Milk, bread, eggs … wedding dress? Brides-to-be can usually be found browsing in chic boutiques or stuffy department stores but now Sainsbury’s is hoping it can persuade them to hit the supermarket aisle instead as they go in pursuit of the perfect wedding dress.
This week its mass market fashion brand, Tu clothing, launched its first bridal collection.
The initial offering features two dresses, with more “limited edition styles” due to drop in the next couple of weeks. Sizes range from a UK 8 to 24.
A white sleeveless, pleated wedding dress costs £22 while a white bias-cut gown is £50.
For brides who don’t want to wear a traditional dress, there is a two-piece Bianca Jagger-esque suit, featuring a double-breasted jacket and wide-legged trousers. The set costs £68.
Sainsbury’s is the only British supermarket to offer wedding dresses, though Asda sells wedding lingerie.
Tu’s low prices are in sharp contrast to recent research finding that in 2022 an average wedding dress cost £1,350.
“We’re always focused on meeting our customers’ evolving needs and we know that many are looking for affordable, classic styles for wedding events,” said Emma Benjafield, director of product at Tu. “We know that for a lot of our customers, money is tight right now.”
According to research, the average cost of a wedding next year is expected to be £24,710, up from £17,300 in 2021.
As a result many couples are scaling back their wedding plans and reallocating budgets. While a custom-made gown may have previously featured on a bride’s dream mood board, rising housing costs are now taking priority.
Given that most wedding gowns are also only worn once, then wrapped in tissue paper or stuffed to the back of the wardrobe, for many a high street or secondhand dress rather than designer gown means financial sense is taking precedence over sentimentality.
“Some women are simply not as emotionally attached to the idea of a heritage wedding gown that they keep, treasure and pass on – and for them a high street or even supermarket buy may be ideal,” said Jade Beer, a former editor of Condé Nast Brides. “If they see the dress as a one-wear purchase then why spend a fortune on it when its use will be measured in hours.”
Sainsbury’s is the only one of the big supermarkets to offer bridal wear.
Back in 2006 Asda launched a £60 wedding dress that sold out within hours, but they now sell only wedding lingerie.
Since then, brands such as Asos have followed suit, with more affordable off-the-peg bridal dresses.
When Asos launched its bridal offering in 2016, three styles sold out in the first month and more than 9,000 brides walked down the aisle in one of its ivory gowns. Today, there are more than 200 dresses in its bridal category ranging from £38 to £395.
Whistles’ product director, Camille Sullivan, said sales of its wedding collection were up 75% year on year.
Sales of a £199 maxidress with tie detailing have jumped by 33%.
Clothing is a growing category as supermarkets look beyond the grocery aisle. Last year, Tu Clothing became a £1bn brand, while this month it announced it was creating “fashion destination hubs” offering additional brands including Simply Be in 50 stores.