Wondering what to do with your wedding dress after divorce? Don’t want to stumble upon it every time you go into your closet or storage room because seeing that white lace dress just brings back too much raw pain and emotion? I get it. I felt that way for a long time after I got divorced.
I was inspired to write this article by a post in the Divorced Girl Smiling Facebook group that read:
I’m thinking about burning my wedding dress as a ritual of moving forward. Has anyone else done this or anything else that helped you get closure? I’m in a good but different place. My ex changed a lot. I want to take a moment to mourn what was, bury it and truly whole heartedly move full speed ahead into the next chapter.
I donated it to Goodwill
I threw mine into a bucket of his used motor oil.
I took mine to the local outdoor recycling center.
I donated it to a local fundraiser.
I threw mine in the garbage.
I was a bit disheartened by what I read, so I want to share my story of what I did with my wedding dress after divorce. I hope it inspires you to think carefully before doing anything in anger or with raw emotion.
What I did with my wedding dress after divorce:
It was late March of 2020, a strange, scary time in our world when Coronavirus had just hit. Everyone was home, not really sure what to do, and with lots of time on our hands. A lot of people, including myself, decided to clean out closets and declutter.
That brings me to my dark, cold basement storage area of my now former house. On the concrete floor sat an airtight preservation box. Inside: the long white strapless satin and lace gown I wore at my wedding in the year 2000. The box had been in that spot since the day my now ex-husband and I moved into our house 16 years earlier. I had been divorced for 13 years at the time.
After brushing some dust off the box, I grabbed a pair of scissors and began to cut open the heavy plastic. By nature, I do everything fast, so I ended up nicking my leg with one of the scissor blades. When I saw a little blood, I wondered if opening up the gown I wore for a marriage that failed and broke my heart was a bad omen. Nonsense. Despite the divorce, I felt compelled to keep going.
Once out of the box, even with some wrinkles at the bottom, the simple but Cinderella-like gown was still as breathtaking as it was the day I first saw it in the store where my parents bought it for me. I still remember the look on my dad’s face when I came out of the dressing room. He was so happy for me, and looking back, I think he felt immense relief that his 35-year-old daughter was finally settling down.
In the middle of my kitchen, I started to undress, dying to try it on, and that’s when I heard my 16-year-old daughter gasp.
“That is the most beautiful dress I’ve ever seen!” she exclaimed, “I’m trying it on.” She then began to take off her sweatshirt. The nerve! I told her I got to go first and asked if she would please zip me up.
I slipped the gown over my head, and the first thing I noticed was its train. Did I appreciate that elegance when I first wore it? I wasn’t sure.
Time to zip it up. Here it was: the body truth. Two kids and 20 years later, would it even zip all the way? I held my breath (and sucked in) while my daughter zipped. Not with ease, she was able to zip it all the way up. That was a big deal to me, as I suspect it would be for any former bride turned mom turned 20 years older.
The dress’s features, like the tiny buttons, silver beading, little pearls, and tulle were remarkable. But as I stood looking at myself in the mirror, I wasn’t focused on how the dress fit or even so much on its physical beauty.
My mind drifted back to that lovely time when there was so much warmth and joy in my life. The days when I was picking out a matching veil, opening up gifts at my wedding shower, and choosing Chilean sea bass as the main course for our reception.
That magical night when my parents, siblings, friends and young nieces, who were over-the-top excited to be junior bridesmaids and flower girls came to Chicago and surrounded me and my new husband as we exchanged our vows, toasted to our new life together, and had our first dance as a married couple.
The dress was on my body for all of it. The dress I was now wearing as a 54-year-old single mom of two teenagers who is deeply in love with another man, signified love, regardless of the broken heart I would suffer later.
What I’m trying to say is, if you are still very happy with your partner, that’s wonderful. But let’s say you are married and no longer feeling connected, or you are divorced or widowed. How you feel about your wedding dress is hopefully entirely different than how you feel currently about the person who was standing beside you when you wore it, or the tragedy of something that happened to your loved one.
I know many divorced women (like the ones who responded to the Facebook post) who donated or threw out their wedding dress, probably because it was too painful to keep, or their anger and hurt made the item feel toxic to have in the house. I understand that, and there was a time I might have felt the same. But 13 years after my divorce, it isn’t my ex-husband I think of now in regards to my wedding dress, it is my daughter, who after trying it on (and looking stunning, I might add) plans to wear it at her wedding.
Some might wonder, is that bad luck? Absolutely not! My wedding gown was a significant item that in some indirect way led to the birth of my two beloved children. At the time I wore it, I was as in love as only a bride can be. That doesn’t sound like back luck to me.
In closing, I’m going to suggest to you a wedding dress challenge: Take your dress out of storage, try it on, who cares if it zips, and let yourself feel all of those sentimental feelings. Tell your kids stories about your wedding, your spouse or ex-spouse, and laugh with them about the funny things that happened back then and people you knew. They will find it fascinating and very entertaining.
Now, it has to be the right time. For me, it was 13 years after my divorce. So, I’m not going to tell a newly separated or newly divorced person that they are going to have the same experience I did. By the time I tried my wedding dress on, I was very very much over the divorce. My point is, maybe, like I did, keep it out of sight for a few years and then decide what you want to do with it. Goodwill will always be there. By getting rid of it too soon, you are only hurting yourself because you don’t know how you are going to feel later. Much later.
One thing’s for sure. Regardless of where you are today, if you try on your wedding dress, you might cry a little bit, tears of joy or sadness or both, but that might be a good thing. If you have the guts to try on your wedding dress, you mind find that it offers something more than physical beauty–a path to healing, acceptance, and peace.
Like this article? Check out, “Selling Your Wedding Rings after Divorce? Here’s How 34 Women Spent the Money”