What Should You Do With Your Wedding Photos After Divorce?

wedding photos after divorce

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

I’ll never forget how I felt when I realized I found “the one.” Forget the guy, I’m talking about my wedding dress! Standing in front of the mirror in an off white strapless Werkstatt gown, sophisticated with a little bling, but classy and elegant, I felt so beautiful and happy. All my dreams were coming true. Until they weren’t, and 8 years later, I found myself divorced with a wedding dress in a box, along with my wedding photos and all my other marriage mementos.

So, when you get divorced, what do you do with your wedding dress? What do you do with your wedding photos after divorce? And what do you do with all your other wedding stuff?

 

It’s kind of funny. Last year, at the beginning of COVID, when everyone was home with lots of time on our hands, I cleaned out my entire basement and storage room. That is where my wedding dress had been sitting since the year 2000 in an airtight box.

 

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I took it out of the box and tried it on, and so did my daughter, and wow, what a GREAT experience. I laughed when I put it on. I couldn’t button it up all the way, but I still loved wearing it again. I didn’t cry or get emotional or feel angry or bitter, I actually got a huge kick out of trying it on!

As for my then 16 year old daughter, I think that even though we are divorced, she loved it so much that she wants to wear it as a bride. Now, a lot could change by the time she gets engaged, but what was noteworthy was the fact that her parents being divorced did not deter her from loving the dress and wanting to wear it at her wedding.

It makes sense actually. Her parents were in love when her mom wore the dress, so that’s good karma, isn’t it? She and her brother were born after Mom wore that dress, so that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Why does a wedding dress have to be doomed because the couple ended up divorced? It doesn’t! If they were in love when it was worn, then maybe it’s a good thing.

So, bottom line, keep the wedding dress! You don’t know how you are going to feel down the road. You may want to set it on fire at the beginning of your divorce when the raw feelings of pain and heartbreak are so fresh. But you don’t know how you are going to feel later.

 

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Every divorced person has different opinions on what he or she wants to do with their wedding dress, wedding photos and other wedding mementos.

Some people tear up wedding photos in anger, some secretly try on their gown and cry, some sell their rings because they need the money, and two divorced women even went on The Steve Harvey Show, where they gave their wedding gowns to a fashion expert who had the gowns made into fun, cocktail dresses. I was on the show as a divorce expert, by the way.

 

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Here are some suggestions on what you can do with your wedding photos after divorce, your wedding dress, and other marriage mementos.

 

Wedding gown and veil:

 

1. Save it and give your daughter the option of wearing it. Let her decide how she feels about it.
2. Give it to a resale shop and get some much needed cash, or buy yourself something really nice with the money.
3. Donate it to a charitable cause to give a happy, young bride in love the chance to wear a beautiful dress she might not otherwise have the money to buy.

Wedding Album/Video:

1. The site of your wedding photos might make you physically nauseous. They might be upsetting. They might infuriate you. Or, they might depress you. I totally get that. But, think about saving them for your kids. If it was a time when you were madly in love, don’t you think they want to have them–photos of the two people they love most in this world, who at one time loved each other enough to have them?

2. Throw the photos in the garbage (which I do not think is a good idea.) My point is, there is no monetary value in photos, so these are your two options.

Wedding shoes:

1. If you are into shoes, and you absolutely LOVED your wedding shoes or sandals, what’s wrong with wearing them? You could have them dyed and they could turn out to be your favorite picks for a night out on the town.
2. Donate.

3. Save for your daughter.

 

Marriage license/Ketuba

1. This is a toughie. My advice would be to keep it, just because. That’s what I did. Just because the marriage resulted in divorce, it was part of my life, and I do want to remember it.

 

Wedding and engagement Rings:

1. If you need the money, sell them.

2. Even if you don’t need the money you can still sell and buy yourself something nice.
3. Donate. It’s a great tax write off, and you could be doing something really good for someone. Good karma!

4. Save for your son or daughter. Again, this is such a personal choice, but since you were probably really happy when you got engaged, maybe you want one of your children to wear it. And maybe they will want to wear it, maybe they won’t. Remember, it will be up to them when it’s time, but only if you still have the rings. Wouldn’t it be nice to give them the option?

