There's nothing like visiting family across the country in Seattle on a whim & suddenly hearing my wedding dress had arrived! I was elated to get to try it on instantly in-person & take it home myself. But, suddenly I had a surprise responsibility: traveling to New York City with my precious wedding dress.
My bridal stylist bud told me to ask the flight attendants for help, assuming everything should be fine. As in all things in life, I didn't quite discover the dos and don'ts until the whole stressful experience was over. Thankfully, I'm practiced and prepared for our journey with the gown to Mexico in November.
So based on personal experience, here's my advice when traveling with your gown.
Don't: Check Your Wedding Dress Under the Airplane
This should seem obvious, but just in case there's any question – never check your irreplaceable items on an airplane in case it fails to make it to your final destination. Furthermore, you want to be the only one with your hands on the gown from point A to B.
Do: Store Your Gown in a Manner that Makes You Most Comfortable
Many planes have a closet that flight attendants will allow you to store your gown (but not all!) Your gown will hang and be tucked away from other passengers' hands. When you arrive at your gate, feel free to ask the agent if there will be a closet for your wedding dress, you may be allowed to board early or at least the attendants will be alert beforehand.
That being said, the closet may be far out of sight and cause great anxiety. You won't know if anyone is going in and out of the closet or hey – maybe there are other wedding dresses stored there to get mixed up with?
If you feel nervous about being far from your gown, do this: take your seat with your gown in your lap as other passengers board. Once it seems everyone has stored their bags, carefully lay your gown on top and across of you and your partner's suitcase. This way you can see if anyone opens the compartment and rest easy throughout the flight.
Do: Use a sturdy, high-quality garment bag to protect your wedding dress during travel.
Look for a bag that is specifically designed for traveling with formal wear and includes features like a reinforced hanger, padded interior, and breathable material to prevent wrinkles or damage.
Don't: Overpack your wedding dress with unnecessary accessories or bulky items.
Keep in mind that you'll need to carry your dress with you throughout your travels, so aim to pack only what is essential. Consider shipping any non-essential items to your destination in advance to reduce the amount of luggage you need to carry.
Don't: Forget a Handheld Steamer
Whether you bring one yourself or delegate this task to your bridal party, don't forget to bring along an emergency steamer. Even if you assume your venue or accommodation has a steamer, it could be broken or busy being used by another guest or party. Handheld apparatuses are quite inexpensive and easy to pack. It's better to be safe than sorry!
Do: Plan ahead and research airline policies and restrictions for carrying on wedding dresses.
Each airline has specific guidelines for what is considered a carry-on item, and some may require additional fees for oversized or fragile items. Make sure you understand the requirements before your trip to avoid any surprises at the airport.
Don't: Leave packing your wedding dress until the last minute.
The earlier you start preparing for your trip, the less stress you'll have to deal with on the day of travel. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to pack your dress, including any accessories or shoes, and to make any necessary arrangements with your airline or hotel.
Do: Invest in a Travel-Worthy Garment Bag
I had no clue that I'd be returning from my trip with my wedding dress and wasn't able to prepare with a more protective bag for my gown. While your bridal salon or designer may gift you a branded garment bag, it may not be the best quality. Mine was paper thin and far from waterproof – I worried the entire flight about someone spilling coffee, soda, anything on my bag staining through to my dress.
Thankfully, my dress made it home safe and sound. Once I got home, I researched and purchased a destination wedding garment bag. Not only is it super safe from liquids, it has a shoulder strap for easy travel (I couldn't believe what a workout carrying my gown through security was!) structure to keep the gown folded and flat, plenty of room for extra dresses and zippers and buckles to boot.
Do: At Least Add a Plastic Dry Cleaner Bag to Your Set-up
If, like me, you didn't have the time or the foresight to purchase a heavy-duty rig, at least grab a cheap, plastic, dry cleaner bag to place over your bridal salon's garment bag. This way, while thin, you'll still have protection from liquids during travel.
Don't: You Dare Carry Coffee in One Hand and Your Dress in the Other
I traveled alone, grabbed a coffee, thought the entire time “don't you dare spill this” and of course had hot liquid scorching my wrist within seconds. My arms were about six feet away from each other (anticipating this happening) and didn't have a disaster. But seriously, why can't I take my own advice?
Do: Ask For Help When Necessary
It's okay to ask for a little extra love at the airport. If you're nervous at security about your gown being shoved through the x-ray, ask a TSA agent if they can scan it another way. If you panic during your flight about your gown in the closet, don't be afraid to ask your flight attendant if you can check on your gorgeous wedding dress.
Do: Have a backup plan in case of emergencies.
Accidents can happen, and it's important to be prepared for any unexpected mishaps that may occur during your travels. Consider bringing a small sewing kit, extra fabric, or even a backup dress just in case.
Don't: Forget to communicate with your travel companions about your wedding dress.
If you're traveling with friends or family members, make sure they understand the importance of your wedding dress and how to handle it properly. Let them know if you need assistance carrying it or if you prefer to handle it yourself.
Don't: Let the Stress Get the Best of You
I'm a wedding photographer – I travel monthly with all of my cameras and couples' precious wedding photos. Yet nothing has been more stressful to travel with than my wedding dress.
Try to remember that brides travel with their gowns every single day. Airports, airlines and flight attendants are totally used to your situation, and ready to help you. If you are kind to others, they will treat your belongings with great care, it's their job and they take great pride in it! Playing the bride card definitely has its perks.
For more helpful, expert advice visit our planning section and follow along with all the details about our Mexican fiesta in my Real Bride Diary.