The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

To Trash Or Treasure?

Posted by Cate on July 23, 2008

I’ve recently heard about a relatively new phenomenon: “trashing your wedding dress“. The idea is that the bride (and very occasionally the groom) gets arty snaps taken of them in their wedding dress rolling in mud, submerged in water (via Infinity Studios), ripping, or even burning their dress (via AltF Photography).

I originally thought the trashing might be some kind of ‘farewell, good riddance at the end of a bad marriage, but according to Adam Cavanagh, of Cavanagh Photography,

“the idea behind it is you are committed to your husband, you are not going to get married again and this is a symbol of committed you are going to be.”

It’s based on the premise that your wedding dress is the most expensive dress you’ll ever own and rather than have it sit mouldering in a storage cupboard you can pop it on for a second wearing and get photographs of your sexy self rolling around getting your dress dirty.

I like the idea but why are so many of the shots all about the woman? And if marriage is meant to be not just about the wedding and the dress, why is it the focal point of attention yet again? And why does the Age’s video of a photo shoot have to include the bride flashing her undies to the world? Depictions of one’s true self or simply photos sexed up by a wedding industry that have found another way to make money? Getting photos on the beach is hardly new and there’s a whole industry in ‘alternative’ weddings. Is it better to donate your dress to charity to make someone’s day special who can’t afford anything nearly so lavish?

Personally, I don’t see why you can’t incorporate some of these ideas into your wedding day pics anyway. Maybe not the getting the dress filthy aspects (unless there’s a bout of vomiting after too many red wines) but the idea of fun goddamit! Wedding commemoration doesn’t have to be limited to photos of people standing in formation and sickening dvds set to acoustic music. Why can’t your wedding depict who you are (who you both are-since there’s two people in a marriage) and your own style without the bucks? I say do it yourself with a bunch of friends and a big bottle of vodka. And if you’re short for inspiration, the UK times has some DIY ideas of how you can ‘trash’ your dress ( I can imagine some of these would go down very well after a few beverages when you leave the wedding to start the real celebrating):

Slide down a big, twirly slide in a children’s playground.

Climb a photogenic tree and swing from the branches.

Get your new husband or, if you are feeling brave, the bridesmaids and pageboys to spray-paint your dress.

Run through a field of heather, mud, corn…

Get a sloppy DVD and a takeaway, then let the chardonnay do the work during a night on the sofa.

Go on all the rides at a country fête, especially the rotating swings, the Ferris wheel and the merry-go-round.

Sure beats getting your photos taken on the steps of Parliament house or in front of a tram.

Edit: Even though I wrote this article a few hours ago, I still feel rather horrified by the photo of the burning bride. It brings a really strong reaction in me. I can’t stop thinking about Bride Burning and honour killing in India and South Asia. Hardly things I’d want to associate with my wedding dress.


31 Responses to “To Trash Or Treasure?”

  1. Leah said

    I personally find this dress trashing obscene – what an unbelievable waste of money! To buy a dress that may very well cost thousands of dollars, wear it for one day and then destroy it on a whim is just too tasteless for words in a world where around half the population live on less than US$2 a day. I know I’m a developed-worlder who occasionally buys frivolous things like new books when I could have bought a second hand one, or not bought one at all, but seriously, this is obscene by anyone’s standards. Sell the dress, give it to charity, do something useful with it.

  2. rhianawhitson2 said

    WTF??!!! At first glance I thought this was some kind of Jill Orr inspired performance art piece…

    Instead It strikes me as an exercise in soft-porn, with the clip captioned,

    “Watch a bride rip her 1200 wedding gown off her body with her bare hands”

    Not to mention photographer Adam Cavanagh’s comments about ” getting it [the wedding dress] wet” and “getting it dirty”, to which he hilariously explains as being tied to women’s ‘desire’ to prove their fidelity to their husband’s,

    “the idea behind it is you are committed to your husband, you are not going to get married again and this is a symbol of how committed you are going to be.”

    The question that immediately springs to my mind is, why is it that WOMEN are constantly having to prove their commitment to marriage? To me this is yet another example of how women’s sexual morality is something to be proven rather than something that is a given, historically that meant that Victorian wives remained covered up while today it seems the opposite to be the case… Wives trashing their gowns, by “getting it wet” and “dirty” in a ‘noughties’ spin on marital ownership…

    To me the act of shredding/setting fire/getting it wet/dirty your wedding dress becomes the opposite of what bra burning feminists did in the 2nd wave (a liberatory act from the clutches of patriarchy) and becomes instead, a SURRENDER to it…

  3. Elaine said

    It seems you take life far too seriously, The dresses are not destroyed after laying in water and would need to be cleaned after the wedding any way.Lighten up for goodness sake.