 

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Last piece of advice on rings: this is a really, really big decision so don’t do anything hasty! It’s okay if your rings sit in a drawer for years and years. When you finally decide to make a move, it will be the right decision because it will have been well thought out.

Other keepsakes:

I have big white lace box. In it is all the table numbers, my wedding program, my wedding invitation, my wedding shoes, my dried flower bouquet, cards from people, my wedding list, the key to the hotel room where we spent our wedding night, honeymoon photos, and a even the tube of waterproof mascara I wore that night.

 

I could possibly be the most sentimental person on the face of the earth, but I still look in that box every few years, and while it makes me sad, it also puts a smile on my face because of the sentimentality, all the friends and family who were with me during that happy time, and of even my ex. We were in love and very happy at the time, so why is that such a bad memory?

It takes a long time to get to this point, and if you can’t imagine being here, I get it. Just give it time and don’t even think about it for years. You might surprise yourself.

 

In closing, the best advice I can give on what to do with wedding photos after divorce (and other marriage mementos) is don’t let your anger rule what you choose to do with things. Once you rip them up and throw them away, you can never get them back. So, a better option, while you are angry with your ex and devastated by your divorce is to put them away where you will never see them. Then, if you are ever ready to look at them, you have that option.

 

People always say, “Don’t focus on the past,” but I think the only time this advice is wrong is when it comes to looking at your wedding pictures. What’s wrong with, (for a few minutes every few years) going on a trip down memory lane to a really, really great time in your life?

Like this article? Check out, “9 Signs of a Healthy Romantic Relationship”

 

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Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

18 Responses to “What Should You Do With Your Wedding Photos After Divorce?”

  1. Tara

    I’m in my 20’s and I’ve not been divorced longer than I was married. No kids. He’s remarried and I’m in a happy relationship.

    I have no pictures of me in my wedding dress, which I still LOVE. I’m considering a post-divorce photoshoot in the dress – something that celebrates my independence (maybe displaying my tattoo of the initial of my maiden name, maybe incorporate trashing the dress?).

    Is that crazy? Has anyone heard of something like that?

    Reply
  2. Tara

    For anyone with children, I vote for keeping the wedding pictures. My parents separated when I was 13 and even as an adult, I love to look at their wedding pictures. I even have their oversized, framed photo of the two of them hanging in my office.

    For myself (no kids), I left the wedding album behind when I left my ex. His girlfriend probably burned it, and I don’t care. I sold my rings to a jeweler for a fraction of what they were worth, and I donated my dress to charity. I also wore the shoes until they were worn out.

    Reply
  3. Denise

    Thank you for the much needed validation! I can’t get rid of the stuff either…we got married at Disney World and had a fairytale wedding. The fairytale lasted 13 years and we both grew a part (and one of us grew up). My daughters love to see the pics and all the stuff. I do like the idea of having all of it in one big bin…then I can tuck it away and not run into it in various places in the house.

    Reply
  4. Danielle

    I was only married for 6 months before we separated and I do not have children but I just can’t part with my wedding momentos. Maybe someday.

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Don’t minimize your marriage (“i was only married for 6 months.”) Divorce is a really really big life change, and if you got married, it was a very serious relationship. Just because you don’t have kids or because it was a short time doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting, or that you don’t have the right to mourn just as much as a woman who was married for 20 years! I wish you a happy, bright future!! xo

      Reply
  5. Barbara

    It”s painful to see my wedding and engagement pictures over our bed and in the family room. My husband left home after 25 years of marriage and we actually dated five years before our marriage. The last seven years have been the worst. After almost two years of seperation he finally admitted that he doesn’t want to be married. He stopped wearing his ring years ago but I wore mine until he spoke those words “I don’t want to be married and you need to move on”. I’ve taken down those particular photos but left other family photos different rooms of our home. Sadly, these steps are helping me to move on and prepare myself for the very probability that we’ve come to the end of our life as Mr&Mrs. I’m glad I found your blog.
    Thank you,
    Hurt but not broken

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      thank you for reaching out. I will be praying that you find peace and acceptance, and that you build on this and find a wonderful new life. It isn’t easy but you can do it. I love the “not broken” title. best wishes!

