My Wedding Gown and The Law of Attraction

wedding 008Over 31 years ago, as a young bride, I made a decision that every bride faces…I decided to have my wedding dress professionally cleaned and preserved.

How many of you still have your wedding gown sealed in that big, white box with the plastic ‘window’? I know I’m not the only one.

Do you have it taking up valuable storage space in your attic, the back of a closet or the dark recesses of the basement? After moving it from one house to the next, and having to find a new place to store it each time, I have often considered getting rid of it. But then the familiar, “But I spent so much money to have it cleaned and preserved” kicked in. So I would resist. Another one of my regular excuses was, “I’ve kept it this long, might as well wait now.” I guess I clung to the hope that my daughters would want to wear it on their wedding day (even though they adamantly said they wouldn’t).

Each time my husband and I decluttered our storage area to make room for the new items we wanted to store, I would look at that box and consider whether I could justify the expensive real estate it was hogging.

Last month, my youngest daughter started planning her Halloween costume. Although she’s 25 years old, this remains one of her favorite holidays and she never misses the opportunity to dress up. This year she was going as Cinderella, and she told me she needed a tiara. I wore a tiara when I got married, and it was in that box with my gown. Dare I break the seal?

Being the practical person that I am, and seeing this as the perfect opportunity to finally let go of that space-hogging piece of memorabilia, I made a proposal. I agreed to let her wear my tiara if she agreed to just try on my dress. My older daughter agreed to try it on as well. Maybe there was a small part of me that was hoping once they saw how great it looked on them, they would at least entertain the idea of wearing it when their time arrived.

They humored me by trying it on but they didn’t hold back on their complaints. It didn’t fit – too short & too tight. It was itchy. It smelled musty (so much for the expensive preservation process). It looked old-fashioned. And I had to admit, it did not look as good as I thought it would. Frankly, it looked like a Halloween costume on them – not at all the way I envisioned my daughters on their wedding day! So I took a couple of pictures (in case I needed to be reminded of what it actually looked like on them), and then I just let it go.

Wait until you hear what happened next.

I’m not sure if I attribute this to The Law of Attraction ‘what you focus on you attract’, or the belief that by letting go of what we don’t need, we make space for something new and positive. The day after my girls tried on the wedding dress and I made the decision to donate it, my youngest daughter’s boyfriend came over to ask for her hand in marriage. I kid you not! He had no idea she had tried on my dress the day before. And the ring was purchased months ago. But he chose that day – less than 24 hours later – to ask for our blessing.

Was I disappointed to face the fact that my girls were not going to wear my gown on their wedding day? Not after seeing how dated it looked and admitting it was not their style.

Was I sad to let it go? Well, when I dropped it off at the thrift shop, I admit I had a very short ‘nostalgic moment’ but the relief I felt afterwards lasted much longer. It made me happy that someone was going to use it – at least for Halloween. And the extra space it made in our storage area – well, that made me positively giddy!

Do I regret spending the money to preserve it? Do I regret holding on to it for over 31 years? No, because I didn’t know then what I know now. And if sharing my experience helps others with their keep/donate decision, it makes it all worth it. Best of all, my daughter and her ‘prince charming’ are getting married! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wedding to help plan.

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This post has 22 comments

  • Julie says:

    We moved my wedding dress with us to 7 different houses. I often thought of donating it, but it was so beautiful and my daughter wouldn’t let me. 5 years ago she chose to wear it on her wedding day, no alterations needed. It looked as if it was made for her. Her friends loved the vintage look with the beautiful lace and hand-sewn beads. We had it cleaned and she is now saving it for her daughter.

  • ooooh, I can’t tell you how many of those gorgeous old gowns I’ve bought from thrift stores and turned into beautifully modern bridal accessories. I toss them into the wash machine and the musty smell disappears. The brides love that old lace and they want it in their headpieces, sashes/belts, and ring bearer pillows. Sometimes the bride’s mom will send her gown to me and I make something lovely that’s filled with sentimental value for her daughter to use at her wedding.

    I’ll agree with you though, those preserved dresses take up a LOT of space! They look like weird corpses to me. lol. Much better to cut them up and use them, I think!

  • Julie Ray says:

    Hi Hellen,
    What a wonderful story – congratulations!
    You always give great advice, and anyone who has the opportunity to work with you should thank their lucky stars, because you are THE BEST!
    Take Care,

  • Janel says:

    I was so hoping you were going to show a picture of you and your daughters in the dress 🙁 I held on to mine for a while, but I did let it go.

  • Beth says:

    I’ve heard of organizations that take old wedding dresses and make them into burial gowns for newborn infants. They give them to grieving families. I would love to find one to donate my dress to.

  • Bev Kennedy says:

    There are organizations that use wedding gowns to make little gowns for stillborn babies to be buried in. Google to find a collection site near you.

