So, you’ve just got married or you’re very close to the big day. And what? Do you think after the wedding that’s it? You can just put your feet up and relax on your honeymoon. Well yes, you nearly can but there are still some things to attend to.
If you’re the sentimental type one of those things might be wedding dress preservation. But what is it? Why would you want to do it? And how do you go about making sure your dress lasts you a lifetime?
Well, in this article we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about preserving your unique dress. We’ll tell you how soon after the wedding you should start the process, how much it will likely cost, and offer some top tips to ensure the lifespan of your garment.
So, if you’re reading this after your wedding or getting ahead of the curve, good on you! You won’t regret it. You’ll have a dress to look back on in years to come when all those other suckers are wondering why theirs is a crumbling mess.
What is Wedding Dress Preservation?
To put it simply, wedding dress preservation is ensuring your stunning dress lasts in as near pristine condition as possible.
The goal is to take it back to how it looked before any stains, spills or dirt attacked it on your wedding day.
Trust us, we’ve seen our fair share of wedding dress mishaps. They happen. One that stands out, in particular, was a whole glass of red wine being spilled. Whilst this is an extreme example most other stains can be removed and your dress restored to the way it was off the rack in the bridal salon.
However, prevention is always better than cure so keep that in mind throughout your big day. Maybe think about saying no kids at your wedding in your invite haha, or don’t have red wine on the drinks list! Hmmm maybe not. Just be super careful!
The process of wedding dress preservation involves skill, specialist cleaning products, and proper storage methods. If carried out correctly your garment should last for years and years as a cherished reminder of your special day.
Reasons to Preserve Your Wedding Dress
Preserving the garments you wore on your wedding day won’t appeal to everyone. However, if you’re reading this we’re fairly confident that it’s something you’ve either done before or are really interested in starting to do.
There are a whole host of reasons you might want to preserve your wedding dress. Let us take a look at some of the most popular ones:
Maybe you’ve still got the gown you wore for prom? Or you’ve kept your high school yearbooks? These are all treasured memories from throughout your life. People love collecting these sorts of trinkets and bringing them out every now and then.
When you look at them you’ll be transported back to how you felt at the time. With a wedding dress that could be the nerves you felt or the overwhelming joy when you saw your partner standing at the altar.
It also allows you a window into a time gone by and memories you shared with people that may not be around anymore. Preserving your dress acts as a sort of time capsule. Much like freezing your wedding cake to enjoy on your anniversary, it’s something you can bring out of the closet each year and reminisce with your partner.
Pass on to Children
Another reason why you might want to think about wedding dress preservation is to pass the item on to any future children.
This might be so that they can wear it at their wedding (note, they may not thank you for this, especially if styles change). You may do it just for purely sentimental reasons to give them as a reminder of you. Or your intention may be that they can use elements of the dress to make a completely new and unique wedding dress.
The dress serves as a reminder of the era that you got married in. It will reflect the wedding style at the time and capture a piece of your family’s history. Yes, photos and videos do this very well but being able to actually look and feel the garment provides another layer of depth.
There are no two ways about it wedding dresses cost a lot of cheddar! Particularly if you seek out designer wedding dresses from people like Vera Wang or Justin Alexander.
Some of these may actually appreciate in value over the years and you might end up turning a profit. You could reap the rewards for yourself or as we’ve already mentioned pass it on to your children for them to benefit from.
Another way of looking at it is spreading the cost over your lifetime. Let’s say your Vera Wang dress costs you $10,000 well if you keep that for the next 60 years it’s only costing you $166 per year. Not bad, right?! And it’s something that you can get so much joy out of.
Is It Really Necessary to Preserve Your Wedding Dress?
Whether or not you preserve your wedding dress will ultimately come down to personal preference.
Some people will want to be rid of it as soon as possible to make room in their closet. That’s a perfectly fine choice, perhaps they donate it to charity or upcycle it into something completely new and interesting.
However, for others, this is the best way to remember what an awesome day they had at their wedding. For these people, the wedding dress can be as good as the photos at transporting them back in time.
