Wedding Dress Preservation 101: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Look that Lasts a Lifetime

Here's to a long-lasting marriage—and gown!
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Sofia Deeb
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Sofia Deeb
Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
  • Sofia writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide with a specialty in fashion and e-commerce.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Sofia was a writer for Santa Barbara Life and Style Magazine.
  • Sofia studied cultural anthropology and journalism at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Updated Jun 29, 2023

So. . . The wedding's over and your gown, the most expensive item of clothing you've ever owned, is hanging in your closet. Now what? As a newlywed, chances are you've heard of wedding dress preservation—or maybe you haven't. Either way, we're here to answer all your questions. Oh, and we called in a few industry experts too. We've got you.

Let's meet the experts. As the president and owner of Happily Ever After, the exclusive gown preservation partner of Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot, Jeff Schwegmann knows the ins and outs of getting your gown back to its original condition. Likewise, Sally Lorensen Conant, the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, has built a career on helping make wedding memories last forever.

Whether it's for sentimental reasons (see above: most expensive piece of clothing you've ever owned), or to be repurposed down the line, Schwegmann and Conant will be the first to tell you that preserving your wedding dress is always a good idea. Now, with this helpful guide, you'll have all the tools you need to get started (you're welcome). Keep reading to discover our top tips, then check out some of The Knot's convenient wedding dress preservation packages available now.

In this article:

What is Wedding Dress Preservation?

Preservation refers to the special cleaning and packaging techniques used to ensure your gown retains its beauty. Let's be real here: After a day spent dragging down the aisle and dance floor, your gown will be dirty. Thankfully, with a little TLC, it can be look good as new. First, a professional preservationist will survey your gown—the materials, embellishments and various stains, and will then formulate a specialized cleaning procedure. "Cleaning your gown is the single most important part of the preservation process and all the stains, including the hidden ones containing sugar that turn brown over time, must be removed," says Conant. After cleaning, your gown is wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and placed in a museum-quality archival box for your keeping.

What Are the Benefits of Wedding Dress Preservation?

Even if you don't think you'll wear your gown again (likely), or pass it along to a loved one, you may want to reuse it a different way down the road. Some brides choose to repurpose their gown into a veil, baby blanket or christening gown. Others choose to keep it simply for the sentimental value. Hey, you might even be looking to sell your wedding dress and earn some cash now that you've got your use out of it. Regardless of what you choose, you'll want your gown to look just as beautiful as it did on your wedding day for many years to come, and preservation is the way to do that. If you don't follow through with cleaning, you risk your dress yellowing over time—not ideal.

How Much Does Wedding Dress Preservation Cost?

So, let's talk about cost. Generally, you should expect to pay between $250 to $700 to have your wedding dress preserved, though prices can go as high as $1,000 depending on the gown and where you are located. It should come as no surprise to learn that fabric, ornamentation and degree of stainage can all play a role in the cost. "Your heavily beaded silk ball gown will cost more than a simple polyester gown you wore on the beach, and you should never trust your designer gown to someone offering a bargain price," Conant says. "Saving a few dollars is simply not worth the risk of ruining your wedding dress."

Let us save you the trouble—bring your gown in for a quote. If you don't, you risk being charged more or later—or worse, they may not give your dress the attention it deserves.

Looking for a flat fee that you can trust? We get it. Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot doesn't skimp on the details, but still manages to offer competitive rates. The Cleaning and Preservation package costs $285, while the Wedding Dress Cleaning Only package costs $255. Minor repairs, pressing and steaming, as well as shipping and handling are all included.

If you aren't completely sold on investing in full-blown wedding dress preservation, you can also take certain precautions on your own to ensure your dress is protected. "Cloth or tyvek bags can offer short-term protection, but your gown should not hang for long periods of time, and a wedding chest provides more protection from sharp objects, smoke and from fire," Conant suggests.

How Long Does It Take to Preserve Your Wedding Dress?

The entire process of preserving your wedding dress will typically take between four to six weeks. That being said, we recommend doing a little detective work ahead of the wedding to determine where you'll take your gown in after the event. That way, if your dress is stained badly or damaged on your wedding day, a helpful family or bridal party member can drop it off right away. Remember: The less time a stain has to sit on your dress, the greater the chance is of it coming out.

What is the Difference Between Cleaning and Preserving a Wedding Dress?

The short answer? Wedding dress cleaning is essential. Preservation is optional.

Whether you choose to get your gown cleaned or preserved, both processes start with stain removal. Let's be real here: There's probably at least one stain on your dress after the celebration, whether it's champagne, dirt or a little bit of frosting, and you certainly wouldn't want those stains to be frozen in time. "You should only preserve clean wedding gowns," Schwegmann says, so if you're going to have your gown preserved, take both steps.

With that information, you might be wondering if cleaning alone is enough, or if you should opt for the full preservation package. The answer? It depends. If you're planning on wearing your wedding dress in near-ish future (say for a second celebration or a vow renewal on your one-year anniversary) a simple cleaning should suffice for the time being. However, if you're hoping to have your gown's beauty last long-term so it can be passed down to a loved one, preservation is the way to go.

Wedding Dress Preservation Mistakes to Avoid

If you want your wedding dress to stay gorgeous forever (or at least until you decide what to do with it), here's what not to do.

Waiting Too Long

If you've managed to make it out of your wedding day stain-free, major props to you. However, don't get too comfortable just yet. Unfortunately, some substances—sugar, sweat and other oils, for example—might not be visible right away, but can show up as stains over time. Champagne is perhaps one of the biggest offenders. While it may initially dry undetectable, if left untreated, it will most likely oxidize and turn yellow over time. To tackle both seen and unseen stains before it's too late, it's crucial to begin the preservation process as soon as you can. Schwegmann recommends waiting no longer than three to four weeks after your wedding.

Not Working with a Specialist

You might think to yourself, 'how hard can it be to preserve a gown?'. It's not easy. You should put your future heirloom in the hands of the pros. Don't gamble—if not properly preserved, your gown will likely not stand the test of time.

Storing Your Dress Improperly

Getting your wedding dress preserved is just one piece of the puzzle. From there, you'll have to ensure it is stored properly in order to avoid any environmental damage. The box your dress is sealed in should be placed in a temperature controlled room (air conditioned is best), out of direct sunlight, and away from dampness or humidity. Usually, a closet shelf or under the bed will do just fine. Preserved wedding dresses should never be hung on a hanger, since that could stretch the fabric over the years, especially if the gown is heavy.

The preservation box will be airtight and sealed for safekeeping, and if you open it, you risk discoloration due to oxygen exposure. Don't break the seal until you're ready to pass it down or repurpose it, or only if you're willing to have it preserved and sealed all over again. Luckily, wedding dress preservation boxes usually have a see-through window (the ones from Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot do), so you can sneak a peek whenever you like.

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