  4. Bec said

    A friend emailed this link to me as the second photo from Infinity Studios is of me. I did not do this photo shoot to prove anything to the world regarding my fidelity or commitment or anything else for that matter. This was simply putting trust in my photographer to produce tasteful, extraordinary shots (which I received). My husband is featured in many of the shots which show a completely different emotion to that of our wedding day photos. We were both relaxed and having fun producing photos that we can be proud to show our children in years to come. It was some of the best fun that I have had and the feedback that I have received has been nothing but positive. It surprises me to read negative comments like those on here. In respsonse to ‘doing something useful’ with my dress; I have! I have another amazing set of photos that shows off my beautiful dress. Furthermore, after a dry clean my dress is in almost the same condition as it was at the end of my wedding day. Sure, this is not everyone’s idea of the right way to treat your dress after your wedding day but I personally thought I would prefer to get another documented wear out of it rather than let it sit in a cupboard collecting dust and turning yellow.

  5. Leah said

    My comments were not about dresses being temporarily ‘dirtied’ or ‘wet’ – they were about dresses being destroyed, as many were in the photos attached to the linked article. And I stand by my comments – it’s an obscene waste of money to destroy an expensive dress that could be resold or donated to charity.

  6. Heather said

    I am all for free speech, so I am not going to argue that the above opinions on Trash the Dress are wrong. However, I did notice that images are not being properly credited to all of the photographers who created them (particularly the burning bride, by AltF – John Michael Cooper). You might also find that dress “trashing” is not as obscene as it has been presented. Yes, JMC tends to push the boundaries of what is expected and accepted in the name of art. However, most photographers who participate in the TTD movement are simply offering brides and couples an alternative to wedding day photography. Perhaps it chance to take photos that they would be too concerned to take on their wedding date, for time constraint reasons or simply because they did not want to risk getting the dress dirty day-of. Or perhaps these brides appreciate that they have an opportunity for a more unique portrayal of this time in their lives. And yes, some have used it as a cleansing ritual from a bad marriage as well. Although popularity has culminated around the term “Trash the Dress”, I personally prefer “Rock the Dress.” How far each bride is willing to go with her dress is entirely up to her. Some simply want to take great photos without being so dirt conscious. Others are willing to do whatever it takes to take a great concept shot. It’s all about creative freedom. Mark Eric out of Alexandria, LA is a great person to listen to regarding the TTD movement. He took the AltF concept and ran with it to create He can further shed a light on the trend, as he has been watching it grow and change over the last several years. Today’s “trash the Dress is less about trashing and more about thinking outside of a box.

  7. ZZ said

    Sorry, “Bec”. The whole thing is an exercise in narcissism and self-aggrandizement. “Ooh, look at me! I’m so pretty and so edgy!”. I thought marriage was all about making a commitment to your spouse before the community, but I guess it’s really all about you. Get over yourself.

  8. C said

    ZZ – Isnt that the whole point (!!), it’s exactly about the bride and groom, their love for each other and what THEY want. If they feel like having a fun photography session together,creating some unusual artistic wedding photographs they will proudly hang on their wall, then who cares! Good for them. How bout YOU get over YOURSELF – how negative an attitude you must have. Smile, be happy, and see the fun in life! It;s just another experience!

  9. Vincent said

    Quite obviously none of the people adding to this forum have even seen a Trash the dress shoot happen, or the full range of images shot, you have no idea how happy the bride and groom are to be able to get all dressed up again and get some images that they couldn’t get on there wedding day.
    I shot a bride that had been married 6 years when she did her trashing shoot, she never thought she would ever wear her dress again, she was so taken with the concept that she even got here kids dressed up to do the shoot as well. After the shoot she dry cleaned the dress and put it back in the tissue and stored it away again.

    Maybe its the “trashing” branding that people don’t understand, maybe people don’t have the vision to see what fun and amazing images can be created. There is so much stress at a wedding that the bride and groom cant totally relax during the shoot and really enjoy it due to time, and getting to the reception. When they do there Trashing shoot there are no time or pressure on them.

