Q: I bought my gown early, and need to store it for eight months. What's the best way to ensure it looks just as good on my wedding day as it did when I picked it up from the salon? —Christie, via e-mail
A: It might seem intuitive just to zip your gown into a garment bag and hang it in a closet like you do for any other fancy outfit. But hangers can put stress on shoulders and seams, especially if your dress is on the heavier side. Instead, pack it as you would for preserving it postvows, says John Mahdessian, owner of Madame Paulette, a couture cleaner in New York City. That means getting an acid-free archival clothing box with plenty of pH-neutral tissue paper to protect the fabric from deterioration (we like the textile archival kit, $59, from archivalmethods.com). Use the tissue to line the box and stuff the bodice, skirt, and sleeves to hold their shape. Avoid sharp creases by gently folding the dress in a Z shape and laying it on a bed of more crumpled tissue paper. Keep the box away from sunlight, says Mahdessian, and avoid humidity-prone basements and attics. As an extra precaution when handling the gown, wear white cotton gloves (these come with most preservation kits) because oil from your hands can stain fabric. The night before, or morning of, your wedding, transfer your dress to a hanger and smooth any wrinkles with either a steamer—ideal for tulle and lace—or the low heat of an iron, which is best for satin, chiffon, and organza.
To fold your dress without creating noticeable lines, choose a box that is about one-third the length of your gown. While wearing white gloves, line the box with tissue paper, then lay the bottom half of the skirt inside. Place sheets of tissue on top, then fold the dress so that the waist meets the hem. Layer more tissue, then fold one more time, leaving the bust facing outward. Just before your wedding, hang your dress up, leaving a foot of space on either side, and cover it with a muslin garment bag.
Q: How can I break in new heels before my wedding while still keeping them in mint condition? —Jeanette, via e-mail
A: "You don't want your walk down the aisle to be the moment you realize that your shoes need stretching, heel grips, or cushy insoles," says senior associate fashion editor Carrie Goldberg. Wear them for an hour at a time, every other day, for two weeks. To keep them looking shiny and new, test-drive them at home on carpeted floors, away from pets, food, and other messes, advises Carrie: "Satin, grosgrain, or other nonleather materials stain easily." Even if they get fairly comfortable with time, pack a pair of dance floor–ready flats for your reception so you can stay footloose (and blister-free) all night.
Q: My parents and my aunt and uncle are celebrating their anniversaries near our wedding day, and we'd like to honor them. Suggestions? —Paige, via e-mail
A: You could keep it simple—but still heartfelt—with a note of congratulations in your program or by offering a reading in your relatives' honor. If they're up for it, say you'd welcome the chance for them to share their marriage advice with a short toast. "Or go big and make a special announcement during the reception," suggests real weddings editor Shira Savada. "Follow it up with a just-for-them spin on the dance floor." No matter how you express it, paying homage to other couples' long-lasting marriages will add a sweeter sentiment to your own day.
Q: I'd like to ask coworkers to our wedding, but our budget doesn't allow for them to bring their spouses. Is that okay? —Reggie, via e-mail
A: While it's true you can't please everyone when drawing up your guest list, it is considered standard etiquette to include the husbands and wives of those you're inviting. Furthermore, some colleagues may choose not to attend your celebration if they can't have their significant other at their side. You can either reduce the number of coworkers invited to your chummiest few (and be sure to let them know they should curb big-day chatter during work hours), or bite the bullet and increase the head count to a total that allows for your officemates and their plus-ones.
Q: We eloped seven years ago. Now my husband and I are considering hosting a vow-renewal ceremony so our families can be present. Is that tacky? —Lesley, via e-mail
A: No way! "A renewal is such a wonderful way to reaffirm your love, and witnessing it will mean the world to those who care about you most," says Allison Silber, owner of Engaged & Inspired, an event-design company in San Francisco. The celebration doesn't need to be as planning-intensive or formal as a traditional wedding, says Silber, but the steps to pulling it off are quite similar. First, determine your budget, then secure a place you both love as the location. This might be where you first said "I do" or a spot that's more convenient for attendees. Firm up your guest list, and then turn your attention to the details most important to you, whether that's personalizing the ceremony, setting aside ample time for toasting, or ending with a dance party. "Renew your vows first, and then focus on having a good time with those around you," Silber says. Consider serving cocktails and heavy appetizers (a three-course dinner might feel too formal) and hiring an acoustic guitarist to perform. This is your chance to throw the wedding you never had, so the only rule is to make it your dream day.