Congratulations! You're married, and now, there are just a few things left to take care of before you move on with your fabulous new married life. One, get your rings insured; two, freeze the top layer of your wedding cake; and three, preserve (or sell) your wedding dress. While the decision on whether to sell or preserve your wedding dress is a personal one (I personally went back and forth on it a few times), I was happy that I ended up keeping my gown. Honestly, I have absolutely no idea if I will ever need it again, if my daughter will someday wear it or just use a piece of the ivory lace for her veil, but at the end of the day, I just couldn't let it go! A girl's wedding dress can be such a personal thing, and I ultimately decided to just shell out the $150 to get it preserved.
Once I made the decision to keep my wedding dress, the next step was to figure out who could preserve it for me. I wasn't going to just hand over my wedding dress to my regular dry cleaners, either; it's a very valuable item (both sentimental and monetary), and I wanted to make sure that whoever handled the preservation specialized in wedding gowns, and had lots of good reviews from other brides. After doing some research online, I ultimately decided to go with the Affordable Preservation Company, which had many positive reviews on Wedding Wire and Project Wedding.
Step One: Purchase Your Preservation Package
To begin, I purchased a preservation package from the Affordable Preservation Company website. There are two packages available, and the main difference between the two options is the amount of insurance you get ($500 or $1500) in case your dress gets lost, whether your dress is steamed or hand pressed, and what your dress is ultimately wrapped in (acid-free tissue or muslin). The Traditional Line costs $149 and the upgraded Celebrity Line costs $189, so there isn't much of a difference. I ultimately went with the Traditional, because I figured that I have a simple, all lace, modified A-line gown; there aren't a ton of layers, beading or embroidery to worry about. I think if my dress did have more to it (like the one pictured above, for instance), I would have shelled out the extra $40 to make sure it was taken care of, but that's totally up to you.
Step Two: Ship Your Dirty Dress and Accessories
Once I made my purchase online, I received a large, flat package about 2-3 feet in length about 2 weeks later. The box contained a plastic bag with a twist tie, and "stain" stickers, which you are supposed to attach to your dress in the areas where there are stains, so they know to pay special attention. I didn't have any stains, so I didn't use those stickers. The package also included an order form (three layers), a flattened shipping box and a UPS shipping label with tracking sticker. It even included some tape to pack up your box. The step by step directions were on a sheet wrapped right around the box, and the directions were very simple and clear.
I filled out the order form, which just asked for a home shipping address (or you can have it shipped to the bridal store), but keep in mind that the dress has to be signed for when it comes back to you. There isn't one required when you receive the box initially, though. Then, I checked off what "extras" I would be including along with the dress. Keep in mind that you'll only want to include things with your dress that you don't plan on using again; if you open the preserved package once it's air sealed, you risk damaging your dress! You're allowed up to three extra accessories for free with both the Traditional and Celebrity Lines. I chose to include my hair flower (I didn't have a veil) and my garter. If you include more than three items, you'll need to pay extra for them, and send a check along with your package.
The plastic bag included in the original package was surprisingly small. My dress isn't even that poofy, and I didn't see how it would fit! However, I had no problem getting it into the bag, and there was still room for more, if I needed it. I felt bad having to just shove my gown into the bag, but I just kept telling myself that it was going to get all washed and pressed anyway! I also put my two extra accessories in the bag with my dress, and it instructed me to put the top two copies of the order form (the third bottom layer was for me to keep), all inside together. Then, I put the bag in the shipping box that I was given; I didn't have to "build" the box...just unfold it, and then tape it shut. I wrote my return address on the box, and stuck the shipping label sticker provided in the designated area. I could choose to either drop off the box at a UPS location, or call and schedule a pickup!
Step Three: Wait!
Once I sent off my dress for cleaning, then the waiting began. ...and oh boy, did I have to wait. The website actually quotes 4 to 6 weeks, but it also says, "Please note: During the height of our busy season the preservation process may take slightly longer. Repairs or additional services requested may also extend the processing time." I apparently sent my dress in during the busy season (in November), because it took much longer for me to get my dress back. Once it hit the three month mark, I even called the Company just to make sure they still had my dress! They did, fortunately, and I was told that it's just taking longer because they were so busy at the time. That's okay though; as long as they still had my dress and it wasn't lost, I didn't really care how long it took. It wasn't like I was going to be wearing it anytime soon.
While the wait was a bit longer than I originally expected, the Affordable Preservation Company does do everything possible to make you feel better about sending your dress off to New York somewhere for months at a time. As I mentioned before, you receive a tracking slip with your initial package, so you can track your dress and make sure it gets to the Preservation Company safely for cleaning. Not only that, but you will receive an email confirming when they receive it! You also receive an email confirmation and tracking number when they ship it back to you, so you know when to expect it. And don't worry; because your package is insured, it does require a signature (they won't just leave it at your front door).
Step Four: Receive Your Preserved Wedding Dress and Accessories
When I finally did receive my dress about four months later, I was very happy with how it was packed. I've included a few images of how it came just below, but as you can see, it came in a very large box with a handle on the top, which held another box inside. The interior box had a clear top on it so you could see your dress and accessories all safely nestled inside. It's important that you do not open the smaller box holding your dress inside once it's sealed, if you can help it. The Preservation Company website guarantees your dress against yellowing for 100 years, even if you open the box (they give you sealing squares, which you can use to reseal the box if you need to). However, if you take the dress out of the box completely (to try it on again, for instance), then your guarentee is voided, so I definitely don't recommend opening it at all if you can help it! The box also came with a copy of the original paperwork.