This Is the Better Way to Do Bridesmaid Dresses

4 reasons why renting is the new buying

by Maddie Eisenhart, Chief Revenue Officer



I have been a bridesmaid enough times to know that the traditional bridesmaid dress process is, to put it mildly, totally broken. It’s not the matchy-matchiness that’s so bad. I actually think that part can make things way easier. But something is definitely amiss when the expectation is that it’s totally cool to spend two hundred (and often more) American dollars on an ill-fitting dress, that undoubtedly will need alterations (read: $$$), and that under no circumstances will you ever wear again.

It’s not that there aren’t alternatives. Online dress shopping and rental bridesmaid dresses have been around for ages. But any time I suggest them to my more traditionally minded friends, this is the reaction I get:

And I get it. New things are scary, and no one wants to gamble on an expensive, important event like their wedding. Which is why we’ve partnered up with Union Station, purveyor of gorgeous bridesmaids dresses you can rent starting at just $50, to dispel the common myths about renting bridesmaid dresses. Because if we can make it work for dudes in tuxes, surely we can do better for bridesmaids in dresses.


Myth #1: it won’t look good. Here’s the thing about Union Station. They aren’t here to redefine bridesmaid dresses as we know it. They just want to make the process better. So they started with traditional bridesmaid dresses in mind, and then they set out to create the Holy Grail: a set of designs that would fit lots of different body types, without needing alterations. They used a wide range of fit models (instead of just one), putting every design to the test, and then only picked the absolute best of the best. And y’all, they killed it (I will take this one-shoulder piece for myself, kthanksbye). We’ve actually had the chance to touch and feel Union Station dresses for ourselves (that’s a pic from an APW tutorial above), and they are as good or better than anything I’ve ever bought from a bridal salon.


Myth #2: It won’t fit. Union Station understands that peace of mind is at a premium when it comes to wedding planning. So to start, they’ve created this handy fit guide to help you figure out which style will work best with your body. And to ensure a perfect fit, they’ve outfitted each dress with lots of handy features like flexible waists, tie belts, and (gasp) straps. Plus they even include a backup size with every order, and you have the option to switch with another member of your wedding party if her backup works better. So if you’ve got five bridesmaids, that’s ten dresses to choose from. Still not working out? No problem. If you’re really in a bind, for an extra $25 Union Station will send a whole new dress to you in time for the wedding (not to worry though; that happens about 3 percent of the time).


Myth #3: Renting Online Is too much of a gamble. In theory, buying a dress in store should be more secure. But in practice, my experience has been more like the following: 1. Go into the store, try on a sample dress that kind of fits, give them my measurements to order one in my actual size. 2. Make sure I do this at least three months before the wedding or else I might not get it in time. 3. Receive the dress a few weeks before the wedding. 4. Scramble at the last minute to get it altered. Realize I forgot to research good tailors in my area. Take it to my dry cleaner and hope for the best (or let’s not pretend I haven’t just worn an ill-fitting dress sans alterations because who cares I’m never wearing it again). With Union Station, you still get your dress at least two weeks before the wedding, but they have virtually eliminated the need for alterations (they even offer two different length options). Which means that most of their customers are good to go out of the box. And if you’re one of the 3 percent mentioned above? There’s time to make it work, and they will do everything in their power to ensure it does. Union Station manufactures everything locally, so they have the ability to act quickly and solve your problems ASAP.

View More:

Myth #4: It’s easier to buy. The best part of buying dresses online is that it doesn’t matter where you live, or if your wedding party is strewn all over the country. You can register your party, and then Union Station will make sure everyone orders for the right date, gets the right dress, actually places their order (ahem, Maddie). But what Union Station does differently is that they give you the option to rent or buy. Because it’s totally valid to just want to buy a dress and know it’s yours (maybe you actually will wear that cocktail length number again). But it’s also nice to be able to give your besties the option to spend $50 and not buy. Their dresses cost just $50–$75 to rent, and $150–$185 to buy. Which, for the record, is definitely less than I paid for my last bridesmaid dress, before alterations.


