wedding dress

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. You can 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. A bride spends on average of $1,200 on her wedding dress, said Heather Hall, fashion reporter for wedding planning website

Here are three tips for how to store a wedding dress.

1. Get It Cleaned Immediately.
Even if you don’t see any noticeable stains, get it cleaned. A preservationist will clean and package your gown, which could 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 kit” that’s available regardless of where you buy your gown.

You also can go to a regular cleaning professional and package the gown yourself, but make sure the cleaner has experience with cleaning wedding gowns.

“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. Also ask whether potential 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.

The longer you wait before getting a dress cleaned, the more difficult it will be remove any stains, said Kim Forest, editor of WeddingWire, an online marketplace connecting engaged couples and wedding merchants. Some stains, in fact, may set in permanently.

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,” Forest recommended.

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, you should 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, archival-quality materials,” Conant said.

Such packaging will protect your dress from the damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun, as well as acid, which can be found in certain types of tissue paper and 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.

Fold the gown loosely. If it’s decorated with sequins or beads, use acid-free archival tissue paper or unbleached muslin fabric between the folds so the fabric isn’t inadvertently snagged.

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.

Don’t put it in the attic, where heat can damage it, or in a damp basement, where mold and mildew can set in. A closet or the space under your bed would be fine. If you decide to put the dress in a self-storage unit, make sure it’s temperature-controlled.

Taking the time now to protect your gown will ensure that it retains its value. “It’s the steps you take to package your gown that will make the most difference,” Hall said.