How to Protect the Bottom of Your Dress at an Outdoor Wedding

A few simple tips to help preserve your dress.

Bride holding up dress with leaves stuck to the bottom

Photo by Peyton Byford

Saying "I do" outdoors? Then you'll definitely be getting down and dirty on your wedding day—in more ways than one. No bride-to-be wants a muddy wedding dress. You can, however, avoid ruining your gown by putting a few expert tips to use.

To help keep your wedding dress intact, we tapped the industry's authorities for their best-kept secrets on preserving a wedding gown's hem. By following these tips, you'll be able to dance the night away without worrying about damaging that dream dress.

Meet the Expert

  • Margaret Butler is the co-founder of Dublin Cleaners, a dry cleaning business in Columbus, Ohio. Butler has worked on bridal gown preservation for the past 35 years.
  • Sally Conant is the executive director of the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, which offers wedding gown restoration and preservation.
  • Terry Hall is the head of retail and business development at Amsale.

Purchase an Underskirt

It won't cost you a fortune and, in fact, will likely save you from all sorts of unsightly stains (think grass, wet asphalt, dirt, etc.) that are bound to occur during outdoor pre-wedding festivities. An underskirt or slip—worn under your wedding dress to gently lift the hem off the ground—works for relatively stationary photo shoots or en route to the site where the photos are to be taken, says Butler. This way, your dress can at least remain somewhat pristine until the ceremony begins.

Use a Sheet

If you're in a pinch and didn't plan ahead by purchasing an underskirt, you can wrap a sheet around the bottom of your gown instead, says Conant. "Moreover, if your photographer is shooting outdoors, he or she might also cover the area with a sheet or something else to protect the dress."

Bustle Up

"Having a seamstress install a secure bustle will help with ordinary movement and dancing," Butler says. Ideally, the bustle should lift your dress far enough off the ground that soil isn't an issue.

Conant advises, "In practice, bustle loops often break so it's a good idea to attach some safety pins to the underside of your gown in case of an emergency."

Make It a Team Effort

In other words, get by with a little help from your friends. Hall recommends holding up the bottom of your gown, especially when walking outdoors. "Don't forget to utilize your bridesmaids too. They can help lift the dress or carry your train as needed," he says.

Remove Your Shoes

Rocking a wedding gown with a tulle bottom or other delicate fabric? Hall strongly suggests removing your shoes before putting the dress on or taking it off. Duly noted.

Spray the Hem

According to Conant, 3M makes a Scotchgard Fabric Protector spray that can be used to prevent a gown from getting dirty. "There are a few cleaners who offer this service as well," she says. "The trick is to spray the hem enough to protect it without leaving a line between the part of the gown that has been sprayed and the part that hasn't." When in doubt, leave it up to the professionals to avoid misusing the product.

Try to Be Careful

But not so careful that you can't have any fun, of course. "We caution brides before the wedding about asphalt, concrete (stains, abrasions), and black dyed mulch stains," Butler says. Err on the side of caution by avoiding puddles or other problematic areas. Most importantly though, remember that the idea is to wear the dress, be comfortable, and experience every moment of the day as it comes, Hall says. "It's going to be a challenge to keep the dress perfect, and that's perfectly okay. After all, there aren't many stains that a dry cleaner can't get out."

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