One of the most frustrating aspects of planning a wedding is having to buy into antiquated systems just because they’re familiar. Because you know who usually loses out in that process? (Hint: It’s you.) So if you’re looking for an easy alternative to traditional bridesmaid dress shopping, but still want the convenience of letting your wedding party shop in one place or coordinating dresses, then rentals might be just the solution you’re looking for. And if you’re still getting side-eye, then maybe these examples from real Union Station weddings will help sway the naysayers:


Featuring: The Catherine Dress in Melon, The Hillary Dress in Powder, The Cheryl Dress in Powder, The Kate Dress in Melon

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Featuring: The Jane Dress in Iris


Featuring: The Madison Dress in Melon, The Leigh Dress in Melon


Featuring: The Leigh Dress in Skipper, The Madison Dress in Skipper, The Jane Dress in Skipper


Featuring: The Hillary Dress in Slate, The Cheryl Dress in Slate, The Catherine Dress in Slate, The Kate Dress in Slate

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Featuring: The Madison Dress in Royal, The Ann Dress in Royal, The Olivia Dress in Royal


Featuring: The Jane Dress in PoppyThe Madison Dress in PoppyThe Leigh Dress in PoppyThe Olivia Dress in Poppy


This post was sponsored by Union Station. Union Station was created to make the bridesmaid dress shopping process less stressful and more affordable. They believe that, above all, your bridesmaid dress should make you feel good: about how you look, about the price you’re paying, and about the process itself. Click here to get three free swatch samples and see their quality for yourself.

Maddie Eisenhart

Maddie is APW’s Chief Revenue Officer. She’s been writing stories about boys, crushes, and relationships since she was old enough to form shapes into words, but received her formal training (and a BS) from NYU in Entertainment and Mass Media in 2008. She now spends a significant amount of time thinking about trends on the internet and whether flower crowns will be out next year. A Maine native, Maddie currently lives on a pony farm in the Bay Area with her husband, Michael and their mastiff puppy. Current hair color: Purple(ish).

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  • K.

    My bridesmaids freaking LOVED Union Station. They were so grateful to spend less than $100 on a dress that they thought was beautiful and well-made, fit their diverse bodies (seriously, there’s some wizard ish going on there) AND didn’t end up taking closet space…except for the one who loves hers so much that she ended up buying it to wear to another event. Can’t recommend highly enough.

  • Stephanie

    From beginning to end, Union Station was AMAZING. We found them online and ended up attended their popup in D.C, they were so helpful with everything. All of my bridesmaids picked out their own style dress and felt beautiful in what they chose. They looked gorgeous on the wedding day and the entire process was so simple. I’m so glad we decided to use Union Station because it saved my girls so much money on their dresses and having them happy/ feeling beautiful on our wedding day made it even more special.

  • sofar

    I would jump for joy if a bride told me we were renting. I’ve done Rent the Runway a lot for events, and it’s just so nice. Pretty dress arrives, you wear it and stick it back in the mail (no need to dryclean and find closet space). Plus, it’s environmentally friendly and you’re not contributing to waste from unwanted clothes. I just bought a bridesmaid dress on Bridesmaid Trade, which is the next best thing — paid $35 for a $120 David’s Bridal orange eyesore.

  • walkingwhilefemale

    I’m still in the pre-engaged state, but one of my biggest anxieties about the wedding process is the bridesmaids dresses situation. Many different body types, I wanted to mix/match styles (at the very least, considering different color options as well) so that everyone feels beautiful and comfortable on the big day, and a couple of maids-to-be on shoestring budgets. You all just might have saved the day and my stress levels.

    • Corie

      Let us know if you have any questions as you get closer to the wedding! If we can get a good idea of their body types we can give recommendations on which styles they’ll like the best!

