Ideas For What To Do With Old Wedding Dresses
Zero Waste | Recycle | Reuse

10+ Ideas For What To Do With Old Wedding Dresses

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A lot of brides may decide to preserve and store their wedding dresses after the big day, but others have no idea what to do with their big bulky wedding dress.

Some women may want to save their dresses for their daughters – but as a 50-something year old woman, I can tell you that not one of my friends ever wanted to wear their moms dress! I know, some families have a special tradition of passing down the wedding dress through generations – and it may have a more personal meaning in that case, but for most – they will really want to get their own dress to mark their special day.

In the last few years there has been in increase in “Trash the Dress” sessions where brides will literally destroy their dresses after the wedding day. As an Enviromom, this kind of makes my skin crawl. The environmental impact of creating something just to toss it, especially when it holds meaning of a once in a lifetime day -well, it just makes no sense to me.

Which is why I wanted to talk about options for how to get rid of a used wedding dresses. Whether you are getting a divorce and no longer want the reminder or are just cleaning house – there are so many options for repurposing your wedding dress – and even accessories.

Whether you choose to sell it to recoup some of your costs or donate it to help others, there are a lot of great options out there.

I highly recommend before you consider any of the options below you get your dress cleaned and pressed and stored in an eco-friendly way so you can make sure wherever it goes it is the best it can be!

1 | Donate Your Wedding Dress To Help Charities

Ideas For What To Do With Old Wedding Dresses

There are quite a few organizations that will be happy to take you wedding dress off your hands so that they can use them for other reasons! You should reach out to them before taking the trip to drop it off to make sure they are still accepting new wedding dress donations. Many of the charities below had specific requirements for the dresses they will accept and most required the dresses to be less than 5 years old, so if you dress is older – these options won’t work for you.

Brides For A Cause is a recognized 501(c)(3) that accepts donations of wedding dresses either in person at one of their locations or via mail. The also host Dress Drives with bridal stores throughout the country as well so keep an eye on one near you. The organization takes your dresses and resells them but then makes donations to charity! A great way to do good and recycle your wedding dress.

Eve Foundation supports families that have lost babies and uses your donated dresses to create infant burial gowns – called an Angel Gown® that are then given to grieving parents at no charge. You can reach out to them at emmaandevangowns@gmail.com to find out how to donate your dresses.

Brides Across America provides wedding dresses to our military and first responders and they accept both dress and monetary donations. They do require your gown be less than 5 years old and once you complete the form and they accept your address you will be given instructions to mail your dress in.

Adorned In Grace offers affordable bridal wear to their customers from donated dresses with proceeds of sales going to organizations that work to stop human trafficking. They currently have locations in Portland and Tacoma where you can drop off in person or you can mail your donated dress to them.

Brides Against Breast Cancer takes in used wedding dresses to resell so they can donate to breast cancer charities. They do have specific requirements for donated dresses to ensure they do sell so make sure you check the requirements on their website.

Success In Style accepts wedding gowns through their “Cherie Amour” sister group to resell to support their programs that help provide free business attire and interview counseling to disadvantaged women and men that are seeking work.

NICU Helping Hands provides burial gowns for babies that have passed away and provide them to parents free of charge. They accept gowns based on location – so you can enter your information on their website and when a dress is needed in your area you will be contacted.

2 | Donate Your Gown To Theater Groups

If you can donate it to a local theater group that would be great, or they may pay a nominal fee for it if they can use it in an upcoming production they may be doing. Imagine your wedding dress making it to the big stage! Check high schools and colleges as well!

This might be a great option for those of you with dresses that may be older than 5 years!

3 | Make A Family Keepsake

Cutting wedding dress for upcycling

I am big fan of up-cycling anything I can and it would be no different for a wedding dress! Think of the ways you can use it to make a beautiful family keepsake that the family can enjoy for generations!

A few ideas include:

  • Create a communion dress of christening gown for your daughter
  • Quilt
  • Cover for a wedding album
  • Baby blanket
  • Table cloth or runner
  • Christmas tree skirt
  • Flower girl dress for another wedding

I have profiled a few other wedding dress keepsake ideas below with a little more detail about each item!

