We're living in an era where destination weddings are extremely on trend, almost the rule rather than exception. Your dress and you in it are the main event of your wedding day. Getting not only your dress and all your accessories from one point to another is something you need to ponder on whether you're navigating across town or half way around the world. Albeit, the process might be easier if you've invested in a dress made out of microfibers (yes silk can be microfiber); you'll have little concern about wrinkling. In most cases your dress will consist of delicate silk with length and volume (many underslips and linings) that need to be kept intact.
Getting your gown home safely from the shop is the first step. You’re going to have to treat it with all the love and care of a newborn. No, you won’t need an infant seat but just about any size back seat of an automobile will do. In all probability once delivered, your gown will be packed in plastic, the bodice stuffed with tissue. Hang it on the hook above the back door draped across the back seat. This applies if you're going on a two block or two thousand mile trip.
With so many far and away weddings these days, salons and stores have special procedures preparing your dress not only for that car trip home but air travel as well. Very important: You need to decide whether you're checking your gown as baggage or carrying it on board the plane. Either way there are pros and cons. Once upon a time carry on was a given. No matter how BIG your dress--and some dresses are gargantuan-- the flight attendants found a way to look after it. Since then the friendly skies have become so heavily booked, unless you travel first class, space is going to be tight. If your gown isn't too puffy and more of a sheath than ball gown, the overhead bin will work. Take into mind this a good-to-go situation only if there's no other baggage crushing your gown.
To avoid hassles during check in, be certain beforehand the box or bag holding your gown is an approved size. Yes, some airplanes don't have additional room for oversize carry-on pieces so make arrangements with them before buying your ticket. Some airlines allow the cabin coat closets in first-class to be used for bridal gowns even if you're flying coach. However, doing my research I found some airlines are better than others on this. Again, MAKE ARRANGEMENTS BEFOREHAND!
How To Check In Your Dress:
You've met folks who never check in luggage; they're afraid once they land in Boston their bags will turn up in Cleveland. Well, imagine asking a bride to check her dress as baggage. If you're brave enough to consider it, think of little old me, a fashion designer who must fly with five dresses at a time, that BTW, just like your gown, need to arrive in New York in pristine condition (otherwise they don't sell). I have no choice but to check them as baggage so here's what I do. Since I'm a pro I know just how to pack them. Your store can do this for you. All you need do is decide on whether you want to pack the gown in a box (salon's job, but you can do it too) or suitcase (your job). I've done both.
Checking It In A Box
- Use a large box, about one-third the length of the front of your gown.
- Line the box with tissue and lay the gown over it. Your gown should be centered in the box and laid face down, spread flat out. This way you can avoid any wrinkles or creases from forming.
- Now, start with the side seams and fold your skirt length-wise all the way over the tissue. Your skirt should not exceed the width of the box.
- This is when you add more tissue and fold the top of the gown over into the box.
- The top of the gown (bodice) will be facing up. Now use more tissue and pack the bodice, cushioning anything else (florals, bows, belts, sleeves) that should be protected. When you are finished, the dress should really be packed in tight so as not to move around in the box.
Checking It In A Suitcase
If your gown is a generous A-line or ballgown complete with petticoat, you need to go for the biggest suitcase you can find. Otherwise, like the box, find a suitcase about a third of the size of your gown. Your gown should be the only piece of anything you pack in the case other than tissue. Follow the same procedure you would for packing your gown in a box, especially the part about stuffing the bodice with tissue. This way your gown can retain its shape.
Bringing It In A Garment Bag
The first thing about bagging a gown in a garment bag is finding out where the dress hangers are. Most gowns have these little hangers resembling straps that keep the stress off the shoulders. They are typically found at either the armhole or waistline. After hanging the gown up on a padded hanger and securing it with safety pins, pack the gown with tissue in the bodice so it keeps the shape. If there is a full skirt, pack the bottom of the bag so the skirt rests on it to eliminate stress to the hemline.
Brides either marrying on board or sailing to their destination via cruise ship generally have few worries. Closet space is available and pressing services on board ships are top notch. This of course depends on the cruise line. I've heard horror stories about cheap cruise lines with bathrooms so small your shower is in the toilet. Think Cunard, Norwegian, or Royal Caribbean, and you're in a major city floating on water with everything you ever wanted readily available. Same goes without saying for private yachts. Shorter cruises on, say, ferries are trickier but usually have more closet space than that aboard a plane or train.
ALL ABOARD! THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAINS
Once upon a time this was one of the most common and luxurious forms of long distance travel in America. No more. Over time trains have lost their chic factor. But for those who have a morbid fear of flying or just plain love going by train, here's the low down. Trains offer a little more space for moving around from compartment to compartment than planes do. You'd think this would mean more room to hang a gown but when I spoke to the Amtrack agent she said it's either the overhead bin or baggage car for the gown. Since Amtrack is the only game in town if you're getting from point to point in the USA, please avoid coach unless you are going a short distance. Then, use the above info to box your gown and check it in as baggage (yes box--your gown. The way they throw baggage around your gown will need to be packed tight in the box) If you're going a little further than say Buffalo to NYC, go for one of the larger compartments like a sleeping car if you can. That way you'll have your own space to guard your prized possession.
A word about train travel through Europe--it is a little different and more common. Schedules there actually run on time and go faster than their American cousins. Going short distances via coach, the space problem still exists so you can do one of two things: either box your gown and check it in as baggage or buy an extra seat on which to put it. Take into mind there are many more train routes that go through Europe. This means whether your destination is a major city or smaller village, a train either runs through it or nearby. Check online if you are traveling through Europe or Asia and find out as much as you can about space.
Once you reach your destination remove the dress from the bag and make sure to put it on a padded hanger. An alternative to the padded hanger is a hanging dress form like the one above. This is a display hanger I use in the studio to show off my designs. They have another function: keeping your gown shaped and taking the stress off the shoulders or from whatever point your dress hangs. You can order one that is similar from Firefly.
If you can invest in a portable steamer, do it. They're twice as fast as the conventional iron and give a clean, finished look. As with over pressing, the steamer if held too close can water spot silk. Be sure to use distilled water to prevent spotting on silk. BTW a small travel iron is great for getting all those corners and pleats (see below). Having a portable steamer and travel iron both is ideal. Of course the optimal choice if you can arrange it is getting your gown professionally pressed once you reach your destination.
A FEW REALLY GREAT TIPS:
*If you don't want to travel with your gown have your salon, dressmaker or yourself ship the gown ahead to its destination. Out of the big three--UPS, Fed Ex and the US Postal Service, the latter is the cheapest way to go. Brides have always exercised this 'Send my things on ahead' option by arranging for a friend, family member or hotel/venue/consultant to sign for it. Thus, this has become so convenient for destination brides, many hotels and venues are signing for the wedding dress as part of their service.
*Pack your bridal accessories for travel separately from your gown. Once you reach that beautiful destination you can assemble your whole ensemble.
*More suggestions about pressing: If your gown is made out of tulle, don’t you dare press it! Steam it instead. The same goes for your veil; ironing scorches tulle.
We hope this helps you transport your dream dress to your special day safely and stress free! Comment below with any additional tips that you wish to share with your fellow bride to be's, or any advice that you wish you had known during your transportation process!