What is the best way to travel with a wedding dress?

bride walking

So your dress is in one state, and your wedding is in another—what now? Luckily, you have a few options for getting it safely from here to there: You can drive your gown to your destination wedding by car, you can carry it onto the plane, or you can ship it via UPS or FedEx. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not so fast. Here, we break down each method to make sure your wedding dress looks picture perfect on your big day. But whichever way you go for, remember to bring a travel-size garment steamer to smooth out any wrinkles once you reach your destination. And this may go without saying, but you should never, ever stuff it, fold it, or roll it into your suitcase!

After the perfect proposal, it’s time to plan your dream wedding! Destination weddings require hauling the most precious of cargo on the plane: the dress. Many brides wonder how to pack their dresses, so they arrive in one piece, won’t get lost in transit, and won’t be confiscated by TSA.

According to a study by The Knot, 21 per cent of couples host destination weddings. The same study also revealed that most women spend more than $1,400 on their dream dress. For many brides-to-be who plan their wedding in a faraway locale, shipping a dress with such an expensive price tag is enough to induce a panic attack.

The good news is that there are many options to help ensure your dream dress arrives without hassle or worry. Sending the dress via plane just requires a bit of prepping and diligence.

TSA’s official blog addresses destination weddings and the wedding dress travel conundrum. Wedding dresses often are seen passing through TSA checkpoints, so rest assured that the zippered bag is nothing new for agents. However, TSA does offer a bit of friendly advice to brides travelling with these precious garment bags.

Whether you’re having a destination wedding far away from home or just need to drive five minutes down the road to your venue, every bride wants to make sure their wedding dress is cared for, so it stays beautiful and clean for the big day. But between crowds of people, the busyness in airports, and cramped cars and spaces, that wedding dress can surely take a beating unless it’s treated well.

“When a gown is taken home, it’s in a garment bag with a bust form, so it’s long and an awkward shape,” Laura Calderone, owner of Laura & Leigh Bridal, told POPSUGAR. “Most gowns are about 60 inches in length, or more, meaning that the gown is going to need some space to travel.” To make sure you’re able to walk down the aisle and dance the night away in that beautiful dress you saw yourself in in the store, here’s a guide on how to safely travel with it, no matter your preference in transit.

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By Plane

If you’re travelling by plane, there are two options. The first is to ask the airline if they can hang the gown for you somewhere safe, like a flight attendant’s closet on board. “That’s the best and easiest way to go,” Laura said. “That way, the gown gets the space it needs and lowers the risk of wrinkling. The second option is to have the place you’re picking it up from package it in a carry-on and make sure you have a good boarding place in line so you can get overhead bin space.”

Note: Never check your wedding dress! “I’ve had instances where bags have gone missing, which means the bride either needs to find a dress off the rack on short notice, or she won’t have a gown for her wedding,” she said. “If you do put your gown in a carry-on bag (the framed roll kind is preferable), make sure you ask the person altering your dress how to press out wrinkles and confirm that there is a way to press out the wrinkles when you arrive at your destination (if there is iron or steamer to use).” A framed wheel bag is best, not a duffel or something too soft, as it will give your gown added protection for the whole trip.

Even if you had your gown pressed, there would be wrinkles after travelling, so you’ll want to make sure to leave time to get those wrinkles out before you walk down the aisle, too. If they don’t have a portable steamer at your hotel or venue, buy one and bring it with you. “They usually aren’t that expensive, and it’s better to spring for one upfront than risk not having one at all,” she explained.

Whether you’re travelling across oceans or just a few states over, taking your dress on a plane can be tricky business.

The first rule of flying with your gown: Do NOT, under any circumstances, check your wedding dress. It could easily be damaged, lost, or, stolen. You’ve heard horror stories about valuables being stolen from suitcases, so don’t even make that an option.

Instead, make your dress your carry-on item. Specific airlines and flights will have different guidelines for transporting your dress. Calling ahead or checking the airline’s website is a good starting point. Give yourself even more time than usual to get through security, too. If the dress doesn’t fit through the conveyor belt scanner, it may have to be searched manually, which can take longer.

Ideally, you’ll want to bring your dress in its original garment bag. If the flight has a closet in the front, you can hang the dress there. If not, lay it flat in one of the overhead bins. On a crowded flight, there might not be enough space for your gown to have its own bin. In that case, just make sure nobody puts their luggage on top of your dress — make sure it goes on top!

Packing your dress in a suitcase is another option, if possible. That way, you won’t have to worry about not having a good spot to store it on the plane. Just be sure to add layers of tissue paper in the suitcase to avoid wrinkles. A few creases are inevitable, though, so packing a handheld steamer or having your dress professionally steamed after arriving will make sure your dress looks picture perfect!

Still worried? You can actually buy your dress its own plane ticket — it’s been done before! For a couple of hundred bucks, you’ll have peace of mind because your dress will be right next to you the whole time.

