Since I'm now down to my last few wedding items for sale, and have made close to $3,000 on the sales, I thought I might share my experiences, in hopes they will be of some help to other newlyweds here.
How to Buy Stuff You Will Later Be Able to Sell
When you are buying, look around on the resale boards to see what tends to go quickly. For example, when I was considering whether to buy chair covers, I discovered that those listed often fetched nearly as much in price as new ones, and tended to be snapped up quickly. That gave me the confidence to buy them, because I knew I was likely to be able to keep the ultimate cost down by reselling them after the wedding.
Consider neutral colors. Lots of people are going to want white or ivory table linens. If yours are bright pink and purple stripes, your market is much more limited. This doesn't mean you have to avoid all uniqueness in your wedding. However, you do want to keep in mind that your potential market is a lot bigger if you are buying items that a lot of people want.
Avoid monogramming or engraving. You aren't likely to have a whole lot of trouble selling unused packs of plain cocktail napkins. But if your napkins say, "Dave and Betsy forever, 10/10/2010," there is not going to be a big market for them.
The more stuff is individualized, the less it will retain its value. Anyone who likes your table linens is a potential purchaser. By contrast, someone may love your wedding dress, but if you are a size 2 and she is a size 24, she is not going to buy it. Thus, your table linens will be an easier sell, and will retain more of their value, than your dress.
Go for popular designers, and know the designer and style number. We had two dresses to sell, one a David's Bridal style 5268 and one an Emme Bridal (style number unknown). They cost about the same. However, the David's Bridal sold a lot more quickly and easily. Why? Because many people go to a bridal store, find a style they like, then look to see whether they can find it more cheaply online. If they search by the manufacturer's name and style number, they simply will not find your dress if you don't know that information.
Similarly one of our veils was a David's Bridal and one was a Symphony Bridal. The David's Bridal was a lot easier to sell. A lot more people have been in to a David's Bridal store than have been into a store that sells Symphony Bridal. Thus, even though we knew the designer and style number for the Symphony Bridal veil, there were fewer people searching for that style.
Don't be afraid to buy used stuff, if it is less expensive. Used stuff will often retain its value better than new. For example, if you buy table linens new in their packages, you are going to have to sell them as used, which brings down the price. There is a much lesser difference in price between linens that have been used once and those that have been used twice than between new ones and ones that have been used once. Thus, you may be able to recover more of your cost if you buy used.
Keep pictures. If you buy an item online, keep the picture from the listing. Just right click on the photo, and choose, "Save image as." eBay ads, for example, expire after a certain period. You don't want to lose the only photo of your item that way, because you will need it when you go to sell.
Didn't buy the item online? Take lots of pictures yourself, preferably in daylight. Indoor pictures often end up dim or with a yellowish cast. Outdoor pictures will make the items look more appealing. Or try to set the item up the way it will be used for the wedding. For example, if you are taking pictures of candlesticks, take them with lit candles in them, on a table with a tablecloth, silverware, and plates.
And don't forget photos of your item in use. You can take some yourself as you are setting up. If you have a professional photographer, you may be able to crop pictures of meaningful details from the pro photo. If you have an amateur, you may want to discuss with that person specific photos you would like to have.
When Do You Start Selling?
As soon as possible! You are likely to be far more active on wedding message boards before your wedding than after. So when you start buying items, immediately put them on a "for sale" page in your bio, with the date on which they will be available, and link to that page in your board signatures. If someone wants to buy an item, get a deposit (20% or 25%) immediately to make sure they are serious. You can then have them pay the balance immediately after the wedding, and then you can get all that stuff out of the house.
How Much Is It, and What Does It Look Like?
I see a lot of brides who put up ads that say, "Photos sent on request." That is a really bad idea. It just adds one more hurdle to a potential buyer. You'll notice that stores that sell by mail order always put up pictures of what they are selling. You'll have a lot more success if you do the same.
In the case, of a dress, you'll do best if you list the designer, style number, size, and your actual measurements and height. (Sizes are so variable that your actual measurements may be of more value to a potential buyer than the listed size.)
The other really bad idea is saying, "Make me an offer," instead of saying what the price is. The buyer does not want to take the chance of wasting money by making an offer that is too high. The buyer also doesn't want to be embarrassed by making an offer that you will think it is ridiculous. Thus, you will get fewer offers. And many of the offers you get will be for a ridiculously low price--because the only people to make them will be people who are hoping you don't know the value of your own items.
Instead, do some research. How much do you see these items being sold for used? Do some Google searches and figure it out. If you can't find used ones being sold, look for what new ones cost, and then provide some discount from that. When in doubt, go for a price that is too high rather than too low. People will often make you an offer below what you are asking--but they never make you an offer above that. Then state your price, right up front. That way, a potential buyer can compare your price with the prices at which the items are available elsewhere, without a lot of hassle.
Break Up Large Lots
You may have bought 100 chair covers. Or you may have paper lanterns and lighting to go with them. However, you will probably do better if you are willing to sell smaller quantities at a time, or sell those lanterns separately from the lighting.
The reason is that your potential buyers' options are more limited if they want to buy only a few of something. For example, the price for 100 chair covers on eBay is a lot less than 100 times the price of one. So, if you bought 100, and are willing to sell one or a few to each buyer, you may actually make back more than you paid. Conversely, if you are only willing to sell all 100 to one buyer, you are ruling out any buyer who needs either more or fewer than 100.
