I'm constantly being asked for tips about how to transport a wedding gown to a destination wedding in the easiest and safest way possible. Is it okay to ship? Is that absolutely taboo? How do they fit that huge garment bag on the plane? It's a real concern, especially for brides who've invested literally thousands of dollars in a designer wedding gown for their special day. And airline carry-on restrictions haven't made things any easier.
How do you think wedding gowns get from the manufacturer to the bridal shop? It's perfectly safe to ship your wedding gown to your destination IF YOU HAVE SOMEBODY TO RECEIVE IT ON THE OTHER END. I don't mean the banquet manager at some random hotel -- I mean a wedding planner or a specific vendor you trust or who is handling all of your other shipments. To send it blind to a hotel or rental agency is foolish as you have nobody to hold accountable when you arrive and nobody can find the box. Don't risk it.
But if you do have a landing point you trust at your destination, shipping your wedding gown works just fine. Just following these five tips:
1) Make sure you know which shippers service your destination on which days -- not everybody comes to our island every day, for example. Oftentimes, the U.S. Postal Service remains your best bet. Coordinate this with the person you're shipping to and if they tell you to use one particular company, listen to them! They have no motive to lie. Just because you can get away with sending it out free from your company's corporate account doesn't make it a good idea if you've been told that shipper is not particularly reliable at your destination.
2) Let your bridal shop pack your wedding gown into the box for you after your final fitting, and then do not take it out. Resist the urge to model it again because you will never get all that tissue paper back exactly where it needs to go for your dress to arrive in good condition. Do not attempt to pack your gown yourself if you're buying it someplace -- they have the boxes and the know-how to stuff it properly. Your bridal shop may argue with you and tell you that it's not safe to mail it, but you are the customer. It's their job to give you the dress however you request it. Some boutiques will kindly mail it for you (and bill you through the wazoo for it). You're better off mailing it yourself so you can make sure it's done properly.
3) Label the box "WEDDING GOWN" in huge letters all over, and write the receiver's phone number on it in several locations. Delivery people are human beings with feelings, and most of them will take extra special care if they know they're carrying your wedding gown.
4) Insure the box for as much money as possible. U.S. Mail maxes out at $5,000. Other shippers have different restrictions. If your dress cost more than $5,000, consider using those. Otherwise, insure that dress to the hilt. I firmly believe that they treat well-insured packages better than they do regular old parcel post with no insurance. And insurance isn't that expensive.
5) Send your wedding gown via the fastest shipping method available. High priority mail is treated better, moves faster and is less likely to end up on the bottom of a pile for days with heavy packages on top of it. Make sure the person receiving your dress on the other end is well aware that it's on its way, and how it's coming. Then stay in touch until it arrives.
If you're sending your gown to your wedding planner, you can ask her to take it out of the bag and hang it up when it arrives. A tropical climate's humidity might just steam out any wrinkles before you've even arrived. If you're sending it to a stranger, have them leave it in the sealed box because you have no idea where they're going to be storing it or if there's a big hairy black dog hanging around nearby to shed on it.
Don't forget to pack a portable steamer or iron -- check with the bridal shop to see what the best method is for touching up your gown and veil if necessary. They know their products best and can give you the best advice. Be prepared ahead of time. If your destination is remote, you could be out of luck trying to borrow a steam at the last minute.