What do I do with all the wedding “stuff” after a divorce?

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What do I do with the ketubah? (Photo by Sunshine Charlie)
What do I do with the ketubah? (Photo by Sunshine Charlie)
I was married for less than a year, our wedding was even featured on Offbeat Bride. Long story short: I’m now divorced.

But what do I do with all the stuff — pictures, ketubah, cards, etc? There’s absolutely no reconciliation possible, so I feel like there’s no need to save it, but for the sake of my mental health, do I just box it up and throw the box off a cliff?

For the other divorcees out there, what have you done with all the “stuff” from your wedding? -Marley

Oof, that’s a toughie… but unfortunately, it’s not an uncommon situation. We’re throwing this to our offbeat divorcees: What did do you do with your wedding stuff after you got divorced?

Comments on What do I do with all the wedding “stuff” after a divorce?

  1. I kept a photo album and a couple other things packed away in a box for my older kids in case they are curious. Most everything else was gotten rid of over time. I don’t recall consciously doing it, but I guess I didn’t have that much stuff in the first place. I still have two dressers from the marriage cause I don’t want to buy new ones right now.

  2. I was married for 7 years; the divorce was final about 6 years ago; and I’ve been remarried for 2 1/2. For me? I’m still finding things I need to dispose of. I took little with me, and I found that, right when the divorce was final, I needed to get rid of most everything, which I did in a few different ways. I sold my wedding/engagement rings and most of the furniture I took with me. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with the pictures (it’ll be interesting to see if anyone has good ideas).

    However, I just got a great idea for my wedding dress (which my mom just found while cleaning out her house): I’m going to turn it into a zombie dress! It’s awesome symbolism: I’ve kept all the lessons from the marriage, and all the bad stuff can get stuffed onto the dress. 🙂

    Anyway, I think that, in the end, you need to stop and think about what feels best about each item. For me, especially with the remarriage, it didn’t feel right to keep stuff I shared with a former partner. It’s not easy, but divorces never are–even the most amicable divorces carry a lot of emotion. It does all turn out well in the end, but it’s hard going through it.

  3. I got rid of everything. It all was either donated, shredded or trashed except for a few choice pics of me and my parents and my best gals. I have no interest in revisiting that day. It’s been 5 years since I got divorced and I haven’t regretted getting rid of all that stuff once.

  4. I got rid of pretty much everything except the albums, which are boxed up at my parents’ house, and my dress, which I tried (and failed) to sell on eBay and frankly exhausted what little interest I had in dealing with it. My dress is still hanging in my mom’s guest closet, as far as I know. Cards got tossed in the trash. Wedding gifts were divided up between us (we were married a little over a year). I would say, box up a few photos and stash the box somewhere you’ll never see it — either at a parent’s house, in a storage unit, buried in the garage. Out of sight, out of mind. But if you ever DO want it (like to show kids someday — I remember being fascinated by my mom’s photos from her first wedding — or if you ever want to reminisce when the pain is no longer so fresh), it’s not gone forever.

    • You could probably donate your dress to Brides Against Breast Cancer or Brides Across America, if you don’t want it chillin’ in your mom’s guest closet anymore. Then another bride would be able to have a dress and you could turn something negative into something positive.

      Just a thought. 🙂

  5. I’m not a divorcee, but there was a time before marriage when my now-husband and I broke up and were apart for years and I thought there was absolutely no chance for reconciliation, but I ate those words and now regret destroying things like our prom pictures. So never say never, but then again I don’t know your situation. If you feel the need to get rid of it, then get rid of it. If you don’t want to just throw it in the garbage, see if you can store it at a parent or friend’s house.

    • The same happened to me. For the first two months after the breakup I still had all the things that reminded me of him around, because I couldn’t deal with the loss, even if I was hurt. Then, I started putting everything in boxes. We got together again 6 months after that and we got married 4 years ago. I’m happy I kept everything. But I think I would have still kept everything even if we hadn’t. Though the ending had been painful, we had had many happy years. It was part of my life and I wouldn’t want to erase it. I’d keep it to look at in my old age or something. People I know who destroyed or got rid of everything, especially pictures, later regretted having done that in the heat of things.
      Also, my parents got divorced before my sister was born and I think, at a certain age, it was really important for her to see their wedding photos.

  6. I was consious of how I got rid of things. I didn’t just want to chuck stuff because it was emotional to me. I sold my engagement ring for $25 to someone who needed a ring. I donated my dress. I think you have to feel right about it. I wanted to put good into the world, so maybe it would come back to me. I found my now husband 6 month later and couldn’t be happier. So it must have worked. 🙂

  7. After I moved out, he boxed up all of the favors, disposable cameras, notes and cards and well wishes, extra invites and stationary, etc. and brought it over to my apartment. I spent about 6 hours going through it all, had a good cry, felt like I let people down by giving up… And then I threw the whole box in the dumpster.

