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Claudia Maittlen-Harris Headshot

Should I Sell My Wedding Dress?

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Thanks to the Internet, it's easy and cost-effective to sell anything and everything from your wedding. Bought 100 votive holders or 25 tall cylinder vases for your centerpieces that you'll never use again? Just pop on weddingbee.com or a million other sites, and there are eager brides to take them off your hands. Probably the most expensive thing a bride will purchase that is easily recyclable is her wedding dress. Who hasn't seen a tired, old wedding dress at the Salvation Army? I always wonder if someone actually got married in it, or was it just purchased by a sketch actor or hipster? Either way, wedding dresses (both new and used) are big business.

Knowing this I was still shocked when my mother asked me if I would sell my dress on the very day she bought it for me. I was still sitting in the glow of excitement from falling in love with the dress, so discussing parting with it caught me off guard. My mother was being practical, as I had fallen in love with a dress that was over budget, and I felt guilty and embarrassed. I realize that a grown woman in her 30s accepting such an extravagance from parents was not only childish but also a little ridiculous.

When I got engaged, my parents happily offered to buy my dress. I'm fairly pragmatic about most things and have a hard time justifying ridiculous expenses, especially spending thousands of dollars on a dress you wear once. I don't have princess fantasies, and I was definitely more interested and excited about my marriage than my wedding day. That being said, wedding dress shopping was fun. Since I was planning my wedding by myself in LA, I thought at least the dress could be something my mother fully participated in. I flew home and planned a whole wedding dress weekend with my mother, sister (matron of honor) and my maid of honor. We had the whole "say yes to the dress" experience: come out in a dress, say nice, mean and sometimes weird comments ("are you trying to look like Jean Harlow?"), and after three exhausting days, fall in love with a dress. I was worried about the cost (while drastically reduced because it was a the last sample left from the designer's last season, it was still expensive), but I couldn't help myself. I had that moment in the dress, and I was hooked. For a lot of women her wedding dress is like a brief love affair. It's amazing but fleeting, so hanging onto the dress somehow keeps that feeling alive. I got married three months ago, so now every time I see it hanging in its heavy garment bag in my coat closet, I'm torn about selling it.

The pragmatist in me wants to sell it, but the romantic wants to keep it. My mother is normally the romantic traditionalist, so her suggestion to sell it was a surprise. Yet, she was always a keen vintage shopper. I spent many a weekend with her shopping in thrift stores and consignment stores as a kid. She loves a deal. I can see in her mind that recouping something and giving someone else a great dress for a good price is a great wedding/pay it forward idea.

In weighing both options, I asked most of my married friends what they did with their wedding dresses. The majority had their dress professionally cleaned, boxed up and stored away. One friend keeps it in her closet to use instead of a scale -- if she can't get it zipped up, she knows she needs to get back in the gym. One woman cut off the bottom of her dress, dyed it black, and wore it as a cocktail dress to another wedding. One friend bought her dress online for $300 and could care less what happened to it now. She imagines it will end up in a garage sale at some point. My sister boxed hers up and while she understands that her daughter will probably never want to wear it, she likes that it's an option.

DIY sites offer up tons of suggestions on ways to recycle your dress: use for a baby's christening gown, ring pillows for a wedding, sew into the lining of the bride's dress for something old, use it to cover your wedding album, and a million other ideas. Personally, I really love my dress. If I could reenact that "Friends" episode where Rachel, Phoebe and Monica sit around drinking beers in wedding dresses in my life on a semi-regular basis, I'd be fine with that. Embarrassing but true. Wait, why aren't I doing that? Then again, the thought of preserving my dress forever in some dress coffin box gives me a weird Miss Havisham/heebie-jeebies feeling.

Part of me feels blessed to have worn a designer gown, and if I can pass that on to someone else, then that's a positive thing. Also, the thought of such an incredible dress, so beautiful and well-made sitting in storage for years seems depressing, as if I'm not honoring the glory of the dress. My wedding day was a wonderful day, and I felt such love and happiness. If I were to sell my dress, maybe I could pass along some good wedding mojo? It's not like I need to make my dress the sisterhood of the traveling wedding dress, but it's nice to think a dress carries its memories of its bride with it. Then again, I didn't buy it, so making any profit off my dress seems wrong. I could donate it to a charity (many sell dresses to support their charitable work to give to those who couldn't afford a dress).

But as I start to lean towards selling it, I remember a little fantasy that one day I'll have a little girl that sneaks into my closet and I catch her playing dress up in my wedding gown. (Okay, apparently my non-existent daughter is similar to Madeleine, but it's my fantasy). While it's silly, even the thought of a moment like that makes me want to keep the dress forever.

Reasons to keep the dress:

- maybe I'll have a daughter who might want to incorporate it somehow into her wedding day, or possibly just play in it

- as a reminder of a wonderful day

- possibly as a tool to keep me at my wedding weight

Reasons to Sell or Donate the Dress:

- pay it forward

- give it to charity

- pretend I live in a personal sisterhood of the traveling wedding dress world

- lessen my guilt at accepting an extravagant purchase

- my wedding is remembered by an article of clothing but with the memories, feelings and people who were there

While the pragmatist's arguments are much more effective, the romantic arguments run deep. I think I'll keep it.

Below, the author in her wedding gown.
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