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. After my parents divorced (Dad had been cheating for 11 years), Mum let my brother and I use her dress for dress-ups! I think it gave her joy to see it slowly being trashed. She only paid $100 for it anyway – back in the 80s! When Dad requested some wedding photos, she cut him out of them and sent him photos of himself on the day – a bit rough. But then again, she was PISSED OFF. I’m really glad she didn’t destroy all the photos, because I am now restoring and framing a beautiful photo of her on the day to hang in my house.

    I think it’s totally different if you have kids together. Now that I’m getting married, I am able to go over Mum’s photos of her first marriage and see how she did things, and she can reminisce without being so angry and bitter. As for wedding memorabilia, Mum was going to toss the lot but Grandma insisted on keeping it, which makes her feel better and none of the rest of us really care.

    You really just have to do what works for you, depending on lots of different factors. If it were me, I’d box the lot, leave it in Mum’s shed, and deal with it in a year or so when the emotions weren’t so raw.

    • My mom dyed part of the dress from her first wedding and used it as a Halloween costume, and then it became part of our dress-up box as kids! It was one of our favorites.

  2. Burn it at Zozobra ?. I know someone who had a “cleansing” New Year’s Eve Party where everyone brought things that represented what they wanted to be cleared of from that year. Find out if there are mutual people from your lives who want it?

    Other than those kinda weird suggestions, I would just try to make getting rid of things as eco-friendly as possible.

  3. Marley, do you have children? I have never been divorced but as a child of divorced parents I am so grateful that my Mom kept some of their wedding stuff. I actually wear her wedding ring every day, to remind myself that great things can come from not-so-great situations. Their marriage was not good and divorce was really the best for both of my parents, but the not-good marriage did produce me and my awesome sister. So if you have kids I would encourage you to pack things away and wait a few years. They might want them.

    If not, then you need to do what feels right for you. When my common-law ex and I split up, I got rid of a lot of things that were “ours” (i.e. furniture, dishes). The more sentimental stuff (jewellery, gifts) I put in a box in my closet and it’s sitting there until I feel emotionally ready to go through that. For me, that’s going to take years. For you, what feels right? Chucking it now or storing it away for a time when your emotions are less raw?

    • Nope- no kids. We were in the process of getting a sperm donor, but luckily (?) all of this crap came to light before either of us got pregnant, so there’s that silver lining…

  4. Anything that I could donate (including the ring) I donated. I have some electronic copies of pictures, but that’s about it. Everything else (ketubah, photos, cards) – well, I, too, find fire purifying (and therapeutic 😉 )

  5. Well, I’m not divorced. In fact, I’m happily married for a year , 7 years together. However, I’m not someone that’s sentimental about things. At all. My photos are still sitting in a box, not in the album. My dress hasn’t moved from the hanger I put it on at the end of the day. Of course I have digital copies of the images, that I love and can look at any time, but that’s good enough for me. My husband is the sentimental one between us, and that’s fine.
    I think the wedding stuff is all just things, really. So, if you don’t have kids that might want it someday, I say get rid of it. Donate what you can and recycle or trash the rest. I don’t believe in the idea of memories being tied to things, but if they remind you of a negative time anyway, then there’s no point in keeping them. If you still have your dress, donate it or give it to someone that would love to have it. That would bring a positive to an otherwise crummy situation.

  6. I’ve never been married or divorced, but had a partner for 6 years and the break up was awful painful and terrible, as first serious relationships are wont to be. Our lives had been enmeshed at crucial points though that would have left my “story of me” with some serious holes in it. I wanted very badly to burn everything, but the historian in me said not to, and I’m glad historian me over-ruled angry me. I donated sentimental objects and gifts, kept practical things like DVDs, books and things I used, and, wisely, boxed up our love letters and pictures and put them on the top shelf of my closet. Gradually, over time, I was able to go through things and think of the happy times (and trust me, they weren’t all happy times; we aren’t dating anymore for a reason) and reflect on how important those years and that relationship was to my story of me. I was glad to have not thrown out things that were part of such a formative part of my life, even though it’s not anymore. I would say this is especially important if you have kids together, since you may look on it totally negatively, but they may just be curious about it and want to know more about it.

    As a historian I have learned you can’t get some things back. This doesn’t matter for dove-topped bubble wands, or centrepieces, but one day if someone wants to ask, you may regret not being able to show them. My own grandmother had a horrible marriage to an alcoholic who I never met, even though he was biologically my grandfather, and she burnt all her pictures when they divorced. While this was probably very cleansing for her and TOTALLY understandly, selfishly when she died I yearned for that visual connection to my grandmother’s past and it was gone, impossible to recover. No one alive could tell me about or show me pictures of her when she had been young and beautiful on her wedding day. So ya, I am on team box it up, give it to a friend or a top shelf, but tell your kids about it if they ask, and remember it is part of your story, if not a happy one.

