Your ultimate guide to wedding dress preservation

wedding dress preservation
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You've had your big day, you've worn the amazing gown, and now you're probably wondering about this whole wedding dress preservation business. Can you really move all stains? Is it worth doing it professionally? How much does it cost?

As it's always best to trust the experts, I asked Amy at Boxed Bridal to answer your burning wedding dress care questions.

Should I have my wedding dress cleaned?

If you are planning to keep your wedding dress, think about the future and how you would like to see her for the first time in years to come. Other more practical reasons could be planning to sell, converting part of the dress into a christening gown or possibly even for another bride to wear.

What will happen if I don't clean my wedding dress?

Potential disaster! A dress may appear fairly clean after your wedding day but be warned, it is the staining you can’t see that will undoubtedly change and impact the appearance of the dress. Even the coolest bride will perspire on her wedding day and this can cause permanent yellowing to certain fabrics under the arms and inside the bodice.

But the worst, most visual impact is caused by alcohol spillages where the sugars ferment and leave unsightly brown staining. Mould and mildew are another and often these are permanent. Even if the cleaning doesn’t fully remove all the staining, it will certainly prevent it from getting any worse. Certain natural fabrics such as silks that are kept in an uncleaned condition can be an attraction for moths and the damage they can create is irreversible.

What can I do on my wedding day to protect my dress?

We encourage brides to thoroughly enjoy their wedding day, which consequently means to throw caution to the wind and not worry about dirtying their wedding dress. Damage to a wedding dress is more of a concern. Sparklers and smoke bombs can create incredible photographs but are proving to be the biggest culprits for causing damage.

What do I do if I spill something on my wedding dress?

This is very difficult to give advice on as panic can set in to try and remove the stain immediately. The decision about trying to deal with a wedding day stain is ultimately dependent upon the time it occurs and the fabrics of the dress. Generally, after the wedding breakfast, most brides are past caring and once the dancing starts… most of the fun has begun. If temptation takes over to treat the stain, we suggest that you avoid rubbing hard as this could push the stain further into the fabric and damage the surface.

What is the best way to get stains out of a wedding dress?

A true wedding dress cleaner would have more than one option for the cleaning. We ourselves have three specialist processes to help us achieve the best results. The type of process always depends on the fabric and construction of a wedding dress. Many types of fabrics are receptive to a water based clean using specific detergents but for some silk dresses this is not an option and a traditional dry-cleaning process is required. Pre spotting will accelerate the cleaning process but many dresses will require more than one clean cycle. A professional quality cleaner until the efforts are exhausted and no further improvement is achieved.

Can I clean my wedding dress at home?

The statement 'don’t try this at home' comes to mind! Many dresses are constructed from fabrics that are suitable for a water based clean but the diversity of the staining and the intricacies of a wedding dress bring many challenges and risks. The staining that a wedding dress displays is usually beyond the power of normal detergents and adding to the size of a washing machine and the type of programming is not usually suitable for the size of a wedding dress. The final and essential part of the cleaning process must be the pressing. This on its own can be incredibly complex to ensure her appearance is restored.

How long can I wait to have my wedding dress cleaned?

The recommendation would always be to have this done as soon as possible after the event and better still to have included this as part of your wedding to-do list. We ourselves consider someone a new bride up to two years after their wedding day. Over the last 30 years we have cleaned and preserved wedding dresses that were worn either a day before they are brought to us, or 30+ years ago and still achieve amazing results. This is why our mantra is 'it is never too late to get your wedding dress cleaned'. The longer a dress is left in an unclean condition the greater the chance of stains developing that weren’t visible before.

How much does wedding dress preservation cost?

All cleaners will have different methods of pricing. Our pricing structure is clear and straight forward with no hidden costs. Our prices are not based on the value of a wedding dress, because in our eyes every dress is unique and deserves to have her own personal time with us, ensuring that the best results are achieved. We have three price options that are entirely dependent upon the style and volume a wedding dress has. Our prices for cleaning start at £155 for more column/sheath styles, going up to £180 for traditional/A line styles and then £215 for ballgown styles with many petticoat layers.

How should a wedding dress be stored?

The storage of a wedding dress is something that must be strongly considered, but the most important factor is having the dress cleaned The obvious and most convenient option for storage would be a preservation box ideally constructed from a PH neutral board, with the dress wrapped in acid free tissue paper. A further option would be a breathable fabric zip bag. Storing in any kind of plastic could create a negative environment for the dress.

Does a wedding dress need to be preserved?

Wedding dress preservation should be done for various reasons, most of which are sentimental. Without a doubt, the starting point in the preservation process is the actual cleaning and then the long-term storage. Who knows how long your wedding dress may remain in the box and who will be the first to lift the lid off of it in years to come. She may become a family heirloom to be cherished forever or parts of her may be adapted to create other special attire such as christening gowns or drapes over a cot.

Can I have my wedding veil or bridal shoes professionally cleaned?

Veils can be very delicate and it is not uncommon to see the odd hole or tear form its wear throughout your big day, not to mention a dirty/stained train with the odd bits of debris! Many brides choose shoes that they can wear again after their day, which is why it is important to also have these cleaned, so they are restored back to a clean condition ready to be enjoyed again.

Penny Goldstone

Penny Goldstone is the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire, covering everything from catwalk trends to royal fashion and the latest high street and Instagram must-haves.

Penny grew up in France and studied languages and law at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University in Paris before moving to the UK for her MA in multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University. She moved to the UK permanently and has never looked back (though she does go back regularly to stock up on cheese and wine).

Although she's always loved fashion - she used to create scrapbooks of her favourite trends and looks, including Sienna Miller and Kate Moss' boho phase - her first job was at, sourcing the best deals for everything from restaurants to designer sales.

However she quit after two years to follow her true passion, fashion journalism, and after many years of internships and freelance stints at magazines including Red, Cosmopolitan, Stylist and Good Housekeeping, landed her dream job as the Digital Fashion Editor at Marie Claire UK.

Her favourite part of the job is discovering new brands and meeting designers, and travelling the world to attend events and fashion shows. Seeing her first Chanel runway IRL at Paris Fashion Week was a true pinch-me moment.