    My ring and wedding jewelry are in a safe in my new place, and when I’m ready, I’m going to sell it all and take a vacation.

    I really felt no need to keep anything. Plus, physically hoisting that box into the dumpster was pretty satisfying.

  8. I divorced myself from the stuff. I gave everything wedding-ish to my mom (I asked her first- I didn’t just dump a pile of crap on her door- but this was coming off of an abusive marriage so your circumstances and need to cleanse might be different) and told her, “This doesn’t exist in my world anymore.”.

    She sold it or donated it and I hope she bought herself something fancy with any of the profits.

    • Not having ever been through a divorce, I think this is good advice. I think if you’re in the position to have a friend or family member help you sort/get rid of stuff, take their help. They can probably look at all the stuff which you’re so emotional about, and look at it from a less emotional place. But since they know you, they will take your personality into account and figure out if you may find value in some items later (wedding albums, hand-made gifts, etc.)

      • After a weird bad breakup, I gave a trusted techy friend my email password and had him permanently delate all the email exchanges I had had with the former flame, and take his email out of my address book. It was a good way for someone in my support network to help me in a concrete way.

  9. Dress: I gave it to a girl I heard about in my family who was about to have a quickie wedding and could not afford a dress. GREAT DECISION! She was really happy and someone got to enjoy it!

    Photos: I carefully plucked out the ones containing relatives that were deceased or might soon be. Very glad I did that. The rest were chucked.

    Ring: Oh this was the best! I went to have it appraised. When the stone was removed, it was discovered to have a giant crack. SO GLAD I had made the last insurance payment! I cashed that baby in for the insurance money and laughed all the way to the bank. Thanks, Universe!

  10. I got divorced two years after we got married. We divided up the wedding gifts (partially based on who gave it to us, and partially based on who used the item the most – he got the george foreman grill that was from my aunt and uncle and I got the tent that was from his uncle). I still have my rings though I do intend to sell them at some point, I just haven’t gotten around to it. I tried to sell my dress on craigslist, but that didn’t work, so I ended up donating it (along with a ton of other clothes that I didn’t wear any more) to a woman who was hit with some pretty terrible hard times and was supposed to be getting married in a few months time but was looking at having to cancel her wedding so she could care for her 5 younger siblings. I still have all of the pictures (on Facebook, nonetheless) because I see it as an important part of my life and feel that destroying/deleting them would invalidate who I became as a result of that part of my life. 5 years after the separation, I’m now engaged to a totally rad guy who is not threatened by the fact that I have old wedding pictures on Facebook or an engagement ring in my jewelry box and I couldn’t be happier. I think it helped that I wasn’t terribly bitter. I was the one who did the leaving and I wish him nothing but happiness (as long as I’m happier yet), I just never want to talk to him again.

  11. I urge you not to get rid of pictures. You may think they don’t matter now but in 30 years they might. Give them to your parents to stash away if you don’t want to hang onto them yourself. My parents divorced when I was 6 and my grandparents just gave me the albums from my parents wedding. It allowed me to see family members I only met when I was a baby or only heard stories about. You may want to look back at the photos yourself sometime.

  12. I tossed most things – 2 huge scrapbooks, a shadow box that had favor elements and my dried bouquet and even the gorgeous cross stitch I made and had framed of our names and wedding date. I did keep the nicest photo album – we have a son together – and the wedding video. I tried to sell the dress and had no luck. I found a spot to donate and was happy to have a large tax write off vs. selling it for a fraction of it’s original price.

  13. Because of visa issues (I’m Canadian and he was American) we were forced to cancel our wedding a whopping 4 weeks before it was scheduled. It was shortly after that, that we broke up. Because I had been planning the wedding in Canada ALL of the wedding crap was left with me. Everything from bouquets, centerpieces, dresses, rings, left over invitations, favours, etc were all packaged up and put in storage. After a year of ignoring everything I finally made the decision to save an electronic copy of all photos, destroy all hard copy photos, re-purpose everything that was reusable, and destroy everything that wasn’t reusable. Now I’m beginning to plan a new wedding (3 years later) and I’m finding that I’m glad for all of it. I like knowing that I have some reminders of my past in case any future kids or even my current partner have any questions, but I’m also glad that I don’t have to worry about coming across any of his pictures as I peruse old photos. As for re-purposing wedding crap (including my dress) I’ve found that it makes me happy to know that I have been able to take a very ugly piece of my history and make it into something new and beautiful!

