What To Do with Your Wedding Dress After "I Do"

Here’s a hint: Repurpose, reuse, recycle.
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by
Sofia Deeb
sofia deeb headshot
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 Jul 26, 2023
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So, you've officially tied the knot, but you may have some loose ends to tie up: unwrapping presents, writing thank you notes and finalizing honeymoon plans. You might also be wondering what to do with your wedding dress now that the festivities are over. The good news is that there are several options for your wedding day outfit. You can either have it professionally preserved (maybe to pass onto someone else down the line), donate it to someone in need, or repurpose it into décor for your newlywed nest. Newly married couples focused on sustainability will be delighted to find that all of these ideas will give your wedding garment a brand new life, cutting down on overall waste often associated with the wedding dress industry. If you're wondering what to do with your wedding dress and looking to cut down your ceremony's carbon footprint, here are creative ways to repurpose your gown.

What to Do With Your Wedding Dress After the Wedding

If you think your beloved gown is destined to spend eternity in the back of the coat closet, think again! There are countless ways to make use (or make money from your wedding dress after you conclude your 'I-dos'. Regardless of what you decide to do, the first step is to get your wedding dress cleaned in order to remove party stains and smudges, like mud on the hem from your barn reception or berry compote from your wedding cake. That way, it can look its very best for its second life.

What to Do with Your Wedding Dress If You Want to Keep It

Your wedding dress is perhaps the most special piece of clothing you'll ever own, so we don't blame you for not wanting to part with it. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your dress in tip-top shape to be used again in the future or to be put on display. Here are a few of our favorites:

Preserve and Store Your Wedding Dress

Want to save your gown for sentimental reasons? Wedding Dress Preservation by The Knot has you covered on that front—just choose your package, ship your dress and we'll take care of the rest. Having your gown professionally preserved also means that you can pass it down to someone else—saving them the cost (both financial and ecological) of buying a brand new gown.

Frame Your Wedding Dress

Wish you could stare at your wedding dress all day every day? You can, with the help of professionals. That's right—you can turn your wedding dress into art by getting it framed. Companies like The Beautiful Frame Company and Outrageous Framing will work with you to frame your wedding gown. Hang it on your wall as a stunning art piece and a sentimental reminder of your wedding day.

What to Do with Your Wedding Dress If You Don't Want to Keep It

Maybe you just don't have the space to store yet another piece of clothing (especially one you don't plan on wearing again). Before parting ways with your wedding dress, consider one of these two methods:

Donate Your Wedding Dress to Charity

Many organizations all over the country accept wedding dress and apparel donations. For example, Brides Across America gives wedding dresses to military brides in need. Every Girl's Dream in Michigan accepts both wedding gowns and evening wear for brides-to-be facing financial hardship, while Operation Prom and Cinderella's Closet will take wedding and bridesmaid dresses (and groomsmen tuxedos) to help dress low-income students for their prom. Brides for a Cause will accept your donation, resell your dress and use the proceeds to raise money for different causes. Another idea is Angel Gowns or Baby Gowns for Eternity, which turn wedding dresses into gowns for stillborn infants. If you don't have a specific charity in mind, think local and inquire at your nearest thrift store (or farther away if you'd rather not run into someone in town wearing your wedding dress)—the shop may be in need of a white gown restock, in which case, you'll make a lucky, local bride-to-be very happy in the near future.

Sell Your Wedding Dress

Maybe you're looking to sell your wedding dress to earn back a bit of cash (after all, it wasn't cheap). It might seem like a daunting thing to do, but preowned wedding dress sellers such as Nearly Newlywed make it easy. We love the platform because of their amazing selection, and the fact that you can get your gown cleaned as part of the selling process. Of course, any resale or consignment service works if you're hoping to give your wedding dress a new life after your own special day. The best part is that selling your dress not only helps make you some extra cash, but it also helps another to-be-wed get the look of their dreams for less (a major win-win, if you ask us).

3 Creative Ways to Repurpose Your Wedding Dress

Before you tuck it away into storage, consider one of the many ways you can repurpose your wedding dress for future use. The options are virtually limitless, so go ahead and get creative! Of course, you can always use one of our ideas:

Alter Your Wedding Dress Into Something New

If you don't love the idea of retiring your wedding dress after wearing it once, consider getting it altered into a more wearable garment. We recommend working with a tailor or seamstress to create a brand new piece of clothing you can wear again and again. You can fashion a charming mini dress or two-piece set from the fabric of your wedding dress, then surprise your partner by wearing it on your first anniversary to make the celebration even more special. We've also seen many newlyweds create robes from their wedding dresses. We love this idea because it allows you to enjoy a piece of your wedding day each morning and night.

Lovell Cox, designer and founder of Lovellfaye, specializes in giving gowns a second life. She works one-on-one with brides to create the custom dress of their dreams, whether they want to reconstruct an old gown that's been in the family for generations, or create a more 'wearable' look from the one they recently walked down the aisle in. The process starts with a virtual consultation, where clients can share their vision for the transformation. From there, Lovell creates a variety of designs for them to choose from. After plenty of collaboration and an in-person fitting, the reinvented designs are brought to life. The beauty of the process is that clients can choose how much, or how little, of the original design they'd like to keep. In the end, they're left with a look that feels fresh, while still holding so much sentiment.

Lovell's best advice for brides considering wedding dress reconstruction? "Don't feel like your heirloom dress doesn't have the potential to be reconstructed and incorporated into your wedding—there is always a creative solution for everything!" Through the years, she's worked with dresses that are stained, too big, too small, and even ones made from generations-old fabric.

Keepsakes Made from Wedding Dresses

If you're savvy with a sewing machine and not afraid to see your dress in pieces, turn it into something you know you'll use and love—or that someone else will. You're most likely working with a fair amount of material, so you'll be able to create a range of creative household items and accessories. For example, crafting baby blankets, bassinet covers or christening gowns from the fabric of your wedding dress just makes those keepsakes all the more sentimental. You can choose to make something you'll get plenty of use from, like pillows, tablecloths, table runners or napkins. If you're completing the transformation on your own, be sure to check out Pinterest and Etsy for endless DIY ideas and visuals. Of course, you could always talk to a professional to explore other options in regard to keepsakes. Unbox The Dress, for instance, is a company that specializes in creating one-of-a-kind heirloom pieces from the fabric of your gown.

Dye Your Wedding Dress a New Color

If you're positive you'll never wear your garment again, but don't want to give it away or cut it up, consider dyeing it a new color—your wedding dress will transform into a formal gown perfect for any number of special occasions. We do have to warn you though: Not all fabrics and embellishments are compatible with color dyes (lace is permeable and won't soak up color, while a fabric like silk will usually take dye well), which is why you should trust a professional to dye the garment for you. You also need to make sure you get your dress cleaned before coloring—stains could set or be exacerbated in the dyeing process. Talk to a trusted cleaner about whether or not the chemicals they use to launder your dress could potentially react strangely with anything in the dye or the fabric of your dress—if so, this could definitely affect your plans, and it's smart to know beforehand.

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