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Make It Last A Really Long Time
By Ronda Addy

Congratulations, you just got married. You have your wedding video and pictures for memories, but you want more. Like countless brides before you, you want to preserve your gown, bouquet and cake. What you need are some tips on how to do just that.

There's a good chance your wedding gown was the most expensive part of your wedding, so it's only natural you would want to preserve it, either as a keepsake or an heirloom to be passed on to future generations. It doesn't matter if you are having a professional preserve your gown or you are doing it yourself, the first thing you need to do is have your gown professionally cleaned, preferably a few weeks after the wedding. The longer stains and dirt are left on the gown, the harder they will be to get out. Find a dry cleaner who is trained in the cleaning and preservation of wedding gowns and make sure the solvent they use is different than that used on regular clothes. Here are some dos and don'ts of preserving a wedding gown.

• Use acid-free tissue between the folds of the dress and in the bodice. This will prevent wrinkles and folds.
• Remove shoulder pads or anything else made with foam. Foam deteriorates over time and will damage anything next to it.
• Remove plastic or metal buttons, buckles or pins.
• Wrap your gown in muslin.
• Store your gown in a cool, dark place.
• Keep your gown away from artificial light and sunlight.
• Occasionally take your gown out for inspection. Stains can sometimes show up days or weeks later.
• Ask to see the dress before it is packed for storage. That way, you can make sure all the stains have been removed.

• Pack your gown near mothballs.
• Store your gown in plastic or brown boxes.
• Store your gown in a plastic bag. The chemicals released when plastic breaks down can destroy your gown.
• Store your gown in a hot, humid attic or a damp basement.
• Hang your gown for long-term storage, especially by the shoulder seams. They can sag and stretch.
• Completely seal the box. Allow some air to circulate.

You have spent way too much time and money on your bouquet just to throw it away. Why not freeze-dry your bouquet? Freeze-drying it will extract the water from your flowers, allowing them to keep their color, shape and smell. If you are considering having your bouquet freeze-dried, get it to the specialist as soon as possible, preferably within 48 hours. In the meantime, keep the flowers in water and refrigerate them until they are ready to go. Freeze-drying will not rejuvenate wilting flowers. When choosing a preservation specialist, make sure you see samples of their work. Don't be afraid to ask them questions about how long they have been in business and what color enhancers and post treatments they use. The freeze-dry process could take up to 12 weeks, and while cheaper than it used to be, it is still relatively expensive, so you may want to have a few blooms freeze-dried instead of the whole bouquet. After you have your bouquet freeze-dried, you should put it into some sort of display container.

Freezing the top layer of your wedding cake and eating it on your one-year anniversary is considered good luck. Whether or not you want to eat a cake that has been frozen for a year is entirely up to you, but most recommend storing a cake no longer than two months. If you'd like, you can eat the cake after you return from your honeymoon. No matter when you decide to eat it, the steps involved in freezing the cake are the same. The best cakes to freeze are chocolate, carrot, almond and hazelnut. When freezing your cake, be sure to take off the sugar flowers. Place the layer immediately into the freezer (unwrapped at this point). After an hour or two, the icing should be frozen. Wrap the cake loosely in several layers of plastic and place it in a cake box. Wrap the cake box in plastic or freezer paper and place it into the freezer. When it comes time to defrost the cake, immediately remove the wrapping and let it sit in the refrigerator for 48 hours then at room temperature for a couple of hours. A word of warning: Don't store your cake in a frost-free freezer-the constant defrosting will draw the moisture out of the cake.

You planned the perfect wedding and you'll cherish it for years to come. Why shouldn't preserving every detail be as important as planning it?