Your wedding gown is probably the single, most important purchase you make. It’s that special dress about which every little girl dreams. It is quite possibly the most expensive item of clothing you will ever buy and it has all the joy, excitement and memories of your special day, all wrapped up in it. It is the sentimental value that motivates many brides toward wanting to keep the gown preserved.

Whether you want to keep your gown for use in the future, by a friend or even by your own daughter, once you have made the decision, you need to find a professional who will clean, process and store your gown, so that it really lasts. If your intentions are serious, this is not the place to look for inexpensive alternative and there are several steps you should follow to ensure that your intentions are met.

Make your decision early enough so that you don’t wait more than any longer than a few weeks to have your gown (and accessories) cleaned professionally. Any stains you may have will set if allowed to stand longer than several weeks. Next, select a wedding gown cleaner/preserver with an impeccable reputation. Follow the same rules in selecting this professional as you do in selecting all the professionals who will assist in your wedding. It’s best to choose a shop that has been in business for a long time. Since gowns are preserved for wearing again at some future date, a new shop will have no proven track record. Once you have made your choice, ask about warrantees and guarantees. They vary significantly from shop to shop. Also ask about what precautions the cleaner will take for delicate trims and decorations.

The process of preserving your gown and accessories begins with pretreating the stains, by hand. It’s helpful if you look over the items before you bring them to the shop, so you can share the location of “hidden” stains. A professional cleaner will know to look for “invisible” stains from products like alcohol and sugar which, if not pretreated, will blossom as full-fledged stains during the cleaning procedure. Sugar, for example, when heated, will caramelize and appear as dark brown spots.

Once the gown and accessories are dry cleaned, they will be placed in a special lined. specially treated, acid-free box, resistant to water and insect invasions. Always inspect your gown thoroughly before it is sealed in an acid-free container. Wedding gowns or gown containers/boxes sealed in plastic are poor choices. Plastic keeps moisture trapped and ultimately emits fumes which can yellow the gown. Don’t be shy about asking your cleaning professional about the methods he or she uses.

You should pay special attention to where the box is stored. Lay the box flat and keep it out of direct sunlight. A cool place is preferable. Never store your gown in a damp basement or hot attic. Check the gown once or twice a year. Refold along new lines to protect the fabric from breaking. Keep handing to a minimum and always do your touching with clean, dry hands.

If properly processed, your wedding gown should be preserved for years to come, along with all the wonderful memories it will bring back to you in the future.