Brides defy convention with 'trashy' new tradition

Stephanie Bergeron

Tara Siracusa’s husband loves his Honda Civic so much that she decided to wash it for him — while wearing her wedding dress.

The September 2006 bride gave her strapless, beaded white dress one last twirl in August, nearly a year after her wedding, in a Trash the Dress photo shoot by Canandaigua, N.Y., photographer Steve Chesler.

They’re pretty unconventional when it comes to wedding photos: Siracusa’s husband throwing a bucket of water in her face. Siracusa leaning against the soapy Civic with sunglasses on.

“It was great,” she said. “Just the opportunity to do something that you would never do in a wedding dress is wonderful.”

The idea of the Trash the Dress concept is simple: A bride dons her wedding dress after the big day, does something different, and doesn’t care if she gets dirty. Chesler’s past subjects have included a woman riding her horse through a snow-covered field, a bride walking in the rain on the shores of Canandaigua Lake and another jumping backward into the lake.

“It’s an opportunity to be queen for a day again, to get more use out of the dress,” Chesler said.

But it’s not just about ruining the dress. It’s about telling a story and being artistic, Chesler said. In a shoot staged at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, Chesler told the story of a bride who couldn’t seem to do anything right on her wedding day. One shot shows her broken shoe; in another, she closes a taxi door on her dress; and in the end, she sits on the ground in the rain.

For Crystal Hansen, the photo op was a way to put on some red pumps and start painting. Using children’s washable paint, she headed to a graffiti-filled wall in downtown Rochester, N.Y., for her photos. She got her dress covered with a rainbow of colors shortly after her wedding — and it mortified her grandmother.

“She called me on the phone when I was washing it, and she was screaming,” Hansen said.

Lucky for her grandmother, the paint came out. But even if it didn’t, Hansen said it was going to be worth it.

“You have that one day where you get to wear your dress ... and you’re just like ‘I want to put it on again,’” she said. “Most women traditionally save it away and your daughter can wear it some day, and realistically that’s not going to happen.”

It is a rare occasion that wedding dresses are passed down, said Antoinette Infurna, owner of Antoinette’s Bridal in Canandaigua. She said she has been asked to do alterations on a used dress only a few times — but she gets plenty of calls from people who want to sell their dress back to her.

“You put them in a box and then years go by and that’s it,” she said. “Good for them; have fun with the wedding dress.”

Infurna said the Trash the Dress concept is nothing new. Many years ago, a bride she outfitted hopped on a Jet Ski with her husband after the wedding. Another said she put the dress back on for her first-year anniversary and had a candle-lit dinner with her husband.

“Then, she didn’t care if she spilled wine or food on the dress,” Infurna said.

It’s not only an American thing. Mark Eric, a Louisiana-based photographer and founder of, said he has seen a lot of people trashing dresses in Europe, too.

His Web site has featured more than 200 brides since it first started in 2006. Eric said he puts the best photos on the site, not necessarily the ones that are the most messy.

“For a while, it became a competition to see who could mess up the dress the worst,” he said. “It’s not about destroying the dress, it’s about creating great fun art for the bride.”

Siracusa put her dress in the washing machine after her car-washing adventure, and it looks like new — not that she’ll ever need to wear it again.

“Right now it’s hanging in my closet,” she said. “Really, what are you going to do with the dress?”

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