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How to Travel With a Wedding Dress and Other Formal Attire

Ensure your big-day outfits arrive safely.

Planning a destination wedding is both exciting and challenging; while the idea of getting married in a far-flung locale is undeniably appealing, managing all the logistical challenges a distant celebration poses can be tricky. For example, even if the wedding is all-inclusive once you arrive, getting there in one piece, with all your belongings (and without forgetting anything at home!), can feel overwhelming. When packing for your own destination wedding then, you’ll want to make sure you have a plan for how to travel with your wedding dress, suit, or tuxedo. If you’re a guest, it’s also wise to think ahead when it comes to traveling with your formal attire—otherwise, you may just be stuck wearing sweats to the ceremony and reception.

According to wedding planner Alexa Blanco, “As fun as it is to have a destination wedding, traveling from one place to another with your wedding dress might ruin some of the fun if you don’t plan ahead. Planning ahead is the key to having a seamless experience, even before officially starting the wedding weekend.” Bridal fashion stylist Hope LaVine echos that point, and also adds that your best bet is to always pack what you plan to wear to the ceremony in a carry-on bag (and this rule applies to more than just the dress or suit). “If you’re flying, bring anything important to the event in the carry-on: your shapewear, shoes, undergarments, jewelry, and hair accessories,” she says. “Anything vital to the day besides the suit or dress, pack that in a carry-on bag as well.”

Read on for more of Blanco and LaVine’s best tips and tricks for traveling with a wedding dress and other formal attire for a destination wedding.

What to Know Before Traveling With a Wedding Dress or Suit

When you purchase your dress or suit, the retailer you shopped with should provide a garment bag that can safely house your attire. What’s more, your big-day look will most likely be packed up and ready for travel following your final fitting, so it’s best to leave it packed in the bag until you arrive at your destination.

If you didn’t purchase your attire from a retailer that regularly works with wedding attire, or if your dress or suit didn’t come with a garment bag, you can easily purchase one online. “[For a wedding dress,] you’ll want to make sure the hanger straps are on the clothing hanger, loop them around as many times needed till they take the weight off the straps of the garment if there are straps,” says LaVine. “Then, if you have a train, grab the loop that is underneath the train and put it onto the hook of the hanger. This will more evenly distribute the weight of your garment and make for easier folding.”

Knowing to leave your wedding dress, suit, or tuxedo in the garment bag is just half the battle, though; it’s also essential that you also pack it properly. “When folding it into a carry-on, you can start by placing the middle of the garment inside, then take the top and fold it over, and take the bottom and fold it over,” explains LaVine. “This will create a three-fold.”

How to Travel With a Wedding Dress or Suit by Plane

Flying to your destination wedding location? Traveling with your big-day attire as a carry-on item is the single best way to ensure everything arrives safely. “Never, ever, ever check your wedding dress for a flight,” warns LaVine. “You just never know what could happen to the checked bag. And that’s not the stress we are trying to have on the wedding week!”

That said, you have a few different options for getting your attire on the plane: The most obvious choice is to carefully fold your wedding dress, suit, or tuxedo into a small piece of carry-on luggage and store it in the overhead bins. However, if your clothing is bulkier or more delicate, putting the garment bag into a suitcase might not be an option. In this case, LaVine says you might choose to simply hold the garment bag (one that is waterproof and opaque, not see-through) for the duration of the journey. “Depending on the size or weight, this may be uncomfortable for long periods of travel, but it’s definitely doable,” she adds. If you’re lucky, the in-flight crew might even help you secure your attire for the trip. “Sometimes you’ll get an extra sweet flight attendant that lets you hang the dress in the closet at the front of the plane,” says LaVine. “Don’t count on this, but definitely ask. If they can’t accommodate that, then the overhead bin will do just fine!” You can also consider purchasing an extra seat for your ensembles, though Blanco explains that different airlines have different rules, so check in with your airline to inquire about their “guidelines in regards to this matter” before booking a second ticket, she shares.

Need more advice? Here are Blanco’s top three tips to always remember when flying with your wedding attire. “Tip number one: Arrive early. Trust me, running around an airport carrying a suit and dress is no joke (true story). Tip number two: Travel light—the less the better. The wedding dress alone is heavy, so I highly recommend you make sure the rest of your luggage is easy to walk around with. Tip number three (and my favorite): If it’s within your budget possibilities, pay the early boarding fee. This will allow you to get ahead on the overhead bin space and make it easier to store your suit or gown.”

How to Travel With a Wedding Dress or Suit by Car

If you’re driving to your wedding and plan to be in a car for long stretches of time, it’s best to lay your attire flat, utilizing either a trunk or a backseat. “The backseat is preferred because you’ll have A/C,” says LaVine. “You don’t want to leave your [attire] in a hot car for a long period of time as wedding dresses, especially those with beading, tend to yellow with heat. The cooler, or darker the place, the better.”

While shipping your attire might seem like a good idea, LaVine strongly cautions against it. There’s nothing more stressful than trying to track these important, expensive garments and realizing they might not arrive on time. What’s more, you’ll always handle your wedding attire with more care and consideration than an outsider would.

How to Travel With a Wedding Guest Dress or Suit

You may not be the bride and groom, but bridesmaids, groomsmen, parents, and wedding guests all drop a pretty penny on wedding-day attire, and you don’t want your looks to get lost in transit, either. Just like the couple of the hour, it’s always best to travel with your outfits in your carry-on suitcase. “I would hate to see a bridesmaid not being able to stand next to her best friend getting married because her dress was in her lost checked back,” says LaVine. “I always say get ahead of the problem: Don’t check the bag.”

Once you arrive at your hotel, take your outfits out of their garment bags, which will help wrinkles that were created in transit fall; for any stubborn bends, LaVine recommends steaming the garment ahead of the celebration. “Try to avoid steaming on the wedding day because you want the garment to have time to dry before you get into it and create more wrinkles,” she explains.

If you left your steamer at home, don’t sweat it: Hang your outfit in the bathroom next to the shower and turn the hot water on all the way. Close the bathroom door and let your clothes steam in the room for as long as it takes to get the wrinkles all the way you. It may not work for super stubborn wrinkles, but it’ll definitely make your formalwear look more presentable.

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