What does one do with a wedding dress when there's no wedding?


LOS ANGELES -- Months of planning have gone into the wedding. It is going to be picture-perfect. Then, at the 11th hour, either the bride or bridegroom ducks out of the picture.

What happens to the wedding gown? All that silk and lace? All that money?

In the case of actors Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland, who said "we don't," a Beverly Hills shop is storing one surplus gown.

"It was ready for a final fitting," says Michelle Trafficante, a partner in Tyler Trafficante. Now, "everything's just sort of on hold."

When that wedding march comes to a screeching halt, 'f less-famous brides try to salvage something by recycling their gowns, either by advertising them for sale or by putting them on consignment at a resale shop. Bridal stores, recognizing that love is not always forever, typically have a no-return policy.

Brides "can't take them back, and they can't do anything with them. The bridal stores are not going to touch them," says Shoshana Maler, proprietor of Deja Vu Bridal Boutique in Venice, Calif. So, by the dozens, never-worn gowns find their way to resale shops such as hers, as do once-worn gowns brought in by women who may be very practical or who may be getting a divorce.

Recently, newspaper classifieds included this under Furs-Clothing:

* Wed Gown Size 10 GORGEOUS! Lace & Pearls. Never worn. Cost $2K sell $750....

The ad was placed by Marion, a Beverly Hills woman who had called off her June 1990 wedding a week before the event.

She explains: "I got mixed up with a character who took me to the cleaners financially.... I thought I would recoup some of my losses" by selling them. There was no buyer, but she did get several calls from interested transvestites.

Like many other would-be brides, Marion who asked that her last name not be used ran into a no-return policy on the gown, even though it was bought off the rack in La Jolla, Calif., and needed no alterations. The tags were still on it, she says, but she was stuck: "And I had paid cash."

* WEDDING DRESS FOR SALE Dress & Veil $1,000 cash only. Must sell...

She had planned to marry last month, says Sarah (she asked that her real name not be used) and had ordered the $1,000 gown a "mermaid" style in embroidered satin and lace about a year ago.

But the wedding never took place "It was a mutual thing." During a yearlong engagement, she explains, they had premarital counseling, "just to clarify our expectations." What they found was that "there are issues you're unable to resolve as quickly as you may think."

So, the wedding just kept being postponed. And postponed.

Sarah, an insurance company claims assistant, and her fiance, a financial planner, still see each other, and, she says, "there's a chance it'll still happen."

The gown has not been sold.

L How do bridal shops handle the problem of wedding day blues?

At Emily's in Torrance, Calif., brides-to-be are required to put 50 percent down on their orders and are asked to read and sign a statement of policy that "in the event of a cancellation," they are responsible for the balance.

If the order has not yet been placed with the manufacturer, says manager Sheila Ackerson, Emily's charges only a 15 percent service charge. Off-the-rack purchases can sometimes be returned for store credit or for something more versatile say, a cocktail dress.

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