After Divorce, What Do You Do With All Those Wedding Mementos?

Jessica has a hope chest filled with memories from her wedding day to her husband Scott. There are the custom champagne flutes with their names and their wedding date etched on the glass, the unity candle they lit in their service, her dried bouquet, his boutonniere, five photo albums, a video of the ceremony, all the many cards the couple received from loved ones offering their well wishes, and to top it off, her boxed up wedding dress that she paid to have preserved.

It was a day Jessica still says made her feel like a princess. But it’s also a day that is now long gone. Jessica and Scott are getting a divorce after 16 years of marriage; the decision was made after Jessica discovered Scott had been having an affair with a coworker for at least four years. Now that Scott has moved out and the divorce is all but final, Jessica has looked at the hope chest more than once wondering what to do about its contents.

Facing a similar situation? Here are four suggestions for dealing with emotionally-charged items and other wedding day reminders.

Donate: Your dress, the fancy crystal bowl that held your centerpiece, the garter belt…even your hand-dyed shoes. As long as it doesn’t have your names engraved across the front of it (like those champagne flutes might), instead of just throwing them out with the trash, consider donating these wedding items to a local thrift shop. Bonus for you? If you pick a non-profit thrift shop run by a local domestic violence shelter or animal rescue group (or other charity), your items, especially a big ticket item like a wedding dress, have the potential to do a lot of good for others.

Keep: Do you have children? If you do, know that part of their healing and growth may come from seeing evidence that their parents were once happy in their marriage. This means that when it comes to those many albums of wedding photos, you may not want to be so quick to give them the heave ho. However, you don’t have to keep wedding photos displayed around the house. Just box them up and put them someplace out of the way.

The same goes for your dress. Some people consider it bad luck to pass on a wedding dress from a marriage that ended in divorce. But what if that dress is a family heirloom that other happy brides in your family have worn for decades? If you need a good example of this type of thinking, remember that Prince William gave Kate Middleton his mother’s engagement ring (that was given to her by a man she would eventually divorce). We’re at the two year mark for Will and Kate — and their marriage seems to be doing just fine!

Join the “Trash the Dress” Movement: On the other end of the spectrum is a new group of women, mostly in their 20s, who are celebrating their divorce by taking part in the “trash the dress” movement. How do you join? Simply take some fun and candid photos of how you disposed of your dress post-divorce! You can find out more here. We suppose some enterprising fellow out there is already cooking up a “trash the tux” movement for divorced guy — but if not, why not be a pioneer?

Resell: We’ve blogged before about how to make money selling items leftover from your marriage on eBay, contacting an antiques dealer, or looking into consignment shops (see Getting Top Dollar for Household Items Sold During Divorce). If you are willing to do a little leg work to find the best way to turn a profit on your items, you could cash in that white dress for quite a bit of green. Some enterprising women even find wedding dress rental shops where they negotiate a fee each time their dress is loaned out.

Of course, once you’ve taken these steps, there’s one question left to answer: What are you going to put in the hope chest now?