A bride’s attire often accounts for a significant chunk of the wedding budget. Saying yes to a dress can set you back, on average, $400 to $1,700, according to the most recent national survey by the WeddingWire, which operates online marketplaces for the industry. In big cities like New York, a dress can easily exceed $2,000, and much more.

Most brides, of course, will only wear their dresses once (here’s hoping). But wouldn’t it be nice if someone else, maybe a bride of lesser means, got to enjoy it, too?

Several nonprofit organizations take wedding dress donations and distribute them to people in need, or else sell them at greatly reduced prices. The donors, in turn, can feel the joy of giving and possibly get a tax deduction (though that’s made more difficult with new tax laws).

“The best way to get a tax benefit,” said Darlene Pulliam, a professor of accounting at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Tex., “is to make sure all of your itemized deductions, including your charitable ones, exceed $24,000.”

Flower girl and bridesmaid dresses can also be donated to qualified charities, along with bridal accessories like veils, tiaras and slips. Just be sure to hold onto your receipts and other purchasing documentation. This will help in determining the fair market value of the donation.

Many charity websites will walk you through the vetting procedures. Most have short forms to fill out or will ask you to email a photo of your dress before accepting it as a donation.


CreditLaura Freeman

Some charities may impose restrictions. For example, they may not accept a dress older than five years, or ask that a dress be professionally cleaned and boxed.

“Women want their dress to get a second life and they want a cause they can connect to,” said Drew Edwards, the chief executive of Brides Against Breast Cancer, which collects wedding dress donations. “They’ve spent a lot of time shopping with their mom and friends, and they want someone to get that same joy they did.”

Here are five charities that accept worn wedding dresses.

Brides Across America: Since 2008, the group has provided more than 20,000 wedding dresses to brides who are in the military or emergency workers. It says it receives more than 3,500 dresses annually, with original price tags ranging from $1,600 to $10,000. Twice a year the charity hosts Operation Wedding Gown, a nationwide bridal dress giveaway, and it holds 15 to 20 pop-up events annually. “For those who can’t make any of these, we will find a store that helps us out, or women can come to our showroom,” said Theresa Brumley, who has been on the board of directors since the group’s inception. “Recently a woman in the National Guard couldn’t get to any of our events,” Ms. Brumley said. “She drove from Savannah, Ga., to our headquarters in Andover, Mass., to get a free dress. This is a way to honor these women and say thank you.”

Adorned in Grace: This charity is dedicated to helping survivors of human and sex trafficking. It has three boutiques — two in Oregon and one in Washington State — that sell bridal dresses, formal wear and accessories. The eight-year-old organization has received more than 3,500 dresses from around the world, including Germany and Israel. The average price for a designer dress it sells is $250 to $300, and like most of these charities, all of the proceeds from the sales are put back into the organization.

Brides Against Breast Cancer: Started in 1997, the organization is one of the oldest programs focusing on wedding dresses. For the last two decades, it has been selling pre-owned dresses to raise money, and awareness, for early cancer detection. More than 50,000 dresses have been donated to its centers in Atlanta and Las Vegas. The foundation has a large online store presence where shoppers can click and purchase; currently there are more than 800 dresses from which to select. The group also has one of the shortest time-frame requirements: Dresses must be two years old or newer, and have been originally purchased for at least $1,000.

Success in Style:The organization, established in 2001, helps people in crisis in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., area get jobs. When it learned the most profitable area was donated bridal attire, it created Cherie Amour, a store dedicated to selling gowns, dresses and other wedding accessories. The shop opened in 2013 in Savage, Md., once a historic cotton mill. More than 350 new or lightly used dresses are available for perusal for soon-to-be brides, with about 100 dresses being donated monthly. Prices range from $100 to $2,000 with a 50 percent mark down. Donated dresses can be as old as 10 years, and no cleaning is required.

The Brides Project: The Project is part of the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor, Mich. The dress donation program started in 2011 as a fund-raising initiative so the organization could continue to provide support for families struggling with cancer, and it “really took off,” said Bonnie Dockham, the executive director of the program. Currently it has an inventory of more than 1,000 dresses, with about 300 donated yearly. Prices vary from $100 to $1,500. (The group will clean your five-year-old or newer item for you — you just have to send $25 with your dress to cover expenses.) “Recently, a bride from Kansas drove here with her mother, sister, and mother-in-law,” Ms. Dockham said. “She lost her dad to cancer. She bought her dress here and it was very meaningful. It made their wedding day mean something more. They spent the whole day with us.”