Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Dress Donation

Don't let your wedding dress gather dust in storage.
White wedding dress in box for wedding dress donation.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Aug 10, 2022

So, the big day has come and gone, and you're wondering what you should do with your wedding dress. You have the option of keeping, reselling, repurposing or donating your wedding dress. But if you want your wedding to support a good cause, wedding dress donation to charities is the best option for you. You're not only helping a fellow bride secure a beautiful dress for her special day, but you're also helping the environment. Want to know what other benefits donating your wedding dress has? Check out the five benefits of giving your dress a second life below, plus how to prepare your dress for donation and where to donate it.

Benefits of Donating a Wedding Dress

If you're unsure if you should keep, resell or donate your wedding dress, we understand since there are a lot of things to consider for each option. To help give you some clarity, we've explained the five benefits of wedding dress donation below.

You're helping a bride in need.

Because of the pandemic, many couples were impacted by financial struggles which may affect how many wedding expenses they're ready to take on. By donating your wedding dress, you give another bride the chance to feel great on her special day and not be overwhelmed by the cost of a brand-new wedding gown. You're even aiding brides who may have lost their dresses in natural disasters or other emergencies and need a quick and affordable option. Overall, you're helping brides going through hard times afford the dress of their dreams.

You'll have more storage space.

Your wedding dress is losing its value if you put it in a container in the attic or basement to possibly be worn by your child in the future. Plus, doing the DIY approach with your wedding dress preservation, if not done correctly, can lead to more harm than good. Instead, put your wedding dress in a donation box, declutter your space and, in turn, improve your home organization habits. By going the wedding dress donation route, you're saving yourself time, space and money.

You'll get a tax deduction.

Since you're donating your wedding gown to a charity, you'll be able to receive a donation receipt from the charity. A 501(c)(3) receipt is given when a federally certified charity receives a charitable contribution of $250 or more. Once you get your receipt, you can claim your contribution while filing your taxes and get a tax deduction.

You don't have to deal with the resell process.

Yes, reselling your wedding dress can help you recoup some of the cost you initially spent on your wedding attire, but there's a lot of work that goes into the reselling process. Finding a reputable retailer, getting it professionally cleaned and mended and taking high-quality photos of the dress are just a couple of the steps you need to take to resell your dress. Feel like that's more effort than you would like to put into it? Then donating your wedding dress is your best option.

Already started the reselling process? Drew Edwards, Executive Director of the Brides Against Breast Cancer Charity, believes that donating your dress is a great option if you haven't been able to resell it after one to six months. Used wedding dresses in great condition and under two years old usually sell for 50% of their retail prices, so if your dress doesn't match that criteria it's probably best to donate instead.

You're helping the environment.

According to Bloomberg, the global textile industry has a significant impact on the environment. Edwards adds that donating a wedding dress helps save the Earth from potential damage that making a new dress could cause. Also, if you eventually throw away your dress because you missed the chance to resell or donate it, there's a good chance it could end up in a landfill since 70% of clothing end up in landfills––which contributes to harmful carbon emissions. So, even though there are many ways you can be sustainable during your wedding, don't stop there. Extend your eco-friendly lifestyle to after the wedding too.

How to Prepare Your Wedding Dress Donation

Before you start prepping, Beth Chapman, founder of The White Dress by The Shore, suggests that you consider the age of your wedding dress first. "The charities that take gown donations resell them for profit, so you will want to be sure that the design is no more than five years old," Chapman explains. Once you've confirmed the dress is five years old or less, you can follow our dress donation checklist below.

1. Contact the charity for specific instructions.

Each charity has different guidelines for how you should prepare and deliver your wedding dress donation. Call or email your chosen charity to get answers to any specific questions you have about your donation. You want the dress to go to a bride in need, so making sure you're following the charity's instructions helps you do that sooner rather than later.

2. Make sure the dress is in good condition.

Look over your wedding dress for any tears or fraying. If the damage is minimal, we suggest going to a good seamstress to fix it before sending the dress to a charity. Check for mold, which can develop in moist and humid environments like a basement, or discoloration on dresses older than a few months. (If the mold is a serious problem, you can pay for wedding dress restoration or repurpose other parts of the dress.) The dress should be in the best condition possible so it can be resold to other brides.

