The Most Expensive Royal Wedding Dresses

On Febuary 10, 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in a ceremony that changed the course of the wedding industry. Prior to this occasion, royal weddings had been small, private ceremonies held in the off hours of public duty. The bride-to-be typically wore her best dress or the crimson velvet robes of state, and common well-wishers were kept clear of the parade route, not invited in.

However, when the young queen set out to tie the knot, she insisted on a daytime ceremony with hundreds of guests. She invited her subjects to line the route between the palace and the chapel, waiving to them amiably as she passed by. And, perhaps most importantly, she wore white. Her gown was made of English lace, and was as much an attempt to bolster the lace industry as it was a fashion statement.

Queen Victoria's wedding was one of the first weddings to be photographed extensively, and images were distributed widely throughout the world. As a result, any well-off bride who could afford it began copying the various aspects of the monarch's big day, which led to the establishment of some of the longest-standing bridal traditions in the western world.

To this day, modern brides take inspiration from royal weddings. While some things are easy to copy directly, other things, like dresses, are much harder to replicate. The reason? Cost. It's expensive to dress like a royal bride. Here's a look at some of the most expensive royal wedding dresses of all time.

Princess Beatrice: Free

Princess Beatrice's wedding day was wildly different than that of every other royal on the list, in every meaningful way. For starters, her wedding itself came as a total surprise. Princess Beatrice and her husband, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi, postponed their May 2020 ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic (per Brides). A couple months later, they wound up having an intimate gathering at The Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge in Windsor. With only close family members in attendance, the guest list was pared down from the typical hundred(s) to about two dozen for the reception. Additionally, the pomp and circumstance of the whole affair was significantly scaled back with no royal tour through the streets.

Princess Beatrice's free dress was also a break in tradition. Rather than wear a bespoke design, she chose to borrow a gown from her grandmother's closet. The dress, which was designed by Norman Hartnell, a favorite of the Windsors, was first worn by Queen Elizabeth in the 1960s. Of course, there were some alterations made to the gown to make it more suitable for the princess's big day, like the addition of organza sleeves. The pre-existing white silk and diamanté beadwork, on the other hand, were already perfectly suited to the event. The royal topped off her vintage ensemble with a diamond fringe tiara, the same one Queen Elizabeth had worn for her wedding day decades earlier (per Town & Country).

Zara Phillips-Tindall: $9,300

While she may not have a title of her own, Zara Phillips-Tindall is a granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth, and as much of a royal as her cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie. The equestrian is the daughter of Anne, the Princess Royal. Zara married English rugby player Mike Tindall in 2011. Their wedding was a comparatively laid-back affair, taking place at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland, with only 400 guests in attendance.

The bride wore a custom gown designed by Stewart Parvin, a royal couturier. A more traditional designer, Parvin created a silk and satin ivory gown for Tindall, which featured a corsetted waist, teardrop train, and raw-edged tulle straps. Compared to Kate Middleton, who had just gotten married a few months prior, Tindall's dress was almost understated. In fact, the Daily Mail noted that for once, the "dress did not upstage the bride." At $9,300, the gown was significantly cheaper than anything worn by her cousins, and almost verges on affordable (considering its royal owner).

The same cannot be said, however, for the jewels Tindall wore. She completed her bridal look with the Meander Tiara, which was originally given to Queen Elizabeth by her mother-in-law, Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and now belongs to Princess Anne. The laurel wreath-esque topper was paired with diamond frame earrings that were also on loan from the Princess Royal.

Princess Diana: $12,000 then, Unconfirmed today

If Princess Beatrice and Zara Tindall's weddings were understated affairs, the same thing absolutely cannot be said of Princess Diana's wedding to Charles, Prince of Wales. Over 750 million people tuned in at home to watch the nuptials take place on July 29, 1981, according to the BBC, while an additional 600,000 onlookers watched the wedding party make their way to and from the church. Often referred to as "the wedding of the century," the over-the-top ceremony took place in St. Paul's Cathedral in central London.

It's only fitting, then, that Princess Diana's dress be as extravagant and iconic as the day itself. David and Elizabeth Emmanuel designed the ivory taffeta gown, which was kept under tight wraps until the bride stepped out of her car moments before the ceremony began. Town & Country called the dress, which was bedazzled with sequins and embroidered with 10,000 pearls and frilled lace, "A stunning display of style and grandiosity."

At the time the princess wore it, it is estimated that the dress cost about $12,000 in 1981 (which doesn't include the price of the Spencer tiara, tulle veil, or the silk shoes). Today, the dress is worth quite a bit more thanks to its historical significance. Town & Country estimated a $115,000 value in 2020. The iconic gown is currently on display at Kensington Palace, which allows royal watchers who couldn't make it to the fairytale wedding a chance to see it up close and personal.

