Repurpose with a Purpose: How (and Where!) to Donate Your Wedding Dress

Instead of keeping it in storage, donate your wedding dress to support a cause and bride in need! Find out the best charities and fun ways to reuse your gown.

wedding dresses to donate
Photo by Zola

After the wedding and honeymoon, you may be wondering what to do with your wedding dress. Many gowns are left hanging in the back of a closet, collecting dust. If you have no other plans for it, donating your wedding dress can give it a second life! Now more than ever, many brides are struggling to pay for their wedding dresses. We’ve found several meaningful charities that accept preowned wedding dresses and provide them to new brides at an affordable price.

In this article:

Benefits of Donating Your Wedding Dress

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to donate your wedding dress, here are a few benefits to consider.

1. Supports a Bride in Need

From disaster victims to the many couples struggling financially right now, many individuals are looking for affordable clothing, including wedding dresses. With millions of people unemployed or experiencing a significant decrease in income during the pandemic, many couples cannot afford their dream weddings. Your donation can help provide a dress for a bride experiencing financial hardships.

2. Tax-Deductible

As a taxpayer, you can claim your charitable contributions of money or goods as itemized deductions when filing your taxes. The IRS recognizes a charitable contribution as a gift or donation to or for the use of a qualified organization, such as nonprofits.

3. Helps to Declutter

Many wedding gowns are only worn once. If you’re never planning to wear your wedding dress again, it’s just taking up space! Once you donate it along with other household items that you no longer need or use, you’ll have more room!

4. Encourages an Eco-Friendly Lifestyle

An eco-friendly lifestyle means living in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment. Clothing that is thrown away eventually sits in a landfill, where they release carbon dioxide and other toxins into the air. According to GreenDrop, the production of new clothes and textiles uses hundreds of gallons of water and also causes 10% of global carbon emissions. By donating your wedding dress, you help reduce your carbon footprint.

Benefits of donating your wedding dress image

The best part is conscientious efforts can start during the wedding! You can donate the remaining wedding food to local shelters and preserve flowers from the bouquet. For more sustainability tips, check out these eco-friendly wedding ideas.

How to Decide Where to Donate

Departing from your beloved wedding dress can be tough. After all, it holds sentimental value and memories from your special day. You may feel comfortable choosing a charity with a mission that matters the most to you. For example, you may want to honor your loved ones in the military by donating to an organization supporting veterans. Fortunately, you can find charitable organizations that support a variety of causes, including cancer research, disaster relief, human rights, environmental protection, and more!

Where to Donate Wedding Dresses

Donating your wedding dress is a great way to honor it and give it new life. Through your generosity, someone else can experience the same joy you felt on your wedding day. You can donate to thrift stores, charities, community centers, and many other types of nonprofit organizations. Here is a list of several charities and organizations accepting wedding dresses during COVID-19.

Charities to donate a wedding dress

Brides Against Breast Cancer

Support the fight against breast cancer through Brides Against Breast Cancer. This nonprofit is dedicated to providing early cancer awareness and detection programs as well as reducing the environmental impact of wedding dress manufacturing. The organization resells pre-owned wedding dresses at affordable prices, using the sales proceeds to help breast cancer causes.

Accepted items: Wedding dresses of 3–5 years in excellent condition and bridal accessories.

How to donate: Use the donation form on the website, email, or contact client service directly to receive shipping instructions.

COVID-19 update: The organization continues to accept wedding dress donations through the mail and is relaunching its online store in early 2021.

Adorned in Grace

If you would like to assist in sex trafficking prevention, consider donating your wedding dress to Adorned in Grace. This faith-based organization has a mission to help sex trafficking victims and bring awareness to local communities. Adorned in Grace stores provide new and gently-used wedding dresses and formalwear. Sales proceeds that go towards funding professional counseling for trafficking survivors, awareness publications, and more.

Accepted items: Wedding dress less than five years old, mother-of-the-bride dresses, flower girl dresses, bridal accessories, and formalwear.

How to donate: Drop-off donations in-person or ship them to any of their shop locations.

COVID-19 update: Call or book an appointment at one of their store locations in advance.

The Salvation Army

Since 1865, The Salvation Army has grown into an international movement in 130 countries around the world. This faith-based nonprofit organization provides numerous services, including adult rehabilitation, veteran support, prison ministry work, disaster relief, housing, hunger relief, and more.

Accepted items: Adult and children’s clothing, furniture, vehicles, household goods, and appliances with guidelines for each.

How to donate: Find a drop-off location, visit one of its local thrift stores, or schedule a free pickup.

COVID-19 update: Most local Salvation Army thrift stores are open for business with information on ways to help during the pandemic.

Brides for a Cause

Brides for a Cause is a nonprofit bridal store that collects and resells wedding dresses to raise funds for dozens of women-focused charities. Since 2012, the store has given away over $1.2 million to charities that support women in the military, single mothers, abuse survivors, and more.

Accepted items: Wedding dresses no more than five years old and bridal accessories.

How to donate: You can mail or drop off at one of their store locations or roadshow events.

COVID-19 update: Currently not accepting walk-ins. Clients must “reserve a room” in advance, wear a mask at all times, bring only one guest, and follow social distancing guidelines.