Lastly, if you have some extra dough, think of your dress as a kid. “Some brides have even purchased an extra seat next to them to sit the dress on the seat,” she said. “To me, it’s probably not necessary to do this, but if you’re nervous about it and you don’t mind springing for the extra seat, it may be worth it.”

Most wedding dresses have trained, and many have lots of fabric, so gathering up your wedding dress neatly into a garment bag isn’t necessarily an intuitive task. Here’s how to pack up your wedding dress properly and avoid getting wrinkles in your dress during the flight. First, stick the hanger of the dress through the top of the garment bag and hang it up high so you can work with the wedding dress. Then, take the left side of the gown and the right side of the gown and fold them into each other toward the centre. From there, take the bottom of the train and roll it up until the fabric is contained within the garment bag. Once inside, it’s time to zip it up — carefully. Whenever you zip up a garment bag with delicate fabric inside, make sure to place a finger on the other side of the zipper as you guide it up so that the dress doesn’t get caught in its tongs.

stored wedding dresses

By Car

If you’re travelling by car, the last thing you should be doing is placing a gown in a trunk, so don’t go stuffing it back there before a long six-hour ride. “The best thing to do is to clear out the back seat completely (meaning no random items at all) and lay the gown flat with the hanger on the hanger hook or grab handle in the car,” she explained. “Then, when you arrive at the destination, immediately carry the gown out of the car and get it hung up.” If that means you can only travel with your partner, so be it. Other members of the party will need to find another ride over!

Also, don’t put anything on top of the dress or have food nearby. You don’t want anything to spill or get it dirty. You should also keep windows closed, just in case something comes into the car from the outside.

Travelling by car with your gown is ideal, simply because you won’t have to work around other people.

No matter what, make sure your dress is protected in a garment bag—otherwise, it’s at risk for stains (you never know what’s lurking on the floor of your car or a cab!). The bridal salon should have given you a bag, but if not, you can either buy one or DIY a makeshift one. Pinning pillowcases, fitted sheets, or large garbage bags around your gown will do the trick in a pinch.

Once your dress is in a bag, hang it on the hooks inside the roof of the car. Drape the skirt over the back seat, keeping it as flat as possible to avoid wrinkling. If you have a car full of passengers (like your shopping crew) or luggage (like your honeymoon bag!) in the back seat and that isn’t an option, lay the dress flat in the trunk of the car. Just make sure nothing goes on top of the dress — that’s a recipe for wrinkles and rips!

To help you decide on your wedding dress, check out our post on How do I choose a wedding dress?

By Train

“I would treat trains the same way as planes,” Laura continued. “I would suggest keeping the dress with you at all times, and because trains tend to be tighter quarters, I would actually put the gown in a rolling bag like you would if you were putting your bag in an overhead bin on a plane.” It’s hard to predict how much space you’ll get on a train, so bringing the whole garment bag may be a little cumbersome, FYI. So you might want to consider a different plan of transportation if possible.

Transporting The Wedding Gown By Public Transit

If you’re taking a short subway or bus ride—whether it’s home from the salon or off to the wedding—make sure your dress is well protected and try NOT to travel during rush hour (you know how packed public transport can get). If there’s not much flexibility regarding when you ride, consider treating you and your gown to a cab for extra safekeeping. If you’re taking a long ride on a bus or train, extra dress protection will be key.

Try to get a seat for you and the dress, and lay it flat if space allows. You can also hang it from one of the overhead poles, but be sure to keep a hand on it the whole time. For long-distance rides, you may be able to store the dress in the overhead bins but avoid train or bus closets, which aren’t as secure as they are on an aeroplane.

Don’t Forget Your Extras

What you can — and absolutely should — include in your carry-on suitcase: all the accessories you plan on wearing with your dress, such as your veil or headpiece, jewellery, lingerie, and shoes.

A do-it-all kit that can be shipped (or used as a carry-on in lieu of a suitcase) is another option for getting your gown out of town. The Original Destination Wedding Kit, sold by the Association of Wedding Gown Specialists, includes acid-free papers, packing instructions, a stain stick, and a dress box that fits into an overhead bin ($50). Ship through a reputable carrier, like Fed Ex or UPS, and make sure to insure it.

While you might want to take a peek or try it on again, keep your dress in the garment bag from the seamstress until your wedding day. “Don’t take it out, especially if it’s in a bust form,” she said. “I know it’s tempting because you’re excited, but too often there’s a risk for damage if you take it out.” You also probably don’t know how to package a dress the way a presser would properly, so if you take it apart, you may not be able to repackage everything. And no bride wants to deal with that on her big day.

If something does happen while you’re travelling (accidents can arise!), call the bridal shop or seamstress right away, or even a local shop. Don’t try to fix things on your own without talking to a professional. “We also don’t recommend travelling alone with it,” Laura said. “It’s best to have a friend or someone you trust help you carry the dress.” This way if you’re tired of holding it or are nervous, you have someone there with you to help. It’s also safer, as there’s always someone watching it. It’s better to be overly cautious than not at all because frankly, that dress is pretty irreplaceable!

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