How to Travel with a Wedding Dress

Image of bride standing on a dock in front of water wearing a white wedding dress and holding a bouquet of pink flowers.

As excitement builds for your upcoming wedding day, the sooner you can prepare yourself for packing and traveling with your wedding dress the better, especially for a destination wedding. As you puzzle over the possibilities, you may be asking yourself, what is the best way to transport a wedding dress? While the answer to that question can vary by bride, there are some general tips you can follow to carefully pack your wedding gown for any type of travel. Below, check out Avery Austin’s advice on the best ways to pack your wedding dress, then read on for additional tips on the different ways you could travel with your bridal gown (or jump ahead to your means of transportation by using one of the links right here).

How to Pack a Wedding Dress for a Destination Wedding

Regardless of how far you’ll be traveling, you’ll want to make sure that your wedding dress is carefully packed in a way that protects it and minimizes wrinkles or creases. Here a a few suggestions to consider as you prepare to pack your wedding dress for travel:

  • Use a Garment Bag. Quality garment bags offer a protective, breathable covering that keeps your wedding dress safe and prevents yellowing or mildew caused by plastic coverings. While this is perfect for storage, you’ll need to take an extra step with garment bags for travel. Make sure the garment bag you use has a waterproof layer to protect from spills, rain, or other types of moisture you might encounter during your trip. Does your wedding dress have a train? Consider leaving it bustled in the garment bag to keep it from wrinkling at the bottom of the bag.
  • Get Lots of Acid-Free, Colorless Tissue Paper. Wrap it carefully around your wedding dress, slipping the tissue paper between layers where you are gently folding the gown for packing to minimize travel wrinkles. Alternatively, some salons, retailers, or designers can prep your gown for travel by padding the bust area or securing it over a cardboard dress form in order to help the gown hold its shape, so be sure to ask if that’s an option for you! If not, you can use the tissue paper to mold it into curved areas like the bust or to gently cover areas of beads, sequins, or other embellishments.
  • Pack a Portable Handheld Steamer. Even with all of the best preventative measures, wrinkles are still a very real possibility when traveling. Having a handheld steamer means you’ll be able to easily clear up any that remain on wedding day. For tips and tricks on removing wrinkles with or without a steamer, be sure to take a peek at Avery Austin’s article about wedding dress care before the wedding!
  • Whenever Possible, Lay Your Wedding Dress Flat. Keeping your gown flat minimizes wrinkles and prevents any embellishments from weighing down the fabric over time when it’s hung. Anytime a dress is dragged, smooshed, or folded, damage and wrinkles are guaranteed.
  • Do Your Best to Always Keep Your Dress in Sight. In sight and in hand means you have control over the condition (and location) of your wedding gown. If you can avoid it, don’t check your wedding dress at an airport and don’t ship your gown. Those options leave the fate of your precious dream dress in the hands of other companies.

With these general tips in mind, let’s now consider four common methods that brides use to get their wedding dresses to their ceremony locations: shipping, driving, riding public transportation, or flying. Depending on how far you need to travel, some of these options may be more preferable than others. Whether you get to have your pick or your options for traveling with your wedding dress are limited, here is Avery Austin’s advice for managing your journey with your bridal gown.

How to Ship a Wedding Dress for a Destination Wedding

Shipping directly to your wedding destination might simplify the packing and traveling process for you; however, it is probably one of the riskiest options because you are entrusting your gown to the care of numerous employees within the shipping company you’ve chosen. That’s a lot of hands and vehicle transitions for your delicate gown. Even with shipping insurance and a specific delivery date selected, your carefully prepared package still may not arrive on time, or worse, become damaged or lost in transit. BUT, if shipping is the best option for your circumstances, there are a few things you can do beyond the standard packing tips above.

  • Contact your hotel or resort in advance so you can be assured that the package will be accepted, even if you have not yet arrived to receive it.
  • Pack your wedding gown into a shipping box only after you’ve carefully wrapped it in tissue paper and placed it in a waterproof garment bag.
  • Mark “FRAGILE” on each side of the package so the warning won’t be missed.
  • Double (maybe triple) check the address so there’s no confusion about the package’s destination or mix-up with the delivery.
  • Pay for shipping insurance and a shipping method that should have your wedding gown arriving before the wedding day.

Following the suggestions above gives your wedding dress a fighting chance at arriving at your destination safely and in one piece.

