Preservation: Saving the gown
after the party or trash-the-dress session

Shutterbugs Photography



There are ways to save a tortured wedding gown, whether intentionally trashed for a photo shoot or simply one on which the bride dropped a forkful of beef bourguignon or a glassful of red wine.

Local dry cleaning professionals have seen a lot of really dirty wedding dresses and said it has to be pretty bad if they can’t fix it. Clever brides will even before the big day have a professional cleaner at the ready, especially if planning a trash-the-dress photo session after the wedding celebration.

Jeff Bradford, of Bradford’s Master Dry Cleaners in Petoskey, said he is able to restore wedding gowns to brilliant splendor, even after the worst. He’s unsure whether his bridal clients participate in trash-the-dress photo sessions, or if some are just really, really messy.

“They aren’t always admitting to me what they may have done to it,” he said, laughing. “They have fallen overboard on a pontoon boat, gone for a ride on a Harley or even broken up fights at the reception. They all try to out-do each other.”

Bradford said his business professionally cleans more than 150 wedding gowns each year, now 35 years in the industry.

“The worst dress was from the overboard bride. It was still kind of wet when it came in, covered in water plants and mud,” Bradford said.

Jackie Yoo, manager at A-1 Professional Cleaners in Petoskey, said he long ago grew accustomed to wedding gowns coming in to the shop in poor condition, especially around the bottom. Whether brides walk on mud, clay, dirt roads or asphalt driveways, it can create an absolute mess, Yoo said.

“Sometimes the asphalt is worked in. With red wine versus the asphalt, I’d say the asphalt is harder to clean,” he said. “If it’s after the wedding, it’s really dirty at the bottom.”

Professional cleaners often are able to return wedding gowns to brand-new condition, but not always. That’s why some brides who participate in trash-the-dress photo sessions — especially those that involve wading into water — opt to instead wear a second gown, often a less expensive off-the-shelf dress.

Bradford recommends brides go ahead and invest the extra $50 to buy a wedding gown preservation box if they have the dress professionally cleaned. Just hanging it in the back of the closet won’t properly save the often expensive gown, he said.

“In four or five years, it will be yellowed from the atmospheric gases,” Bradford said.

Both Bradford’s Master Dry Cleaners and A-1 Professional Cleaners work with local brides and those who book destination weddings in Northern Michigan. Bradford’s can be reached at (231) 347-4600, while A-1 is at (231) 347-8151.

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