When Brittany Hanson made plans to marry her soul mate, she had to prepare for not one ceremony but two, leaving her with even more memories and mementos to store in the couple’s small, one-bedroom apartment. Like many new brides, she wanted to be sure she took care to think about how to best preserve her wedding dress and other keepsakes.
“I really wanted to keep my signs and wedding décor – the cloth chandelier, my cake toppers, my flowers and my accessories,” she said. “My accessories, such as shoes and hair décor were special, hard to find and hard saved for.”
By reading our expert tips, brides like Brittany can learn more about how to store a wedding dress, flowers and cards, to help preserve all the good memories these keepsakes spark.
How to Store a Wedding Dress to Preserve It
The average bride spends $1,469 on a wedding dress, according to a recent wedding spending survey conducted by The Knot website. Paying about $225 to preserve the dress may be a wise investment if you want to keep it.
“Ninety percent of preserving a dress is properly cleaning it,” said Sally Conant, who has been preserving wedding dresses for 25 years and is the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.
Taking the dress for a regular dry cleaning isn’t enough, she said, because latent stains from sugar – like cake frosting and champagne – will not dissolve.
“The dress will look OK (after dry cleaning), but the sugar residue will still be in the fabric and over time those residues will turn brown and look like coffee was spilled on it,” Conant said.
Hanson had the gown professionally preserved from her second ceremony, an elaborate Sicilian-Catholic ceremony held in her now-husband’s hometown of St. Louis, but she keeps the dress from the first ceremony accessible to put on from time to time.
Specialized cleaners like Conant recommend preserving wedding dresses in acid-free boxes and storing them in a climate-controlled environment.
“You want it somewhere in the house where it’s comfortable,” Conant said. “You don’t want it in the attic – the temperature is too high – and you don’t want it in a basement or garage. I’ve seen dresses that were absolutely gray because of car exhaust.”
Simone Perry of Time in a Box Preservation Co. recommends storing the dress under the bed so it’s away from light and moisture.
She created a specialized preservation kit for storing wedding gowns and has worked in the wedding business for 25 years.
“Consumers aren’t usually told they have to change out the cardboard boxes every 15 to 20 years,” Perry said. “Since (the kit) is not cardboard, it’s not attractive to rodents and it’s in a breathable plastic box.”
Conant also warned about storing the dress in the closet.
“If you’re just going to hang it in the closet, you might as well donate it or throw it away because the fabric will oxidize,” she said.
Consider Hiring a Professional to Preserve Your Wedding Bouquet
Many brides want to display their bouquet long after the ceremony is over, but it can be challenging to keep flowers looking good long term.
“I tried to home-dry the (wedding) flowers to a rather bad, mildewy end,” Hanson said.
Unfortunately, she’s not the only bride who has attempted to preserve her bouquet at home and failed, said Perry, who has professionally preserved wedding flowers for most of her career.
“Air drying is something you can do with flowers, but you really have to do it the right way,” said Perry. “A bouquet that is bunched up tight won’t dry because the flowers won’t get air flow.”
Professionals will typically freeze-dry wedding bouquets.
“The freezing process holds the flower in place,” Perry said. “It’s pretty much like freezer burn. The moisture of the flower escapes and turns into vapor.”
It takes about two weeks to freeze-dry flowers and some very expensive equipment, but “it results in beautifully-dried flowers,” Perry added.
On average – depending on where you live and how many flowers are in your bouquet – the process usually costs $300 to $500.
“The last thing I really wanted to dedicate more money to was flower preservation,” Hanson said.
So, for brides like her, Perry recommends either air drying, but to dry the flowers individually, or using silica gel.
“You have to completely bury each flower in the silica gel,” Perry said. “And each flower head needs to be dried separately.”
After the flowers are dried, you can recreate the bouquet with wires or, like Hanson, put the flowers in a shadowbox or frame.
Create a Wedding-Card Book to Make Memories Accessible
Around the time Jen Evans was preparing to get married in 2010, she helped her parents move out of her childhood home.
“My mom had all their wedding cards just thrown into a box,” she said. “And my mom said ‘I wish I had a way to look at these once in a while.’”
Her mom was the inspiration for her DIY wedding-card book that she created with her wedding cards later and wrote about on her blog The Creative Cubby.
“Wedding cards are really expensive and people leave you really nice notes in them,” Evans said. “The book is something that we kept right next to our wedding album.”
After gathering all her wedding cards, she lined them up and measured out where to hole punch before binding them together with a cover and metal rings.
(For more detailed instructions on how to make a wedding card book, make sure to read Evans’ blog.)
“The skinny, small cards are hard to accommodate,” Evans said. “For all those little cards – like the ones taped to the tops of packages – I ended up gluing them to pieces of paper that are the average size.”
Evans said her mom later made a book and now her parents look at the craft project on their anniversary.
“When you throw things in a box it becomes ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ and now there’s something in that box that she wants to look at instead of being cumbersome to go through,” Evans said.
Our new bride Hanson liked the idea and plans to make her own wedding-card book in the future.
“I put (my cards) in a Ziploc bag, then in a box,” Hanson said. “The future for those cards lies in being hole-punched and bound together.”
Photo courtesy of Brittany Hanson.