If you need to fly with a dress for a destination wedding, or because you’ve found one at a great price abroad, or because you’ve just fallen in love with a beauty somewhere far away, or maybe because you live somewhere else and want to get the most important gown of your life in your home city, don’t stress.
As a wedding planner and a former destination bride myself, this is my tried and tested advice:
1. Your dress is to be carried on, not checked: There are all sorts of horror stories of dresses being lost, stolen, and damaged. Your dress is meant to be carried on only…. unless the idea of getting a new dress doesn’t give you cold sweats.
2. When to book a seat for your dress: You might be laughing here and thinking I am a bit crazy. BUT, when you have a big dress (i.e., any type of full skirt) or something very delicate (e.g., beading that will catch if folded) AND you are on a small plane (these are usually short domestic flights or short EU flights) then you should consider purchasing your dress its own seat. Small planes just don’t have the closet capacity to hang wedding dresses. So, if someone gets any closet space before you, your dress will get folded and shoved in those insy-tinsy luggage racks above your head. I did not book a seat from Chicago to London but did book a seat from London to Italy. Both were the right decisions.
To book a seat for your dress, call the airline and tell them you need to book a seat for “cabin baggage” which is a wedding dress. You may need the approximate weight and dimensions of your garment bag with your dress inside. And, be prepared for this to take a few call backs. Airlines are just rubbish at booking cabin baggage seats. BUT, the good news is the seat should only cost 50%-75% of the price of a human seat.
3. Call ahead: Call your airline ahead of time, explain you’ll be bringing on a wedding dress and ask what the best way is to do that. Sometimes they will be very nice and sometimes they won’t. Their answer will most likely be that they will try to find a closet in the business or first class cabin to hang it in but it is on a first come, first serve basis. It doesn’t matter what they say because what actually happens to your dress all comes down to the discretion of the stewardess you meet on the plane. But, the point is to ask them to put a notation on your ticket that says you are traveling with a wedding dress. When you get to the airport everyone you meet is likely to be a tiny bit nicer to you because you’ve made that effort to call ahead.
4. Now is the time to upgrade: If you have points or you have the funds, now is the time to upgrade your cabin. If you are on a big international plane, you can rest assure your dress will be taken care of if you are in business or first class. However, this doesn’t apply on smaller planes. Business/first class doesn’t mean anything because the plane still doesn’t have the room to store your dress neatly. So, go back to point #2 and consider booking your dress a seat on a small plane.
5. Double Bag: On that thrilling day you leave with your wedding dress, tell your store that you are going to be flying with your dress so that they can correctly bag it. Usually the bodice should be stuffed to hold its shape, there should be a plastic layer to keep liquids out (NOTE: if your dress has a seat, keep it off the floor in case someone spills a drink in front of you) and then 1-2 layers of a breathable fabric bag. When your dress safely arrives on the other end of your journey, take it out and hang it with a clean sheet underneath (in case it falls). Keep away your beloved pets and follow any other directions your store has given you!
6. Getting to your terminal: Sometimes, if you are REALLY, REALLY nice and you smile SUPER sweetly (which, honestly is a good thing to do through this whole process because whether or not someone helps you is always in their discretion), the person who checks you in can give a friend/family member a boarding pass to get them through security to walk to the gate with you. Since I was traveling alone with my dress and several other carry-ons, this was an incredible help to me when an airline rep did this for my dad to help me carry my heavy dress to the plane.
Also, this never occurred to me until I was actually standing at security, but your dress has to go through the security scanner. So, bag that baby up good, lay her down flat and carefully guide your precious package through the scanner. Don’t worry, the security people actually usually smile when they see a wedding dress and are usually really helpful. And, isn’t nice to bring a little cheer to someone’s day?
7. Don’t forget about the front and back end of your flight: Don’t forget to have a taxi/friend/car waiting for you. After lugging your dress around through immigration, customs, waiting for baggage, etc. etc., your arm is going to be tired!
And once your dress is hanging safely (and it will arrive safely, I promise) on the other end, relax after that long journey, feel those butterflies in your stomach and get ready for what is going to be the most amazing day of your life!
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