How to Travel with Your Wedding Dress

With more and more couples opting for destination weddings–both in the US and abroad–brides will likely be traveling with their wedding dress or dresses. This is especially true as weddings begin to take off again post-COVID. Of course, for a pretty penny, you can ship your dress to your destination. However, we wouldn’t recommend this option for international weddings where you could potentially run into issues at Customs. So, for many brides who can’t wait to take their dresses home after final fittings, traveling with a wedding dress is an all too familiar reality.

With increasingly fuller flights and cramped spaces on planes, traveling with your wedding dress can get tricky. Inspired by one of my Boston brides who is traveling to San Diego this week for her wedding, the following is tried and true advice on how to travel stress-free with your gown.

Check Out Airline Carry-On Policies Ahead of Time

Each airline has its own policies about taking a wedding gown on board as carry-on luggage. Some may ask you to fold it and put it in the overhead bin, while others may allow you to put it in the first-class closet. Before traveling, make sure to call ahead to find out about the policies of the airline you’re flying.

Invest in a Travel-Worthy Garment Bag

While your bridal salon or designer may give you a branded garment bag, it might not be travel-safe or waterproof. Since you’ll be taking your bag through security and tucking it away on the plane, investing in a high-quality bag is a must. Find one with some structure to help keep the gown folded and flat or hanging, and look for extra pockets to hold your veil and accessories. Since wedding gowns tend to be heavy, finding a bag with a shoulder strap is a huge bonus. If you know you’ll be traveling with your wedding dress, give yourself enough time to purchase a proper destination wedding garment bag. This way, you don’t have to worry about your gown being compressed or having a potential spill or stain leak through the bag.

Store Your Gown in an Overhead Bin

If you call your airline ahead of time, you’ll know whether or not you can store your gown in a closet. (Because most closets are located in first class, if you’re not flying first class, don’t assume you’ll be permitted to do so!) Depending on the airline policy, when you arrive at your gate, check with the agent and ask whether they’ll allow you to board early to hang your gown or at least alert a flight attendant beforehand.

That being said, if you’re anything like me when I travel, out of sight means out of mind. If you are nervous about being far from your gown, store it in an overhead bin. If your airline allows you to do this, consider purchasing a wedding dress travel box. Unlike a garment bag, an acid-free travel box doubles as a preservation box after the wedding. Be sure to check the dimensions of the bins for your carrier, and keep in mind that it will also constitute a piece of hand luggage.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to store your dress flat (while this is dependent on the space and size of luggage), take your seat with your gown in your lap as other passengers board. Once everyone has stored their bags, carefully lay your gown on top of your suitcases in the overhead compartment. Whatever you do, don’t check your wedding dress under the airplane just in case it fails to make it to your final destination!

Invest in a “Day of Dresser” to Steam your Dress

If it’s in your budget, a “day of dresser” is invaluable. They help you prep and get ready on your wedding day so your mother or maid of honor doesn’t have to. With expertise in handling a range of different fabrics and gowns, a bridal dresser will steam, press, and even make last-minute alterations to your dress.

If a “day of dresser” is not in your budget, work with your planner to make an appointment at a professional dry cleaner that specializes in wedding dresses. This way, after traveling with your wedding dress, you can take it ahead of the wedding for professional steaming. They will likely deliver the dress packed with tissue on a cardboard form so that it remains in pristine condition until you put it on.

Alternatively, whether you bring one yourself or delegate this task to your bridal party, don’t forget to pack a handheld portable steamer (and an adapter if traveling internationally). Just be sure to check with your stylist or boutique as to whether your gown fabric can tolerate steam.

Consider Purchasing a One-Way Plane Ticket for Your Dress

While definitely a want-to rather than a have-to solution to traveling with your wedding dress, having an extra seat might be the peace of mind you’re looking for. If you have the budget (and with plane fares at an all-time low), splurging on a one-way ticket for your dress will ensure it arrives in perfect condition at its destination. Having a ticket will also mean an extra carry on which might prove handy for additional wedding accessories such as your veil.

San Diego Inn, Rancho Santa Fe

Ask For Help When Necessary

Travel can be stressful at the best of times, and even more so when you’re traveling with something as delicate and precious as your wedding gown. It’s okay to ask for a little extra love at the airport. If you’re nervous about your gown being shoved through the x-ray at the security check, ask a TSA agent if they can scan it another way. If you panic during your flight about your gown in the closet, ask your flight attendant if you can check on your dress. Just remember, brides travel all the time, so airports, airlines, and flight attendants are completely used to your situation and ready to help you. Playing the bride card definitely has its perks. And if you are kind to others, they will treat your belongings with great care and take great pride in doing so!

Find Other Helpful Wedding Tips on Our Blog

If you found these tips for how to travel with your wedding dress helpful, be sure to check out the HauteFêtes journal where we share our expert advice on all things wedding! We are here to help and love finding solutions for all brides and grooms who are planning their most special day.

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