  7. First, I like to see things about divorce on here. I was a very young bride, and a still quite young divorcee, so it’s nice to know I’m not alone here.

    My ex and I had a micro-wedding. We practically eloped, so there weren’t many pictures taken. When things got bad enough, I just took my things and left. Left behind my wedding dress, my rings, everything. I just didn’t care about it anymore. The stone in the ring was antique, but I felt no pull to it anymore. It was, to me, like having sentimental attachment to handcuffs.

    If I hadn’t done that, I would have probably just sold it all.

  8. Hmm. Some things I had to keep, since I needed a place to sit (and sleep). Some things, like my wedding band, I couldn’t stand looking at, and in fact left it for him to deal with. (Since we stopped talking that day, I have no idea what he did with them.) Almost everything else got packed up and thrown into a dark corner of my parents cellar, since they had room and I didn’t. Over the years, I slowly went through things to get rid of them. Some things I burned. Surprisingly (to me), many things ended up in art projects–I say surprisingly since I didn’t consider myself much of an artist at that point.

    But basically, I hung on to things until it made sense in how I got rid of it or repurposed it, whatever “it” was. I was lucky to have this option, though, since I didn’t have to look at or live with most things right away.

  9. I suppose I’m weird, I like to keep things from past relationships because years later, when the pain has passed, they’re just memories like any other. Personally I’d donate or sell anything that would be useful to someone else, keep (but pack away) any pictures or highly personal things, and then decide whether or not to get rid of them in a few years when emotions have settled.

  10. My first marriage was short lived and we hadn’t made any purchases together, so we simply parted ways with our individual belongings. Well, it would have been simple if he hadn’t sent me death threats from his military account and stole my identity a bit (ten years later, I am still discovering bills he took out in my name first name, his last – despite the fact that I never legally changed it) so that made it easy to toss the pictures and get rid of the rings.

    My second and last husband didn’t have it so easy with his divorce – he just cut everything, took as many of his clothes and belongings he could fit into his car, signed the title of his other car that she had been driving to her, took himself off of the rental agreement for their house, gave her one month of continuing to pay electric, water, and phone until he shut them off (as they were in his name). He pretty much started from scratch, but still doesn’t have any regrets.

  11. I was in similar situation. We split almost exactly a year after we married. Right after the split, I boxed things up and put them in my mom’s attic so they weren’t at my house. 6 months later I threw the box in the dumpster. I sold my rings to a young couple that just got engaged and the only thing I saved was a picture of me and my dad. That was over 8 years ago and I have no regrets.

  12. When my fiancee and I broke up, I gave him back the engagement ring and he sold it to a friend so that was somehow positive and worked out well for us. The rest: condensed into a box and put away, out of sight. Recently found the box (it’s been years ago now) and thought, “Okay – I guess I can get rid of this now!”

    However, of course I was fortunate that we didn’t actually get married so we didn’t have any technically awesome but emotionally not-awesome stuff from the wedding. I do still have some pictures which is okay for me because as some other commenters mentioned, it was an important part of my life that I might want to reflect on or even share with others (like my husband).

  13. I’m going through this right now; I was married in May this year, and a humiliating 3 months later we separated. We spent two of those months dealing with a return of his recurrent severe depression before he decided that leaving would be the best thing for him to do. During the wedding planning it seemed a great idea not to have a ‘disposable’ wedding so we could treasure all of the memories – so when he moved out I found myself surrounded by wedding and honeymoon fallout.

    To try to cope with it and make my living room somewhere I could stand to spend time in I moved everything into the spare room – a big box of honeymoon mementoes, my brooch bouquet and headpiece and one of my bridesmaid’s paper flower bouquets, wedding dress, wedding cards, photo album, various decorative things from the wedding, plus a pile of photos that had been scattered around in frames. I now refer to it as my Miss Haversham room…! My rings are in a box in my bedroom.

    I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it all. I’m putting off going through everything as I don’t want to do anything too rash, and at the moment I can’t bear the thought of it and would probably just want to throw it all away. I think I’d regret that in years to come (and also, I put so much work and heart into making a lot of this stuff!) – and it’s helpful to read through these comments and see that other people have come through not dissimilar situations.

  14. My former husband left me under pretty horrific circumstances, so I sold everything. Both our wedding outfits, all our wedding gifts, everything from the wedding, as fast as I could.

    He stole my wedding and engagement rings and pawned them, but I would have sold them if he hadn’t.

