Should You Get Your Gown Cleaned, Preserved—or Both?

Here's what to consider for postwedding gown care.
Wedding dress after the wedding
Chelsea London Phillips/Unsplash
Elena Donovan Mauer the knot
Elena Donovan Mauer
Elena Donovan Mauer the knot
Elena Donovan Mauer
Wedding Planning Expert
  • Elena creates content for a variety of print and digital publications, including The Knot, The Bump, Parents, Real Simple, and Good Housekeeping.
  • Elena is a former weddings editor, having held positions at Modern Bride and Bridal Guide and contributed to The Knot Ultimate Wedding Lookbook.
  • Elena is currently Senior Editor for Happify Health, an adjunct instructor for Pace University, a freelance writer, and content con...
Updated May 20, 2020
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You only really need your gown for one amazing day, but we're willing to bet you're not about to throw it into the trash afterward. If you want your gown to look beautiful way into the future, wedding dress preservation and wedding dress cleaning are ways to make sure any day-of stains and aging discolorations don't stand in your way. But what's the difference between preservation and cleaning—and should you do both?

Wedding Dress Preservation vs. Cleaning

Quite simply, wedding dress cleaning is essential. Preservation is optional.

"All wedding gowns should be cleaned by a professional after use to remove soiling," says Jeff Schwegmann, president and owner of Happily Ever After, the exclusive gown preservation partner of Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot. There's probably at least one stain on your dress after the celebration, whether it's champagne, dirt, or a little bit of frosting. Some substances—sugar, sweat and other oils, for example—might not be visible right away, but can show up as stains over time.

If you're planning to save your gown as a family heirloom, preservation is important.

"Wedding gown preservation is the process of packaging a gown in archival boxes using accepted preservation methods and materials for long term storage," Schwegmann says. "You should only preserve clean wedding gowns."

So if you're going have your gown preserved, you'll need to have both steps taken.

Should I Do Wedding Dress Cleaning Only?

There are a few reasons you might want to just get your wedding dress cleaned. One is if you want to wear your dress again in the near future—for example, if you're a bride having two wedding celebrations or you bought a short or less formal dress that can double as a party dress.

You should also have the dress cleaned if you're considering donating or selling your dress. "Selling gowns is on the rise because of effective websites that help facilitate the sales," Schwegmann says. If you're interested in going this route, we recommend Nearly Newlywed.

Wedding Dress Cleaning Tips

Before the wedding day, research vendors and make a plan in advance for how you're going to get the gown cleaned and if you'll have preservation services too. That way you don't have to scramble to find someone quickly, and you'll be less likely to put it off and risk the stains setting in over time.

The gown cleaner and/or preservation company should be experienced in wedding gown care and should thoroughly answer any questions you have about the process. Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot even allows you to send photos of your gown along with your questions.

After the wedding day, hang your wedding gown from a hanger, and make sure any wet stains have dried before you place it in a bag. "Avoid home remedies for stain removal, since they may not work and could set the stain," Schwegmann says. A professional will know the correct method for cleaning your gown's specific fabric and the type of stain.

"Enjoy the wedding and the honeymoon," Schwegmann says. "Time can be a factor on some stains, but there's no need to rush the gown to a professional the next day." Sooner is always better, but you'll be fine if you have it cleaned within three or four weeks, he says.

Should I Do Wedding Dress Preservation?

Definitely have preservation done if you want your dress's beauty to last long term, and you aren't planning on taking it out of its box anytime soon. Dresses that aren't preserved can yellow over time.

"If a wedding gown customer plans to keep the gown as an heirloom, we recommend cleaning and preservation," Schwegmann says. Even if you don't think you'll pass along the gown to a daughter one day, you may want it as a keepsake. Some brides choose to repurpose their gown into a veil, baby blanket or christening gown.

Wedding Dress Preservation Tips

If you've had preservation performed, it'll come packaged in a sealed box that will keep it looking fresh. The only thing you really need to worry about is storing it correctly.

"Wedding gowns that have been cleaned and preserved should be stored in a room that has air-conditioning and out of direct sunlight. For example, in a closet or under the bed," Schwegmann says. "No attics or damp basements. Select a location that is consistent in its environment, and does not have temperature and humidity changes."

If you were to open the box, you'd need to have it repackaged professionally to keep it preserved, so resist the urge to try it on when you're feeling nostalgic. (The nice thing is that Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot's boxes have a window, so you can take a peek whenever you like.)

Many preservation companies offer a lifetime warranty. So long as you store it properly, your preserved wedding dress should stay beautiful for decades to come.

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