That is the question.
Wedding gowns are arguably one of the most cherished symbols of a wedding. A white dress is what makes a bride a bride, and many women don’t want this important piece of the their day to waste away in a closet. However, preserving a gown isn’t cheap, and some brides have more immediate uses for their wedding attire.
There are many reasons brides choose to preserve their gowns. For one, a lot effort goes into finding the perfect gown, not to mention money, so for many brides, it makes sense to spend just a little more and preserve. Some brides dream of one day passing their dress down to a daughter or other family member. Brides also preserve gowns to use the fabric for christening gowns, kerchiefs, or patches to incorporate into others’ dresses, or even to make tablecloths or napkins.
However, some brides like to live in the moment and do not wish to keep their gowns for the future. A recently popular trend is to have a Trash-The-Dress session with a photographer, where brides document the destroying of their gown. Brides have done everything from diving into the ocean and four-wheeling through mud, to playing paintball or having a food fight. Brides who do not want to destroy their gowns—but don’t have a use for them or want to spend the money to preserve them (around $300 for the average gown)—have the option to re-sell their dresses, or to donate them to a good cause.
For the pro-preserve bride, here is what you can expect:
The process of preserving a dress entails much more than simply putting the gown into a box. Gowns go through an in-depth cleaning process, primarily done by hand by a professional preservationist. The dress is surveyed and a cleaning process is chosen depending on the type of fabrics and the type and age of stains. It is recommended that gowns be preserved within six weeks of the wedding to prevent stains from setting.
Dresses are most often treated with a solvent called percholoroethylene (perc) or a petroleum-based solvent. Perc is more aggressive than petroleum-based solutions and is not recommended for some fabrics. Be sure to speak with your cleaner about his process before handing over your dress. The hardest stains to remove are clay and red wine. Keep in mind that some stains may not completely come clean. After cleaning, the gown is put into a specially-sealed box. The box should not be opened until the gown is to be used again, as exposure can nullify the preservation process.
To find a dependable cleaner, ask the boutique staff where you bought your gown; they usually have a great recommendation, or can perform the cleaning in-house.