Santa Monica entrepreneur Tracy DiNunzio shudders to think about how much money she spent on her first wedding. The lavish 2008 ceremony was held at Casa del Mar with a five-course meal. She spent more than $6,000 on two wedding dresses. And after the event was over, DiNunzio couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way to reuse all the items she had only used once.
That idea became the driving force behind Recycled Bride, the online marketplace DiNunzio created to sell used wedding items. The site offers more than 40,000 wedding items for sale, from designer wedding dresses to gold tablecloth.
“Our goal was to make it easier than eBay, safer than Craigslist and a bit of a community where brides can connect, where they could feel support and good about the fact that they were sharing and saving together,” DiNunzio said.
Customers list their first item for sale on RecycledBride.com for free. They can upload a photo and set the sale price. Interested buyers can contact the seller directly.
DiNunzio runs the website out of her two-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica. It’s where she and her first husband, an Internet entrepreneur, tried to build a life together. The marriage fell apart, which left her with some challenging days when she tried to sell the idea of affordable weddings while she was going through her own divorce.
“Writing about weddings everyday for a site called Recycled Bride, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the irony,” DiNunzio said.
In order to make enough money to pay the rent, DiNunzio rented out the two bedrooms in her apartment on Airbnb, a website that enables people to rent space in their homes like a hotel.
It took a while to build a large enough clientele for Recycled Bride. DiNunzio wrote blogs, pumped up her brand on social media and when she needed business advice, she Googled it. She experimented with different business models, and even stored some of the wedding items for sale at her apartment. But after fighting her way through piles of tulle and satin to get to the bathroom, she decided that wasn’t going to work.
The website launched in September 2009, and today it has 350,000 visitors each month. DiNunzio said Recycled Bride’s sales grew 300 percent last year—but she keeps a veil over how much money that is.
The company employs 11 people, including her ex-husband, who stepped in to help build Recycled Bride. In a few months, DiNunzio thinks the team will outgrow her apartment.
Recycled Bride is part of a $53 billion wedding industry and the website makes money in three different ways. If sellers choose to make sales through the website, Recycled Bride gets a 9 percent cut. The website also earns revenue through online ads and premium memberships. For example, if a customer wants to sell more than one item on Recycled Bride, the customer needs to buy a membership that starts at $10 a month.
Shane McMurray, CEO of research firm The Wedding Report, said he thinks Recycled Bride is a good idea because consumers are looking to save money in a sluggish economy. McMurray said a recent survey of 75 consumers showed that 91 percent of them were willing to buy secondhand wedding items.
The concept of marriage is also changing. McMurray said brides today are not as attached to their wedding dresses as their mothers were.
“The new generation that’s coming in, they’ve gone through high divorce rates,” McMurray said. “You see less people getting married. You see more people living together. The same family values you saw in the 80’s and 70’s, it’s not the same today.”
Recycled Bride says it hasn’t had any sizing issues with its dresses, but Annamarie von Firley, who makes custom vintage wedding gowns at reVamp in Historic Downtown LA, was skeptical. She said even if the buyer had the same measurements as the seller, the dress could have been altered to account for a larger torso or smaller back.
“Once it’s tailored, the window of it being able to fit a person with that exact body is pretty unlikely,” von Firley said.
But DiNunzio sold her wedding dress on Recycled Bride, and Jackie Lantz, 28, hopes she can do the same.
Lantz is selling her $2,400 Enzoani wedding gown for $750 on Recycled Bride. So far, she’s already had some enquiries and she’s looking forward to the extra cash.
“Realistically, we’ll probably put it into savings for a down payment for our house,” Lantz said. “Maybe I will buy myself a pair of shoes out of it, too.”
DiNunzio might be able to help with that. She recently launched a new website called Tradesy that sells used women designer clothing from skinny jeans to high heels.
DiNunzio has also moved on in her personal life. DiNunzio ended up dating, then marrying a musician who rented out space in her apartment. She bought the dress for her second wedding on Recycled Bride. DiNunzio and her ex remain friends and still work together at Recycled Bride.
“It’s a funny, sordid, unusual story, but we all make it work,” DiNunzio said. “We’re all quite happy with how things turned out.”