All brides have this much in common: They love their wedding day, and it always goes by much too quickly.
Of course, there is little that you as a bride can do to make your wedding day last longer, but there are things you can do to make sure the beauty of your gown remains -- if not forever, then at least for a long time.
When you bring your gown home from the shop, take it out of the garment bag and hang it where it will be safe from children and pets -- perhaps in a spare room or from a hook you put into the ceiling for that purpose.
If it will be several weeks until the wedding, you can protect it from dust with a clean sheet or freshly washed unbleached muslin.
On the day of the wedding, all too often someone steps on your bridal gown or you catch it on something. Put several safety pins into the underside of your gown where they will not be seen but will be handy for just such accidents and prevent further damage.
Also, know whether your gown is made from a natural fiber such as silk or an artificial fiber such as polyester. Then if you spill something on your wedding day you will know whether you will be able to remove the stain. Water or club soda can remove coffee, tea, mud or blood from polyester, but silks and rayons are water-sensitive and you may make permanent spots if you put water on them.
If the stain is grease, lipstick or another cosmetic that is not water-soluble, you can try using a moist wipe on polyester (test it on an inside seam first to be sure it will not disturb the color of your gown). On silk, it is probably safer to camouflage spots with something white and relatively harmless such as baking soda, cornstarch or baby powder. Wite-Out or white shoe polish is tricky and is definitely not a good idea for use on silk.
Most importantly, remember that no matter how entranced you are with your gown, your family and friends will be focused on you. They will be looking at you and not at any spots or tears on your bridal gown.
Once the wedding is over, it may be hard for you to give up your gown right away, but it should be professionally cleaned and preserved. If not, it will yellow from exposure to light, air and any stains, especially if they are caused by red wine or mud, which will bond with the fibers. Even if you do nothing else, take your dress out of the plastic garment bag, which can emit fumes that yellow the gown even more quickly than air, and wrap it in a clean sheet or freshly washed muslin.
It can also be difficult to find a cleaner who understands just how important your gown is to you. Look for someone who specializes in cleaning and preserving wedding gowns and ask lots of questions. Does the company do the work, or does it send the dress to someone else? How long has it been in business? What precautions does the company take to protect delicate trims and decorations? How does it guard against latent stains caused by alcohol and other sugar-based stains that do not dissolve during ordinary dry cleaning?
Ask if you can inspect the gown after it is clean and if the service uses tissue with an environmentally safe, archival container that will not discolor or damage the fabric of your gown. Ask if the service seals the box or leaves it open and why. Does the service guarantee the gown will not be stained or discolored when and if it will be worn again? Does the guarantee depend on an unbroken seal? Today or 25 years from today, who will honor the guarantee?
Be sure you are comfortable with the answers to your questions. After all, you want to give your gown, an heirloom for the next bride in your family, the care that will keep it perfect.
Sally Lorensen Conant is the wedding-gown expert for weddingdetails.com.