Ballpark estimate: $150 to $400+ (but more elaborate or heavily stained gowns can cost much more!)
With all of the hard work leading up to your wedding, you may not have given much thought as to what you’ll do with your exquisite wedding gown after the festivities are over. After all that money you spent, it’s a shame to leave your dress crumbled in the recesses of your closet or hanging on the back of your door. But there is another option: many brides today invest in having their bridal gowns preserved in the hopes that one day they can pass them on to a daughters or granddaughters. Although it means investing in one more service just when you thought you were done with all those wedding expense, this can be well worth the cost, since if properly cleaned and stored, your bridal gown will become a family heirloom for future generations to enjoy.
What to Expect
When you decide to have your wedding gown preserved, you can expect that an expert will clean the delicate garment and remove any stains or discoloration on the fabric caused by those common wedding mishaps such as spilled wine, crushed cake, smudged makeup and even people stepping on the gown train. (It’s important to note that not all stains are visible to the naked eye. Some sugar stains may not be obvious, but if left to set they can do damage to your delicate dress.)
If there are any rips or pulls, or if beads or adornments are coming off, the expert should also handle these minor repairs and should do whatever it takes to make the gown in optimal condition again.
Once the gown has been cleaned and restored, it will be layered with acid-free tissue paper and then placed in an acid-free box (often using a bust form to maintain the dress shape). Typically, the box will have a window portion in front so you will able to see at least part of your dress. The box will be specially sealed to keep out humidity, dust, and bugs, all of which can damage the fabric or discolor it. Most experts recommend that women store this box away from direct sunlight and from extremes in temperature. The box should not be opened until it’s time for someone else to wear the dress. (It’s worth noting that some preservation companies might hang the dress in a special protected bag instead.)
How to Find
You can request to have your wedding gown preserved by your bridal salon (just realize that they will likely send it out to be done by a service who specializes in bridal gown preservation). This can be convenient, since the salon can handle the details and make sure the process goes smoothly. You’ll also have peace of mind that they are using a service that they know and trust. Some salons may also offer a small discount for customers. You can also find a dry cleaner who specializes in the wedding gown preservation process. Or, do a search online for a service that handles this task. You can also find a searchable directory of vendors through The Knot and through the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists.
Many online services today will provide you with a packing box so you can send in the gown to have cleaned and protected. Then they will send back the finished garment ready to store away. This door-to-door service makes the process easy and convenient.
Investing in an Expert
Regardless of who you select to handle the process, the main thing is that any professional you use comes well recommended, since your wedding gown—and the memories it evokes—can’t be replaced in the event that the gown ends up getting damaged during the preservation process. There are many horror stories online of brides who had things go wrong after trusting a bridal gown preservation company that ultimately ruined their gown. Therefore, check reviews for any company you’re considering, or ask friends for recommendations if they have been satisfied with their experiences.
When you do select a company, be sure to also ask what their policy is if anything goes wrong. Some companies will refund the cost of their service but may not reimburse you for the value of the gown itself in the event it is damaged. Other companies will insure the gown but it may be for less money than your dress is actually worth. In that case, you should ask whether you can buy additional insurance to be sure the full value is covered.
Timing is Critical
When you have your dress treated can be almost as important as where you have it done. Some brides are so busy right after their weddings that they may not have time to think about having their gown preserved for months or even years later, which can jeopardize the results. Most experts recommend having your dress treated as soon as possible (or at least within six weeks) after the wedding is done, when it will be easiest to remove any staining. Therefore, it can be a good idea to select a preservation service before the wedding and be prepared to send in the dress right after you return from your honeymoon. Or better yet, have a family member or friend drop off the dress at the preservation service for you while you are away so the cleaning process can begin.
Cost for Bridal Gown Preservation
The cost for bridal gown preservation depends on the quality of your dress, the material it is made from, and the level of detailing it contains. The amount of staining or damage that needs to be fixed will also affect the cost.
The more delicate (and expensive) the fabric is, the more difficult the cleaning will be. In addition, dresses with extensive beadwork, lace, bows, or other elaborate accents can require special handling, which can also greatly impact the cost.
To give you an idea of how pricing might play out, a simple bridal dress with little or no detailing that is not visibly soiled might start at about $150 to clean and preserve. For a more ornate bridal gown with moderate beading or lace, or that is more heavily stained, you can expect to pay between $200 and $400 to have it cleaned and preserved. For a custom designer dress with extensive detailing, an elaborate train, or difficult discolorations or stains, you can expect to pay as much as $500 to $700 or even more more cleaning and preservation.
Sewing any tears, repairing damaged bead work or fixing snags in the fabric or lace will often be an additional charge of $10 to $50 or more, depending on what needs to be done. In addition, having extra items cleaned and preserved like bridal gloves, a handkerchief, or your veil will also usually add to the price. These items may be an additional $15 to $20 each.