4 | Sell or Giveaway Your Wedding Dress

If you are not in a position to donate it, then you can try to sell it! There are some great online places that you can post it and have it go to another bride who maybe cannot afford to pay full price for a bridal gown.

  • Ebay
  • Craigslist
  • Etsy
  • Freecycle
  • Local Facebook Groups
  • Oncewed.com
  • Stillwhite.com
  • Wedding-Recycle.com
  • Preownedweddingdresses.com
  • Tradesy.com

You can view our list of online thrift stores as well which offer more ideas. I would highly recommend reaching out to them to see if they do take wedding dresses at all. None specifically mentioned if they would or not, but it is worth trying.

5 | Donate Your Wedding Dress Locally!

Wedding dress folded and placed in a box

Many of the resources above still require someone to pay for a wedding dress – even if you are donating it! Why not do something really great and post your wedding dress on Facebook – even in some community groups and list it for free.

You may just make life a whole lot easier for one stressed bride who may not be in the best financial situation. It would do your heart good and maybe they will then pass it on when they are done as well to help another person!

6 | Create A Wedding Dress Memory Bear

While there are several services that can offer this – you can always try to do it yourself! I found several vendors on Etsy where you send in your wedding dress and they turn it into a gorgeous bear!

The one below is from CreateMoreDimensions and I love the level of detail! I did see a few others on there as well so do a search for wedding dress teddy bears and get lost in the beauty of what these artists are capable of!

7 | Floral Bridal Wrap

I love this idea and it is a great way to use a damaged wedding gown! Imagine your bouquet of flowers wrapped in remnant of a wedding dress your mom wore – or your grandma! Even better, how about a whole bouquet made from the dress which is exactly what I found on Down Red Bud Drive.

She created a whole bridal bouquet from a mothers damaged wedding dress for her daughter and it came out beautiful. She created a tutorial as well if you want to try to create this yourself!

8 | LACEstudio Wedding Dress Jewelry

Gorgeous pendants, bracelets, charms and more that are created from your wedding dress lace. The artist from LACEstudio creates each piece just for you and it is made with jewelry grade waterproof resin ensuring your dress stays safe!

9 | Wedding Dress Photo Mat

Of course you will have a stunning photo of you and your new groom in your home, why not use your dress to frame it with a stunning wedding dress photo mat. SuddenlyCrafty has a tutorial and video that shows you how to create this beautiful photo display. This may be one of my favorite ideas as a photo nerd who cherishes images!

Creating a wedding album with a cover made from your wedding dress is also a great idea.

10 | Unbox The Dress

Unbox The Dress takes your old wedding gowns and recycles them into something beautiful! You unbox your dress, ship it to them and select the item you would like the seamstresses to create for you. This is a great service that helps create family heirlooms!

From ornaments to doilies to robes and so much more, the options are endless as to what you can create from your wedding gown. In the image below you can see they created a floral bouquet wrap and purse from a wedding dress! You can see more in their online gallery.

11 | What About Vintage Wedding Dresses?

Close up shot of a vintage dress

Most of the places noted above where you can donate dresses do not take dresses older than about 5 years on average. If you have a dress that is more than that – the best thing to do is list it on a site like Ebay or Craigslist or check on some wedding group boards to see if anyone might be looking for a vintage inspired dress.

Some ideas we have seen for much older wedding dresses that are not as easy to repurpose either due to the fragility include the following:

  • Creation of a shadowbox with other memorable wedding accessories from the day
  • Donated to a church where vestments were made for the priest and deacon
  • Reach out to antique shops and see if they can use them somehow – they may have a client looking for a dress like your
  • Use pieces of the dress in other weddings, births or communions within the family. For example every new baby gets a little “pouch” made from the dress with a special gift inside
  • Create pillows from the dress with a little pocket where you can store a picture of you in the dress and even a letter if you wish and give them to the children in the family as an heirloom keepsake

Have Other Ideas?

Have you been through this and come up with an idea not listed here? Please share so others can be inspired by your creativity!

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