From the moment my husband got down on one knee and proposed in the sand at sundown, I knew I wanted a destination wedding. When it came time to choose a wedding dress, I only considered styles that were sleek and simple. Basically I had to find something I could pack inside a suitcase since we had booked tickets on a regional carrier. Most of these airlines do not have closets or decent overhead bin space. So I knew beforehand that I’d have to gate-check a bag at the airport. It was a risk I chose to take. Thankfully my dress arrived safe and sound. I picked it up on the tarmac in Monterey.
Not all brides are quite so lucky.
“Can I hang this inside the closet?” asked a passenger on my flight from New York to Miami last week. She held a long, white garment bag with the words David’s Bridal written in gold across the zippered front.
Normally flight attendants are more than happy to accommodate a wedding dress, but sometimes it’s just not possible. This was one of those times.
“Congratulations!” I said to the blushing bride in an attempt to soften the blow. She smiled. Oh how I dreaded delivering the bad news. How could I tell her there were no closets and that first class coats had been hung on a hook between the bulkhead wall and the last row of first class seats? No way would her big puffy dress fit in such a confined space. And if miracle upon miracle it did fit, it would get crushed.
Tips for traveling with a wedding dress:
1. Ship it: FedEx / UPS / DHL and avoid airline hassles altogether! Most wedding dress places have shipping boxes and many will ship (domestically) for free. Too much can happen in transit. Do you really need the added stress?
2. Skip the poofy dress: Cinderella dresses belong in fairytales, not on airplanes. Sure it looks beautiful on you, but it’s not going to look so great after you pick it up at baggage claim because you were forced to check it when it didn’t fit on the airplane. Doesn’t matter that you’re getting married, if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t fit case closed! Be smart and travel light.
3. Check aircraft equipment: Most wide-body equipment (an aircraft with two aisles used mainly on long haul routes) have closets on board for passengers to use. They’re usually located in first class. Not all narrow-body equipment (single aisle aircraft) have closets since so many of them have been reconfigured to make more room for passenger seats.
4. Board first: Just because there’s a closet on the airplane doesn’t mean there’s going to be space available for your dress. Closets are small and quickly fill up with large bulky items such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, paintings, strollers, musical instruments and garment bags. Your only option may be to place the dress inside an overhead bin. If you’re in coach, choose a seat near the rear of the aircraft since most major carriers board from back to front first. This will ensure you find a place for your dress since bins tend to fill up quickly now that passengers bring everything on board to avoid checked luggage fees. If you’re traveling on an airline like Southwest that uses a first come-first serve boarding system, get to the airport extra early so you’re one of the first passengers in line.
5. Buy the dress a seat: The only surefire way you won’t have to check the dress is to buy a seat for it. I’m not kidding. Passengers traveling with musical instruments do it all the time. There’s nothing more important than the dress, am I wrong? The dress to a bride is a lot like a child to a parent in that you’ll do anything to protect it from being harmed. Just make sure to book it a window seat and don’t forget to buckle it in.