      • walkingwhilefemale

        Thanks Corie! I’ll be sure to reach out once the real-deal planning commences. Still can’t reiterate enough how much this concept rocks.

      • Sara

        Hi Corie! I was just wondering if Union Station will be expanding their size range any time soon?

        • Corie

          Hi Sara! We are hoping to expand our size range with the next collection. We know not having a larger size range is a major issue for customers and we are very cognizant of that. When we add sizes we want to do it the right way so that the fit is right across the board. We do have some ways to make our service work for people outside of our size range so if your wedding is soon – email us at hi at and just mention this comment / APW.

  • Steph

    We used union station and they were great! Some ladies bought some rented and they were great with last minute changes we did! Highly recommend using them.

  • Ebloom

    I’m not having bridesmaids, but if suddenly were this would be my choice. It cuts down on fast fashion waste, saves money, and no one ends up stuck with a dress they hate.

  • Corie

    Thanks everyone so much for the kind words! We LOVE to hear from customers :) @disqus_eiBxi8HI18:disqus and @disqus_NSPCIO6X7g:disqus HUGE +1 to the cutting down on fast fashion! Getting into this industry opened my eyes to the impacts manufacturing clothing. Even though we are only solving one small part, it is a *major* personal motivation.

  • Catherine McK

    I used Union Station this summer when I was standing up in a wedding 5 weeks post-partum. It was great to have two dress sizes and not to worry about spending huge money on something I hoped I wouldn’t fit in for long. I even found one I could sort of nurse in (Kate)

    Highly recommend!

  • Kate

    I LOVE everything about this concept but I just don’t love the dresses themselves. They are just all that very flowy chiffon-y fabric. I imagine there are a lot of reasons why this kind of dress/fabric lends itself well to your business model, it’s just really not my favorite.

    I hope that you’ll be able to expand into different styles (e.g. Some stiffer fabrics, dresses with pockets (unless some had pockets and I missed them), things that look a little harder, prints).

    But, that aside, what a great idea! If these dresses were more my style, I’d definitely be interested in Union Station.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      As someone who’s just not into the “bridesmaid dress” look, I’d suggest looking into Rent the Runway. Sure, their business model isn’t quite a perfectly suited to weddings (not all of their dresses look good on a variety of body types, you don’t get the dresses as far in advance, etc.), but it is a great solution to the lack of variety that seems to be inherent to bridesmaid dress rental companies. I suspect that with a little homework, you could find a pretty “safe” dress that still suits your desired aesthetic!

      • Rebecca

        Absolutely! I’ve got a fairly detailed description of what I’m hoping my bridesmaids will get (along with a bunch of examples in different price ranges and styles) and I’ve told them I’d be happy for them to do rent the runway!

        I am just jealous of how great these are. And also I really want a company like this to succeed because I think it represents so many good things.

  • Brynna

    Just shared this with my bridesmaids and they are all super excited – they are choosing their own dresses, which I thought would be easier, but apparently is more stressful than being told what to wear. With this site, they can easily choose from a limited number (versus the whole dang internet). Lots of cheers from my ladies!

    • clairekfromtheuk

      As the current bridesmaid of a similar bride I can confirm, being told what to wear is 1 million times easier than ‘just wear whatever you want, I don’t care’. Because ultimately, you do care (even if its only a tiny bit).

      Even a colour and a length is better than nothing!

      (wedding is in 1.5 weeks, I’m making the cake, I have no timeline, I’m a tad stressed!!)

  • Taylor

    My Bridesmaids LOVED using Union Station and looked AMAZING on my wedding day. Plus they loved only spending $50. Can’t recommend highly enough!!!

  • Eliza

    I’m trying to use Union Station for my wedding, but I wish their sizes went up higher! Some of my bridesmaids won’t fit in their dresses so we’re going mix-and-match. It’s not much good having styles that flatter different body shapes if they’re limited on the actual sizes. :(