    • It’s kind of funny, because I did the opposite with photos — I tend to look through old photos on my computer, so I destroyed all the electronic ones (FB and saved on my hard drive) and just kept the hard copy albums. Whatever works, right?

  14. Chiming in with everyone else. We split about a year after being married. He started an affair with in months of the wedding.

    Since I moved out and bought my own place I only took things I had before the marriage or were explicitly mine. There were only a couple items that we both wanted but largely I played the “cheated on card” and took them. I’ve slowly repurchased everything else.

    With the wedding stuff? I left it all for him. I did not want to be reminded of any of it. I have a digital copy of our wedding pictures stashed away somewhere in case I ever want them, but albums/certificates and all that I left for him to do whatever he wanted with. I did run across a bunch of favors and decorative things that had gotten put in my attic and I tossed that puppy in the trash.

    My dress still hangs in a closet. I keep meaning to cut it up for craft projects.

    My rings are in the back of my jewelry box. I’d sell them if I thought I could get anything out of them. Several folks have mentioned selling them… where/how do you do that? I looked around and couldn’t seem to find anywhere good to do it. Mine were “designer” so I know I would only get a fraction of what was paid, but I’d love to buy myself something nice instead.

    • I called around to different jewelry stores and asked if they bought old jewelry. The ones that created jewelry were the ones that were interested in buying my rings. Basically, they bought the pieces for the diamonds–they can spend less to make it this way. I didn’t get even half of the cost we paid for the two rings I sold, but it was cash in my pocket and I was able to get rid of the rings so it worked out in the end. I will say, however, that if you have lower end stones, it’ll be harder to sell. I also had a pair of diamond earrings that my ex gave me that were low quality diamonds–I had to give those away.

      • My husband tried to sell a previous engagement ring at the pawn shop (he had originally paid $4000 for it). They offered him $800. We went to a small jewelry shop run by a guy that designs jewelry, and he offered us $1600 store credit for us. Perfect, since we found a beautiful set at his place.

        So, so what you can get for store credit at a place where you want to buy something. It might make the value go further.

    • I can’t remember how I found the guy I sold them to, but I think I just Googled “resell jewelry” in my area. The guy/company who bought mine was actually the same person who had done the original appraisal. I think I got about 1/3 of what my ex originally paid for them, but that was good enough for me — paid for a semester of grad school!

    • My advice is to shop around at any store in town that offers to buy jewelry. Yes, even those ‘cash for gold’ places, if only to get a feel for a more legit place. A friend of mine acquired a ring last year that was not her style at all. After offering it to everyone else she knew for free (and we all said no way to it) she and I spent a day off going around town having the ring priced. All the gold sellers said different things: It’s all fake, no sale. It is real 24 karat gold, but the stones are glass. The ring has diamond chips in it, but the gold is on 16 karat, not 24. They were all offering about $400-$600 for it.

      Finally we went to this little old man who ran the only jeweler we could find in our area that bought old jewelry. Not only did he take it for extensive testing to figure out what the gold was (the others did it by ‘gold weight’), he also paid per diamond chip — ten in all. She ended up netting about $1700 off an ugly ring no one wanted.

  15. From what I’ve been told about wedding etiquette, if the marriage ends less than a year after the wedding, it is polite to offer the wedding gifts to the person who gifted it to you.
    However, from discussions I’ve had with people, most would never accept their gift back.

    So if you have strong negative feelings about a gift but the gifter doesn’t want it back, see if you can return it to the store for credit. (I know JC Penney and Sam’s Club will take back even used items. Although people have different ethical opinions about returning used items.)

    • I can’t imagine ever wanting a wedding gift back that I gave someone I cared about, regardless of how long the marriage lasted. I’d want them to keep it, sell it, give it away… whatever made the happiest. I’d only take it back if that was what brought my friend the most happiness/peace.

    • I dunno, I would feel super awkward if a friend tried to send back a wedding gift I’d given him/her post-divorce. What would I do with it, anyway? It’s not like I could return it, unless the wedding was 30 to 90 days ago. If the wedding was called off beforehand, or if it was annulled immediately after, then maybe… but otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about it.

  16. On a side note, my mom has been divorced many times. I recently found out that we have no direct paper trail to tie her to my mom! Her name on my birth certificate is different than the name on her marriage certificate to my stepdad (having been married in-between) and she tossed the middle marriage items.

    So when it came to family gifting my car, the MVA wouldn’t accept the paper trail we had! Ridiculous!

    So keep that in mind for any official paperwork if names were changed. That is the only advice I can give. The rest is…. what you need to do to be you again.

    • Not that you asked, but the marriage license from the middle marriage should be on file in the county of record so she should be able to get a copy if you need it.
      Of course, if she got married in a different state it might be difficult to get it.