Equally, you could save your wedding dress rather than preserve it. You are of course taking a huge risk here, but if you don’t care about how it’ll look, smell and feel in 10-20 years’ time then that’s totally up to you. We don’t recommend just slinging it in your closet but we know people who have done this only to find it becomes a moldy moth-eaten mess years later.
Most people will value having their dress in pristine condition and that’s why preserving the garment is such a good idea. By doing this you’ll prevent some of the most common degradation types such as yellowing, odor, and mold growth. We’ll talk more in-depth about these later in the article.
Only you can decide whether preserving your gown is right for you.
How Soon After the Wedding Should You Preserve Your Dress?
This will once again be your call. What we can tell you though is that the sooner you preserve your wedding dress the better. If you’re reading this many years after you said “I do” don’t worry it’s still something you can do.
The reason it’s best to do it as soon as possible though is that it’s your chance to remove any stains or odors that may be present. These might not necessarily be visible straight away to the naked eye. However, if you leave them to fester for an extended period of time they can oxidize and produce brown or yellow marks which can be difficult to remove.
As we’ve said, time is of the essence. Even if you can’t necessarily preserve your wedding dress right away we strongly recommend getting it cleaned immediately.
Yes, we’re talking about the day after your wedding. This process should be able to remove any sweat from the fabric or dirt collected around the hem etc. You could then look to start the preservation process once you return from your honeymoon.
The Most Common Ways Your Dress Will Degrade If You Don’t Preserve It
Like most things, if you leave them exposed to the elements they’ll degrade over time. A wedding dress is no different and there are a few common ways that they’ll deteriorate.
These are usually from improper storage, not having the dress cleaned or not handling it with care.
They can all be avoided but let’s outline what they are and why they might occur.
If you’ve ever painted something white with an oil based paint you’ll know that it has an annoying habit of turning yellow over time. The same can be true of a wedding dress.
This process can start to happen just 6 months after your wedding, particularly if it’s not stored or looked after properly.
Luckily this is something that can be fixed but it’s best left to the professionals. DO NOT BLEACH YOUR DRESS! Instead, speak to a professional and seek their advice. They’ll no doubt deal with this request on the regular.
There are a few things that will exacerbate this problem. Some can’t be avoided but others you can do something about.
- Age: You can’t do much about this. As the fabric ages the white pigment will naturally break down and dull. If it’s just age then your dress can usually be restored to its former glory.
- Sunlight exposure: Ever left something in the window only to find it’s yellowed or lost all the color years later? For me, that was a Buzz Lightyear figurine but the same will happen to a wedding dress. Prolonged UV radiation causes this process by breaking down the dyes in the fabric. So try to store your dress away from sunlight where possible.
- Chemicals: Thinking of dousing yourself in your favorite Chanel perfume for your wedding day? Well, the chemicals in the perfume could get onto your dress and contribute to the yellowing process years later.
Dreaded stains on wedding dresses. Maybe it’s just us that are permanently scarred by that red wine incident!
Stains can come in many forms though, from drink and food spills to simply sweating in your dress. Sweat, in particular, might not be instantly recognizable as an issue on your wedding day.
However, it does contain chemicals especially if you’ve worn deodorant, antiperspirant, or perfume. This mixture can then speed up the process of degrading the quality of your dress.
You may also introduce stains by improper handling of your dress. We always recommend using cotton gloves much like a museum artifact. Otherwise, you risk adding grease even if it’s in small doses to the fabric.
This is what one of our Story Amour editors found as they uncovered the wedding dress from their parent’s wedding.
It had been stored in the cellar in a plastic bag. A recipe for disaster in our eyes.
The fabric needs to breathe at least a little otherwise it will attract moisture which will ultimately lead to mold growth. In this case, the moisture couldn’t escape either creating the perfect breeding ground for mold.
If mold has set into a wedding dress it can be near impossible to remove not to mention it will also have that musty smell. Eewwww!
How much will it cost to preserve your dress?
Can you really put a price on preserving the cherished memories from your once-in-a-lifetime day? Well, yeah, it turns out you can.
How much you pay will be determined by various factors, most notably who you choose to preserve your gown. From our own research, we’ve found prices ranging from around the $175 mark right through to $600.
