My Minimalist Wedding Dress

I recently received an email from a reader named Elise, who wrote: “You mentioned that you are married. I’d love to know what you have done with your wedding dress and other keepsakes.”

Great question, Elise! After the big day, many women struggle with how to store the “dress of their dreams”—as well as all the other stuff they accumulated from the ceremony and celebration.

Fortunately, I was a minimalist before I got married—and knew I could never manage to drag around a big, bulky, and delicate garment for the rest of my life. My husband and I also wanted little to do with the usual marriage accoutrements (favors, invitations, albums, cake, presents, and the like.)

Therefore, instead of a traditional wedding, we eloped and got married in Iceland. Now, as many of you know, I’m an inveterate carry-on traveler—and I was not about to make an exception for this occasion (especially considering the dilemma I’d have if my luggage was lost!) Getting married abroad, therefore, presented a unique packing challenge: how to transport a dress, shoes, and other accessories in my carry-on bag.

An over-the-top, white satin “princess” dress, complete with veil and train, were obviously out of the question (and not really my style anyway). To top it off, I had little shopping time; we had only a month to do all the requisite paperwork, and get ourselves together, before departure. (As you may have surmised, my husband and I are pretty spontaneous and not particularly adept at long-term planning).

I had one requirement for a wedding dress: that it fit in a standard-size ziplock bag, for easy, no-worry transport. Fortunately, I found just such a garment: a cocktail-length lace dress in pale blue and gold. It folded down to practically nothing, and the fabric showed no wrinkles. I accessorized it with a long white cardigan (it’s cold in Iceland!), and some kitten heels that were slim enough to fit in my toiletry bag.

After a short and sweet ceremony, we sent out postcards of Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland, and city in which we were married) to announce our wedded bliss. In lieu of a reception, we went for a nighttime dip in the Blue Lagoon. By keeping things simple, we deftly sidestepped the barrage of gifts that usually accompanies such an event: china, flatware, fondue sets, linens, small appliances, etc. (We already had a furnished household, and certainly didn’t need any more stuff!) Friends and family were content to treat us to dinner, and bottles of wine and champagne, after we returned home.

Therefore, the only “keepsake” we have to store is our marriage certificate. Our photos are all digital, and my dress is now part of my regular wardrobe. We have no “wedding china,” “wedding linens,” or other sentimental “wedding things” that we’ll feel obligated to keep for the rest of our lives.

My advice to single minimalists: if you take the plunge, keep it simple. Otherwise, you may accumulate a lifetime’s worth of stuff in just one day!

I’d love to hear how others have dealt with wedding dresses, gifts, and other keepsakes!

104 comments to My Minimalist Wedding Dress

  • Great article.

    My wife and I had a minimalist wedding as well. We got married at a public beach here, on a sunny day. My sister-in-law was best man, maid of honor, ring-bearer, and flower girl. The only other people in attendance were our parents. We in white, soft cotton (clothes we already had) and went barefoot. The wedding was officiated by a local, non-denominational minister. It was a very personal ceremony which was exactly what we wanted.

    Afterwards, we had the reception at my in-laws.

    I think the total cost of the wedding was $200. According to this source, the average cost s a wedding in the US is $19,581. So I reckon we saved about $19,381!

    I understand this kind of ceremony isn’t for everyone, but I can’t count the amount of people who have said “I wish we had done that kind of wedding instead.”


  • Lizette T.

    1977 — A True Story: My husband-to-be and I were planning on a small but “proper” wedding at a Baptist church, when he received a sudden invitation to sail across the ocean to Ireland on a 40-foot sailboat (a life-long dream of his). Only problem: if he said yes, he’d be halfway across the ocean on our wedding day. I urged “yes” (you only live once, after all!), and off he went!

    We agreed that I would meet him in Dublin, and that we’d figure out some way to get married in Ireland. That’s exactly how it happened, but unpractical me had not given a moment’s thought to what I would wear at the wedding (which had just the minister, his wife, and two witnesses present). I rushed out to shop for a dress half an hour before the stores closed, and picked out a yellow-flowered sundress, which I wore over a pretty white blouse I’d brought with me.

    After the wedding, we went to the American Embassy to have my name changed on my passport, and to send postcards home announcing our union. We spent a month traveling all over the British Isles at will, staying at bed-and-breakfasts and spending very little.

    After returning home, inspiration struck again: Paint the kitchen! I happened to be wearing the cute little yellow sundress, which of course got paint all over it — which probably goes to show that I’m more of a savage than a minimalist.

    I’m in my late 50’s now and am moving next week — with way too much stuff in my apartment! (Bought your book, though, “The Joy of Less.)

