Why I Gave Away My Wedding Gown | From Overwhelmed to Organized: Why I Gave Away My Wedding Gown

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why I Gave Away My Wedding Gown

So... a couple of weeks ago I gave away my wedding dress.  Over 16 years after my wedding.  Why, you ask?  Good question!

I've seen discussions on other blogs or in other forums about what to do with wedding dresses and I know there are a LOT of different opinions on the subject!

Here are some of the most popular things to do with a wedding gown:

  • Sell it right after the wedding.  Makes sense.  Then you don't have to store it.  And you can get back some of the money you paid for it.  And most newlyweds can use the extra cash :)
  • Hold onto it for sentimental reasons.  It's such a special day and you felt so beautiful in your wedding dress that you can't imagine giving it away or selling it.  Many people feel they could never part with their wedding gown.
  • Make Baptismal, Christening, or Dedication gowns out of it.  Or a pillow or little purse for the rings for a future son or daughter's wedding.  All beautiful ways to make those occasions that much more sentimental by incorporating part of your wedding day.
  • Keep it hoping a future daughter will wear it on her wedding day.  Another way to make a wonderful day even more special.
  • Donate it to a charity who gives gowns (or sells them for a lower cost) to people who can't afford to buy a dress.  You can do this with bridesmaid dresses or prom dresses too.

I didn't choose any of those options though.

A Little Background About My Wedding Gown

As I mentioned, I got married 16 years ago.  Here's one of my favourite pictures of me in my gown.

I loved my wedding day.  And I loved my wedding dress.  My parents had it professionally cleaned after the wedding and it came back in this giant box to preserve it.

{You can't really tell from the picture, but the box was about 2.5' x 1.5' x 10".  Big I tell ya!}

I hadn't really thought about what I'd want to do with my dress at the time.  So I just stored it in the box.  Over the years, I've thought about doing something with it, but I could never really decide on anything specific.

My mom kept her dress for a long time.  My aunt even made my baptism gown out of my mom's train.  But over the years my mom wasn't particularly attached to the dress so she let me wear it one year for Halloween.  {Sadly, we couldn't find any pictures of that!}

By default I just ended up keeping mine.  Which was fine before we had kids and I had lots of storage space in our home.  But over the years, it moved to every place imaginable in our house.  And that box was big no matter where it was.

Deciding to Part With My Wedding Gown

A few months ago I decided I was OK with parting with my wedding dress.  I didn't make dedication gowns for my kids out of it.  And by the time my daughter is old enough to get married I'm sure styles will have changed or our body types will be different enough that she wouldn't wear it.  She's not that sentimental anyway, so I don't even think she'd want to wear it.  {My son is the sentimental child in this family...I had to give away my gown when I knew he wasn't going to be home or I would never have heard the end of it.}

Once I made the decision to part with my gown, I had to decide what to do with it.  I thought about trying to sell it online, but I figured anyone wanting to buy it would want to try it on and I wasn't sure how I'd make that work.  Plus, it's 16 years old so I don't even know if it's "in style" anymore.  I loved it, but it wasn't a designer dress or anything.

So, I decided I wanted to look into someplace to donate it.  I'd read about places in the U.S. that make "angel gowns" out of wedding dresses.  They are for tiny little babies who are stillborn or premature and don't make it.

Image Credit:  Forever Loved Angel Gowns

Having had a miscarriage at 12 weeks, I understand to some degree the pain parents feel when they lose a baby.  While I didn't have to deal with this myself, I can only imagine how painful it must be to have to find something to bury a tiny one in when they are too small for baby clothes.  These gowns are a beautiful gift to these parents.  They are delivered to hospitals and given to grieving parents free of charge.

Forever Loved Angel Gowns

For a long time I couldn't find an angel gown organization anywhere in Canada.  But a couple of months ago in a local Freecycle Facebook group, a lady posted that she was looking for people to donate used wedding dresses so she could make angel gowns out of them.  She was from Forever Loved Angel Gowns. I loved the whole idea and knew I wanted to give my dress to her.