As you can see this is a massive jump in price. However, the price will also reflect what needs to be done to your dress. Some dresses require minor restoration to bring them up to scratch whereas others may need much more extensive treatments.
For example, you can add personalization to the outside of the display box, request a rushed processing time, increase insurance or add additional items like shoes and a silk bouquet.
What to look out for if you’re having your dress professionally preserved
If you’re paying to have your dress professionally preserved there are certain things we expect you to receive.
Below we’ve listed some of these expectations as well as questions you should seek the answers to from your chosen preservationist.
- They should ideally send a shipping kit to your front door
- Do they do minor repairs?
- Will they steam your dress?
- Will the shipping and handling be insured? And are there additional costs for more protection?
- Are they using acid-free materials
- Are they going to update you throughout the process?
- What is the length of warranty for the work?
- Will you be charged extra to remove stains? Or to work with a particular brand of dress?
Simple Dry Cleaning Vs. Preserving
It’s a good idea to clean your dress as soon as possible, however, popping down to your local dry cleaner might not be the best option.
They might not have experience or access to the correct treatments required to clean your wedding gown. At the same time once your gown is clean, you’ll want to preserve it in that state forever, won’t you? They may be unfamiliar with the processes involved and not provide you with any additional support or guidance.
Preserving your dress on the other hand also involves cleaning your dress but takes it to the next level. Most preservationists we’ve found in our research claim to adhere to museum levels of preservation.
This means they’re using the most up-to-date techniques to ensure your dress lasts as long as possible. At the same time, they do this day in and day out and will use chemicals and cleaners especially suited to your fabric.
A professional preservationist will also often supply you with a guarantee against yellowing as well as provide you with a specialized box to store your dress. This means that your pristine dress will live on for years to come.
Whoever you choose to clean your garment we suggest doing extensive research. Check their reviews online and ask if they frequently work with wedding dresses.
It’s also important to look at their policy should anything go wrong. If the worst happens and they ruin your dress you want peace of mind that you’ll be compensated for the loss and distress caused.
Our Top Tips for Preservation Perfection
From our research into wedding dress preservation, we’ve found some amazing tips and tricks we’d love to share with you.
These will ensure you get the best results and avoid ruining one of your most treasured possessions.
Read the care instructions
Sounds simple really, doesn’t it? And it is. This is particularly useful for removing those very small stains that might occur during a busy wedding day. You don’t want to be using something that is going to cause irreversible damage.
Equally, if you plan on attempting to preserve your dress yourself it’s a very good idea to familiarize yourself with these instructions.
Book in the post wedding clean early
As we’ve already touched on in this article, getting your dress cleaned as soon as possible will do wonders for it. We even think that taking your dress to be cleaned the day after your wedding is the perfect time.
You can drop it off, head on your honeymoon, and then pick it up when you return.
However, as you can imagine good dry cleaners get booked up and have a lot of work on their plates. Get in early with your booking.
You could even take your dress at a convenient time before the big day so that they will know exactly what they’re dealing with ahead of time.
Preserve your dress ASAP
Similarly to cleaning your dress, getting the preservation process underway as soon as possible is also a great idea.
You might even choose the same company to clean and preserve your garment.
This will all hopefully lead to successful preservation. Once again try to book this service in advance of your big day if you can so that you’re not stuck on a waiting list.
Make sure your box is airtight
If you’re using a preservation service it’s essential to make sure the presentation box is airtight. As we discussed earlier, moisture can be a major contributor to the degradation of a dress. It can lead to mold which will wreak havoc on your gown.
Make sure that your preservationist is providing you with an airtight box. This will prevent the ingress of any tiny insects hellbent on eating your dress. It’ll also stop moisture and dust.
Some companies even fill their boxes with nitrogen removing oxygen in the process. Interestingly they use the same process for bagged-up lettuce. Ok maybe not that interesting! Anyway, this is supposed to slow down the aging process.
Of course, if you ever try on your dress again you’ll want to repeat the process making sure your box is airtight.
Store it correctly
Storing your wedding dress is what preservation is all about so getting it right is essential.