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Victoria Vargas. Victoria Vargas said: RT @missminimalist: One year ago: My Minimalist Wedding Dress: (It fits into a ziplock bag!) […]

  • Lucille

    Sadly, the Brides for Breast Cancer group are only accepting gowns from 2005 to the present day. My gown is from 1998, but I wouldn’t think it dated—very simple, off the shoulder, silk, no embellishments except some beading on the bodice. I feel bummed now. I’d bet someone would like it. I wonder what I can do with it now… Most of the comments thus far have been people who WERE minimalist at their wedding, but I’m still wondering, since I wasn’t (at least with the gown, ha!) what I can do with it now? (I do have it in one of those special boxes, having had it cleaned and such after the wedding).

  • clm

    Just recently I got the go ahead from my husband to take my dress to good will. Sounds crazy, but I’m not going to wear it again…I don’t know anyone who does the ‘mom’s dress’ thing. Someone should enjoy it for something (wedding, re-purposed sewing project, Halloween, etc)! As for the other stuff, a few years ago we moved across the country and left somethings behind and as we unpacked the boxes in our new city we made further cuts. Secretly, I look forward to moving in the future, so we can cull more things out.

  • We had a minimalist wedding quite by accident via elopement as well. That was nearly fifteen years ago and I have never regretted it.

    Not to mention that of all the hoopla and planning friends and family go through to have a “memorable” wedding, the one that STILL garners the most comments and is “remembered” is ours – because it was a surprise to all!

  • Shelly

    Good article. I’ve never thought of my wedding as minimalist. I got married in Vegas. My husband’s best friend and his g/f wanted to elope, so my then b/f thought it would be fun to go as “best man”. Then he popped the question so to speak. I was 22, we’ve been married 31 years. The friend was married 9 months. We had a small reception courtesy of our parents. I never felt cheated about not having the dress, flowers, etc. No ring either. We did have our marriage blessed in the Catholic Church before our 1st child was born. We’ve never been back to Vegas.

  • KMA

    Please, please tell me where I can find that dress or something like it. Please and Thank you!

  • Deniz

    at Turkish weddings there are no gifts – just money and gold. after all thats what a newly married couple really needs

  • Heidi

    how did you like the late 1990s minimalist (especially in fashions)era?

  • Liz Gerstung

    I had mine dry cleaned and boxed for 9-10 years…thinking our little girls would one day wear it. But how often does that really happen?! Our church was going down to Jamaica to do some work and missions and they said that many of the young women getting married don’t have wedding dresses – PERFECT! I got out the dress/veil/shoes and brought it to church without any hesitation! I know it was used and GREATLY appreciated! I hope that it has been passed around multiple times to help someone else feel beautiful on their wedding day!

  • Karli

    I plan on having a nudist wedding, if I ever actually get married. Ultimate minimal!

  • SarahR

    I love reading your articles and especially this one, as I’m marrying a pilot and we’re debating wether to have a small wedding here in CO, or toss a dress into a carry on and just skip right to the honeymoon and do the vows on the way.

    I thought I’d let you know though that a portion of your blog has been reprinted elsewhere without giving you credit.…dresses/fashion-minimalist-wedding-dress- formodern-women/ – Cached
    I know it would be an issue for me if someone were to incorporate my work.

    • Jennifer

      I live in CO as well and in this state, you don’t need an officiant. We married ourselves. You don’t even need witnesses! Friends of ours took a hike and declared themselves married on the top of a 14er.

  • […] to lunch to salsa quite smoothly. It’s not as pretty as this lady’s wedding dress (link here), but reduced to $24 from $150, from my favorite brand (Esprit), and machine-washable, I think I […]

  • J-gurl & MoMo

    I loved the article. My husband and I are also “short notice” kinda people. We chose to get married on Thursday and did the deed on the following Tuesday – with just my brothers, parents and his brother there. We threw a small party at a local venue with my aunts and uncles, and his close friends. We didnt even wear formal clothing. Just matching blue and black dress-casual clothing. We still wear them to go out on the town. Im so glad to see that there are others out there that didnt choose to go “all-out” and in debt just to prove something to others, that should just be about the love between you two!

    And awesome dress….I bet you looked amazing

  • Elizabeth

    I just started reading your blog yesterday and I’m loving it. This is a wonderful post. I got married in 2006 in a reasonably small wedding. My husband and I had 50 guests, mainly family, and we got married in a local nature center. We did spend money on a good photographer but all of the photos fit in a standard-size photo box (that was the deal we paid for). My husband wore his military dress uniform and I wore a white dress but not a big fluffy one. It fits in a travel shoe bag (rolled up with tissue paper). So far, I’m keeping it. I bought the fabric for my dress in Korea (where I lived when I met my husband) and had the dress made in Thailand on a week-long vacation there. Since we got married in a different locale than where we were going to be living, most of our gifts were money or gift cards so it was easy to buy things that we really needed and wanted for our new home. No fancy china or crystal for us, just basic everyday dishes. So we managed to keep all the wedding hoopla and stuff to a minimum. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  • I was planning to wear an already owned summer dress in my closet.The day before we got married I tried it on and it didn’t fit. So I simply grabbed a stretchier one from my closet, black, beaded and able to be dressed up or down.DH wore a pair of jeans and a chequered shirt he already owned.We are not a long frock and tiara couple, this was a second marriage for both of us and we wanted a wedding as we wanted it,if you get what I mean ? Being both previously married, we had had the weddings our mothers wanted for us, years before ! LOL . The clothing we wore that day, last year is still in circulation and wearable for many other occasions.

