Taking Care of Your Wedding Dress: Before the Wedding

Image of bride wearing wedding dress outside.

After months of shopping, waiting, and altering, you’ve finally got your wedding dress in hand…but how do you take care of your wedding dress from now until the wedding day? Avery Austin is here to take out all of the before care guesswork and guide you through the proper storage and care techniques to keep your dress crisp, clean, and ready for your I do’s.

Want to take a shortcut straight to the dress care topic that’s most important to you? Skip ahead to a particular topic by clicking a link below.

If you’re ready to dive right in and follow along from start to finish, read on! We’ll start by learning all about the best ways to store your wedding dress before the wedding.

How to Store a Wedding Dress Before the Wedding

Why is it so important to store your wedding dress properly? Before it even makes its special debut, your wedding gown can easily become wrinkled, yellowed, or damaged if not carefully cared for and stored. Furthermore, you’ve already invested so much of your time and money in your dream dress, so now it’s time to protect your investment! Whether you’ll have your bridal gown in your hands for a few days, weeks, or months before the wedding, proper care and storage is key to having a pristine bridal dress on your wedding day. So what is the best way to store your wedding dress? Check out Avery Austin’s six tips for safely storing your dress.

6 Tips for Safely Storing Your Wedding Dress

  1. Ask the Experts: If you purchased your wedding dress online from Avery Austin, you can contact one of our bridal specialists with any and all questions you may have about caring for your dream dress. If you found your wedding dress at a wedding salon, the very first thing you should do before leaving with your gown in hand is to ask the designer, salon representative, or seamstress for any special care instructions or recommendations. Chances are, they are intimately familiar with the exact style and fabric of your gown, so they’re great resources for information that’s specific to your dress.
  2. Go for Cool, Dry, and Dark: Protect your bridal gown from heat, dampness, and direct sunlight. Choose a storage location that is about room temperature or below. Humidity can cause mold, moisture stains and fabric decay, so if that’s something that can’t be avoided in your home or area, consider getting a dehumidifier that you can run in the room where your wedding dress will be stored. Since direct sunlight can cause bleaching, make sure your bridal gown is stored away from windows and doorways where the sun can shine through.
  3. Think Low-Traffic and Liveable: The space you choose to store your wedding dress should be an area that is comfortable to live in but not frequently disturbed. For example, brides commonly choose closets, under bed space, or spare rooms, but avoid attics, garages, basements, or storage units.
  4. Acid-Free is the Way to Be: Whenever your wedding dress spends an excessive amount of time rubbing up against other clothing items or storage surfaces, there’s a risk that dyes can transfer or acidic residues can damage the delicate dress fabric. It’s best to keep your gown in the box it came in or in a breathable, fabric garment bag that covers the whole dress (more on boxes vs. bags later). If your dress is wrapped in plastic, remove it and place the gown in a wedding dress storage box or bag, since plastic can cause stains overtime.
  5. Resist the Urge to Check on it: We get it. That compulsion to admire your gorgeous gown or show it off to friends and family who visit can be so, so hard to resist. But you must! Constantly handling your gown can increase the chance that it gets damaged, stained, or creased. When you leave your wedding dress be, it’s more likely to remain in the clean, crisp state it was in when you brought it back home from alterations. An occasional visual check is absolutely okay, and should be more than enough to soothe any worries you might have without jeopardizing your gorgeous gown. If you must touch your bridal gown at any point while it is in storage, make sure that your hands have been washed recently and are free of any oils, lotions, makeup, etc.
  6. Protect from Pets: Wherever you choose to store your wedding dress, make sure that the location is completely out of reach from teething puppies or curious cats that find lots of fabric textures particularly alluring. Keeping your bridal gown in a wedding dress storage box or garment bag prevents pet hair and dander from settling on it.