How to Travel with a Wedding Dress by Car

One of the most common ways to travel with a wedding dress is by car, especially if your ceremony and reception are within a short distance from your home. If you will be driving or riding in a car to your wedding destination, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Keep your wedding dress in the back seat, if possible. You can hang the garment bag on the inside hook above a side door and drape the gown across the back seat to keep it in place and as flat as possible.
  • If the back seat is full, lay your wedding gown flat in the trunk. Some cars have hooks there as well, so be sure to use one if you can to prevent your dress from sliding everywhere during the ride. Another option is to secure the hanger to the back of the seat if it has any spots for the hanger to loop around.
  • Most importantly, make sure your wedding dress is on top of any other items in the car. No smooshing the dress! That’s a recipe for damage or wrinkles.

Bottom line: Keep your wedding dress flat, secured, and on top at all times! That’s the best way to transport a wedding dress in a car.

How to Travel with a Wedding Dress Using Public Transportation

If you live in a city, chances are you’ll need to use the bus or subway to get to your wedding or to a train station or airport. Here are a few tips for traveling with a wedding dress on public transportation.

  • Try to avoid rush hour. With a large, busy crowd, it will be hard to keep your dress safe from the crush of bodies or stamping feet.
  • Look for space with an extra seat. Having a seat for yourself and your dress gives you a chance to lay it as flat as you can within the tight space.
  • Keep at least one hand on your gown at all times. Even if you’re able to hang it from an overhead pole for a little reprieve, don’t let it go completely. Your wedding dress is safest from sudden shifts or passersby if you’ve got a secure hold on your gown.

If you’re not sure about the busiest travel times for your area or the kind of space you might have when taking public transportation, it’s best to give yourself the chance to do a couple of test runs without your wedding dress. Try making the journey around the time of day you’d like to start your traveling and get a feel for the crowds, layout of the station or stop, and the room you might have in the bus or subway car. This dry run will help you feel even more confident and ready for traveling with your wedding dress.

How to Fly with a Wedding Dress

Since you’ll most likely need to fly to reach a tropical wedding destination, it’s important to know how to travel with a wedding dress on an airplane. First and foremost, be sure to confirm the guidelines for the specific airline that you will be using. The following tips apply to most airlines, but the rules can vary.

  • Most airlines will allow you to bring your wedding dress as carry-on in a garment bag. To prepare your dress for flying as a carry-on, you should...
    • …clearly label your garment bag so there’s no chance of any mix-ups with other brides who may be traveling at the same time as you!
    • …wait for others to finish loading their bags in the overhead compartments, then place your wedding dress on top if there are not enough compartments for it to have one of its own.
    • …ask if there is a closet where you can carefully hang your wedding gown. Some planes have closet space in first class, so you can call in advance to see if your airline offers this option or politely ask a stewardess if it’s an option when you board.
    • …consider buying an extra seat for your dress if you have the budget to do so. Then you don’t have to worry about overhead compartments or closet availability! You can simply drape your dress across the extra seat.
  • Dresses with less volume (no ball gown skirts, trains, etc.) could be carefully packed in a carry-on suitcase for added travel protection, but this increases the likelihood of creases and lots of wrinkles. If your airline allows either garment bags or carry-on luggage, then decide which method works best for you and your wedding dress style.
  • It’s best not to travel with your wedding dress as checked luggage, but if you must, be sure to pack your dress carefully following the packing guidelines above. Make sure that the luggage you pack your wedding gown into can be sealed securely to try to prevent any transit mishaps.

Again, the most important thing is to familiarize yourself with your chosen airline’s rules and regulations, since each airline may have different carry-on rules regarding garment bags. Start with those guidelines, add in Avery Austin’s tips above, and you’ll be set to fly with your wedding dress!

Once you’ve finally made it to your destination with your gorgeous wedding dress, it’s time to settle in and prepare yourself for your wedding day! Is it the night before your big day? Be sure to check out Avery Austin’s blog about taking care of your wedding dress before your wedding so you know how to prepare your bridal gown. In addition to that night-before-the-wedding advice, here’s a pro travel tip: Make sure that as you unpack your wedding dress you save the packing materials you used for your travels so that you can use them for the return trip too! Curious about the best way to go about getting dressed on the day of your wedding? Avery Austin’s got you covered! Read up on how to get ready and dressed for your wedding day here.