Goodwill Industries

With a mission to eliminate work opportunity barriers, Goodwill industries provide supportive services to help people train for careers and find jobs. Your donations support Goodwill’s job programs and services as well as help environmentally by reducing waste. Through its online impact calculator, you can see how much your donation can contribute to its mission.

Accepted items: Clothing and accessories, houseware, electronics, media, and furniture.

How to donate: Find a donation center or local drop-off bin.

COVID-19 update: Most Goodwill stores are open with social distancing protocols. All donations will be in quarantine, and curbside drop-offs are available.

Brides Across America

If you’d like to support the military and first responders, you can do so through Bride Across America (BAA). Every year, this nonprofit donates 2,000 wedding dresses and covers the wedding costs of those recipients. With your donations, military members and first responders can register to receive a free wedding dress during BAA’s monthly giveaway events.

Accepted items: Wedding dress less than five years old, accessories, engagement rings, and wedding favors.

How to donate: Fill out and submit the donation form to receive the shipping address and instructions.

COVID-19 update: BAA is open for in-store appointments only with new health and safety precautions.

Fairytale Brides on a Shoestring

Fairytale Brides on a Shoestring is a nonprofit boutique in Rockville, MD that sells reduced-priced wedding gowns. All of its net proceeds go towards Alzheimer’s Association, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Johns Hopkins’ Suburban Hospital Breast Center.

Accepted items: Wedding dresses no more than five years old and professionally cleaned.

How to donate: Make an appointment on its website to drop off your donation or mail it to the store.

COVID-19 update: The store is open by appointment only on select weekdays, where clients must wear masks at all times and follow the recommended COVID-19 guidelines.

Cherie Sustainable Bridal

This Maryland-based bridal boutique is a division of Success in Style (SIS), a nonprofit dedicated to supporting in-crisis individuals on their journeys to employment and life improvement. Cherie Sustainable Bridal sells preowned wedding gowns at an affordable price and sends 100% of the proceeds to SIS.

Accepted items: Wedding dresses five years old and younger, and professional business attire.

How to donate: Drop off the wedding dress in-person during business hours or mail it to the store location.

COVID-19 update: The store is open by appointment only and clients can bring only one guest to the consultation.

The Brides Project

To support adults and children impacted by cancer, you can donate to The Brides Project. This is a nonprofit bridal boutique that offers eco- and budget-friendly wedding gowns to shoppers. All sales help provide free programs for families at the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

Accepted items: Wedding dresses within five years old and bridal accessories.

How to donate: Drop off the donation at their shop or mail it to their Cancer Support Community division following the mailing instructions.

COVID-19 update: Visitors must book appointments via website or email and follow their health and safety protocols.

The Emma and Evan Foundation

Through the Emma and Evan Foundation, you can support families who’ve lost an infant. This nonprofit organization repurposes wedding dress donations into infant burial gowns or “angel gowns,” bonnets, and other keepsake items available to grieving families for free.

Accepted items: Any wedding dresses, bridesmaid and flower girl dresses, prom and formal gowns, bridal accessories, and more.

How to donate: Contact the organization to receive their mailing address and donation release form beforehand. Additional donation instructions can be found on the FAQ page.

COVID-19 update: You can shop on their website for keepsake items and receive purchases via shipment.

Ways to Repurpose Your Wedding Dress

If you find that your wedding dress doesn’t meet the donation criteria of a few charities, transform it into something new! There are plenty of creative ways to repurpose your wedding dress.

Reuse the fabric for creating home decor and cherished keepsakes, such as pillows and baptism gowns for your children. Need new formalwear? Alter or hem your gown into a fun cocktail dress. If you’re not a fan of cutting up the dress, consider using it as a photo prop for your newborn. Lastly, you can use the buttons, beads, and other trimmings to make DIY jewelry and accessories!

Ideas for repurposing your wedding dress

How to Prepare Your Wedding Dress for Donation

While most charities and shops offer to clean your donation items, some have a few guidelines about donations. Others may also charge an extra fee for cleaning. Here is a checklist to follow in making sure your donations are in the best conditions.

1. Contact the Organizations in advance. Ask what they need specifically, as well as for their donation schedule and protocols. Most charities and thrift shops that accept wedding dresses require them to be less than five years old.

2. Inspect the gown for wear and tear. When left in storage for too long, some items and certain types of fabric may develop mold. If your wedding dress looks to be in bad condition, the charity will most likely have to throw it out.

3. Wash or dry clean in advance. This step is graciously helpful for the volunteers, especially if you’re donating your wedding dress or other items during the pandemic. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 virus can remain on surfaces and certain fabrics for a couple of days. You can also use a disinfectant spray on non-washable items.

4. Double-check items before packing. Ensure you haven’t accidentally packed items you planned to keep. Always check the pockets for small personal items, such as wallets and money.

5. Organize your donations. This step is also helpful for volunteers at the charities and shops, who may have an overwhelming amount of items to sort through. You can assemble items by type and size, label your boxes or containers by season, and fold the clothing to ensure proper packing.

Best practices to prepare items for donation

In addition to donating your wedding dress, take the concept of giving a step further by planning a charitable wedding! Have your wedding ceremony at a nonprofit venue and spread the word about charities on your invites. You can also find vendors who support a good cause. Visit our expert advice pages for more creative ideas and wedding inspiration.

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