A lot goes into your big day—especially if it‘s a destination wedding. On top of all of the standard wedding checklist to-dos, there’s that whole travel and distance factor to contend with. And, if your destination wedding requires a flight to your wedding location, things get a little more challenging. Particularly, for your wedding dress or suit.
Get those prized wedding attire pieces from the airport to the altar with these tips for how to fly with your wedding clothes. Be it by Delta, JetBlue, United Airlines, or otherwise, find out how to travel with a wedding dress—or suit—stress-free below.
Give your chosen airline a call—ideally, weeks, if not months, before you plan to travel to your wedding destination. Each company has its own TSA, carry-on, and checked baggage rules that will impact your plans to fly with your wedding attire. Most airlines allow you to travel with soft-sided garment bags so you can store your suit or dress. This will likely count as your carry-on, but you probably already prepared to pay a bit extra for more baggage. That said, we do not recommend checking your wedding attire. Anyone who’s lost a suitcase full of their regular day-to-day duds knows that finding missing luggage can be a nightmare. Just imagine if it was your wedding gown. Don’t do it.
If your airline knows you’re flying to your destination wedding, sometimes you may get lucky and awarded an upgrade. If not, though, it may be worth it to pay extra to upgrade yourself. First or business class comes with a number of benefits, including more space. However, if those tickets are too expensive—it can really add up—consider at least paying extra for priority boarding. Here’s why: It’s significantly less expensive than a full seat upgrade, but you’ll have first access to the overhead bins and can space your belongings out, as necessary.
We recommend asking the flight attendants for help. If you let them know this is your wedding dress or suit and accessories, they’ll be more inclined to help you find the appropriate space. Some will even allow you to hang your dress or suit in the closet on the airline.
Speaking of overhead bins, it’s paramount that you know how to store your dress or suit in one wisely. Whether your attire is packed in a garment bag or carry-on luggage, chances are it’ll be considered a personal item or carry-on and, thus, need to be placed in the appropriate area. When doing this, you essentially have three options, all of which depend entirely on how much overhead space is available by the time you board the plane.
If overhead bin space is limited, with other passengers’ carry-ons already filling up most of the space, you’ll likely need to work to make your garment bag fit. To do so, you have two choices: Fold or roll. Which you end up going with also depends on the space available. That said, if you do end up needing to roll your garment bag, do so with care. Start rolling from the hanger’s end, going with the length of the dress or garment.
The third and final option is to lay your dress flat over the other passengers’ luggage. Being able to do this, too, depends on the space and size of the luggage already placed at your time of boarding.
If your dress is of the puffier variety (or if you just don’t want it stuffed into an overhead compartment), buy a plane ticket for it. Yes, seriously. It’s not the cheapest option, but ensuring your peace of mind and that your dress arrives unmangled or smashed seems priceless to us. The same goes for suits and tuxedos—don’t ball it into the overhead bin. Give your attire room to breathe and enjoy the window views.
If you missed the boat on buying your dress a seat, or simply don’t want to spend the money, find out if there are any empty seats available. If the flight isn’t completely booked, chances are a flight attendant will offer you an available spot for the outfit.
None of these destination wedding travel tips will work without a proper garment bag. It’s simply a must. Needless to say: To avoid creases, do not fold your bridal gown or tuxedo. Garment bags are particularly useful for your suit or tux. The key is to wash and iron yours before you put it on the hanger and into the bag. This will make it so you only really have to touch it up with a quick iron or steam once you reach your hotel room.
Check that all zippers and buttons are in working order before you pack it up too. This way, you won’t need to make last-minute alterations. To maintain the shape of your suit, stuff the arms with tissue paper. Make it white acid-free tissue paper so that it doesn’t bleed onto your outfit. This can help prevent wrinkles.
In the same garment bag, you can also pack a veil, if necessary. If it’s packaged, open it a few days prior to travel so that it can naturally loosen. Hang it as you would in your closet, ideally in some sort of plastic covering. This will help protect it against snags or tears.
Unbeknownst by many people, some airplanes have larger coat closets in their first class cabin, available to these passengers. That said, whether or not you’re flying in business class, you can request that your wedding dress be safely tucked away in this space. If this option sounds appealing to you—say, you have a large gown or would prefer not to purchase an extra seat—prioritize calling ahead. Closet space isn’t guaranteed and not all planes will have it to begin with. Calling ahead allows you to confirm (or double-check) whether or not this is the case. In the case that you didn’t call beforehand, you can ask to speak with a customer service representative at the gate or to a flight attendant once you’ve been seated on the plane.
While this should by no means be your first or only plan of action, it’s worth asking about if you’re packing your wedding gown in a garment bag, carry-on bag, or similar and want to avoid purchasing another plane ticket. Once you’ve been seated on your aircraft—and safely boarded with your dress as a carry-on item—ask a flight attendant if there are any open seats on the plane. If there are, ask if you can place your wedding dress (or suit) there. Chances are, if there is an open seat or two available, a flight attendant will help you switch seats with another willing passenger to make it work.
You can pack most of your other accessories—shoes, jewelry, ties, pocket squares, etc.—as you normally would for any trip. We still recommend carrying these items on and not checking them! For shoes, place the soles flat against the back wall of your suitcase, ideally in-line with the wheels. This will help keep them in shape during and bumps in travel. If your shoes are embellished with stones or pearls, wrap each shoe individually in bubble wrap. Do the same for any other embellished pieces, such as a tiara or hair comb.
For jewelry, we recommend organizing it in a dedicated travel case designed for delicate items. This will keep necklaces and bracelets tangle-free and also ensure earrings don’t get lost or break. If you don’t have a jewelry-specific bag, wrap each piece in a microfiber cloth. This will help prevent scratching.
After getting your wedding day attire to your destination successfully, you’ll want to keep every item of clothing wrinkle-free. While your hotel or other accommodations might have a clothing iron available to your for any suit or dress touch-ups, it’s parament to be prepared for anything. We highly recommend packing a portable steamer in your luggage that you can use on your dress, veil, and any other wedding party outfits that may end up wrinkled post-travel. To avoid spillage, place a towel, sock, or cotton bag over your steamer when traveling.
If you’re getting married abroad, also be sure to pack an adapter. This will ensure that you’re able to use any electronics, such as a steamer, once you’ve settled into your accommodations. No last-minute dry cleaner appointments necessary.
You’ve been wedding planning an entire destination wedding—don’t let getting your wedding attire to the location stress you out. Pack your things with care, let any airlines and attendants know what’s up, and you’ll be just fine. And, it bears repeating, don’t check anything!
For more Expert Advice, including what to do with your wedding dress after your wedding and other wedding day essentials, stick with Zola.