    I gave his beloved flat screen to his mother, who has it in her house to this day. I saved one picture from the wedding and put it in our son’s baby album, and threw out all other photos of him. I dont just mean the wedding photos, I mean every photo.

    I took all of his clothes and personal belongings to good will.

    The way he left was so awful, I knew there was no way we’d ever get back together. Within 24 hours of him leaving, there was no sign that he had ever lived in our home.

    A few years later, my mom brought over her own copy of our wedding album, which my son, who was 4-5 at the time, was obsessed with.

    Though my husband was wonderful about it, as he always is with matters involving my son’s biological father, I could tell having the album in the house made him uncomfortable, and it made me feel uncomfortable too.

    As soon as I could, I tossed it too.

    I’m not one for hanging onto the past, there’s no need. I say toss everything, donate/sell/burn/ whatever, and dont look back!

  15. One of my friends gave me her diamond engagement ring from a previous relationship.

    I felt a bit funny at the time, but to me, it’s a pretty ring, to her it was bad memories. I gave her some vouchers in return as a thank-you, nothing like whatever it cost, but just to say thank-you.

  16. I’ve got rid of most things. I kept the CD roms of the photos, got rid of the skirt of the dress, and I use the corset I wore for LARPing- trying to give it a new life doing something I love.

    One thing that I’d be curious to know other homies opinion on is the rings. I still have my engagement and wedding rings in a jewellery box. My ex, who was- and continues to try to be- very controlling, told me “if you’re going to sell them then I want them back.”

    I feel like selling them (now we’re divorced, and there’s no way I’d reconcile- it was an abusive relationship) would be better- I’m saving up the deposit on a house and the money would be really good. Do I just go for it and not tell him? We don’t talk, in fact I avoid seeing him at all. There’s very little chance he’d find out about it if I didn’t tell him. Should I feel guilty about selling the rings?

    • You said so yourself that you don’t talk, and you avoid seeing him, and that there’s very little chance he’d find out unless you volunteered the information. Sell them and don’t look back, you have no reason to feel guilty. He’s not part of your life anymore.

    • There are actually some very specific legal rulings about rings… since the engagement followed through to a marriage, the rings are yours and you are allowed to do whatever you want with them. The only exception would be if they were specifically negotiated in your divorce settlement or other legal paperwork like a pre-nup.

      If they were family heirloom’s from his side, I’d say the karma for returning them is more important than the money you’d receive selling them.

      If they’re not heirlooms, and you want to sell them but are feeling guilty about it, you could always have a compromise and contact him somehow (maybe through a letter or a less involved friend/relative) and say “I have been offered a purchase quote for for $XX for my rings, and I have decided I will accept it. Before I complete the sale, I am offering you first refusal on that non-negotiable price, please let me know by (date) if you wish to buy the rings before I sell them to a third party.”

  17. I left my hsbandin 2010 after a 7 year relationship and just 10months of marriage. he was devastated and wanted to keep the photosa nd some wedding stuff. I sold all the decorations and boxed up my dress, the cards amd guest books. I think my step mum has them in the loft. I have my rings and I still don’t know what to do with them.
    I wear my wedding shoes, bag and cardigan occassionally to other weddings etc. infact I wore my shoes to my grandads funeral. they are beautiful items and I feel confident in them. friends do comment that ik wearing my wedding shoes but I don’t care- I bought them to be worn again and again and won’t be shamed into not wearijg them.

  18. My site, listed here, is a blog I wrote about my divorce and how to deal with it. I was left by my ex at 10 months in, and I had no idea what to do with my wedding things, jewelry he had bought me, etc. As a pagan, I was kind of worried about negative energies, etc, and I found something that I think would actually help people outside of paganism as well. The spell I used called for a black box, but really I think the color matters little. If you’re not sure what to do with any of it yet, box it all up, and pack it away. Wait until you feel ready (at least 6 months, maybe even longer depending on your needs), and then decide. If things are still fresh and the pain is too much, don’t do anything. I know you might think you want to forget everything and keep nothing, but even with how disastrously my first marriage ended, in time I began to appreciate things about my failed relationship and the marriage and even the wedding. I have pictures I’ve kept, and small mementos that I decided I wanted later on once most of the pain had dissipated. So box it away for now, wait until you are ready to face it without the fresh pain you have now.

  19. Yeah I’ve been down the isle a few times. And here is what I learned/did. I don’t have any pics of my first ex. I’m a little sad about that. Not huge sad but it was a time of my life and he did matter at one point. I don’t see any reason to hang on to invites and other stuff. It may be tough because it’s all so fresh but yeah dumping most of it is the best bet. Save a couple of pics and be done with the rest. I kept a few pics of my second wedding was a little more important as my son might care to see them. But generally a couple of small momentos then let the rest go. It’s not like you are going to reuse them.

