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Meredith Holt, Published October 03 2013

Trunk it or junk it? What to do with your wedding dress after ‘I do’

FARGO - So much stress is put into “the dress,” but what do you do with it after you say “I do”?

Some brides carefully clean and preserve their wedding dresses for keepsake or future generations. Others trash ’em for the camera.

Here are a handful of ideas from local brides and people who work in the wedding industry:

Wear it again

Why not?

That’s what Lisa Schuster and her friends and family thought.

Schuster, her mother and about a dozen other women took their dresses out of their garment bags and put them on one more time for a group brides’ night out.

“There were five of us girls who wanted to do it, then it turned into 10, then 15,” says Schuster, 28, of Minto.

They started the night with cake and punch, then took a party bus to small-town bars near Grand Forks.

The women had so much fun they plan to do it again.

“I think we definitely have started something. Everybody’s on board to do it year after year,” Schuster says.

She also has a friend who wore her wedding dress on her anniversary while she cooked dinner for her husband.

‘Trash’ it

Rumored to have started with a Vegas photographer in the early 2000s, “trash the dress” shoots give brides free rein.

Fargo-based photographer Shawn Coulter was one of the first in the area to offer them, and he’s still doing them.

“Some of the stuff seems so ridiculous, but it turns out really cool,” he says.

He’s had brides rolling around on the beach, posing in the water, riding a Jet Ski, working under a truck, leaning on a bulldozer, all in the name of fun, fashionable photos.

The sessions are booked separate from wedding packages and typically shot a few weeks or months after the actual ceremony.

“Basically I get to shoot what I really want to shoot on the wedding day without restrictions,” Coulter says.

There are no time restraints, no guests to seat, and the whole thing’s much more relaxed.

Plus, he says most of the brides’ dresses come clean afterward so they can still be saved.

Stacey Larson, 35, of Fargo, first heard about trash-the-dress shoots when her friend did one, and she decided to do one, too.

She posed in a park, on train tracks and in a patch of dandelions.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I want to save it for my daughter,’ but it seems like most people these days want their own dress anyway, and I don’t have a daughter, so it wouldn’t have mattered,” she says.

Repurpose it

Maria Simon of Fargo-based Sew Special turns wedding dresses into christening gowns.

“I could not make myself cut a wedding gown unless it was for another heirloom,” she says.

She primarily alters wedding dresses and prom dresses, but during the off-season she has time to repurpose the gowns.

Twin sisters Kaja and Zoe Foat of Foat Design in Minneapolis also work with heirloom dresses.

They incorporate elements of old dresses into new ones, using the bride’s vision as a guide.

“They don’t necessarily like the dress – it might not even fit them – but they like the idea of using parts of history,” Kaja Foat says.

The designers can also start from scratch and offer off-the-rack, too.

If you’re crafty and not too worried about what happens to your dress or its parts, try a DIY craft like a bear or a pillow.

Preserve it

If you don’t know what you want to do with it but you know you want to keep it, your best bet is to have it cleaned and preserved.

Rhonda Bauer, receiving manager for David’s Bridal in West Fargo, learned that the hard way.

Her wedding dress, which was originally her stepmom’s, is hanging in her closet, and it’s not in good shape.

“It’s not something my daughter will even be able to use a part of,” she says.

So, the sooner, the better.

David’s offers preservation kits for $189.99 or $99 if you buy it the same day as your dress.

The price of cleaning and preservation ranges at Fargo’s Wedding Elegance, but brides get $25 off if they bought their dress at the store.

Brides who bought their dresses from Alan Evans Bridal in Moorhead get $50 off preservation through partner Tip Top Tux, which sends dresses to Marshall, Minn., to undergo the process.

The discount also applies to brides whose grooms rented tuxes from the shop.

Kacie Weber, area leader for Tip Top Tux, advises brides to bring their dresses in when they return their tuxedos.

“The longer you wait, the more the stains set in and the harder they are to get out,” she says.

You can also work directly with a dress preservation company like BridalKare International (www.myweddinggownpreservation.com).

Based in Buffalo, N.Y., BridalKare sells kits with a lifetime warranty for $119 plus $17 shipping.

Even preserved, don’t keep your dress in a musty basement, unless it’s in a plastic tub with a lid, Bauer recommends.

Donate or sell it

None of the local consignment shops take wedding dresses, but there are plenty of online charities that do.

Brides Against Breast Cancer (www.bridesagainstbreastcancer.org) accepts donations from designers, manufacturers, bridal shops and individuals, including slips and veils.

BABC’s Nationwide Tour of Gowns raises $2 million for cancer support programs annually.

Gently used designer gowns can be dropped off at one of the organization’s events (the next and nearest is Nov. 1-2 in Minneapolis) or mailed to their headquarters.

Dresses are available in sizes 4 to 18, with an average price of $600.

Other charities that take used wedding dresses include:

• Brides for Haiti: www.st-josephs-haiti.com

• Brides Across America: www.bridesacrossamerica.com

• The Bridal Garden: http://bridalgarden.org

• Wish Upon a Wedding: http://wishuponawedding.org

• St. Anthony’s Bridal: www.stanthonysbridal.com.

If you’d like to get some cash back for your dress, check out Tradesy (www.tradesy.com).

The online style hub allows users to list new and gently used dresses. When a sale is made, they keep 9 percent and the rest goes to the seller via Paypal.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590