Trash the Wedding Dress Photography – What’s This?

trash the wedding dress


A recent trend in post-wedding activities has nothing to do with the honeymoon or unwrapping gifts – although it is being called fun, therapeutic, wild, edgy, even fashionable by some.  Others are calling it wasteful, astonishing, and destructive.  It’s called “trash the dress” (or TTD) and it usually involves exactly that – trashing the wedding dress in some manner, usually while getting pictures taken by a photographer – although “trashing” can mean a lot of different things, as we’ll explain further below.

trash your wedding dress


The trend started several years ago when a Las Vegas wedding photographer, John Michael Cooper, bored with taking the usual sort of wedding photos in clean, formal settings, asked some of his clients if they’d be willing to take pictures in more unconventional settings – ugly settings, in fact, dirty, rundown places that would provide a dramatic backdrop to the polished beauty of a bride in a wedding dress.  Several of his clients agreed, and they not only loved the unusual pictures he took (which looked like gorgeous pictures from high fashion magazines), but also liked the opportunity to be casual in and sometimes even destructive with the wedding gown.  It was a great way to relieve stress after the wedding, and it was nice to not have to worry about the dress anymore.

Some brides choose to sling mud or paint at their dresses – or have someone do it for them, maybe even their husbands (sometimes the husbands are included in these photography sessions, some not).  Some brides don’t even do a photo session – they just choose to destroy the dress on their own, by rolling in the mud, or ripping it to pieces, or spray painting the dress as an elaborate art project.


trash the wedding dress


Some brides choose a middle ground – they have a photography session done in a beautiful (but not scrupulously clean) setting, and they don’t destroy the dress.  They may choose a woodland setting, for example, or even pose in the ocean, on the beach, or in a beautiful lake or stream.  The dress does get dirty in the process, but depending on the setting and the care taken in posing, the dress may still be restored by a good cleaning and gown preservation service.

A wedding dress is one of those rare purchases that is both expensive and used only once – and therefore often considered wasteful (although you won’t hear that said too often around a bride-to-be).  Most brides choose to preserve their dresses, hoping that maybe their daughters might wear it, or simply because they love the dress and don’t want to part with it.  Other brides believe that the dress will probably not be fashionable a generation or so later, and therefore see no point in saving it.  Many donate their dresses to charity, but not all women want to do that, since a wedding dress is such a personal item.  Although they had spent a lot of money and put a great deal of thought into their dresses, some newly married women view the opportunity to trash the dress as a way to make a statement against what they see as a hyper-materialistic culture.  Others view it as a way to relieve much of the stress that went into planning, and of course being in, the wedding.  And others see it simply as a way to say, “The wedding’s over – time to move on with my new life.”  Whatever the motivation, “trashing the dress” is certainly a unique ending for one of the most important life events.

Find a wedding photographer to shoot your trash the wedding dress session.

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  1. Shaw Productions

    We love shooting trash the dress! Of course it’s not really about trashing the dress but, rather, a great photo opportunity. The bride gets more relaxed photos that are like a work of art for the couple’s wall. We’ve done everything from photo shoots in un-traditional places to music videos in the bride’s wedding dress and full blown trashing the dress. It’s all what you want!

  2. Michael Porter - ePhotography

    I’d love to shoot a ‘trash the wedding dress session’, and have given a lot of thought to suitable locations and how this could be both done and photographed. However, I’ve come across considerable reluctance in brides to do this. They see the dress as a treasured item, hopefully to be passed on down through the family like an heirloom! Most brides adore their dresses, often having spent a small fortune on them, and are more concerned about my photos revealing the texture and fine detail in their gowns.
    The middle ground of photographing the bride in a ‘natural’ setting is often the chosen option with my clients (as the dress usually has to be cleaned afterwards anyway). I’d strongly suggest that this is offered by other photographers as a ‘follow up’ photo shoot to their clients.

  3. Cartoon Slinger

    True, many bride’s cherish their dress as an heirloom, but how many are getting married in someone else’s dress? Chances are if you don’t donate it to a good cause, it’s just going to be taking up space after the wedding. It’s a one day garment, do what you want! Besides, if it wasn’t for free-thinking brides, I’d never work any weddings 🙂

  4. Justin Gilbert

    Great Article, I never knew the history of the TTD. Having shot several trash the dress sessions I can honestly say that they are some of the most entertaining and dynamic photography shoots. Reasons aside, the level of the bride’s willingness to “trash” the dress in my opinion directly correlates with the quality of the images that can be captured. Simple “walking around in a forest” shots are nice, but don’t have the impact, in my opinion, of a bride and her “oh so dirty dress” looking bored on a filthy street curb with graffiti in the background.

    While I respect the desire to keep the dress, I love the brides who want to do the deed. If you have a bride who wants to do a TTD shoot one option is to get a backup dress. Nothing special, nothing expensive, just something that can be used and won’t make them feel like they are destroying an heirloom. It doesn’t even have to fit perfectly. You can pick one up on ebay for less than $100.

  5. Sinclair

    Personally, I hate the idea…If Photographers are truly bored, they should find another profession… Just another lame shock tactic…donating it to less fortunate girls makes far more sense to me….
    I’d like to see them trash their Canon 5D MkII Cameras, that might help with the bordom.

  6. mandy

    Sinclair: I do not understand why you have to be so hateful towards the photographer? Brides seek out the service of the photographer. It would not be so popular if it was not in demand by brides. Photographers simply capture the images that the customers desire. You are right in saying that it is good to donate the dresses to those less fortunate, however, before this trend, most women simply stuffed the dress away in the back of the closet only to pull it out after it had gone out of style and would not be worn again anyway. So why not let the bride get a few more beautiful and dynamic images of herself captured for her to enjoy for the years to come 🙂

  7. Emma Rose Photography

    When you start to feel a longing for something different or a passion to create something new (i.e., boredom), often creativity ignites…
    I prefer “rock the dress” sessions; the dress doesn’t have to be trashed but brides can feel a bit more relaxed about sitting down or laying on areas they wouldn’t before the wedding. Why not get a few more photos in the dress that cost so much and took so much time to choose? Why not drive to that setting that was too far from the wedding on another day, wear your hair down, go without shoes? I love the trend of doing photos after the wedding, but it doesn’t have to involve destroying the dress entirely.

  8. Ivor Tetteh-Lartey Photography

    “Trash The Dress” is quite an aggressive term the implies destruction. Perhaps it should be called “Romance The Dress” post wedding photography, or “Celebrate Your Dress”.
    The session is all about creating some exciting and unique bridal portraits in more than one location without the wedding day time pressures and restrictions. If the dress gets dirty during a session it can be cleaned.

  9. Jean- Birch

    I agree that brides are more relaxed after the wedding. So they can make movements without any hesitations that their gown may get dirty. We do take pictures after the wedding and call it “trash the wedding dress pictorial”. It’s more fun because both wedding couple and photographer have freedom.

  10. bride

    My wedding dress is one of my prized possessions. Not only is it quite (too?) expensive … but it it sort of a representation of one of the most meaningful days in my life. Just the thought of it getting muddy , dirty and “trashed” gives me the creeps. However, I have nothing against this “Trashing the Dress” practice. To each his own! 🙂 It actually sounds like fun!

  11. Jen Le

    Wow Sinclair.
    Did you have a bad experience with a photographer or something? “Trash the Canon 5d?” That’s sorta hateful. Trash the Dress IS art in fact and alot of effort goes into those shoots. Maybe it’s just not your thing, but WE LOVE THEM! 😀

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