A primer on post-wedding bridal gown care

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2018.

Cleaning and preserving a wedding gown is delicate work, and it doesn’t necessarily come cheap. In a time when many brides are forgoing the post-nuptial process in the interest of shaving a few dollars off their budget, we wondered—is preservation still worth it?

The short answer: It absolutely is.

We spoke with local brides and Margaret Butler of Dublin Cleaners for tips on achieving the ideal end result and reasons why it might matter down the road.

First, it’s in your dress’s best interest to leave the cleaning to the professionals. Specialists such as Dublin Cleaners—which has been keeping wedding gowns pristine for almost 40 years—use state-of-the-art cleaning methods and museum- and heirloom-quality, acid-free packing materials. In other words, put those DIY articles away.

“Wedding gown fabrics and lace are very delicate, so it is more important than normal that—at least for the cleaning—it comes in as soon as possible after the wedding,” Butler says, though she does note a caveat. “If you don’t see serious stains, you don’t have to rush it in. I always tell a very recent bride she needs time for decompression post-wedding because it seems like such a whirlwind once you look back on it.”

If you get something on the dress, use caution in treating it yourself. “We suggest to blot the affected area. Do not rub!” Butler says. And forget about club soda. “I know it’s a natural reaction, when someone wants to put something on the stain to keep it from setting. Depending on the fabric and depending on the stain, some of those remedies can set a stain rather than remove it.”

Even if you’re the picture of grace on your big day and you don’t spill anything, your gown will come into contact with dirt, especially along the hem. That’s what happened to Megan Diedalis, who went to New Albany Cleaners—sister company of Dublin Cleaners—for help.

“The bottom of my dress was destroyed,” she says. “I don’t even know what all was on it! We took pictures outside, so I am sure just the light rubbing on the ground for five-plus hours was just too much for it.” But grass and dirt aren’t the only enemies of a white hem.

“By far the worst stains to deal with are when the bride walks across a parking lot. She can encounter remnants of fluid leaks from cars, and also the rough surface of a sidewalk or a parking lot can be abrasive and snag delicate fabrics,” Butler says. “One other issue I caution brides about is getting too close to black mulch beds in the outdoor areas where you are posing for photographs. The dye in black mulch can transfer to the fabric and be very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.”

The reasons for cleaning a gown are obvious, especially if you intend to sell or reuse the gown in some way, but the decision to properly preserve it can have more nuance.

“I think you need to think about it as a long-term decision and not just a quick save of money,” Diedalis says. “It was important to me to preserve it because my mom preserved hers, and I cut a piece of it out and had it sewn on the inside of my dress. I want to be able to have the chance to do that with my daughter as well.”

Ultimately, the choice to preserve your gown is yours. For her part, Butler’s recommendation goes beyond professional interest.

“We recommend preservation of a wedding dress for the clients who would like to enjoy their wedding dresses on special anniversary milestones for years in the future,” she says. “I know from personal experience—having been married 46 years—every time I look at my dress, it just brings back the best memories of that day.”