Preserve your gown after the Big Day to ensure it has life for generations to come.
Elizabeth Finney entrusted Dublin Cleaners to preserve the dress she wore for her Aug. 25, 2012, nuptials to Mark.
Julie Linz Photography
These days, there are myriad options for what to do with your wedding gown after the big day has come and gone. And while many brides are consigning their gowns or destroying them in trendy “trash the dress” photo sessions, there are still plenty of great reasons to have your gown professionally cleaned and preserved after its moment in the spotlight.
For Katie (Parker) Lindberg, who wed Dan on July 9, 2011, the dress simply has too much sentimentality tied to it—it carries the happy thoughts of her wedding day, as well as the memory of shopping for and finding the perfect gown with her mother.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to sell it right away. I just wanted to preserve it, at least for the time being,” she says, adding she may eventually consider selling the dress or even just keeping it to show her future daughter. “There’s just so much value in the dress, not only in what we paid, but … in the memories it held.”
The first step in preserving your gown is keeping stains that can accrue on the wedding day—wine, makeup, grass and even sneaker marks—from settling in. “One of the staples at a wedding is Champagne; it’s clear and doesn’t show up,” says Margaret Butler, co-owner and marketing director of Dublin Cleaners, which offers a variety of services, including gown pressing and spot cleaning before the wedding. “But you let it oxidize and you have one nice brown spot.”
Don’t let fear of a stain limit fun at the reception. If a spill happens, gently blot the area with a clean cloth. Avoid rubbing, which can damage delicate fabrics. And don’t bother with club soda—although popular wisdom says it’s a spill antidote, it actually just adds another layer to work through.
Experts recommend taking your dress to a professional for cleaning and preservation within a few months of the wedding, but don’t hesitate to bring it in if more time has passed. An exception to this would be if the gown was heavily stained on the wedding day. For brides who want to clean the gown but wait for preservation, Dublin Cleaners and New Albany Cleaners offer Crystal Care bags, which protectively store a dress for up to three years. “This ensures the gown is cleaned shortly after the wedding but delays some of the expense of the full preservation process until the couple is more financially established after a big wedding,” Butler says.
The average price of professional cleaning runs between $100 and $200, depending on the gown’s design and materials. Preservation services typically are add-ons to the standard cleaning. If you want to clean and preserve your dress in one session, you can expect to spend around $250 to $400.
No matter where you take your garment, there are some questions you need to ask the cleaner. First, see if you can inspect the gown before it is sealed. Also, make sure the work—including beads, sequins, lace and the fabric of the gown itself—is guaranteed.
Once you get your packaged dress home, it’s up to you to ensure the preservation holds up. Potential dangers include moisture, temperature changes, exposure to light and insects. And if you or a family member wants to try it on, make sure the wearer isn’t wearing perfume or makeup.
After all the care you’ve taken to preserve your dress, what if no family members want to wear it in the future? Not to worry: There are other options. Brides have had their gowns restyled into Communion dresses, christening gowns and even flower girl dresses—a charming way to let the memories of your big day live on.