    • Brenda G says:

      That is exactly what I did! I moved it with me four times. It came out to Edmonton with me but when I was moving back to Ontario last year I decided it was time to let it go. I donated it to Alberta Angel Dresses. They make old wedding dresses into outfits for babies and small children who die young so that they can have (1) have an outfit that symbolizes love and (2) have something nice to be buried in. When my cousin from Manitoba told me about it I looked into whether there was somewhere near me in Edmonton. I felt very at peace letter my dress go. I was already at peace with me not holding onto it but I truly loved seeing it go to a good use.

  • Good job letting your gown go Helen! And congratulations on your daughter’s engagement. I kept my wedding gown for 16 years in one of those huge boxes and had to keep finding a new place to store it as our storage areas kept being needed for other things. I finally decided last year to donate it to Forever Loved Angel Gowns. They make them into tiny gowns for babies who don’t make it home from the hospital. For those asking for info, here’s their website (they’re based in Southern Ontario) They aren’t currently accepting gowns (not enough storage and the volunteer seamstresses can’t keep up with the donations), but if you follow them on FB you’ll see updates when they are. Also if you’re in the Hamilton/Niagara area I recently found Precious Angels Niagara and they are currently accepting gowns. Here’s their website There’s also Forever In Our Hearts Angel Gowns in Port Hope and if you’re not local to there you can ship it to them. Here’s their FB page Hope that helps!

  • Lita Daniel says:

    I still have mine preserved in the box and fortunately I have the space to store it. On our 25th wedding anniversary which is in another 8 years, God willing, my husband and I will renew our vows and I plan on wearing my dress (with some alterations of course). After that I may let go of it.

  • John Trosko says:

    This is the best story ever!!! You can check out the EXTREME directions I saw on a client’s dry cleaning box for checking her wedding dress…. how does anyone do all this?

    * Every 2-3 years open the box and inspect the gown;
    * Wash your hands with baking soda mixed with warm water prior to touching the garment;
    * Examine each layer, box, tissue, fabric;
    * If you see spots or discolorations, contact your cleaner;
    * It is not necessary to remove the garment for initial inspections. Examine top layer of the gown, and in-between a few folds;
    * Wash the cotton liner and cover every 10-15 years;
    * After initial washing, rewash every 20 years.
    * Tissue should be replaced every 25-30 years.

    Much love to you… and best wishes to your daughter and fiance!

    John Trosko
    aka OrganizingLA

  • Sheena Clark says:

    I turn wedding dresses and many other cherished fabrics into teddy bears. Why hide the things that mean the most to you away?

  • Mary says:

    We are nearing our 10th wedding anniversary and my dress had been professionally cleaned and boxed. I’ve recently started feeling the twangs of getting rid of it but funnily enough, whenever I suggest doing it, it’s actually my husband who insists I hang onto it. I guess he’s the nostalgic one. Congrats on your daughter’s engagement – I expect it to be the most organized wedding ever!

  • Barbara Diane says:

    I loved wearing my mother’s wedding dress. An excellent seamstress let it out by piecing fabric from someone else’s wedding dress under my lace.
    Also, dresses can be reworked into a different wedding style, or even into a cocktail dress or lace top.
    A little off topic, but I added a wand to a bridesmaid’s dress for a fairy godmother costume.
    In your case it sounds perfect that your daughters finally tried it on, and what wonderful timing with your daughter’s boyfriend.

  • Lynn says:

    I turned mine into my daughter’s First Communion dress with a piece of both Grandmother’s wedding dress sewn into the hem. Then for her Confirmation dress I used the rest of my wedding dress with my some new lace that she chose.

  • Sheila says:

    When I was looking for a dress in 1976 I was told by a bridal store I called, “They’re not wearing ivory this year.” When I mentioned this to a friend she said I should wear her mother’s dress. It was a beautiful ivory satin and I was the 3rd person to wear it. I have recently realized I didn’t just borrow someone’s old dress, I wore a vintage dress from 1941. It had special meaning because my parents were married that year, and my mum died before I was engaged. I had to get the dress cleaned after wearing, but delivered the box back to the original owner. I have never regretted wearing a borrowed dress. I know several women who wore their mother’s dress, with some small changes for fit and/or style. That never became an issue for me because I had sons!

  • Cynthia says:

    I never understood the tradition of buying a fabulously expensive gown that would be worn only once. When I finally married as a “mature” bride, I bought a lovely sapphire blue gown (“new” and “blue”) that fit perfectly off the rack and look forward to wearing it whenever a formal occasion presents itself. With it I wore my grandmother’s Art Deco necklace and earring set with blue stones (“old” and “borrowed” from my mother). No fancy storage required!

  • Cynthia says:

    My sister wore my mother’s high necked, long-sleeved lace overlay 1950 wedding gown that seemed old fashioned amid all the strapless Hollywood-style gowns out there. Surprise — the style was almost identical to Princess Kate’s wedding dress, which is now widely copied! “Everything old is new again.”

  • Cheyenne Sutton says:

    I am in a quilting group. I have a great idea for a project. I am going to buy a wedding gown at a thrift store and begin working on a quilt for my daughter. This would be a lovely gift for when she decides to get married. Thanks for the inspiration.