    To make a comment like “Ooh, look at me! I’m so pretty and so edgy!”. is completely naive and its not about the marriage its about the art and creating stunning images.

    If you don’t like it…Don’t do it.

    If you do like it… Lets get trashed.

  10. mscate said

    Apologies Heather, I accidentally deleted my original crediting link to John Michael Cooper and have rectified it.

  11. Tracey said

    I am with Bec. My circumstance was different. I spent a couple of years looking at my photos and sleepless nights over the horrible photos my photographer took at our wedding day. I cant remember where I found trash the dress but I was amazed at some of the photos. But you have to remember there is good tasteful photograpers out there with talent and photographers that turn it into smutt. I feel this is a one sided story that has not shown both sides. I had to get the dress recleaned anyway because I had had it for sale and I was going to put it away in the cupboard. It cost us the cost of having a portrait done and that was basically it. My dress was cleaned and it came up perfectly. I can honestly say we had the most fun I have had in a long time. We had a fantastic day.
    I love the photos and there are photos of my husband and I that are absolutely amazing. I even have a 60 x 30 canvas on my wall above my bed of us both. I no longer am I upset about my wedding photos. I have my TTD photos which are amazing. Hubbie was also proud of the photos of me he wants to get a large printed picture of just me printed because he thinks they are amazing as well.

  12. Vincent said


    Great to hear your side of things.

    I am so glad you now have images you are proud to display in your house.

    Its what makes it all worth while for us photographer.


  13. Hayley said

    An art debate, how delicious. Photographic art. Where would we be without the progressive imagination and creativity of photographers? We would still be sitting in the studio on our wedding day with one photo of the bride, one with hubby and one bridal party shot all taken in front of a painted background canvas. Smile and express your happiness on this day if you dare.

    Yes, times change and yes our photographic customers are happier than ever that they can run along the beach on their wedding day, pose in the back alleys of the big cities and roll around in a hay barn in the middle of no where. Yes you can express yourself and have a ball on your wedding day all thanks to the creativeness of your talented photographic artist, you will have amazing images to treasure for a lifetime.
    Why not add on the next chapter. Go out and have even more fun without the stresses of time.
    This concept will only grow in popularity, just like pregnancy portraits. Once more images are viewed, it becomes more accepted and finally to the point of “and where are your “TTD Portraits?” is all the bride and groom will hear upon their honeymoon return.
    It’s exciting, it’s different and it’s fun……… lets go with it 🙂

  14. Rach said

    I think this is a fun and interesting way of using a dress you only wear once.
    I have no idea why some people are getting ridiculously worked up and angry over it. If it’s not your thing, don’t do it, but don’t insult other people who want to do it! If it is your thing, go for it and have fun. I’ve seen several people’s photos from their TTD sessions and they look amazing.

    On the note of charity. Yes…maybe it would be nice if people donated more to charity, but I’m fairly sure people who are really in need aren’t searching the lifeline bin for a wedding dress. However, a lot of brides store their dresses away and keep them for sentimental value and no one complains. That’s their right. But when someone wants to get the dress a little dirty, people think this is offensive and how uncharitable of them! Excuse me but is that once again their right to use their property how they wish? And…like some have said, after dry cleaning their dresses came up almost as good anyway.

  15. Clem Bastow said

    Rach, no one is getting “worked up and angry” about it – but this is a feminist blog, so naturally we are going to look a little deeper than whether or not the photos are “amazing”!

    Personally, I like the concept when it is just that, a photographic concept – as Cate mentioned, shots in front of Parliament House, well, it’s done.

    But when it becomes about making some statement of fidelity to your husband, I have two BIG issues with it: a) it feels awfully ‘surrendered wife’ and b) what woman in her right mind would wear her first wedding dress again if she later remarried??

  16. Liane said

    When you go to an action movie and a perfect good car is smashed do you think it is an obsene waste of money that could be given to charity?

    Should everyone get married at the Registry Office because venues are so expensive? What about cars, food, entertainment, photograpers? Maybe they shouldn’t send invitations or decorate the chairs because that costs money too?

    I wouldn’t tell someone how to spend their money I don’t know why you feel you have the right to comment on the way others choose to spend theirs.

    What people do in their time with their money (or their dress) is their business – isn’t it?

