Preserving your gown, cake,
flowers and photos

Story by Randi Jo Gause

If you’ve spent countless hours planning your big day – from the dress to the flowers – why say goodbye to those special wedding day details the minute you whisk off to your honeymoon?

Fortunately, there are plenty of products and services to help you savor the most special elements of your wedding day for years and years to come. Here are a few of the most popular – don’t feel pressure to do them all; just pick what’s important to you and spend accordingly.

The Dress

The wedding dress remains one of life’s cruelest ironies: the most expensive item of clothing you own will only be worn once.

Although it may seem somewhat silly to drop dollars on preserving a wedding dress, the amount of money and time spent on finding that perfect gown make dress preservation an appropriate way to protect your investment. Methods range from self-storage to professional preservation.

Although no bridal shops in Alaska offer in-house services for preserving your gown, many will send the dress to a vendor in the Lower 48, which will professionally preserve the dress, a process that typically involves cleaning the dress, packaging it in a vacuum sealed bag, and placing inside a box. The packaging method prevents mildew, stains and general wear and tear. The process can cost anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on the company, and the method often comes with a guarantee and/or warranty on the preservation of the dress.

If you’re strapped for cash and opt to store the dress yourself, always have your dress professionally dry cleaned as soon as possible after the wedding. Diane Tresham from Arctic Rose Fine Fashions & Bridal Boutique recommends waiting no longer than six months after the wedding to do so.

“If you don’t dry clean your wedding gown,” she explains, “invisible stains will appear later from body lotions, deodorant or body oils.”

Also be sure to store the dress in a dark, dry area to prevent mildew and water damage. Who knows – you may see your daughter walk down the aisle in that dress one day.

The Photographs

Long after the final flash of your wedding day fades, the memories live on in timeless photographs.

Lucky for us, digital photography allows us to harness endless amounts of information compactly and permanently. In addition to allowing couples to store wedding photos, it also provides a simple and inexpensive method for distributing wedding photos to friends and relatives.

If you want to make the most of your printed photographs, though, a different set of rules apply. Some photo foes are obvious, including water or rough handling, but others are less apparent.

One of the biggest taboos when displaying photographs is leaving them in direct sunlight. To prevent disintegration due to the heat, place photos in a shaded place. Many photo frames also come with UV-blocking glass to combat the sun.

Be sure photographs are not pressed against the glass in their frames. Bill Zervantian from Farrar Photography notes, “If you try to take a photo out of a glass frame after an extended period of time, you’ll peel off parts of the picture.”

A less destructive method for displaying framed photos is to use photo spacers in order to leave a gap between the glass and the photo itself.

When displaying prints in photo albums, be sure to use albums with acid-free materials for optimal shelf life.

The Cake

Between all of the mingling and dancing, you may not have the opportunity (or stomach) to truly savor that 3-tiered, fondant-covered wedding cake.

Luckily, saving the top tier of the cake to enjoy on your first anniversary is a sentimental – and tasty – tradition. And who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a tradition that allows you to eat an entire cake in one sitting?

There is an array of recommendations for preserving your cake. Kory Guarderas, the owner of Superstar Pastry Design, shares her own personal method: First, pop it in the freezer overnight, so the decorations become firm. Then, wrap in Glad Press ‘n’ Seal, followed by tin foil, and place back into its original box. Next, wrap the box using the same method, then freeze it.

When you take the cake out to thaw, unwrap, put it back in the box, and wrap in Saran Wrap while it thaws in the refrigerator. This will prevent condensation from forming on the cake itself.

Certain cakes tend to fare worse than others, including white cake and those with fresh fruit or whipped cream fillings.

But despite all the best efforts, it is likely that any cake will be a bit stale after a year, which is why many couples opt to recreate the top tier of their original wedding cake specifically for their one-year anniversary celebration. In fact, many cake designers offer to recreate the top tier for free, or for a small fee, when you purchase your wedding cake.

Amanda Hebert, owner of Simply Sweet Cake Design explains, “Having it re-made will ensure freshness and it can be made in a more appropriate size for the couple.”

Either way, you’re guaranteed an anniversary that, well, takes the cake.

The Bouquet

One of the wedding items most often preserved is the bouquet, and today there are several options available.

The three primary choices include silica gel, which uses a sandy gel to dry the bouquet quickly; pressing, which involves flattening the flowers and/or petals for presentation in an album or photo frame; and freeze drying, which involves spraying the bouquet with starch and freeze-drying in its original form.

At right: Wedding bouquet preservation by Anchorage’s Suspended in Time

Anchorage’s Suspended In Time offers a unique proprietary blend to dry the flowers. “The method is quick and maintains the flowers’ lifelike shape, color and integrity,” says owner Kim Wilcox. “The flowers are pliable to a degree and will not shatter when handled.”

Depending on the method, costs can range from $50 to $300, but with proper care, the bouquets will last a lifetime.

In order to keep your flowers in optimal condition for whichever preservation process you choose, be sure to refrigerate your flowers immediately following the wedding.

Also consider purchasing a separate “tossing bouquet,” in order to save the original from the occasionally barbaric bouquet toss.

So before your long-dreamed-of day comes and goes, think about ways to preserve those cherished items that made your day so special. While they may not last quite as long as your eternal love for one another, you can rest assured that they’ll weather the test of time.