How to Store Your Wedding Dress

You wish your wedding day could last forever. Preserve the memory by learning how to store your wedding dress with Zola's guide to preserving dresses.

By The Zola Team

wedding dress hanging with bridesmaid dress
Photo by Amanda May Photos

The average cost of a wedding dress in the United States is $1,357—that’s more than the average American monthly mortgage.

Fortunately, at Zola, brides can find great deals on dresses. Still, it will likely cost more than a fancy dinner out. So, it’s no wonder why brides want to perfectly preserve their wedding dresses so that they can enjoy them for years to come.

But, how exactly does one take a taffeta, silk, or organza gown—one that’s been celebrated in for one long and incredible night—and pack it away so that it will look new for years to come? As it turns out, keeping your dress pristine begins well before the big “I do.”

Below, you’ll discover how to store a wedding dress the proper way, so that when it’s time to celebrate your 50th wedding anniversary, you can say yes to the dress all over again.

Pre-Ceremony: Handle With Care

So, you found the perfect dress. Yay! There’s no more incredible feeling than finding “the one.” Except for finding the one you’re marrying, of course.

Well, before you walk down the aisle, you can begin taking steps that will preserve your wedding dress. You might be thinking, “Really? This soon? It hasn’t even been altered yet.” Precisely.

You’re about to shell out a small fortune for a dream dress that you’re only going to wear for one day. It’s best to start thinking about how to handle it with care now, especially when it’s going to be tailored precisely for you.

How to Store Your Wedding Dress | Zola Photo Credit // Fly Away Photography

3 Considerations: Color, Fabric, and Shape

Before you can properly follow the wedding dress storage protocol, you must learn as much as you can about your dress. That includes information like what fabric it’s made out of, the design shape, and it’s color. Knowing these, you can create the conditions necessary to prevent permanent wrinkles and discoloration.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use a garment bag – Your gown vendor should provide you with a garment bag upon purchase, but, if not, bring one yourself to pick it up. Keeping it in a zip-up bag will allow the dress to hold its form, avoid wrinkles, and prevent moisture, mildew, and discoloration.

  • Lay it flat or hang it carefully – Who hasn’t hung up a dress incorrectly only to find it in the closet weeks later with stretched out shoulders or, worse, hangar marks. The same pitfall can happen to a dress pre-ceremony if it’s not properly hung or laid flat. The former may require professional assistance from your bridal store. If you have to do it yourself, be sure to use the provided loops sewn into the dress to hang it, rather than the shoulder fabric itself. If at all possible, lay it flat to ensure that it holds its shape.

  • Just say no to DIY cleaning – Wedding dress fabrics are not your average chain store cottons and poly-blends. Wedding dress textiles require more than kid gloves, so leave the gown cleaning to the professionals. That tiny pen stain may look easy to clean yourself, but be warned, a Tide pen may make matters worse.

Pro tip: While we’re on the subject of wedding dress cleaning, here’s a bit of advice: Treat your cleaner selection like a formal interview process. An average dry cleaner does not a wedding gown cleaner make. Ask for credentials, experience, and reviews to ensure that your dress is cleaned properly.

Ceremony Tips: Don’t Forget to Enjoy Your Dress

All this wedding dress preservation talk might have you a wee bit freaked out about actually wearing the bridal gown. For a lot of brides, their wedding dress is the most expensive garment that they’ll ever wear, and that deserves a humble nod of respect.

However, the whole idea of a wedding is to celebrate your love. While you can be mindful of your dress on the big day, try not to be so concerned with keeping it neat and tidy that you miss out on the magic of your nuptials.

Need more help keeping your “I’m wearing an entirely white gown at a party” cool? Here are some tips:

  • Wear waterproof makeup – If there’s one thing threatening your dress, it’s tear-induced mascara. Fortunately, that’s an easy fix. There are dozens of waterproof mascaras on the market. Sweat-proof makeup, however? That’s a trickier subject. To avoid smudges and smears on your white dress, see a professional makeup artist about primers that can help you avoid stains.

  • Double down on the deodorant – Getting married is nerve-wracking. And any bride would be forgiven for glistening a bit on her wedding day. What you don’t want are mega sweat stains on your dress. Before walking down the aisle, test out an aluminum-free antiperspirant that will keep you extra dry and your dress extra clean and prevent yellow stains.

Post-Ceremony Preservation Tips

You did it. You got married and rode off into the sunset. Congrats! But, before you bop off on your honeymoon, don’t forget to take care of your dress.

All too often, caught in the throes of love, brides ditch their dresses in a pile somewhere before jumping on a plane with their spouse to some exotic locale. For the love of lace, don’t do this. Heaping a wedding dress in a pile is step one to ensuring its poor preservation.

Instead, use these tips to keep it looking as gorgeous as the day you said: “I do.”

How to Store Your Wedding Dress | Zola Photo Credit // Fly Away Photography

Put Someone in Charge of Your Dress

By designating a bridesmaid or friend to be in charge of gathering up the dress the day after the wedding, you won’t have to worry about it and they can be sure that it gets taken care of properly.

Choose a Professional Wedding Dress Preservation Service

Fun fact: It’s believed that brides have been preserving their wedding dresses since as far back as the 1700s. In the intervening centuries, the process has evolved greatly. What was once just an effort to keep a delicate fabric intact can now eliminate “yellowing, permanent creasing, mildew and mold, oxidation spots, light and dust,” according to Life Storage.

Choose One of the Three Wedding Dress Preservation Methods

There are three types of wedding dress preservation methods:

  • Sealing
  • Boxing
  • Hanging

Sealing Method

The sealing method quite literally uses a vacuum seal on the dress before it is stored in an acid-free wedding dress box.

Boxing Method

The boxed method may, on its surface, look like the sealed method, but the difference, Reid’s Dry Cleaners explains, is that in the “sealing method, the dress is cleaned then pressed, and later folded in the storage box. However, unlike sealed preservation, the storage box isn’t sealed, and the owner is able to inspect their dress when necessary.”

Hanging Method

This is what museums have been doing for years. Here, the dress is cotton bagged to avoid humidity (which can cause mold or mildew). Hung in a bag, the dress is protected from sun damage and the shape of the dress is preserved.

Price Check, Please

According to Jezebel, any of the above options will run you between $150 to $500. While you’ve already spent boatloads on signature cocktails, a band, and a disco ball that you just had to have at your reception, if you want your bridal gown to stand the test of time, those are the going rates.

Where to Store the Dress

Once you’ve committed to the preservation method of your choice, it’s time to store that beautiful baby. We know it might be tempting to display your stored gown next to your wedding photos (especially if your box features a peek-a-boo plastic window) but fight that urge. To ensure that your gown is kept looking as good as new, you basically need to treat it like a fine bottle of wine. Find a dark cool place, put it there, and forget about it.

Think about the dark corner at the back of the closet or someplace that stays cool and doesn’t suffer from humidity. A chill, dim place that stays dry and doesn’t experience temperature fluctuations is the best choice to preserve and protect your dress so that you can pass it on for generations to come.

Finding the Perfect Dress at Zola

Enough about preservation, the first step in dress storage and preservation is finding the dress. For that, you can head over to Zola’s Wedding Dress Marketplace to start shopping for the perfect gown for you.

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