After the dancing, the photos, and the hugs with the aunt who always wears too much makeup, "the one" may start to look a bit worse for wear the morning after your wedding. No, obviously not your new husband, but rather your wedding dress. If you dream of passing it down — or just keeping it for sentimental value, you need to know how to preserve your wedding dress.
First start with a visual check for stains. Did the hem get dirty from your picture-perfect shots in a garden, or did someone slosh red wine on it? Did an overzealous aunt smudge her foundation on it when she came in for a hug? You'll want to identify the cause of the stain to know how to treat it, but a professional cleaner is trained to spot the unseen.
"Oddly, the most dangerous spills are the ones you cannot see," says Sally Conant, of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists. "White wine and other things dry clear, and these latent stains contain sugar that caramelizes over time into dark brown stains that ordinary dry cleaning cannot remove. You may think your gown is fine, but in six months or more, the latent stain becomes pale yellow and then darkens as it ages. Heat accelerates the process."
On silk, and other natural fabrics, any stain can quickly turn into a dye, but on a dress made of an artificial fiber, the stain will "sit" on the fiber, making it easier to remove.
Once cleaned, it's time to store. Protect your dress from direct sunlight, which can quickly fade and turn the dress yellow. Take it off the hanger, which can cause the heaviest dresses to become misshapen. Whatever you do, avoid storing your dress in plastic!
"An acid-free wedding chest that protects your gown from air and light is the safest way to store your gown for many years to come," Conant advises. "Breathable bags provide safe short-term storage, but long-term hanging is not good for you gown."
Appoint a bridesmaid or your mother to store your dress in a protective, breathable garment bag after the wedding, but be sure to bustle your dress off to the cleaners once you return from your honeymoon.