      Also, for the OP, I definitely agree that if you keep nothing else, you should definitely keep the marriage license if you changed your name and aren’t changing it back. Bury it between some old tax records or something if you can’t bear to look at it, but establishing your legal identity is important.

  17. After my divorce I donated my dress to a community clothes center so someone who might not have the money for a dress could get one on the cheap. For the ring situation, after I met my new (current) husband and he was wanting to propose, he took both rings to a jeweler and helped design a new engagement ring ; got “credit” for the gold in the old rings and reused a gorgeous tanzanite stone I loved and some of the diamonds, that were in one of them. It was so unique and touching that he took something with bad memories and made something new and beautiful with it!

    • I think if you are okay with doing this, it’s probably the best way to get the most value out of your old rings. You save yourself at least some of the big price difference between the de-valued old ring and pricey new ring.

    • this this this! I have to verify names often in my line of work and so many people have their nicknames on legal documents (I don’t care if you went by Joe-Bob in HS…if your legal name is Michael make sure that’s on the documents!!) or don’t keep legal name change documentation. It’s a huge headache.

  18. If possible, I’d really suggest putting stuff away in a box in the closet for at least a year to give yourself some emotional distance.

    I saved a few photos from the album that I’d made, tucked them into the envelope with one of our invitations, and put it away in my memory box for my future children. I still loved my bouquet of clay flowers, so I broke it apart and made three new small arrangements out if it for myself. My dress went to a wedding consignment shop, and I sold my rings to a coin store.

  19. My husband was married previously and he said he sold/donated most items that they had together. He kept some wedding photos and photos of their time together that included his family. There is also a folder with marriage/divorce certificate, divorce agreement, and other legal paperwork.

  20. I’m not divorced, but I did live with a previous partner for years… so there was a lot of romantic, joint “stuff” and photographs to sort through after I moved out. Basically, I went through it all and put everything into a big ass box that I then stuffed in the back of my closet for a while. My logic was that I didn’t want to be rash and throw away everything, only to later wish I had some mementos from that period in my life. Then, after a year or so had gone by and the horrible emotions had mostly calmed… I threw most of it away. I did keep a few photos that were somehow relevant (cool trips we’d taken that I wanted to remember, etc.), but otherwise the rest ended up in the trash. It was helpful to toss it all after gaining some distance, though, because I never had to worry that I’d been too rash about destroying all memories in the heat of the moment.

  21. I honestly don’t know what happened to most of the “stuff” from my first wedding, because I wasn’t attached to ANY of it. I let my mom plan pretty much everything, because I was really indifferent about the whole thing (might have been a sign, it just took me 5 years to see it). My dress is probably still hanging in one of my parents’ houses, but I don’t know which. It’s definitely different if you were more involved with the wedding planning. In my case, though, I moved out, so my ex kept a lot of the gifts, photos, etc. There have been a couple of occasions where he’s given me (or my youngest sister, who stayed friends with him) a box of stuff he’s found that belonged to me, but he’s never tried to give me back any wedding stuff.

  22. Keep all the legal documents in a folder with your other important paperwork. I left my first wife about a year after our marriage then we divorced another year later (during the brief period in CA before Prop 8 was passed). I needed the legal paperwork for our second parent adoptions with my new wife and our kids.

  23. Thanks all. One specific question about the Ketbuah. It’s museum quality artwork and framing- and I can’t imagine throwing it away (mainly because of how much it cost for the art/framing). Anybody have suggestions for a place that would want this? I know it’s kind of off the wall to have a used ketubah from a failed marriage. 🙁

    • I wonder if a seminary would be interested in displaying the Ketbuah in their library or elsewhere on campus? The photo above (if that is the one you have in mind) shows what a beautiful piece of art it is. I know if would be interesting for seminarians studying Hebrew to see such beautiful text, and would be good for future Christian ministers to become more directly familiar with traditions outside their experience.

    • Even reaching out to traditional archives or museums that have Jewish cultural collections may be helpful? I can’t speak to Ketubahs specifically but our museum had a display of sedar plates through time, including some modern ones to show change over time, and I have seen similar displays of baptismal certificates, wedding dresses, bridesmaids dresses, cake toppers, etc. Museums like displays on contemporary traditions because it helps draw in visitors and holds their interest. Certainly a same-sex marriage Ketubah could be useful to some museum’s collection to showing the change in Jewish marriage traditions? Or Ketubah art in general, something I have seen displays on at archives.

    • I think donating the ketbuah would be a nice idea, but you could also remove it from the frame. A good frame shop should have no problem putting a new piece of art back in the frame. As for the ketbuah itself, you could always roll it up, and store it with old photos. It might be interesting to your children, grandchildren, etc, etc.

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