  17. JJ said

    Clem, yes this may be a feminist blog but when you place links to sites that you have taken photos from and they also have blogs, you will of course get alot of people standing up for what they are also passionate about.

    As for ZZ he is just a rude pig who leaves disgusting negative comments on lots of blogs. He obviously has no life and is too busy trying to make himself sound intelligent and feel better about himself.

  18. Annie said

    A note to ‘Leah’ – how do you know whether these dresses are new & expensive? Some people may have bought second hand dresses for their wedding and what they choose to do with their dress after the big day whether it be brand new, second hand, custom made or whatever is their choice. How do you know that none of these women have had their dress dry cleaned and passed it on for someone else or sold it? YOU DONT KNOW! I am all for giving all your old clothes or what not to charity – but in the real world there are not too many people in under priveliged areas/countries wearing someone else’s wedding dress as everday attire!

    People do the same with old school uniforms when they finished school etc…how is it any different.???..Do you not watch the news and see heaps of school leavers running into the ocean at the beach when they finish school?

    WTF has fidelity got to do with someone in their wedding dress having photos taken in a relaxing environment… wether it be in the water or bush or wherever – you get dirty when you play in mother natures playground.

  19. Leah said

    Liane, in response to your comments, yes I do find it ridiculous when an expensive car is wrecked in a film, but I was responding to the issue at hand. It did actually occur to me to compare ‘dress trashing’ (Note: when the dress is actually destroyed, not just temporarily dirtied or wet) with rock stars smashing up their guitars, I just find both activities wasteful. This is a blog where people express a diversity of opinions, that’s what makes me feel that I have the right to comment on the way others choose to spend their money. I am first and foremost a libertarian and think that, after they are taxed fairly, people can indeed spend their money however they like as long as they are not hurting other people. I am not for one minute suggesting that dress trashing should be made illegal – I am merely expressing my opinion that it is an obscene waste of money – like me, individual brides and photographers who have expressed their comments on here have freedom of speech and action and I don’t want to curtail either.
    In regard to your comments about expensive weddings, yes I do think often people go overboard with elaborate weddings. Again, it’s their money, they can do what they want, and I can say what I want about it.
    I think what’s made this discussion so interesting is that it’s touching on the question of ‘when is too much, too much?’ As I admitted earlier, I’m a developed worlder who occasionally spends money frivolously, and often ask myself whether I’m doing the right thing with my money. I’ve worked in the developing world and have many friends who live on less the US$2 a day. When I go out for dinner, or clothes shopping, I often think of them and ask myself about the ethics of what I’m doing, so I’m not saying ‘dress trashing brides & grooms baaad, everyone else gooood’, I’m just expressing my opinion that destroying an expensive item merely to take photos of the exercise is an obscene waste of resources.

  20. As with everything in the democratic world we all have a choice and it has been the brides choice to TTD, getting some great shots at the same time.

    I would not consider the video soft porn, you can see more on a beach in Surfers Paradise or even more on a beach in Europe.

    Lets get a grip here, I think it has more to do with this is not the tradional way to treat your wedding dress. Not all of us are tradional.

    BTW. I am sure the photographers would have liked you to ask permission to use thier images, which I think is more serious than a bride wanting to trash her dress.

  21. Mel Campbell said

    The thing that strikes me about this issue is the aggressive pursuit of spectacle and bombast. Blowing cars up in movies is spectacular and bombastic, as is smashing an expensive guitar. Here, the spectacle lies is in the desecration (even temporary and reversible) of a really expensive, custom-made gown with loads of accumulated social meanings of purity.

    The thrill lies in seeing that the wearer is deliberately disregarding the meanings of the dress, and the photographer is disregarding the conventions of his (or her – I’d be interested to know if many female photographers operate in this niche market) visual language. The photographer gets “great shots” and the buyer gets the thrill of feeling that she is an unconventional person.

    Of course, thrills and spectacles are not moral – that’s what makes them thrilling and spectacular. But being a feminist blog, we concern ourselves with moral and intellectual issues, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing them out where we see them. Of course, that may well feel like a personal attack to people who want to remember their wedding as exciting and fantasy-fulfilling – or to those whose bread and butter is fulfilling those fantasies.