Once you receive your dress back there are a few things you can do to make sure it’s safely tucked away. At the same time, there are certain things you can do before the wedding to ensure your dress is in tip-top condition.
- Anytime you hang your dress make sure to use a padded hanger.
- Use a garment bag that prevents UV light from entering, is breathable, and has acid-free qualities.
- Place it somewhere dark so that it avoids harmful UV rays.
- Avoid placing it in attics and basements where moisture tends to build.
- Place it somewhere high to avoid children or pets investigating.
- A bedroom closet that has a consistent temperature is ideal.
- Your folded dress should include acid-free tissue paper which will puff up the folds preventing harsh creases.
You can preserve other items as well
Of course, the wedding dress is the star of any white wedding, isn’t it? However, there are still other items you might wish to preserve as a sentimental reminder of your special day.
Flowers from your bouquet
Before your wedding, you could invest in a flower press. This is a great way to have a small reminder of your bouquet selection. You could also choose to air dry your flowers by hanging them upside down in a dark and dry location.
Personally, we prefer the idea of pressing your flowers as they’re much more convenient to store. You could make a little scrapbook that includes the pressed flowers that you could store alongside your wedding album. The perfect accompaniment when you get it out to show friends and family.
Another popular item to keep as a memento of your big day along with your dress is the shoes. That is of course if you can resist cashing in on their resale value. After all, they should have only been worn for one day, right?
If you do plan on storing them you should treat them in much the same way as the dress. Clean them to remove stains and sweat. This can be particularly tricky if you’ve had an outdoor wedding and your shoes are white. Grass stains are a right pain to remove.
Try to keep the original shoe box and then wrap your shoes in acid-free tissue paper. This should keep them in pristine condition and ready to pull out when you want a reminder of the day’s events.
Saving the jewelry that you wore on your wedding day is a great accompaniment to your wedding dress.
Alongside the shoes, this gives a complete picture of what you wore on the most special day of your life. You should look to get a nice presentation box that will separate each item. This will prevent any scratching or the items from getting entangled with one another.
Once again store these in a similar place to your dress to keep them away from moisture. You can also give them a little cleaning every now and then to keep them in the best condition possible.
Steps to DIY Preserve your dress
If you haven’t got it in your budget to hire a professional to preserve your dress you could have a go yourself.
This might get you by until you can afford the service of a professional. At the same time, you might not be too overly sentimental if your dress does degrade a little over time.
Here are some of our tips to best take care of your dress after the wedding.
Clean, speed is everything
Whether you’re hiring professionals or preserving it yourself it’s essential that you remove any dirt or stains as quickly as possible. Yes even on your wedding day if need be.
Stains ultimately get worse the longer you leave them and then become much more difficult to rectify.
Have some gentle stain remover with you on your wedding day just in case. Always use soft bristled brushes so that you don’t pull the fabric.
At the very least give your dress a thorough look over the day after. You’ll be thankful for doing this in the long run.
Much like moving an expensive artwork, the handler uses gloves for a reason. They’ll stop you from depositing any oils or other contaminants that may be harmful to your dress.
White cotton ones are the best option in our opinion because it’s easy to see if they hold any dirt.
Hopefully, your wedding photographer has already taken care of this. They’ll usually take wide photos of the whole dress as well as close up details. However, you might not have got your wedding photos back from them yet so you may as well do it anyway.
These are a great record for you to have should something bad ever happen to your dress. Equally, they serve as a reference point for anyone restoring or preserving your dress in the future.
They can look back on these photos to help recreate how your dress looked on that special day.
Use acid-free materials to store
Acid-free materials are great for storing items for an extended period of time. They prevent the item from losing its color and also stop deterioration.
For your wedding dress, it’s a good idea to pad from the inside along any folds. This will prevent creases from forming and ruining the look of your gown when you unbox it.
There’s a variety of acid-free materials you can use such as tissue paper, muslin fabric, and unbleached cotton. Tissue paper is a popular option though as it has acid-free qualities but is also super lightweight. Avoid coloured tissue paper as this could run and dye your garment.
Avoid using plastic bags
If your dress can’t breathe it will die. We know it sounds a bit mad, doesn’t it? But if you wrap your dress in a plastic bag moisture won’t be able to escape. This will cause condensation that will then lead to mold. There’s no pretty way of saying this, it will wreck your dress!