  • Raven

    I am laughing while reading this entry and the comments as I just had a conversation about my wedding dress with my now 21 year old daughter. When I married her father, I had the classic 1980’s princess bride dress with the train that went on forever. After the wedding, I dutifully had the dress professionally cleaned and professionally boxed; and I’ve been lugging that box with me all over the world ever since. It never even occurred to me to get rid of it! I was saving it for my daughter (years before I even knew I would have a daughter LOL ). Fast forward to now – we are selling the big house and downsizing to a small urban apartment, so I asked her about the wedding dress. She looked at me as if I’d grown an extra head and could not believe that I still had the dress. Needless to say, it won’t be going with us to our new home.

  • Henny

    I tried to have as minimal a wedding as I could get away with (without eloping, since our families would have been highly offended), but somehow even the simplest wedding manages to take over and become more than you would wish. Still, I loved it exactly as it was.

    I have thought about ditching my dress for years, and you have inspired me to do so – thank you!

  • Jordan

    My fiancee and I are having a minimalist wedding, well sort of. He and I are going to have a private justice of the peace ceremony just the two of us at the courthouse, on the morning of our 5th anniversary which falls the week of Thanksgiving. Since all of our family and friends will be flying in anyway we will be getting married in my mother’s house on thanksgiving. So we can all sit down to thanksgiving dinner together. We have asked for no gifts since everyone will be flying in on a holiday weekend.

  • Lisa

    I had been carrying my wedding gown for the last year. I was hoping my daughter (10 months ) would want it someday for her wedding. I decided not to keep it. I would have hated MY mom’s dress and i did not want to lay the guilt on my babe for turning me down. I FreeCycled it. The new owner came to pick it up was so excited to have it she got teary eyed and gave me a big hug. Glad to have it gone.

  • Carol L. Davison

    My wealthy girlfriend invited all of her church to her wedding. Because she feared people wouldn’t come because they couldn’t afford gifts, instead she asked all to bring a cassarole instead. To seat everyone, she rented the fireman’s hall and bought 300 paper plates, forks, knives and spons. It was a great wedding. If I ever get married again I would try to get a recycled dress and make people take stuff away like the second toaster.

  • Flannery

    I borrowed a dress from a friend – it fit with some minor alterations. I gave it back to her after so she could use it to make christening gowns for her kids. :)

  • Anna

    My husband and I told anyone who asked where we were registered to send a donation to our favorite local charity instead of a wedding gift. That way we got the best of both worlds – our union contibuted to a social cause and we avoided the 9 electric can openers that my cousin got on his wedding day!

  • Anna

    P.S. My husband wore a suit he already owned, and I bout an off the rack cram cocktail dress for under $100. We got married at a restaurant, so all we had to do was sit down for the reception. We got married on a Friday “off season,” so we had the entire place to ourselves and it was cheaper. Our entire guest list was under 40 people and no attendants. With the money we saved by having a small attendance, we were able to afford a high quality meal and pay for everybody’s alcohol and valet parking. It was th happiest day of my life!

  • I never wanted a white wedding & have been married before, so I knew straightaway that I wanted it very simple. We got married at the local register office & then onto a hotel for a meal. No disco, favours, table decorations & our cake was a wedding gift from a friend. My husband picked out a red dress for me in the sale which I wear still. And he wore a lovely linen suit. Our wedding gifts were money donated in Chinese red envelopes, which went towards our honeymoon.
    We spent the evening at my Mum-in-laws with some of the relatives who had travelled further & didn’t stay at a hotel.

  • Tina

    We’ve been married 40 plus years. We wanted a small wedding, just family and close friends.
    We didn’t ask for china, silver, crystal, or tablecloths. All our furniture is still hand-me downs or from house sales. When we travel, we each take a carry-on and one tote bag. I was taught never to take more than you can carry yourself.

  • We have been to all sorts of weddings over the years from church basement tea and cake, VFW post, backyard up through fabulous country club and Manhattan weddings that cost a fortune. In all that time, only 2 ended in divorce, one fancy one and one cheap one. Venue, flowers, etc. don’t make any difference.

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