3. Thoroughly clean the dress.

It doesn't matter if there are no stains on your wedding dress, you still need to get it cleaned before donating it. We recommend you take your wedding dress to someone who specializes in wedding dress cleaning rather than you trying to clean it yourself. This way there's a lower risk of the dress fabric getting mishandled. Don't have time to go to a dress cleaner? Some charities offer to clean the dress for you for an additional charge.

4. Pack and label your dress for donation.

Once you've put your wedding dress in the donation box, make sure you label the box with helpful information about the dress to save charity volunteers time. List the size of the dress, the brand or designer, the year you purchased it and its original price. Labeling the box also helps you not get it confused with any other donations you might be collecting.

Where to Donate a Wedding Dress

There are lots of charities you can donate your bridal gown to, so Chapman suggests you do research on different charities before picking the first one you see. "Ensure that it is a reputable company and confirm the charity it is benefitting," Chapman says. She also adds that you "select a reputable cause that has significance to you as a couple." By doing that initial research, you can feel happy that your wedding dress is going to a good place.

Adorned in Grace

Mission: Adorned in Grace is a faith-based organization with a mission to bring churches together to fight human trafficking through "awareness, prevention and restoration" in different communities. They accept donations from bridal shops and brides so they can provide other brides with new or gently-used items. The sales go towards anti-trafficking mentoring for the youth, preparing the dresses and much more.

What the Charity Accepts: Wedding dresses (no more than five years old), formalwear, mother-of-the-bride dresses, flower girl dresses. They also accept wedding accessories like veils and belts.

Donation Methods: If you live in Portland, Oregon, Tacoma, Washington or Mesa, Arizona, you can drop off your donation in person. Otherwise, you can ship to any of their locations following their online instructions.

Brides Across America

Mission: Brides Across America is a nonprofit that supports the military and first responders by gifting them weddings and wedding gowns. Since 2008, Brides Across America has given a military or first responder bride a free wedding gown during their "Operation Wedding Gown Event." They have gifted 26,000 wedding dresses and over 25 free weddings so far.

What the Charity Accepts: Wedding dresses (that are less than four years old), veils, tiaras and accessories.

Donation Methods: You can ship your wedding dress donation according to the guidelines on their site.

Brides Against Breast Cancer

Mission: Brides Against Breast Cancer is a charity that helps give early detection education and supports research and legislation efforts with other breast cancer foundations and funds through its wedding dress sales. Edwards advocates for wedding dress donation because otherwise, it's a "no-win decision for brides financially, a no-win for charitable causes, no-win for other lower budget brides, and no-win for the earth."

What the Charity Accepts: Wedding dresses (that are three years old or less), veils, headpieces and more.

Donation Methods: After you complete the donation form on their website, you'll have to wait for it to be approved. Once the form is approved, you can ship the dress based on their instructions.

Brides for a Cause

Mission: Brides for a Cause is a nonprofit organization that helps raise money for women's causes, like promoting positive self-image, education and much more. They have boutique locations in Portland, Oregon, Sacramento, California and Tacoma and Seattle, Washington. Brides for a Cause receives wedding dress donations from brides and bridal stores.

What the Charity Accepts: Wedding dresses (that are five years or newer) and bridal accessories.

Donation Methods: You can drop off or mail your wedding dress at one of their locations. They have specific details on how to pack and mail your dress on their website.

Thrift Stores

Mission: There are many thrift stores, like Goodwill Industries, that use donation sales to support job programs, housing, veterans and much more. There are numerous thrift stores across the US that you can contribute to help a great cause and reduce your carbon footprint.

What the Charity Accepts: Everything from clothing to electronics. Contact your local thrift store to ask about which items they don't accept.

Donation Methods: Depending on the thrift store, you can schedule a pick-up from your home, put your donation in a drop-off bin or deliver your donation in person.

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