Are you going to be traveling with your wedding dress and totally freaking out?? No need to fear, YNI is here! We have created a simple guide for our destination wedding brides trying to figure out how to manage this process with all the questions to ask and how to survive a flight with your dress before your big day!

1. DO NOT check your wedding dress if at all possible

First things first: always carry on your wedding dress to prevent it from being lost, damaged or stolen! By stuffing it in a checked bag, it will be much more difficult to steam or press your dress once you’ve removed it from your luggage. Also, can you imagine the nightmare lost luggage would be if said luggage held your wedding dress?? Just don’t risk it!

2. DO talk to your airline ahead of time

Ask in advance how they handle passengers with large and delicate items…like a wedding dress!  Confirm the size/dimensions and weight rules for your airline to make sure you are able to bring your dress as a carry on and to avoid having to check it at the gate. Keep track of the staff names, contact information and dates & times you converse with the airline in case any follow up is needed on your travel day itself. Telling the check in agents you called but not knowing who you spoke to or when it was won’t help you if there is a difference in policy onsite vs. on the phone – those details can be critical to a smooth travel experience.

3. DO pack your dress in a large, high quality garment bag

Once you know if your airline permits you to carry on your dress in a garment bag or not, it is important to know how to pack your wedding dress to avoid wrinkles. First, stick the hanger of the dress through the top of the garment bag and hang it up. Take one side of the gown and then the other and fold them into each other toward the center. From there, take the bottom of the train and roll it up until the dress is within the garment bag. Once the dress is inside the bag, carefully zip it up. Make sure to place a finger on the other side of the zipper as you guide it up so that no part of the dress gets caught in the zipper. The garment bag that comes from most dress shops is not typically meant for travel, so don’t be afraid to swap your dress into something better for this purpose.

4. DO arrive to the airport early to allow plenty of extra time for check in and security screening

Since we all know that the super strict TSA rules still vary by airport even though they aren’t supposed to, make sure you have plenty of time to get through security. You and your dress may require extra screening, especially if it too big to fit easily through the x-ray machines. Don’t let time be a added stressor for you here, just plan to arrive well before you normally would because in this case it is definitely better to be safe than sorry!

5. DO get Priority Boarding or fly First Class

These upgrades can be extremely helpful, if only because they allow you to board sooner and gain access to vertical/hanging storage on many airlines. Once you have boarded, ask flight attendants if there is a small closet in the front to stow away your gown. In most cases, you should be greeted with Congratulations and lots of help, but be prepared also for the challenges of full flights and tired flight attendants. Be sure to very clearly label your garment bag in case of other people traveling with any similar looking items on your flight!  If this is not an option on your flight, you will most likely have to place your garment bag in an overhead bin. If so, you’ll need to fold or roll the garment bag, depending on how much space is available. If you need to roll it, start rolling at the top with the hanger. Another alternative for the overhead bins is to lay the dress flat on top of other passengers’ luggage. This might be risky because it is entirely dependent on the space and size of their luggage!

Side note: Some folks recommend buying your dress its own plane ticket. We don’t suggest that as your initial plan, because different airlines and flight attendants will handle that differently. Technically, all baggage has to be stowed for take off and landing, so it is grey area as to whether or not your dress can even have its own seat. This is something you definitely want to speak to the airlines about ahead of time. However, after boarding you can certainly ask the flight attendants if there are any open seats you can place your dress in if they would allow it – and then you’re not out the cost of another plane ticket anyway!

6. DO plan ahead for steaming/pressing

After you have arrived at your hotel, your dress will probably need a little refresher to get rid of any potential wrinkles that came about on the flight. Most hotels and resorts offer pressing and steaming, but again: this is something you’ll need to plan ahead for. Wedding dresses take some time to steam and depending on their material the onsite facilities may or may not be sufficient. You may need to send out your dress for steaming once you arrive to your destination. If this is the case, be sure to research options ahead of time and make an advance appointment to ensure availability at the time you need it. As an additional option, you can try to also pack a portable steamer – though these are never as powerful as commercial steamers, so expect limited results.  It is recommended to put a cotton sock or towel over the head of the steamer to avoid water droplets on your dress. You can also try other tricks such as steaming your dress in a bathroom with a hot shower or using some wrinkle releaser (be sure to test this on a part of the material that won’t show first, though!).

Other tips & info:

  • If you’re early in your dress selection process and it is possible to do so: you might consider both the material and the size of your dress in your selection process. A large, poufy ballgown is more difficult to travel with than many other choices you could make. Additionally, many types of lace are very forgiving when it comes to wrinkles, so you may want to see about gowns with materials that don’t show wrinkles as much. Be strategic about your selection, and ask your sales reps about their recommendations in regards to this as well.
  • As with anything else related to your wedding on the big day itself, it is always good to keep things in perspective. You will probably notice any issues with your dress 1000 times more than your friends or family will – and very often the things you notice won’t show up at all in your photos. If there are some pesky wrinkles that won’t seem to come out, consider if that’s something you can let go of – especially keeping in mind you actually have to WEAR the dress, which requires movement and will cause some wrinkles as well 🙂

If you’re able to plan ahead and keep all of this tips in mind, your process should go much more smoothly! Cheers to a beautiful wedding day and Bon Voyage for your destination event!

p.s. We know gents have to travel to their weddings, too! However, it is usually significantly easier for men’s formal wear to travel than for a wedding gown, so that’s why we’ve focus on that for this post.