What to Do With Your Dress After the Wedding

After poring through bridal magazines, trying on countless gowns in the fitting room and potentially spending more on one item of clothing than you ever will again, you finally found The Dress. Your husband swooned, your mother cried, and your friends couldn't stop telling you how gorgeous you looked on the big day. Your dress is so pretty that you wish you could wear it every weekend! Unfortunately, you can't. Well, you could...but you might get a raised eyebrow or two. So now what?

Real brides let us in on what they did with their wedding gowns after the big day. Read all of their responses, then tell us what you plan on doing with yours once you're married!

Save your dress as a keepsake.
"Growing up, very little, if anything, was ever saved in our family since we moved around so much, so I figured I was starting a new tradition by holding on to my dress as an heirloom. Of course, I had no idea then if I would even have girls in the future." — Cathe Holden

dress in boxcathe holden wedding photo
Cathe Holden wearing the blush "Southern Belle" wedding gown that is still safely tucked away 23 years later.
Photos courtesy of Cathe Holden   

"It's been hanging in the garment bag since that night, with the dirt and grass stains still underneath the skirt (we got married on a farm), and a tear from where one of my cousins stepped on it while we were dancing up a storm...I love the dress so much that I don't think I could ever part with it. I feel the same way about the matching veil that my grandmother helped buy for me." —Alison Jimenez

"My mum has her mum's wedding dress, she has her own...and I'm confident that these will come my way sometime. This could be a new type of family tradition/collection. I think a dress says a lot about one's personality, and if you want to think about fashion, it'll be interesting to see how things have evolved over time." —Kristin Metcalfe

wedding dress on hangerreal bride kristin admiring her wedding dress
Kristin and her mom admiring the gown before her late-August wedding in 2011.
Photo credit: Frank Salas Photography 

"I saved it for our daughters who are now 20 and 23. I thought one of them might use it someday. [Now] I wish I hadn’t attached so much sentimental value to the dress and simply let them play ‘dress up’ with it while they were young — it would have been fun for them. My youngest said she would take it but to her, it just looks…well, dead!" —Laura Jajko 

laura wedding photo
Laura plans to wear her wedding dress again for her 25th anniversary this November.

But preserving your gown doesn't mean it needs to sit in storage... 
"We'll be celebrating our 12th anniversary this year and my anniversary gift to him is a romantic photo session of us…we're taking photos in formal wear, and I'll be wearing the same dress I walked down the aisle in 12 years ago.” —Danita Terry

"I had always wanted to wear my wedding dress again. I had a fantasy of wearing it every year on our anniversary. We hosted a party [seven years later] where I wore my dress (it still fit!) and we had our friends over to celebrate with us. Lots of champagne, homemade food, cake, and music made for a super fun party. The best part was that I set up a photo booth with my camera and a tripod so we could all take pictures together [in our wedding gowns]. Overall it was a blast, and I can't wait to do it again this year!" —Jessica

wear your wedding dress party
See more photos from Jessica's "wear your wedding dress" party >>

Donate your dress to a worthy cause.
"My ex-fiancée was in the military and it didn't work out (obviously)…but as I head into my big day with the right man for me, I am able to reflect and I have a whole new perspective and respect for those women who are able to walk with their military men through all of the ups and downs. Many times, this doesn't include having a lot of money or time for a wedding. I plan to donate my dress to [Brides Across America], in honor of those strong women who brave the Army life that did not work for me.” —Hope Alcocer, Wedding Planner 

"When [my mother] passed away, I found [her wedding dress] perfectly preserved in a box. It was one of those cool knee-length dresses that were so popular in the '60s. I contacted a prop 
house in Hollywood and donated it to them. It was a really great dress that I’m sure would be perfect for a movie or TV show, and I thought it was a great way to have the dress live on. I'm still hoping to see it in a movie wedding scene someday!" —Susan Dimezza 

"I was so thrilled to donate my wedding dress the week after the wedding. The nonprofit I donated it to resells them and uses the money for breast cancer research. My father passed away of brain cancer when I was 12 years old, and I started volunteering for The American Cancer Society when I was around seven. [Donating my dress] was the least I could do to carry on two decades of working to help end cancer in any way I could. It truly just felt like the right thing to do and that was more overarching than the sentimental loss of the dress." —Dana Marlowe 

dana marlowe wedding photo
Dana and her husband recently celebrated their anniversary in Rome, where they honeymooned 10 years ago.

"I donated mine to a flea market to raise money for a local elementary school. I had no intention to give it away, but I was teaching at the school that sold it. They had a garage sale and I thought, OK, I am ready to part with this, and I could really use the tax deduction! It was my dream dress, but I made the right decision by allowing another woman to enjoy the dress." —Susan Schench, Author of The Live Food Factor 

"My wedding gown reminds me of the day I married my true love, of dancing and celebrating with people who have since passed, and the 'cloud nine' feeling I had all day long! However, I know that there are millions of women who are looking for a gorgeous, showstopping gown but can't afford one. That's why I don't want my gown just sitting in the closet, waiting for the day that my stepdaughter may want to wear it or use a piece of it. If I don't sell it, I'll probably donate it to a charity like Brides Against Breast Cancer." —Diana Trotter, blogger for All Women Stalk

Check with your daughter first before giving it away...
"I knew my daughter was not planning on wearing it, so I thought I had held on to it long enough. I felt a little guilty that there may be someone out there who needed a wedding dress for a cheap price, so I took it to the local Salvation Army...While driving home, my daughter called, and she was practically hysterical because she had wanted to make a purse for each of us out of the gown material for her wedding day. Well, in tears, I rushed back to the donation center. I made my plea to a nice gentleman outside the back of the building that I had just given my wedding dress to. He was very sympathetic and gave my wedding dress back to me.” —Debbie Claypool 

Trash the dress!
"I decided I wanted to do something memorable for our five-year anniversary, so why not pull out my wedding dress and do something fun with it? I had not heard of ‘trashing your dress’ when we got married back in 2007, so a couple of years later when a friend ‘trashed’ hers after her wedding, I knew that someday, I wanted to do the same. Jason proposed to me on the beach, so that's why I decided to go the route that we did. It was a fun and memorable way to celebrate five years of marriage, and also the upcoming birth of our baby boy. Yes, 15 weeks prior we found out that we were expecting!” —Christine Harris 

trash the dress
Photo Credit: Shaun King Photography 

"I think the point of a 'trash the dress' session is not to do something you will regret down the line, but instead, to enrich your wedding/marriage experience by giving yourself the gift of feeling beautiful. I was no longer worried about keeping it clean for the ceremony…I could simply be in my dress and relax. I danced in the snow, posed, did a snow angel and wore a beautiful red cape…I felt like a kid again. My husband and I even had a good old snowball fight. It was a phenomenal experience. The pictures speak for themselves." —Nathalie Fleury 

trash the dress photo shoot in the snow
snowball fight
Photo Credits: Chantal Benoit Photographer

Use the fabric from your gown to make something completely new.
"I plan to use the lace from my dress to make a christening gown for our children, so that it can continue to be passed down for generations without anyone having to 'make do' with a wedding dress that will eventually be outdated. And I’m actually considering making a Christmas tree skirt out of [the rest]. I love the continuity of creating an heirloom out of something that means so much to me." —Jessica Ravenna

"I'm saving it in case one of my three daughters wants to wear it or would like to use some of the material for a baby blessing dress. If made well, the blessing dress could be passed down for generations!" —Emily Hill

emily hill wedding photo
For now, Emily's dress remains preserved in a storage box since 1996. 

—Alyson Kaufman