Sunday, February 27, 2011

Donating Your Wedding Dress

wedding gown being sold by Goodwill

White satin dress with train, worn once, pristine condition.
The wedding and the marriage have been perfect, but she feels it criminal to put the dress away where it will never be worn again, so she offers someone else a sliver of the joy she has.

-- From the poem "14 Sentences On Goodwill Wedding Dresses" by Diana Heidem; I highly recommend you go read the whole thing on Manolo for the Brides

While some brides opt to rent their wedding gowns, many brides purchase their dresses. And perhaps, some time later, a bride might decide that she just doesn't need to keep the dress any more. What to do? There are a number of places to sell wedding gowns - but for today, let's focus on donations.

This post was inspired by my cousin Wendy Robins, who told me her story: "I sent my wedding dress to Israel with our rabbi's wife. She donated it to a place that provides gowns for brides who cannot afford one. I'm sure there are organizations here that do the same. It made me feel good to help another bride on her special day." [e-mail message quoted by permission]

And yes indeed, there are organizations here in the U.S. that make good use of wedding gown donations. The most well-known one is probably Brides Against Breast Cancer, which is currently seeking "contemporary gown styles, slips and veils dating from 2005 until the present day." Gowns sold by BABC raise funds for the Making Memories Breast Cancer Foundation. Update on Feb. 5, 2014: BABC now wants items dating from 2009 onward.

Another reasonably well-known organization is Brides Across America; this group "will pass on your precious donation to a military bride in need." Gowns must be not more than three years old.

There are a number of less well-known groups, too. For example, The Brides’ Project "has two very important purposes: to provide every bride with the things she needs for a beautiful wedding within her budget, and to support cancer charities by donating all our profits." However, you won't get a tax receipt from this group, because it's a "third party fundraiser." Gowns older than five years are accepted, but may be "used for alternative purposes" if the group determines they are unlikely to sell.

If you want your wedding gown to go to good use - but not necessarily as a gown for another bride - consider the Mary Madeline Project. As the project's web site explains: "We are a non-profit organization that donates infant / baby burial gowns and blankets to hospitals for bereaving parents. Women donate their cherished wedding gowns to the project and volunteers give of their time, talents and love by making the baby burial gowns and blankets."

Then there are the big-name charities you may not think of right away. In the U.K., you can donate your wedding dress to Oxfam. "Not only do your donations give another bride the opportunity to wear a fabulous dress that they might otherwise be unable to buy, the money raised by the sale really can make a difference to people living in extreme poverty."

And of course, as the opening poem suggests, consider Goodwill. As Lorie Marrero points out, "Each regional Goodwill member agency is autonomously operated" - so you'll need to check with yours to find out just how things work. Dresses may be sold at the stores or online.

Echoing the sentiment of that opening poem, Andrea DeBell of Britetalk comments on the Project 333 blog: "Even though I looooved my wedding dress, right after our honeymoon I put the dress in its original bag and sent it to Goodwill. I knew I wasn’t going to use it again so I wanted to share it with someone else that maybe couldn’t afford a nice dress. My dress made my wedding day special and I hope it did the same for someone else."

This post comes from Jeri's Organizing & Decluttering News; please see the copyright information included there.


Heather Ahern said...

Great information! Once again Jeri, your blog will be the subject of discussion for many people this week. Thanks.

Julie Bestry said...

The only way this post could have been more perfect is if you'd written it two weeks ago. My mother's cousin is downsizing and was trying to find someplace to donate her 45-year-old (read: non-vintage, just old) wedding dress, but Brides Against Breast Cancer and Brides Across America were both out, due to the age of the dress. I think she did finally opt for Goodwill, but I'm definitely bookmarking your excellent post for the next time this subject arises.

As always, Jeri, you rock!

Lee said...

This is a lovely idea. So many of my sons' friends have a tight wedding budget and the bride's gown can take a big chunk of funds. I did see a gown in a charity thrift shop about a year ago and hoped that a bride was able to enjoy it.

This is a true act of generosity, as personally, my wedding gown has been part of my sentimental clutter.

In a similar vein, Craig's List - Kansas City, MO had a listing within the last few days for free new and gently used prom dresses at an event sponsered by a local church. They also will have experienced seamstresses on site who will alter the dress to perfectly fit the recipient. No proof of income is required. I've read of similar events where shoes, bags, and undergarments are also offered.

I wore my prom dresses many times while I was in college out of financial need, but never felt embarrassed and was thrilled that I could be thrifty. My sons' girlfriends would rarely wear a cocktail dress or formal a second time. I'm happy to hear that there are programs that encourage girls to donate (and in return, they don't have to deal with the clutter) and that deserving girls and women get a break.

Jeri Dansky said...

Such interesting comments - thank you all! I must have the world's best readers.

Heather, if this post triggers some discussion and thought, I'll be delighted.

Julie, I hadn't realized until I was writing this post that Brides Against Breast Cancer and Brides Across America required relatively new gowns - so I was glad to find other places to donate older wedding dresses. I imagine many brides are like your cousin - not ready to part with the gowns in those first years, but ready to do so later on.

Lee, what a nice thing your local church is doing. There are indeed a number of organizations that help with prom dresses, such as the ones listed here.

Anonymous said...

The military bride site, Brides Across America, only takes sizes 14 and up. Bummer! At 10 years out, mine is too old for Brides Against Breast Cancer. They are only accepting 2007 and newer now. Thanks for the other options. I think I will go with Goodwill if they sell online. It's a small dress, so it won't fit many people.

Margaret Lukens said...

So many great resources, Jeri! You come up with lots of timeless options for donating. Thanks for sharing.