Ever hear the expression, “there are 2 kinds of luggage….carry on and lost?” Unfortunately, putting your wedding dress in your suitcase and hoping nothing happens to it after you check in for your flight, is like playing Russian Roulette. The only option you have is to carry it with you. You simply pack it in a garment bag, using the one it came in, or purchasing a heavy duty one and carry it with you. Even as you go through security check points, all you need to do is put it through those security scanners, and lug it all around the airport. Once you get on the plane, you might hear some people tell you to hang it in the first class closet, but rarely is that even done. Also, the closet is only 4 feet high and you will have to stuff it in. I would suggest placing it in the over head bin, folding it in half and keeping it right above you to make sure that no other carryon luggage is squished in on it or next to it.
Keeping in mind that you run the same risk with virtually everything you pack in your checked luggage, the best plan of attack is to make sure the groom’s clothing, the wedding bands, your legal documentation, veil, jewelry, and virtually everything you could not replace prior to the wedding be packed in your carryon luggage. What makes this even more difficult is that there are rules about the sizes of liquid that you can bring, so watch your make up sizes, as security has been known to simply toss items that are over the legal size. If you have a small rolling suitcase and your garment bag, the security at the airport and gate officials will not give you a hard time. Many times, they sympathize with you and look the other way to the standard 1 carry on rule.
Just remember, that whatever you bring, has to be able to fit above you in the over head bin, or under the seat in front of you. AND, if you can plead with the airline gate attendant to let you board early regardless of your zone, this also prevents worrying that all the over head bins are full. Normally, everyone seems to smile when they know you are boarding a plane with your wedding dress. Flight attendants tend to be more helpful, passengers seem to bend over backwards to accommodate a bride, and many times, the crew even announces your arrival once you land and wishes you congratulations.
As you are maneuvering through the airport on your way down to your destination, just keep in mind that you can certainly pack everything in your checked luggage for your return flight home. Oh, and one last tip, if you are having a wedding outside of the US, remember that flowers, and fruit can’t be packed in your checked luggage (sadly, you can’t bring your bouquet home).