Similarly, we ended up with a lot of white paper lanterns, and a lot of lighting for them in pink and amber. That worked for us. However, some buyers wanted white paper lanterns and did not want to light them at all. Others wanted to use the pink and amber lights in lanterns that were colors other than white. By being willing to sell them separately, we were able to get all of them sold more easily.
Where Do You Start Selling?
The short answer is, everywhere you can. For example, a Craigslist ad will typically bring in only buyers in your local area, while one on eBay can bring in international buyers. So a heavy item may have the most resale value on Craigslist, because local brides can pick it up much more inexpensively than they could get it if they had to pay shipping charges. A lightweight item may have the most resale value on eBay. For example, I had some Christmas net lights that were all bought by someone in Austria. Apparently, net lights are much less available in Europe than they are in the US. So it was worth it to someone to pay the shipping charges to get something she just couldn't buy in her area.
Some specific suggestions:
Amazon. The Amazon rules are a bit bizarre. For example, you can sell something on Amazon only if that exact item is already for sale on Amazon. You have to charge shipping at a rate set up by Amazon, which may be either more or less than your actual shipping costs. It also takes about two weeks after you add a new bank account on Amazon before they will release the first payments to you, so you will have to pay the first shipping costs out of your own pocket, and get them back later. However, items typically go for more money on Amazon than they do on eBay or other sites. Also, Amazon does not charge you for listing an item, but only charges a commission if it actually sells.
eBay. eBay makes it really simple to start selling. If you see an item on eBay, there is typically a link on the page to, "Sell one like this." Payment comes in immediately via PayPal, so you can use the purchase money to pay for the shipping.
The one issue with eBay is that if you sell with an auction-style listing, the price you get may be kind of random. If you have a couple of people trying to outbid each other, it may go very high. However, if your listing happens to close at 5:00 AM Eastern Standard Time, the one person online at that hour who wants it may get it for much less than its value. Personally, I prefer "buy it now" style listings, because I'd rather get the actual value (even if it takes a bit longer) than to sell it at what it gets on an auction.
You also need to know that the eBay system is highly biased toward buyers. This is good for you in a way, because it gives people the confidence to buy on eBay, which brings you more buyers. However, you should know that there are a couple of traps there for unwary sellers.
First, if someone complains that an item is "not as described," and they paid by PayPal, PayPal will probably make you take the item back and give the person a refund--and quite likely even pay the shipping charges to get it back. This is true even if you state a "no refunds" policy on your ad. And whether an item is "as described" can be a judgment call. If the buyer thought your ad made it seem bigger, redder, or in some way different from what the buyer got, the presumption is going to be in favor of the buyer. Thus, you may as well provide that the buyer can return the item for a refund.
Second, your ability to sell on eBay depends on your retaining a good rating. And one of the factors that goes into a good rating is whether shipping costs are reasonable. You may therefore want to raise your asking price a little to provide for "free" shipping, so as to avoid someone thinking that your shipping rates are too high.
Craigslist. Craigslist is totally free--no fees to list items, no commissions when they are sold. And because it is targeted to your local area, it is particularly good for hard to ship items. However, there are two things to watch out for with Craigslist. The first is the scam artists, who seem to particularly target wedding dress sales. If someone says they can't stop by to see your dress, but want it sent to a foreign country after they pay you with a certified check? That's a scammer.
The other issue with Craigslist is "community moderation." What that means is that anyone can flag an ad, and if an ad is flagged a certain number of times, it's deleted. There is no way to appeal a flagged posting, and you won't even be told why it was flagged.
- Saying you will sell something for "best offer." Craigslist readers want you to tell them the price up front.
- Mentioning a price for shipping, or that you will accept PayPal. The idea behind Craigslist is that it is a means for local buyers and sellers to find each other. Thus, you should be getting people to pick up your items and pay cash.
- Saying that you will give items free to someone who is needy. Either you give the free item to the first person who shows up, or you sell it. If there are conditions on giving it away, you will get flagged.
- Posting the same things in multiple categories or multiple cities.
- Deleting a post after it has been up a couple of days, then reposting, so as to keep your post at the top of the list.
Moreover, if you have a post that gets flagged, and you try to fix the issues and repost, your new post is almost certain to be flagged. You'll need to wait at least 48 hours to repost. Plus, the number of people who have to flag an item before it gets deleted goes down if you have had previous posts flagged. So, check the rules carefully in the beginning, or you can end up in an endless spiral of never being able to put up a post without having it flagged.
Wedding Message Boards. Almost all online wedding message boards have a "for sale" section of some kind. Use them! For items that area typically used for weddings, they are your most likely source of buyers. Here are some links:
- Offbeat Bride's Wedding Swap Group
- OneWed's Buy, Sell, & Trade forum
- Project Wedding Classifieds
- Trash to Treasure
- Wedding by Color Marketplace
- Weddingbee Classifieds
Wedding Dress Resale Sites. Some sites are designed specifically for the resale of wedding dresses. Here are some links:
Other Wedding-Specific Places. Here are some links to wedding-specific places to sell all types of wedding items, not just dresses:
Non Wedding-Specific Places. Here are some you might want to consider:
Buying items to resell after the wedding can in many instance be much less expensive than renting the same items. However, you need to do your homework and figure out how to sell them, so as not to get stuck with a house full of unneeded wedding stuff.