  22. ZZ said

    The fact that this discussion can even occur is evidence of the bloated, out of control nature of the US Wedding Industrial Complex. You people hawk your overpriced wedding goods and services to unsuspecting young people who’s parents end up taking our MORTGAGES against their homes just so that little Sally Princess can think she’s a movie star for a day. You’re very similar to the funeral industry. You prey on the emotionally vulnerable and lie to them about what is “proper” or “expected” of people in their situations. But instead of unnecessarily fancy coffins, you’re selling unnecessarily fancy dresses, cakes, and venues. You’re one step below used car salesmen, because everybody EXPECTS car salesmen to be sleazy. They don’t try to hide behind a veneer of respectability and fashion. it’s disgusting.

  23. tina_sparkle said

    gee ZZ, bitter much?

  24. JJ said

    Given the amount of blogs that you stalk ZZ and these being mainly wedding blogs, Somehow I get the feeling that ZZ has had a bad wedding/divorce experience and wants to take it out on those that work friggin hard for their money. Just because wedding items are luxury items doesnt mean that we don’t work bloody hard to earn the money that we do. I can garantee you that majority of us would work twice the amount of hours that you do ZZ. If you have had a bad experience ZZ maybe that is because you didn’t do the research that you should have about your wedding vendors.

  25. tina_sparkle said

    I think ZZ’s problem is about the money pie.

    there is no money pie. If I don’t spend $10K on a designer gown that doesn’t mean there’s an extra $10K to go towards feeding the homeless. get a grip ZZ.

  26. ZZ said

    Hey, “Tina Sparkle”, it has nothing to do with that. If you have 10K to spend on a dress, more power to you. The problem is young girls who live in trailers in Louisiana, and have names like “Britni” and “Krystl” and “Tammy”, contact you photographers about their weddings, you try your best to convince them that a $4000-5000 wedding package is “standard” or “normal”, and that’s what everybody “expects”. Do you ever ask how these kids are going to pay such outrageous fees? Do you even care? Money fights are the leading cost of divorce in America, so when you convince these kids and their parents to take on debt just to pay for their stupid wedding, you’re basically helping them get divorced later. BUT HEY, more opportunities for you, right? Oh, but “It’s the client’s choice”. “It’s their money, who am I to tell them how to spend it?” “I was just giving them the service they asked for”. So you have NO moral responsibility here, right? Just like the Nazi concentration camp guards had NO moral responsibility when they gassed people, because they were “Just following orders”. EVERYTHING you do has moral consequences, and you need to think about it.

  27. JJ said

    Oh gee ZZ maybe you should come anr rum my business because you sound like such an expert..NOT!! How the hell would you know how each wedding vendor approaches their clients, if they are reputable they will be nothing but up front with their clients. Maybe you should have a read of the code of ethics that Photographers must abide by to be apart of their professional institutions. It sounds like you have been watching too much a current affair with their bullshit stories. Packages that attract a fee of $5000 generally do so for a reason, its called frickin hard work! The only thing thats outrageous here is your obvious lack of real knowledge of the wedding industry and your tainted attitude to life.

  28. ZZ said

    “Maybe you should have a read of the code of ethics that Photographers must abide by”???

    Oh, yeah, when was the last time a nineteen year old kid working at Wal Mart read a “code of ethics”? Why do we have to be so diligent and read lots of obscure paperwork to keep from getting ripped off? Because most of you are crooks!

  29. Nik said

    I found a link to this article while browsing the internet. After reading all the above i can see there are very differing opinions on a simple concept.
    What is right or wrong? There is no one answer. Everybody has different opinons and beliefs and everyone should be accepted regardless of what side of the fence they sit on.
    The hostility used in these comments and the onesided nature of the article has turned me away from exploring this site any further. Isn’t acceptance the main thing these days for everyone to live happily.
    I am amazed that one simple topic can bring out so much evil within people and maybe these people are the ones that should evaluate the negative way they look at life.

  30. sim said

    I don’t think you’ve understood the point of a blog – nor the relationship between commenter and blogger.

    But then again, perhaps this blog is not for you, anyway.

  31. Mel Campbell said

    I thought this discussion was over but really, I have to add that when we are ‘critical’ on this blog, it’s like being a ‘movie critic’ or an ‘art critic’ – that is, we evaluate something and ultimately give our own (diverse) opinions.

    A lot of the time people think ‘critical’ means the same as ‘negative’ and ‘hostile’. It doesn’t – but like I said above, when people are personally invested in a topic they can feel under attack when someone else expresses a different opinion.

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