  20. I guess my question is: How does the stuff make you feel? For one person, a fondue set might be just a fondue set, while another person will see it as a constant, painful reminder of the time it represents.

    I haven’t been divorced, but I would hazard that I’d get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t make me feel good. I don’t have a lot of money, so I’d perhaps hold onto big, expensive, hard-to-replace things like a dresser, a bed, TV, or washing machine. But I might refinish the dresser, and get new sheets for the bed to get a “new” vibe.

    As for wedding memorabilia, and photo albums. Here’s an idea: see if you can store them at a sympathetic relative’s house. That way they aren’t really in your life, but neither are they out completely. Some time in the future – say 10 years – you’ll take it back. In that time, you may be less “raw” and able to decide if you want to keep those memories, or chuck them.

  21. When I went to my husband’s parents’ house, I found some photos of my husband’s first wedding. I said that it made me uncomfortable that they kept those and his response was that he couldn’t tell him what to do (yes, he could have and it made me even more uncomfortable that he didn’t). After his parents passed, he inherited those photo albums. I asked him to throw out his first wedding photos which he willingly did. It was a relief to me because I didn’t want them in my house. I didn’t think it was appropriate to keep them.

    • I understand this. My fiance’s family still has lots of pictures of his prior girlfriends, but mostly because they were at important family events like graduations or other weddings. When I mentioned it, he told me that after his breakup with the one serious girlfriend his mom took the photos down; the girlfriend passed away less than a year later and the pictures went back up about 6 months after. I appreciate that she was respectful about it and know the few mementos he has (including a donation certificate to a charity in her name) isn’t anything that *needs* to make me feel uncomfortable, since there’s no way she can be in the picture. It’s been a good lesson for me in getting over my own insecurities and jealousy issues.

  22. Reading this discussion has been immensely helpful and cathartic. I was married for two years and have been divorced for two years. Donated my wedding dress during our marriage, but still have rings, photos, marriage certificate, and wedding cards and invitations in my possession. Even though my current living space is extremely small, I am glad that I didn’t get rid of everything during those emotionally charged years post-divorce. Now, I am at a better juncture to make decisions and needed to hear from other people what they did with their things. Despite conflicted feelings, I’ve decided that I am keeping photos with other people in them and photos with the ex that are neutral and represent meaningful parts of my life story, tucking the marriage certificate into an envelope as a record, selling the designer rings to another designer for the materials since jewelry stores don’t want them, and, on New Year’s Eve, letting go of the rest of the sentimental items from an unhappy marriage…perhaps in a fire. Thank you all for sharing your stories and thoughts!

  23. When I got divorced I left almost everything with my erstwhile husband. I didn’t even have a frying pan for a long time! I brought a couple of gifts from my closest friends with me, and sometimes I forget those were even a wedding present. I learned an important lesson leaving it all behind, and that is that I am totally self-reliant and self-sufficient and that I really don’t “need” 99% of what society thinks I need.

  24. I kept the diamond from my ring (to make a pendant for our daughter) and sold the gold. My dress has been sitting in a box, along with a box of cards and things that I saved for my daughter in case she is curious. I recently read a post here about dyeing the dress to reclaim it, and I love that idea! A lot of other things I’ve tossed. My new fiance has also been married once before, and he kept nothing.

  25. I’ve never been officially “divorced”, but I did have a spiritual marriage to my former partner. Our break-up was very painful and drawn out, but I agree with some other posters in that I felt like eradicating all traces of him from my life was dishonest and not genuine to who I am. Plus he was a very key part of my friend’s lives as we were all very close – it wasn’t fair to them to ask them to get rid of everything just because it was painful for me.

    I boxed up all the personal mementos (and the box has some older stuff as well, from my first love) that is kept in the back of a closet. Now that I’m getting legally married I know that I need to purge some exceedingly sentimental items that my fiance would be jealous of or upset that I still have. He wasn’t very fond of the photos I left on facebook, so out of respect to our relationship I removed them but didn’t delete them. I saved the originals on an external hard drive that’s manually partitioned to include a “permanent” folder where I keep things I don’t ever need to regularly access. Some photos and videos still remain since my friends were so close to him, but I felt it was fair to my fiance (then boyfriend) since if I had stumbled on his facebook page and saw him all snuggly and kissy with his ex I would have been upset too.

    I just wanted to mention that hard drive technique for others. I just formatted it into 2 folders – “Backup” and “Permanent”. I regularly backup my entire libraries and folders to the “Backup” folder, and occasionally add files to the “Permanent” side. What is on there now includes the photos mentioned as well as several college OneNote notebooks and high school files.

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