How This Bride Paid Off The Bulk Of Her Wedding By Renting Dresses Online

She now earns more renting clothes than she did working retail.

The perfect wedding day, no matter the aesthetic, always comes with a price tag. And, while the exact amount varies from person-to-person, the matter of paying it off can often be a great source of stress, with some planning out a strict budget months in advance and others playing it by ear. 

For Sydney-based bride Melissa Howard, 2021 wedding planning was surprisingly pain-free, despite it taking place during lockdown. Her now-husband Chris was based in Melbourne at the time, meaning the bulk of preparations happened via Zoom. Most of their vendors, including their chosen venue, two-hatted Freshwater restaurant Pilu, were booked without having visited in person. 

“We just had real confidence in our decisions and agreed on everything,” Melissa told marie claire Australia. . 

By the end, Melissa estimated the wedding to have cost around $40,000, with around $22,000 going towards the venue alone. However, Melissa said she paid off a “good portion” of the costs (read: around half), with the money generated from her side hustle. 

“I’ve been doing it for about four years now,” Melissa explained, of her decision to begin renting her designer dresses through The Volte

“It started as a side hustle. I had a bit of a shopping problem and I’d heard about The Volte, so I thought it would be a great way to pay for my own shopping. I was one of those people who wanted the latest pieces in my wardrobe, but my income wasn’t keeping up with that.” 


At the time, Melissa was working a retail job and renting her designer dresses on the side. She started with 1-2 pieces, and now has 34 listings to her name. Last year, she quit her retail job and pursued her rental business on The Volte, which takes up 2-3 days of her week and earns her around $4,000 a month. When she’s not cleaning and packaging dresses for orders, she’s sourcing new pieces, having developed relationships with key brands which allow her to stay at the forefront of their new collections. 

Melissa says she now makes the same, if not more money than she made through her retail job, crediting Chris for encouraging her to take the plunge. 

The couple’s love story is one that spans several decades, with them having met after Chris took a job with Melissa’s father over twenty years ago. They ended up going their separate ways for a while, but after his first marriage ended, he decided to seek out Melissa with a DM slide just last year. 

The pair reconnected in March 2021, with the ring designed and ordered a few months later in July. By November 2021 they were engaged, with the wedding taking place in February of this year. The whirlwind romance didn’t leave too long for planning, but Melissa explained that booking vendors was fairly easy as people were still nervous about the pandemic. 

“Once I’d found the person I wanted to spend my forever with, I didn’t get so hung up on the little details. I just knew that I wanted an overall elegant, timeless wedding, so I picked things in line with that,” Melissa explained. 


And, the pandemic wasn’t just responsible for helping with wedding planning – it also helped Melissa’s rental business to thrive. 

“COVID really diminished people’s budgets, but they still want to be on trend,” she explained, of the desire to be seen in designer clothing without having to actually purchase the pieces yourself. 

“Some people don’t want to be seen in the same thing more than once, so if they can get a $1,000 dress for the weekend for $200, they will be saving themselves $800. So they’re still being seen in the latest and greatest, but without the cost.” 

Interestingly, several of Melissa’s most popular listings are also some of her oldest, with dresses from 2019 still being snapped up. As for her most popular designer, she revealed that everyone is “just dying” over Rachel Gilbert, not only because her designs are quite unique, but also as we head into wedding and party season. 

“I’ve already got multiple bookings every month for the rest of the year,” she said. “People receive their wedding invitations and then book my Rachel Gilbert dresses. It’s definitely a brand people want to be seen in, but the price range can be out of reach for some.” 

Melissa’s average dress rental cost is between $150-$200, with pieces falling under and over that. Her most expensive piece is a $1700 Rachel Gilbert, which she rents out for $350. And, it has already paid for itself twice over.

Bernadette Olivier, co-founder of The Volte, says the platform has over 250,000 monthly users and 12,000 lenders across Australia. And, with roughly 100 new lenders joining every week, the variety of brands and styles will only continue to grow. 

Of the roughly 70,000 items listed, the average retail cost per item is $1000 with the average hire cost coming in at just $130 for four days. As for the most popular brands currently housed on The Volte, Olivier told marie claire Australia that “Acler and Aje are always popular and cater to women of all ages and sizes, while Alemais is a young brand that is just exploding due to their pieces being so unique and beautifully made.” 


As for Melissa’s advice to anyone else looking to rent their clothes online, she had just four words. 

“Give it a shot,” she said, encouraging anyone who might be feeling curious to start with one dress and see how they feel. 

As Melissa pointed out, platforms like The Volte aren’t just offering a chance to be on-trend at a fraction of the price – they’re alsos supporting a more sustainable shopping experience. With the second hand clothing business continuing to boom, opting to rent a dress you might wear just once is the perfect alternative to purchasing it and allowing it to gather dust. 

So, whether you’re looking to rent or rent out, consider lengthening the life of those special occasion pieces that still have a little love left to give – you never know how it could change your life. 

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