While these six tips cover the basics on how to store a wedding dress before the wedding, we do still have a few more things to cover. For example, should you go for a wedding dress storage box or a bag? Should you hang your wedding dress or lay it flat? These questions are frequently asked, so read on for our advice to learn more.

Is it Better to Store a Wedding Dress in a Bag or a Box?

Choosing to store your wedding dress in a bag or a box are both great options, so long as the bag is fabric and the box is acid-free. This is how you keep your wedding dress from turning yellow before your wedding. Without proper storage, yellowing can happen within anywhere from six to eight months. Any fabric garment bag or wedding dress storage box that you receive it in is likely to be a safe bet, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if they are approved wedding dress storage options. That said, here are a few perks to each option.

  • Wedding Dress Garment Bag Perks: Wedding dress garment bags are generally best for the short-term storage (under 6 months) of lightweight and minimal embellished gowns. This bridal gown storage option is made from breathable fabric, so there’s no need to worry about the common pitfall of plastic coverings, such as the colorless and odorless fumes that cause yellowing. Garment bags give you the option to hang your wedding dress (but be sure to check out the tips below to make sure hanging is the best option for you).
  • Wedding Dress Storage Box Perks: Standard wedding dress storage boxes are made from acid-free, lignin-free cardboard, which, unlike standard cardboard boxes, won’t cause any fabric scorching or staining. They come in a variety of sizes to suit the different types of gowns available. In a box, your wedding gown has the chance to lay flat and avoid the fabric stretching risks involved with hanging for more than a few months. As such, the wedding dress storage box is the best for long-term storage, and especially for heavy or embellished gowns that may require some additional protection, such as tissue paper around the embellished sections.

Should I Hang My Wedding Dress or Lay it Flat?

In general, it is best to lay wedding dresses flat when storing them before the wedding. Sometimes this is not always easy to do, depending upon your living space. However, there are some wedding dresses that should not be hung, especially when you take into account the fabric, embellishments, and length of time you will be storing your gown. Here is Avery Austin’s advice for recognizing when you should lay your wedding dress flat and when you can hang it.

  • When to Lay Your Wedding Dress Flat: Every wedding dress style can be stored flat, but it is especially important when your gown has lots of heavy layers and embellishments. When the fabric is heavy or there are a lot of embellishments that add to the weight of the gown, the fabric and dress features can start to stretch and sag, especially if they will be stored for a long period of time. Stored flat, your wedding dress is safe from such risks, and there’s no time limit for how long your bridal gown can be safely stored in the box.
  • When to Hang Your Wedding Dress: If your wedding dress is lightweight and minimally embellished, you could store it by hanging it in a garment bag for a short time (under six months). If you choose to hang your bridal gown, be sure to use a padded hanger and hang it by the fabric loops (not the straps or sleeves, which can sag or rip from the strain of hanging).

Do You Wash a Wedding Dress Before the Wedding?

Typically we wash our new clothes once before wearing them, so that means we should wash our wedding dresses before wearing them, right? To be honest, washing your bridal gown before your wedding is not always necessary. If your dress was a special order, made specifically for you, then chances are that your wedding gown is already in nearly perfect condition (especially if there wasn’t too much handling for alterations). No need to pay for a professional cleaning in this case!

On the other hand, what if you’re concerned about the condition of your wedding dress? Perhaps it was a sample gown that had been tried on by many other brides, or you’re choosing to wear a cherished hand-me-down dress that’s been passed down through generations. Even a brand new wedding gown that has been back and forth between fittings and alterations has been handled by many people, so there’s a chance that oils, hand lotions, sweat, etc, may affect your precious gown. In any of these scenarios, you might consider a cleaning, but only through a reputable wedding dress cleaner. Try to schedule the cleaning at least three months before your wedding if you plan to have it done before any final alterations (such as you might need if you plan to gain or lose more weight before your big day). If you’re not worried about last minute alterations, then you could have the cleaning done after alterations have been completed, but either way, it’s important to schedule both well in advance.

