Eight days before my October wedding, I will fly from Logan Airport to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport with precious cargo. My fiance will be on the plane, too, but I’m referring to my wedding dress.
Thanks to modern technology, it’s been fairly straightforward to plan a wedding from nearly 1,000 miles and one time zone away. We’ve flown only when necessary, like to taste dessert (worth it), used Instagram to choose a photographer, e-mailed about flowers, and plan to Skype with our rabbi.
But for my wedding dress, I’m taking the old-fashioned route: hand delivery.
Brides who got married last year spent an average of $1,509 on their gowns, according to The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study. Beyond throwing down an exorbitant amount of money on a very important piece of clothing, a bride goes through a detailed alteration process. Julie Centofanti, bridal manager at Allegria Bridal in Belmont, said most women require two to three fittings leading up to the big day. It makes sense for me to have these in Boston rather than fly partway across the country each time, and then to get my dress to Chicago for the wedding.
As I tried on gowns one January afternoon with my mom and best friend in a Newbury Street bridal salon, the sweet attendant asked how I planned to do that last part.
“Oh, I’ll ship it in a big box,” I naively replied, unaware of all the stress and planning to come.
Eyes grew wide.
With shipping, “nine out of 10 times nothing would happen,” Centofanti said as I researched this article, “but we have either had packages delayed to us or lost with us, and usually if you’re shipping something, it’s within days of your wedding.”
The moral of the story: “We always recommend flying with it, keeping it in your possession,” Centofanti told me.
Brides travel with their wedding dresses all the time — in 2017, 23 percent of couples got married 200 miles or more from their home, according to The Knot study. Centofanti said to help traveling brides, Allegria packs each dress in a protective, fabric bridal bag you can’t see through. The dress is also stuffed with a bust form so that it’s not easily crushed or wrinkled. If you need to get your dress into a carry-on, Allegria will pack it for you by rolling, rather than folding, it into thirds.
And yes, TSA says your wedding dress is permitted through the security checkpoint.
“We do recommend that it is packed safely in a garment-style bag or other packaging to protect it during the screening process,” the agency said in a statement. “If for some reason the dress cannot fit through the checkpoint x-ray machine for screening, alternate screening procedures will be taken to clear the dress and the garment bag will need to be opened for inspection. We also recommend that travelers contact their airline for their policy on bringing and stowing the dress on the airplane, as well as ensuring it adhere to their carry-on bag limitations.”
TSA assistant press secretary Michelle M. Negron wrote in an e-mail that alternate screening procedures include “opening the garment bag and manually inspecting the dress and also may include conducting an Explosive Trace Detection test.”
The day Christine Querido Thaagaard flew out of Boston with her wedding dress, “I just put it on the security belt. It went through the X-ray machine,” she said. “It was obnoxiously big. You would think that people would be looking at you and being like, ‘Is that a wedding dress?’ But no, nobody cared.”
‘[The flight attendants] were all like obsessed with the fact that I was having another wedding and obsessed with the fact that it was a wedding dress and were so nice and took it for me and brought it up into the captain’s closet.’
Thaagaard grew up in Kennebunkport, Maine, and that’s where she and her Danish husband held their first wedding on Aug. 6, 2016. Yes, first. On Aug. 15, they hitched an international flight, and then another, in order to tie the knot again on Aug. 20, this time in Denmark, where they live.
Thaagaard wore the same dress for both weddings, and she was worried about how it would make it to part two.
“My mom was a flight attendant for US Airways when it was still US Airways, and she kept assuring me, ‘Oh, it’s not going to be a problem,’ but it’s just so stressful,” Thaagaard said.
While she said that people at security were indifferent and the Delta gate agents were unhelpful, “the flight attendants were amazing,” Thaagaard said. “They were all like obsessed with the fact that I was having another wedding and obsessed with the fact that it was a wedding dress and were so nice and took it for me and brought it up into the captain’s closet.”
Thaagaard’s flight attendants on her KLM connection also hung up her dress. That seems to be the best-case scenario.
For Delaney Ross, it was not so easy.
When she flew from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco for her Napa wedding this past April, she decided to pack her wedding dress in her now-husband’s military duffel.
“He said he’d taken it as a carry-on before, and just to kind of protect it and have an easy way to carry it, I rolled up my wedding dress and put it in there,” Ross said.
While the couple was waiting to board their plane, something went awry. Ross said she heard an announcement that made her think there wasn’t any room left for carry-ons, and so she went up to the gate agents to explain exactly what she was planning to carry on. A lot of confusion and “begging” ensued. In the end, Ross was able to take her dress on the plane, but the experience was “horrible,” she said.
Her advice to flying brides is, “Don’t give them any reason to question you. So make sure you don’t buy a basic economy ticket, make sure your dress can fit in an overhead compartment if you need it to. . . . Just get it in a garment bag that will roll.”
This tracks with the advice I’ve heard and read while researching this article: Arrive at the airport early and speak with the gate agents ASAP to see if taking advantage of your plane’s closet situation is a possibility. If you’re able to, book tickets that allow for early boarding. This is especially useful on, say, JetBlue, Logan’s largest carrier, which doesn’t have closets for hanging items in its A320 or E190, and says closets on the A321 are for onboard wheelchair stowage. No matter what airline you’re on and how much you plan, you might have to make do by, for example, trying to find space in overhead bins. The more time you give yourself, the better.
Even when you do hit the ground, you’ll want to find the highest point: Hang your dress from something like a curtain rod or ceiling fan, Centofanti said. Unzip the bag, and if you have a long train or full skirt, remove the dress. While gowns typically travel well, she said hotels will usually have a steamer available — borrow that if your dress gets a bit wrinkly en route.Alison Goldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.