      Reply
  6. Brandi Frelin

    I am a happily married woman and have been that way for 17 years now. I have always used my wedding bouquet as a decoration on the wall of our bedroom. An everyday reminder of that special day.
    My question for you is, is it bad luck to just throw my bouquet away in the garbage?

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Yes!!! Why would you do that when you have had it on your wall for all these years?? please don’t do that.

      Reply
  7. Elizabeth Wood

    We were married 20 years but no kids by choice.
    I plan on giving away certain wedding things like the wine glasses and serving utensils.
    I will keep the actual wedding album and my dress was non traditional. I love it and can re-purpose it.

    I’m torn more on the portraits of us from the last 24 years. All wall of “ol west” portraits we did on vacations. The gigantic sketch an artist did of us. The family photos we did with all of our pets.
    The knit tapestry his gma made with our wedding date on it (though honestly I never really liked that)
    We could split them evenly but then what. I feel odd displaying them in my home and I don’t like keeping things in boxes. If I own something it should be used or displayed not stored for years.

    Reply
    • For anyone feeling obligated

      I know this post is old but its just bothering me how much advice in the comments and even the article is to keep things even if you don’t want them, just in case you or your kids will want it some day. I don’t think that’s emotionally healthy. It’s even a symptom of hoarding, lol.

      My opinion comes from experiencing both sides of this dilemma, the obligation to keep things for your kid, and the obligation to receive things from your parent. Both are emotional burdens. If you genuinely feel positive emotions when viewing your wedding momentos and you have the space to keep it, then if course that’s ok. But keeping any momento that makes you unhappy thinking about it is pretty unreasonable, and it’s unreasonable to keep it on the chance that your kids will want it someday, especially if it’s a lot of stuff. Really, what are the odds your daughter will have a wedding, fit properly into your dress, and want the style and color of the dress? It’s highly unlikely, and it’s why it’s rare to see a daughter wearing her mother’s wedding gown. Photos, invitations, cards, plane tickets, etc. can be scanned and saved on a cloud drive or flash drive. You don’t need an album taking up space on a bookshelf, making you uncomfortable every time you walk past it.

      You aren’t heartless or bad for wanting to make your home more peaceful and less cluttered for yourself. I felt like I needed permission to shred my wedding photos and give away decorations and stuff, even though it had been years and it wasn’t out of anger, just because it was taking up valuable space and I only had negative feelings when looking in the direction of the stack of boxes in corners of my house. So if you’re like me, you have permission and the right to throw out things you don’t want or need. No apologies are necessary, and your kids will more than likely thank you for it.

      Reply
  8. Jennifer

    I’ve been divorced 8 years and have moved twice and my wedding album, wedding photo in a big ass frame…lol, preserved wedding dress and a big ole box and my Ketubah keep coming along. I have 2 teenage boys who could honestly care less about these momentos. I honestly don’t want these things anymore but not sure I should throw them away? This new place is a fresh new start and really don’t want these items in the house. Thoughts??

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Hmm…the teenage boys might care someday. Maybe toss/donate everything but keep the album?

      Reply
  9. Rachel

    We were together for 8 years and married for 2 years.
    I had to move in with family for a while. I am now moving into a new place and won’t have much room.
    I still have all my wedding items, dress, Disney hats,flowers etc. Not sure if I will regret getting rid of these, but i may not have any place to actually put them.
    Any advice? Not sure what to do.

    Reply
    • Jackie Pilossoph

      Keep what you really, truly want to keep, either for yourself or for your kids. You don’t have to keep everything or nothing. Just keep what you really really still want. If that’s nothing, that’s ok. If it’s everything, that’s OK. or something in between.

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth

    My kids were happy when the divorce came through. I was saddened deep inside but it had to be done. So we had fun burning all the pictures, shredding the wedding dress and what they wore to the wedding. My son 7yrs commented and asked “why Jesus is dying on the cross when he was good and Daddy who is bad is just there…” yes he was that bad that even the kids were terrified of him and always begged to visit anywhere but no be home for Holidays. My other Son said he wishes he could send his Dad to heaven and God turns him into an animal I asked him why and he said because Daddy behaves like an animal when he is beating all of us up. Yeah he used to gather all of us me and the three kids and beat without segregation. It’s been 8 happy years of teaching my children that Life can be better.
    So we burned everything that his trace and after a while moved to a town far away.

    Reply

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