Here you are, the day after one of the most important days of your life, with the most expensive clothing item you own, your wedding gown, and you're wondering, "now what?". Well, it's only fair to give your gown a happily-ever-after too! I mean, after the countless hours you put in trying to find it, and the monies-well-spent on it, how could you not have a relationship with your dress at this point. Whether it's because of the way it made you feel on your wedding day or the possibility of passing it down to your daughter or another family member in the future, preserving your wedding dress is definitely the next step and best way to maintain it's color, fabric and shape.
First of all, this is something that you should consider when planning you wedding. Make sure you budget for this additional expense. Here's the deal, you can usually wait until after the honeymoon to take your dress to a preservationist, but remember, if you're accident prone like me, it's better to take your gown in while any stains are fresh and not set in. This is a fairly new concept for modern-day brides. My mom kept her wedding gown in a hope chest at the foot of her bed until we moved to our new house. I'm not sure of the condition it is in but would love to take a look at it. Now, you can expect different, special cleaning and packaging techniques used to ensure your gown retains its beauty. A professional preservationist will survey your gown: the materials, embellishments and various stains, then formulate a specialized cleaning procedure for it. After cleaning, your gown is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed in museum-quality archival box.
When looking for a preservationist, ask friends and family, bridal shops or your wedding consultant for referrals. When you have a couple in mind, ask them about the type of cleaning method used, do they hand clean and if they will pre-treat any stains and soiled areas. Also, find out if the company does the work on location or if they ship gowns elsewhere to be cleaned and packaged. Don't rule a company out if they don't work in-house, especially if they have good reviews. Then when you select a preservationist, make sure to ask whether you must sign a release or disclaimer because these documents sometimes state that the company isn't responsible for any damage done to the gown during the cleaning process. You will want to find someone who will guarantee every last bead and sequin. Next, ask if the company offers a warranty and how they will reimburse you if you find the gown to be damaged after a certain number of years. Read the fine print of the agreement: some companies will refund the preservation cost but not the replacement value of the dress. And consider it a red flag if they claim the warranty is void if you open the box - this is just not the case.
Also be aware of companies that give quotes over the phone. Different materials and stains require specialized care. Your gown will receive the best care if it's individually inspected before a price is given. At this point, saving a few dollars is simply not worth the risk of ruining your wedding dress. Expect to pay $250-$700, though prices can go as high as $1,000 depending on the gown and location. Costs vary across the country, with higher prices in metropolitan areas. Again, consider these prices when creating your wedding budget.
And some final advice, once your gown is back from the preservationist, pay attention to storage. Keep your dress in a cool, dark and dry environment with a relative humidity at 50% at all times. Most professionals agree that light and heat play the most damaging roles when it comes to gown preservation. As a guideline, store your preserved gown in a place where you would feel physically comfortable. That rules out a hot attic or damp basement. Under your bed or in a dry closet are your best bets.
Check out The Knot for more information on preserving your gown and cleaning techniques and devour the preservationist details today!