Sarah Ferguson: $45,000 then, $114,000 now

In 1986, Prince Charles' younger brother, Prince Andrew, married Sarah Ferguson, the daughter of a Major in the Life Guards. The affair, which took place at Westminster Abbey in London, was extravagant, but not quite as ostentatious as Charles and Diana's — for example, only 500 million people watched the couple exchange vows vs. Charles and Diana's much higher number.

That being said, the expectations for the Duchess of York's dress were just as high as the expectations for the Princess of Wales' gown had been. And the Duchess, who wasn't known as much of a fashionista, delivered. She asked a more obscure designer, Lindka Cierach, to submit several design options, and the winner featured a corseted waist, 17-foot train, and elaborate bee and thistle embroidery. The dress, which cost an estimated $45,000 (via People), also had the young couple's initials stitched into the train.

Unlike her sister-in-law, Fergie didn't wear a tiara as she walked down the aisle. Instead, she arrived in a flower crown that featured gardenias (the prince's favorite flower), and showed off the newly-crafted York Tiara (a wedding gift from the Queen and Prince Philip) after the ceremony was over and she was officially a royal.

Marie-Chantal Miller: $169,000 then, $300,000 today

In 1995, Marie-Chantal Miller, daughter of billionaire Robert Warren Miller and it-girl of the '90s, married Pavlos, the Crown Prince of Greece. The wedding was massive, reportedly costing Mr. Miller upwards of $8 million (per The New York Times). The wedding of Queen Elizabeth to Prince Phillip certainly attracted a crowd some 50 years earlier, but the festivities for Marie-Chantal and Pavlos drew the biggest numbers since then, with kings and queens from the U.K., Belgium, Romania, Sweden, Spain, Bulgaria, Jordan, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein in attendance (via Vanity Fair).

Marie-Chantal's dress, which was designed by none other than Valentino himself, was as exquisite as an event that grand would require it to be. Made of ivory silk, it featured a lace bodice and long sleeves that were embroidered with flowers and studded with pearls. A Chantilly lace train four meters long (also embroidered) and the Corsage Tiara, borrowed from Queen Anne-Marie, completed the look. Per Vogue, the bridal ensemble "took 25 seamstresses four months to make." 

Hello! magazine reported that the gown cost £150,000 (about $169,000) at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to around $300,000 today, which is enough for a starter home in some of the country's hottest markets. The jaw-dropping price tag just goes to show that glamour really knows no price.

Princess Eugenie: $260,000

Another granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Eugenie married her longtime love Jack Brooksbank, a wine merchant and socialite, in 2018. The couple tied the knot at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle in front of 850 guests (via Vanity Fair). After the ceremony, the loved-up pair took a short carriage tour through the town of Windsor, giving well-wishers an up-close glimpse at the bride's stunning Peter Pilotto gown.

Princess Eugenie's dress was made of white silk that bore a custom pattern combining four special symbols for Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank: thistle, the White Rose of York, shamrock, and ivy (via The Knot). The corseted waist, full skirt, bow-like ruffle, and low, folded back which gave the dress its shape were all inspired by royal wedding gowns of eras past. But those influences mark the end of Eugenie's adherence to tradition. The modern bride chose to forgo a veil, opting to don the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara on its own, instead.

The lack of a veil worked to highlight Eugenie's scar from a childhood operation to correct her scoliosis. Shortly before the big day, the princess told ITV the decision to display the scar was a conscious one, saying, "It's a lovely way to honor the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this. I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars and I think it's really special to stand up for that."

All told, the beauty-redefining dress cost an estimated $225,000 to $260,000 (via the Daily Mail).

Meghan Markle: $265,000

In the tradition of Diana and Charles' wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's big day garnered international attention. The modern couple exchanged vows in front of some 600 guests at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, while 100,000 revelers crowded the streets hoping to get a glimpse of the royals, and an estimated 1.9 billion viewers around the world tuned into the proceedings from home (via The Telegraph). Whether enjoying the event in person or via a screen, every one of those onlookers was almost certainly wondering what the newly minted duchess would be wearing.

For many, her classic gown, designed by the one-time artistic director of Givenchy Clare Waight Keller, was a hit. The white silk dress had a fitted waistline, classic boatneck, and elegant three-quarter sleeves. Its long train was almost completely covered by Markle's 16-foot veil. The veil itself was a work of art, hand-embroidered with 55 flowers — one for each of the 53 countries in the commonwealth, plus California poppies, an homage to the bride's home state, and Wintersweet, which blooms in front of the couple's old home, Nottingham Cottage. The headpiece was secured with a diamond bandeau tiara that was once Queen Mary's (via Bustle).

While the exact cost of Meghan's dress, which was paid for by the palace, has never been made known, Vanity Fair cites it as at least $265,000. 

