With all of the excitement surrounding your wedding day, it’s easy to get so caught up in the planning that you ignore one important post-wedding detail—what to do with the wedding gown after the big day.

“The gown is a lovely keepsake and associated with a very special event in a person’s life,” said Kim Smith, director of alterations at bridal retailer David’s Bridal.

You can do many things with that gown. Donate it, pass it down to a daughter or keep it as a family heirloom. You also may have a baptismal or christening gown made from the wedding dress.

But if you don’t take the proper steps to preserve and store your gown the right way, your options may be severely limited, as you could inadvertently ruin your dress. One way to ensure your wedding dress is in mint condition for years to come is with wedding dress preservation.

What is Wedding Dress Preservation?

Wedding dress preservation is a professional service that involves cleaning and packaging a wedding dress for storage.

While they only wear it once, a bride spends on average of $1,200 on her wedding dress, according to The Knot. But it is a garment that they may want to cherish for a lifetime. Wedding dress preservation prevents the garment from deteriorating  or yellowing over time.

The professional wedding gown preservation process begins with a thorough cleaning of the dress. The preservationist exams the dress for stains and eliminates them with the most effective cleaner that will not damage the dress. When the wedding dress cleaning is completed, the wedding dress is carefully packaged in acid-free packaging.

How Much Does Dress Preservation Cost?

Preservation typically costs cost $200 to $400 or more, depending on where you live, Hall said.

You may be able to purchase preservation services when you buy your gown. For example, David’s Bridal sells a wedding gown preservation that’s available regardless of where you buy your gown.

Choosing a Dress Preservation Company

“The longer the cleaner has been in business and the more gowns the cleaner processes, the better,” said Sally Conant, executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.

Do your research by asking other brides where they took their gowns to be cleaned or by getting referrals. Ask whether cleaners offer a warranty or will reimburse you if something happens to the dress, Hall suggested. When it comes to cleaning your gown, experience counts.

Also remember that your favorite dry cleaners may not specialize in wedding gowns. Because of the delicate fabrics and sentimental value involved, it might be best to find an expert.

Tips for Preserving Your Wedding Gown

The following tips will help you on your way to storing the gown you wore on your big day, whether you choose professional cleaners or a DIY approach.

1. Clean it Quickly

The longer you wait before getting a dress cleaned, the more difficult it will be remove any stains. Some stains, in fact, may set in permanently.

As careful as you will be not to dirty your dress, everything from makeup to champagne will cross your path. Sweat and body oils will also soak into the fabric of your gown, especially if you hit the dance floor hard.

To get the gown cleaned as soon as possible, figure out where you’re going to take it a few weeks before the wedding. Then ask a family member or friend to bring your gown to the cleaners while you’re on your honeymoon.

2. Remember That Packaging Counts.

One of the worst things you can do is wrap the dress in plastic, Hall said, because it can trap moisture and create mold and mildew. Instead, place your dress in a container that’s designed for preservation purposes.

“The container and the tissue used to pack your gown must be completely acid-free, museum-quality materials,” Conant said.

Such packaging will protect your dress from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun. Acid, which can be found in certain types of tissue paper, can harm your dress over time. When packaging your dress, you want to be sure that you don’t use colored tissue paper, as your dress could become stained if the box becomes wet. Instead, use acid-free tissue paper.

3. Put the Dress in a Safe Place.

Once you’ve taken the time to clean and package the dress, make sure it’s in a safe, temperature-controlled environment suitable for long-term storage. Don’t put it in the attic, where heat can damage it. Avoid a damp basement, where mold and mildew can set in.

A dress preservation company may package your dress in a box, in which case a dry closet or the space under your bed would be fine.

Or, go the DIY route. Put your dress in an acid-free garment bag and hang it in your closet. Use a padded hanger to prevent the fabric from getting stretched out. Hanging the dress also prevents any permanent creasing from taking place.

If you decide to put the dress in a self-storage unit, make sure it’s climate-controlled. Extreme temperatures and humidity levels could damage delicate fabrics.

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