What to Do with a Wedding Dress the Night Before Your Wedding

After carefully storing your bridal dress for days/weeks/months, it’s finally time to bring it back out in preparation for your wedding day! When it comes to wedding dress care the night before your wedding, many of the earlier rules for dress handling still apply. Always be sure that your hands are freshly washed, dried, and clear of any lotions or oily residues and keep pets clear of your prep area (which should also be freshly cleaned). Once you’re ready, follow these five tips for wedding dress care preparations the night before you walk down the aisle.

5 Ways to Prepare Your Wedding Dress the Night Before

  1. Air it All Out: It’s time to remove your wedding gown from its garment bag or storage box in order to begin the process of airing it out and letting the fabric settle. Once you’ve carefully removed your gown, be sure to use the tips above for how to hang a wedding dress at home in order to safely hang your gown up high, away from pets. This process can help gravity pull out many of the slight wrinkles that come from storage.
  2. Treat Mild Wrinkles: If you’re worried about minor wrinkles not coming out just from hanging, you may find yourself wondering how to steam a wedding dress. Since it’s the night before, dashing out to a professional cleaner is not an option, but you could try using a handheld steamer if you have one! Since water droplets can leave spots, especially on delicate fabrics, you must be very careful to avoid applying steam directly to your bridal gown. Consider using a clean white cloth as a barrier between the steamer and your wedding dress, just to play it safe. If you don’t have a steamer, you can use the old “steamy shower” trick. After placing towels across the bathroom floor, run a very hot bath or shower, filling the space with steam. Don’t close the door all the way though, as you don’t want your gown to get too damp. Carefully, so as not to get your gown directly wet or otherwise soiled, hang your bridal gown in the steamy bathroom to soften any fabric wrinkles. You can wrap your arm in a dry towel (preferably a white towel to prevent the risk of dye transfer) and gently run your arm down the length of the gown to smooth out the softened wrinkles as you go.
  3. Remove Creases: If you’ve got more than a few wrinkles, the best approach is to use a handheld steamer, as a steamy shower may not be enough to smooth out strongly defined creases (but certainly can be tried if needed). If you don’t have one, you might want to check with your wedding party to see if you could borrow one. Just be sure to follow the tips above to keep your gown safe, clean, and dry as you use a steamer.
  4. Give Your Train a Little TLC: If there’s a train on your wedding gown, remove it from the hanger and let it loose to help release minor wrinkles. Now’s the time to carefully give it a final steam with a handheld steamer, if needed. Then let your train spread out on a clean, safe surface. If you’ve got a veil, now’s also a good time to give it the same treatment!
  5. Examine Your Bustle: If you have a train bustle, take the time to refresh your memory on how your bustle works. Look for all of the ties, buttons, and/or loops on both the inside and outside of your train. Even better, do this review with your maid of honor (or whoever will be assisting you on wedding day with this task) so that you both will have a chance to strengthen your memories before the big day.

Hopefully all of the useful tips in this guide will help you with taking care of your wedding dress. While we included all of the basics to keep you prepped and ready for handling your gown right from the start of your wedding journey, we’re happy to help with any additional questions you may have about dress care, especially for an Avery Austin original design! Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our bridal specialists regarding the proper care of your wedding dress before the wedding.

Of course, if you’re planning for a tropical (or otherwise distant) celebration, you may still be wondering how to travel with your dress. Be sure to check out our guide about how to get your wedding dress to a destination wedding so you’ll know just how to safely pack and transport your precious gown.

Finding yourself wondering about the next steps? We don’t want to leave you hanging at the night before your wedding! Next, read about how to care for your dress on your wedding day. You could even keep going to prepare yourself for how to care for and preserve your gown after your wedding. Whatever stage you’re at with your wedding planning, Avery Austin has got you covered with all the tips and helpful information you’ll need to keep your wedding dress looking as beautiful as the day you purchased it!