to wear something you may not be able to afford, feel absolutely fabulous all day long and then not have it cluttering up your wardrobe, never to be worn again. It’s a total win-win.

There are numerous rental outlets now. Simply type ‘rent a dress’ into Google and you’re met with Girl Meets Dress, Hirestreet, ASOS Rentals, Selfridges Rentals, John Lewis – the list is growing.

“Our rental service has seen a surge in brides and wedding guests, due to the nature of the event typically being a one-use wear,” notes Victoria Barnes, the womenswear fashion brands buyer at John Lewis.

And it’s true, why buy something you only want to wear once if you can rent it instead?

Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder and CEO of rental firm By Rotation urges everyone to rent occasionwear. “On the By Rotation app, I’d recommend looking at your calendar and then creating folders accordingly, of outfits you might want to wear for the occasion. This way, you can be prepared and send your rental requests ahead of time.”

There are edits already available on the app as well, including the rather unique Tanqueray-inspired collection, where you can rent a piece from tastemakers including singer Self Esteem. And if you’re keen to save even more money, you have the opportunity to rent a free item by choosing something from the By Rotation x Tanqueray edit and writing about the event you wore it to.

One of the tricky things about renting is being able to try it on beforehand. But many of the items available to rent are also available to buy, so you can try them on and feel assured it’s going to be perfect on the day.

Re-work an old outfit

(Alamy Stock Photo)

The cheapest option is always going to be wearing something you already own.

If you’re someone who stores out-of-season clothing or occasionwear out of sight, you’re likely to be in for a treat, because we all forget just how many lovely clothes we’ve got. So, if they’re hidden away, get them all out and you might discover you’ve saved yourself some money.

Remember, outfits can be changed up by adding a new or different accessory – think shoes, a bag, a prominent belt, or a hat or fascinator – these items can completely change your look.

Ask your most fashion-savvy friend around and try everything on. Ask their advice on what accessories to wear or how to mix and match items in your wardrobe.

Also – learn from previous mistakes. That dress you felt self-conscious in all day? Forget it. The shoes you lasted five minutes on the dancefloor in? Give them a wide berth. But anything you remember feeling fabulous, comfortable and dancing the night away in, are good contenders.

Buy secondhand

(Alamy Stock Photo)

It’s 2024, and not only do we know it’s better for the planet if we stop buying so many new things, it’s also better for our wallets.

“When shopping for your next wedding guest outfit, take a second to consider whether you can buy it secondhand instead,” says Natacha Blanchard, consumer lead at secondhand marketplace Vinted. “Not only can you save a lot of money, as pre-owned items tend to cost a lot less than brand new, it’s also better for the climate, since you won’t be contributing to the production of new items. Plus, you’re less likely to encounter a guest wearing the exact same outfit.”

The best way to find occasionwear on the app, she notes, is to use the filters to narrow down your choices and keep everything within budget. You can even filter by colour, material and brand to hone in on specifics. “You can also shop specific trends and styles by searching the most relevant hashtags such as #wedding. Vinted also has dedicated sections such as ‘special-occasion dresses’ for women and ‘wedding suits’ for men if you prefer to browse.”

She recommends haggling using Vinted’s ‘make an offer’ function.

“A reasonable starting point would be 10-20% off the listing price, but you may be able to get a bigger discount if the item has been listed for a long time and the seller is willing to lower it further,” adds Blanchard.

Then, after the event, you can always re-sell it to recoup some of your costs.