Get that Spot Out! Wedding Gown First Aide!

One of the most disregarded, and perhaps overlooked, issues in the very long TO-DO list of wedding planning is the issue of wedding gown cleanliness.   For some reason the idea of keeping the wedding gown clean throughout the wedding and the possibility of having to deal with potential stains and dirt that may “attack” the wedding gown is never planned for or discussed before the wedding. 
The topic only comes up when the wedding gown becomes stained and then there are tears and hysteria and copious glasses of water and seltzer, napkins and tissues and advice and suggestions proffered by every well-meaning wedding guest in the Hall.  I want to change this!  Let’s talk about wedding gown first aide.  I want you to be prepared for wedding gown emergencies before they happen.
Let me set the stage: a lone bride, dressed head-to-toe in pristine white, is positioned in a setting where hundreds of people are roaming about elbow-to-elbow; where food and drink abound; where fresh makeup, lipstick, red wine and tears flow unreservedly and where the mother lode of all kissing fests resides. Don't get me started on outside chuppahs and the associated winter rain and mud or summer sand and dust.  I don’t even want to discuss “special location” photography in wonderful “out of the way” locations requiring brides to climb trees, straddle fences, walk on lonely stretches of beach where the ocean meets the sand, sit on rusty swings and walk through streets so ancient they can only be found on maps  illustrated with dragons and sea monsters.
It's really not a matter of if but really when the gown will get stained.  If the gown becomes stained after the ‘just-before the chuppah to just-after the chuppah’ stages, say during the meal, then the damage is less significant.  But if the stain appears early in the pre-chuppah stage, well it is a disaster of biblical proportions.
Whether you bought, rented or borrowed your wedding gown, you want to enjoy it thoroughly throughout the wedding and then return it or save it in the mint condition you found it in.  How can that be accomplished?  Well like everything else, knowledge and preparation are the keys to successfully dealing with the situation. 
So let’s start at the beginning.  Ask what fabrics were used in the construction of the gown. Many gowns are constructed of multi-layers of fabrics that give the gown the flow, stiffness, shine, shimmer or fullness the look requires.  Each of these layers may contain different fabrics, including satin, net, lace, taffeta, silk, polyester, Lycra and others.  Make sure you do not overlook the lining(s) of the gown, as these fabrics may react differently to stains and cleaners than the upper layers.  You must also think about plastic or metal stays and bones that are a staple in the bodices of most wedding gowns on the market today.
Begin by talking to the salon where you bought or rented the gown and/or the seamstress who sewed the gown.  Ask what fabric(s) the gown was made with and/or look at the label(s) to see a list of fabrics.  If this is a designer gown that does not have a fabric label, contact the designer.  
Ask the salon/seamstress/designer what is the best method to treat/handle/clean the following typical wedding disasters:
  • lipstick
  • makeup
  • wine
  • food
  • mud
  • food dressings and sauces
  • blood
  • water or other liquid spills

If you feel that you are not getting the kind of information you need, then my best recommendation is to take the gown (as soon as you can BEFORE the wedding) to a professional dry cleaner who has experience dry cleaning and treating wedding gowns.  Ask him for the best methods for treating and handling the above mentioned stains.  He may even have an easy-to-carry stain-removal product you can purchase and take with you to the Hall.
Tried and True Treating and Cleaning Methods
Having said all the above, I would like to provide you with some tried and true treating and cleaning methods you may be able to use.  Remember these are only suggestions, please talk to an expert about the needs of your specific wedding gown!
  1. Before trying any product (yes, even plain water!) on your dress, put a little of the product on an out-of-the-way area or seam of the gown and check that it does not discolour or ruin the fabric color or appearance before you put it directly on a stain.
  2. Always gently blot, never rub a stain.  Blotting can soak up a stain and/or prevent it from spreading.  Rubbing can cause the stain to further set in the fabric.
  3. Always blot with a white towel or cloth.
  4. Blot the stain from the edges working your way towards the middle of the stain.
  5. Never use heat from any source to dry a stained area – even a water stain -  as once again it may cause the stain to further set in the fabric or cause an even larger and more visible stain on the fabric.
  6. Water is NOT a “can’t do any harm” substance.  Water can ruin silk, as easily as wine.
  7. Think of silk, taffeta and satin like you do of fire and lightening. They are beautiful and shiny, but they should not be touched! (Translation for the innocent: don’t mess with these fabrics unless you are an expert!)
  8. If in doubt: leave it ALONE!  Photographers have been retouching photographs for, well, since photography began.  Every photograph can be retouched and made beautiful.
  9. The usual wedding-related stains can usually be hand-washed out of polyester gowns and linings with water (and perhaps a bit of hand soap). 
  10. In general water-based stains should be washed out with water and not with dry-cleaning solvents.
  11. Blood and wine should be blotted out with tepid/warm water and a white cloth.
  12. On an oily stain, made by salad dressing or sauce, you can try a sprinkle of baby powder and then blot the stain with a white cloth.
  13. Baby powder can help mask a resistant stain, but let’s be honest, how long will the powder ‘stick’ to the dress?  
  14. I read somewhere that you can prevent a stain from spreading by blotting the stain with a piece of the same fabric.  (Let’s say, if you have a shawl of the same fabric as the gown, you can use the shawl to blot the gown.  I have never tried this, but it may be worth considering.)
  15. Lipstick and makeup can be removed with the stain-removal wet wipes available on the market today.  Long-lasting lipsticks (the kind we love to use for weddings) may be much harder to remove from a gown.
  16. I am not telling you about (possible) stain removing products and treatments such as white vinegar or chalk or rubbing alcohol or soap or dish detergent, because you do not need to pack, carry and worry about these products.  Nor do you have the time to deal with them and they can do more damage than good!
I think you know that rarely (unless the stain is large and in the front bodice of the gown) does anyone but the bride, her mother and a very busy-bodied eagle-eyed aunt notice stains on the gown.  If your stain is on the train or bottom of the gown or any other barely noticeable area: let it go.  Reason number one: no one notices or cares.  Reason number two: you have better and more important things to deal with (hint: new husband). Reason number three: this is why they invented Photoshop, dear.