Check on your dress
The whole point of preserving your dress is so that you can enjoy it for years and years. So, naturally, we probably don’t need to tell you to check in on your dress.
However, when you do celebrate it perhaps on your anniversary be sure to study it in detail. Check for any signs of yellowing or degradation. If all is fine on the western front then pop it back in its box until next year.
If however, you see any problem you should address them there and then by yourself. Or, maybe at this point, it might be time to concede and take it to be looked at by the pros.
Hiring professionals to preserve a wedding dress
If you want to take the hassle out of preserving your dress then hiring professionals might be the best option.
Yes, it will cost you but you’ll save a load of time and can get on with enjoying things like your honeymoon or sending out your thank you cards.
Here are some of the reasons why hiring pros can be the best decision when it comes to wedding dress preservation:
- Unrivaled Expertise: This is what they do for a living. They will no doubt have worked on thousands of wedding dresses in their careers. They’ll have expert knowledge of how to clean, restore and preserve wedding dresses.
- Speed: It may take you hours and hours and you may still produce a substandard job at preserving your gown. On the other hand, they can sometimes have your dress ready within 2 weeks.
- Convenience: Most wedding dress preservation services are super easy to use. You simply fill out a few details online, pay the fee and they’ll send you a box to deliver your dress in. They’ll carry out the work updating you throughout and then before you know it your dress will be returned to you.
- Guarantees: A lot of the preservationists we found online offer a lifetime guarantee for their work. This is usually against yellowing. So if your dress does start to show signs of age you can send it back to them and they’ll sort it out for you.
Should you go down the professional route we always recommend doing your due diligence.
Read online reviews from real brides and see what they’ve had to say about the quality of their work. Also, look out for any problematic reviews and see how the company has handled them.
How long will my preserved dress last?
The whole point of having your wedding dress preserved is that it’ll last a long time. This means it can be enjoyed by your family for years to come. Heck, even your daughter or granddaughter could one day wear it for their own wedding.
Lots of companies we found offer a “Lifetime Guarantee” for their work. This usually covers the degradation of the garment specifically against yellowing.
WeddingGownPreservationKit.com however, offers a 100-year guarantee which actually works out much better. Unless of course, you plan on living longer than about 130 years!
What’s the turnaround time to preserve a dress?
From our research, we found that the turnaround time from professionals was between 4-6 weeks. This can obviously vary depending on the time of year and how much work your dress requires.
However, lots offer a quicker service that can have your preserved gown returned to you within 2 weeks. This of course incurs an additional cost.
Can you wear your dress again after preservation?
You can of course try on your dress again but it may void the warranty. You’ll need to check the particulars of whichever company you choose to go with.
Most have viewing windows built into the box. This will usually allow you to glimpse part of the dress but not in its entirety.
You’ll have to make a judgment call for yourself. We get it, if you really want to try on your wedding dress again it can be frustrating.
How often should you check on your dress?
We recommend checking on your dress at least once a year. You can observe the condition of the garment and see if any yellowing has occurred.
Let’s be real, you’ll probably be doing this every year anyway as you reminisce on your anniversary at what a great day you had.
Closing thoughts on wedding dress preservation
If you want to savor the memories of your special day long after it’s over, wedding dress preservation may be just the ticket.
This is the only way to guarantee your wedding gown lasts in as near pristine condition as possible.
It creates an heirloom that can be passed down through generations to be enjoyed and admired.
Hopefully, our guide has given you some ideas about the necessary steps you need to take to preserve your gown. From how important it is to clean your dress as soon as possible to the common mistakes to avoid such as placing it in humid atmospheres.
Whether or not you choose to preserve your wedding dress will come down to you as an individual. At the same time, your budget will also have a role to play. Weddings can be expensive enough and this is an additional cost you need to factor in.
Perhaps you could think about asking for money as a gift instead of having a traditional registry. This could then be used to have your dress professionally preserved. We think this is something your friends and family could really get behind.
Our advice is to give wedding dress preservation a lot of thought. It serves as a great memento for your special day.