I couldn't make arrangements to donate my dress right then because it was in the middle of my busy 5 weeks with my hubby being away, our family vacation, and my Trained Professional Organizer exam.  But once things settled down I made arrangements for someone to pick up my dress.

Yes, I said pick up my dress.  In the last few months, this organization has grown so much that they not only have volunteer seamstresses, but they have a network of drivers who are willing to pick up donated gowns and drop them off to those who are sewing the angel gowns.

And, with some media exposure, there are networks forming in other parts of Canada too!  Here's a link about a Saskatchewan Angel Gown group.  And a link to an Alberta based Angel Gown group (they talk more about how there wasn't anything like this in Canada until the last few months).  There are obviously many people who resonate with what they are doing, and many of those involved have lost babies themselves.

It's quite a process to make the tiny angel gowns out of a wedding dress.  The volunteer seamstresses carefully take the wedding dress apart at the seams.  Then they lay out all the material and arrange the patterns to maximize how many gowns they can make from it, using the various features of the dress where possible.  They cut the dress (ouch!) and then sew the tiny gowns together.  Then they add back on as many of the frills from the wedding dress as they can.  I'm hoping this lacy part of my dress will be able to pretty up some little gowns.

They can usually make as many as 18 tiny gowns and wraps from one wedding dress.

Image Credit:  Forever Loved Angel Gowns

Each one is very unique.

Image Credit:  Forever Loved Angel Gowns

Then they package them up with a little note before bringing them to hospitals.

Image Credit:  Forever Loved Angel Gowns

Isn't that amazing?  I'm so proud to have contributed to this wonderful cause!

How It Felt To Donate My Wedding Dress

I have to admit, I felt a little more sad than I expected I would for a couple of minutes after my dress actually left my home.

It wasn't so much because I missed the dress.  I have hundreds of pictures of me wearing that gown on one of the most special days of my life.  I don't need the dress to remind me of that wonderful day.  Plus, I've got the most important reminder... my hubby by my side every day :)  Our marriage is more important than my dress ever was or ever could be.

What did make me a little sad was that I was reminded of our tiny baby that we never got to hold.  I briefly felt the pain of losing him or her all over again.

But then I thought of all the families that will be given angel gowns in their time of sorrow.  And some of those gowns will be made out of my dress.  It brought it all full circle for me.  And that made me feel good :)

What About You?

Here are some ways you can contribute to the Angel Gown movement.   I searched online and there are Angel Gown networks in many places around the world.

  1. Obviously, you can donate your wedding gown.  If you're decluttering (maybe as part of the 365 Items in 365 Days challenge!) and you haven't decided what to do with your wedding gown, please consider Forever Loved Angel Gowns, or a similar organization near you. 
  2. If you're decluttering your craft room, they need donations of sewing supplies too.  Things like ribbon, lace, bobby pins, buttons, pinking shears, fabric scissors, fabric glue, and thread.  They even need tissue paper to wrap the gowns in. 
  3. Recently I saw on the Forever Loved Angel Gowns Facebook page that they are also looking for donated men's ties so they can make little bow ties for the boys' gowns or wraps.  Get your hubby to clean out his closet and purge a few ties.  It's a great cause to give them to!
  4. If you don't have a gown or ties or supplies to donate, they also accept monetary gifts to purchase things like packaging materials and sewing supplies.  
  5. You can also donate gift cards to fabric/craft stores or department stores so they can purchase what they need.
  6. If you are close to an angel gown network, you can volunteer as a seamstress or a driver, or probably many other ways too (maybe website support, social media promoting, or shopping?).

There are so many ways you can support this beautiful organization or others like it!

I'm glad I waited to do something with my dress until there was an angel gown network near me.  Sometimes procrastinating pays off :)

Please note:  This was a personal choice I made.  I am not saying that everyone should do the same thing I did, or that you should feel bad about any other choice you have made about your wedding dress.  I wrote this post to help raise awareness of Angel Gowns for people who may not have heard of them before.  And to maybe light a little fire under some people like me, who have put off deciding what to do with their wedding dress :)

What did you do with your wedding gown?  If you still have yours, what are you planning to do with it? Have you heard of angel gowns before?

Happy organizing!

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