Armed with all the above information, it’s time for you to create your own take-along-to-the Hall wedding gown first aide kit with the following products.  If you have a wedding planner, she should have a bag of her own.  If not, delegate this bag and stain-removal duty to a trusted friend. While you are at it, don’t forget to print out a copy of my What Take to the Hall list and follow the instructions for all your bridal needs!  
Wedding Gown First Aide Kit
·         Small white towel or cloth
·         Baby powder (white!)
·         Q-tips
·         Stain-removal wet wipes

With all my “let’s start at the beginning” guidelines, there is one more important issue I would like to discuss.  When you pick up you gown at the salon, dressmaker, designer, friend or Gemach – examine the gown thoroughly before you take possession of it. 
·         Check for stains on any part of the layers of the gown
·         Check the underarm areas for discolorations
·         Check for stains on any part of the lining of the gown
·         Check that the zipper works – zipping up and down (I am not kidding you, a zipper may go UP – but it may not go DOWN again)
·         Check that the buttons and button holes match up and fit
·         Check that all the seams are closed and well sewn
·         Check that there are no tears ANYWHERE on the gown
·         If you find a problem – state it immediately and clearly and document it (everyone has a cell phone with a camera these days!)

Last piece of advice: SMILE!

Introducing my cartoon series: Kitty and the Kallah-2-B

Introducing my cartoon series: Kitty and the Kallah-2-B, based on the real-life world of Kallahs.  

I hope you will enjoy the quips and one-liners as much as I enjoyed designing them.

You can find these cartoons published (on a semi-regular basis) on my blog The Kallah Whisperer ( and on Facebook (

The Kallah Whisperer (Yochi Eisner)


While in the States the best dressed weddings may have both Escort Cards and Place Cards - don't worry ladies, I will explain both terms in just a minute - in Israel we are happy with just Place Cards! Or at least what we call Place Cards.   

Unless you are planning the next Belz wedding, Place Cards are not just a 'nice-to-have' wedding enhancement; I believe they are a courtesy you show your guests. 

First off, what is the difference between Escort Cards and Place Cards?  Simply put, Escort Cards are the personalized name cards guests should find on a table in the entrance to the Hall.  These cards indicate the guest's name and their dinner table number.  They are usually set up in rows in alphabetical order either by last or first name. (Yes, I have seen it arranged according to first name.  I disagree with it, but I will live with it if I have to.)

Place Cards, on the other hand, are found on the dinner tables and they indicate the guest's specific seat.  I think Place Cards are overkill and totally unnecessary in the world of Israeli Wedding Halls.  Most Halls set up the venue, especially the dining tables, only an hour or two before the wedding (Kabalat Panim) is scheduled to begin.  There is simply not enough time to place these cards and then double-check that they are ALL positioned correctly.

If a table number is misplaced it can be changed, but changing around the cards of a 10-or 12-seat table and then checking separate seating cards for 150, 200 or 400 or more guests is just absurd.  These cards will add more pressure and create more problems than it was ever meant to solve.

Wedding business is BIG business here in Israel.  Weddings in Israel have become big, expensive productions and I would have thought that by now ALL Wedding Halls would provide Escort Cards (in Israel we call them Place Cards and I will continue to use this term as well), but they do not.  Thankfully this is one item that you or your friends or your family can create as an easy and cheap DIY project!

While you are creating these Place Cards, don't forget to create RESERVED table cards for the band and photographer (they can usually sit at the same table), Family of the chatan, Family of the Kallah and for Meshanchim, if you are having this arrangement.  Some weddings also have one or two tables simply listed a Friends of the Kallah and Friends of the Chatan, as these guests may come and go at different times.
Reserving a table for a group such as "friends of" can be very cost effective, especially if these friends may only stay for part of the celebration.  This arrangement is especially worthwhile when the bride and/or groom are relatively young and their friends tend to arrive and leave in droves depending on school, army and baby schedules.  

This Reserve table arrangement enables you to seat these groups at one or two tables and will alleviate the need to 'open' a "reservee" table for just a few guests.  

An explanation of the Reservee table concept:  The "reservee" table concept enables the Hall to set up a definite number of tables for guests while reserving anywhere between one to three tables that will ONLY be opened in the event that "unexpected" guests arrive. The idea is that of the 100% of guests who RSVP they are attending, some 5-10% DO NOT attend at the last minute.  Therefore, if you have a guest list of say 100 attendees, you can tell the Hall to set up for 80, for which you will have to pay for 80 meals and one reservee table that will only be opened if some of the 5-10 percentile (="unexpected guests") actually show up.  The rule is simple: once a table is opened you pay for all the seats on that table – whether there are bodies sitting on the seats and eating or not. 

If you do not have a Wedding Planner helping you on the night of the wedding, then appoint someone to observe what is going on vis-à-vis the tables and ensure that a) reservee tables are not opened up without reason and your permission (!) and that b) guests are not mistakenly sitting at these tables – as this will COST YOU!

Here are some formal place cards I have designed, repeating themes found on the wedding invitations:

Want personalized place cards?  Contact me today!