Your Day, Your Way: Wedding Dress Preservation

You’ve danced the night away in your wedding dress. Now what? Most brides won’t wear their gowns again, but they may want to save it to remember the day or to pass on to a family member.

Many dresses don’t make it through the wedding without some sign of the day that lingers long after the music stops. You may have taken outside photos where the train got a little scuffed, or perhaps someone stepped on your dress while on the dance floor. Wedding dresses have seen everything from red wine to lipstick, and from cake to champagne from an excited guest.

If you do want to save your dress, typically dry-cleaning isn’t always enough for the gown.

There are several options to clean and preserve your gown, including local companies that will handle your dress or national services where you can ship your gown and they take care of all the details. Not only does the dress need to be cleaned, but any spots or stains need to be treated immediately.

Here are a few things to know when thinking about preserving your gown.

Gown preservation is a special cleaning and packaging technique to assure your gown will be protected from insect damage or yellowing. Experts recommend that you have your gown cleaned or sent for preservation immediately after the wedding because some stains will set permanently if too much time as passed. How clean your dress can get will depend on the fabrics used and the specific stains. Some fabrics, such as silk, and some stains, such as red wine, are naturally harder to clean.

When you’re looking for someone to preserve your gown, it’s best to ask for recommendations from family and friends, as well as the bridal shop where you purchased your dress. Many dry cleaners might be willing to clean your gown, but if they don’t do it often, they might not be the best choice.

Companies will use a variety of techniques, from hand-washing to traditional dry-cleaning. After the dress is cleaned, you will want to package it properly. Preservationists agree that wrapping it in plastic isn’t the best option because it can cause wrinkles and trap moisture. White acid-free tissue paper and an acid-free box are more ideal packaging materials.

Keep in mind that if the company seals your box, they will no longer guarantee the condition of the dress if the seal is broken. Do your homework before you send your dress away and read all the fine print.

Depending on the type of preservation and degree of damage, expect to pay anywhere from $200–$400. If you can’t swing the money for gown preservation, you can do your best to have it cleaned at a local dry-cleaners and then package it away in acid-free materials. Under your bed is an ideal place to store it, out of sight from light and the humidity of an attic or basement.

Read more gown preservation tips at DIY Wedding Dress Details: How to Preserve Your Wedding Dress.

Recently, Deborah Lynn Blumberg wrote the article, “After 'I Do,' Can This Wedding Dress Be Saved?” for The Wall Street Journal that compared four different companies that preserved four different gowns. Two of the companies were part of garment-preservation groups and the other two specialized in gown preservation.

The dresses that were tested included a silk, beaded sari; a polyester knee-length gown from a beach wedding; a strapless, silk wedding gown with jeweled silk flowers; and a long, white gown with a full skirt and beading.

Click here to read the whole article and see which companies got the stains out, which didn’t and which companies went the extra mile.

Another option is to talk to your local David’s Bridal about their Wedding Gown Preservation program. For $189 plus shipping, you can send your dress UPS to their gown preservation specialists.

David’s Bridal – Hampton
32 Coliseum Crossing, Hampton
(757) 827-0361
Monday–Friday: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–6 p.m.

David’s Bridal – Norfolk
5957 Virginia Beach Blvd., Military Crossing S/C, Norfolk
(757) 455-8411
Monday–Friday: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.–7 p.m.
Sunday: Noon–6 p.m.

For a list of local bridal shops in Hampton Roads, check out one of my previous posts, Finding A Wedding Dress.

For those of you who are having your wedding in Hampton Roads but live somewhere else, The Knot has a list of gown preservation groups in other states:

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