Kate Middleton: $434,000

The first major royal wedding in decades, Kate Middleton and Prince William's nuptials drew an insane amount of attention. The Knot reported that over 1 million people stood in the streets between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey (where the ceremony was taking place), 5,000 street parties were thrown, 162 million people tuned in to watch the cable and live stream feeds, and 1,900 lucky guests lined the pews inside the church. Numbers that, when you stop to truly think about them, are mind-boggling.

Another jaw-dropping number? $434,000, or the price tag on Kate Middleton's fashion-changing wedding dress (via Page Six). Designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, the custom gown featured a long-sleeve, v-neck lace bodice overlaying a full-skirted ivory silk gown. The Royal School of Needlework handcrafted the skirt's lace appliqué (per Town & Country), a beautiful detail that surely added several thousand dollars to the overall cost. The look was completed with a lace veil and the Cartier Halo Tiara, on loan from the Queen.

Like other royal brides, Kate managed to pay homage to her new husband, and their private relationship, in a sweet, understated way. By adding sweet William flowers to her shield-shaped bouquet, the new princess signaled her affection in a way a multi-million dollar wedding simply could not.

Grace Kelly: Unconfirmed

The original fairytale princess bride, American actress Grace Kelly became a bona fide Queen when she married Monaco's Prince Ranier III back in 1956. The two met at the Cannes Film Festival a year prior and tied the knot after a whirlwind year of globe-trotting courtship. 700 guests were in attendance at the Saint Nicholas Cathedral ceremony, and 30 million viewers watched the televised coverage of the day (a huge number for the time).

On this occasion, the real star of the show wasn't the Hollywood beauty, as you might assume, but her dress. Conceived by Academy Award-winning costumer Helen Rose, who had previously dressed the actor for two separate films, the gown was a gift from MGM Studios, Kelly's former employer. The dress took 30 seamstresses six weeks to craft, and an unconfirmed estimate from Brides put its original cost at $60,000, only one of many other guesses. The finished product featured a high neckline, long sleeves made of lace, and a silk skirt covered in thousands of pearls. Instead of a tiara, Kelly opted for a Juliet cap that was wreathed with paper orange blossoms.

The iconic gown wasn't the only wedding dress Kelly wore. Monaco's law required that the couple have a civil ceremony before their religious one. For that wedding, which took place a day before the public wedding, Kelly donned a pink floral outfit, also designed by Helen Rose (via Vogue). There is no word on how much that lesser-known dress cost.

Queen Elizabeth: Unconfirmed

By the time Queen Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, she'd been in love with him for nearly a decade. Per Harpers Bazaar, the story began when the 13-year-old heir to the throne was given a tour of the Royal Naval College by the handsome 18-year-old naval cadet. Seven years and thousands of letters later, the two got engaged in secret (Elizabeth's father, King George VI, insisted a formal announcement be postponed until she turned 21).

On November 20, 1947, 2,500 guests lined the pews at Westminster Abbey to watch the future monarch tie the knot. Billed as an austere wedding — the country was just emerging from WWII, after all — the ceremony lacked many of the over-the-top decorations we've come to expect from royal weddings. However, the government did grant Elizabeth one extravagance: 200 additional ration coupons to put toward her wedding dress.

Using the coupons, royal couturier Norman Hartnell was able to design a stunning gown made of silk duchess satin. The ivory fabric was intricately embroidered with star lilies and orange blossoms as well as 10,000 imported seed pearls (via Harpers Bazaar). Botticelli's Primavera was the designer's muse, per the Royal Collection Trust. The long-sleeved dress was completed with a 13-foot train, an embroidered tulle veil, and a diamond tiara (that snapped shortly before the princess was set to walk down the aisle).

Per an unconfirmed estimate from Insider, the dress cost $42,000. Because the Queen also used ration coupons, the current (high) value is also unconfirmed.

Queen Letizia: $8 million

One dress cost more than every other gown combined. Worn by Queen Letizia of Spain, a former journalist, in her 2004 wedding to Prince Felipe, the dress was a whopping estimated $8 million (via Express).

The gown was designed by royal couturier Manuel Pertegaz. Made of off-white silk, it had long sleeves, a stiff, open-necked collar, and a four-and-a-half meter train. Heavy embroidery edged the entire gown and was all done with thread literally spun from silver and gold. A cathedral-length lace veil and a diamond tiara worn by Letizia's new mother-in-law, Queen Sofia, on her own wedding day, completed the look.

The couple's wedding, which took place at the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, was the first royal wedding to be held in the country's capital in nearly a century (via Royal Central). Attended by some 1,600 guests, including several heads of state and members of royal families, and watched by millions of people in Spain alone, the ceremony, and subsequent celebrations, were as showy and ornate as you might imagine. And of course, when you're going all-out the way these monarchs did, the last thing you can skimp on is the bride's look.