Why women burned by bad marriages set their wedding dresses on fire

Maggie Parker

Scorned brides are saying “yes” to trashing the dress.

It’s become somewhat of a trend for a woman to destroy her wedding dress after being dumped or mistreated by a husband or fiancé. Kristy Scott is the one of the latest to join this ex-wives’ club.

After discovering her husband cheated on her, the Louisiana woman covered her wedding dress in paint and then set it on fire — just as anyone might want to do after finding out her husband of 16 years was two-timing her with a pal. According to Metro, Scott’s husband had been having a three-month affair with a mutual Facebook friend.

Kristy Scott and her burning wedding dress. (Photo: Caters News)
Kristy Scott and her burning wedding dress. (Photo: Caters News)

“I wanted to burn the dress, because I couldn’t burn the marriage,” she told Metro. “I got my friend, she had a professional camera, we went down the bayou, on a road, and did my thing.” That is, she covered the gown with pink and purple paint before returning to her friend’s yard, where she set it ablaze. “It was a weight lifted off my shoulders,” she said. “It definitely helped me get through everything.”

How does simply setting a material object on fire mend a broken heart? “They have been burned at the altar and burned in the relationship. It becomes a way to release the anger and hurt they have experienced,” Jane Greer, a New York-based marriage and sex therapist and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, explains to Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s a symbolic way to get rid of anything that reminds them of what just happened. For some women, it’s a way to release their anger so they aren’t continuously reminded of the pain. It can be an act that helps them let go of the disappointment and move forward.”

Wedding-dress trashing is a thing. (Photo: Getty Images)
Wedding-dress trashing is a thing. (Photo: Getty Images)

It’s apparently an effective method for moving on, because brides around the world are doing the same. Briana Barksdale, who survived an abusive marriage, recently hosted a “divorce garage sale” to rid herself of the memories from her harrowing relationship. The day’s centerpiece, a fluffy white bridal gown she wore 13 years ago, was not for sale, though.

“This is for every woman who has ever been in a relationship that was abusive, that hurt, that they shouldn’t have stayed in, that they didn’t know how to get out of,” the Houston resident said to news cameras before dousing the displayed dress with gasoline. Surrounded by friends and family, she then sparked a lighter at the hem of the gown in the driveway of her home. “Burn, baby, burn,” the divorcée sang out as the gown burst into flames.

Kiley Manulak’s fiancé of two years broke off their engagement via text. Still wanting to have a major moment in her gown, Manulak and her bridesmaids wore their formal dresses to a color run in Tampa. And needless to say, the dress was no longer white by the end. “It was actually very liberating. I didn’t want to have a pity party, I just wanted to have fun with it,” she told NBC affiliate WFLA of the destroyed dress.

Before torching it, Kristy Scott splattered the gown with paint. (Photo: Caters News)
Before torching it, Kristy Scott splattered the gown with paint. (Photo: Caters News)

Similarly, when her partner of three years left her five days before their wedding, Shelby Swink didn’t know how to spend the big day. “A few people brought up the idea of trashing the dress, and at first it sounded crazy,” she wrote for Offbeat Bride. “My mother spent so much money on the dress and alterations, so I was nervous to even think about destroying it, let alone try and pitch the idea to her. But after thinking about it, I knew that doing something to mark the occasion was the perfect thing for me.”

So Swink, her friends, and her family got together on what was supposed to be her wedding day — and, in their formalwear, proceeded to have a paint fight. “The moment the paint hit my dress … I was free,” she wrote. “All the disappointment, all the hurt … I just felt it leave me. I can’t even describe how liberating and cathartic the experience was for me. I let go of all the hurt and became myself again.”

Another left-at-the-altar bride combined all these ideas into a colorful, fiery display. Jen Brown needed to get rid of the dress for “closure.” But first, she got creative. She threw a farewell party for the dress — it cost $1,300, after all, and she hadn’t even finished paying for it, so, yes, it deserved a party — that consisted of a paint fight and a champagne toast to a new chapter in her life, before dramatically burning the beautiful gown. “It felt really liberating,” she said of the act.

“Not only do ‘trash the dress’ divorce photo shoots provide an outlet to unleash pent-up anger, but also an opportunity to get pampered with professional hair and makeup services,” wrote author Joelle Caputa of Trash the Dress: Stories of Celebrating Divorce in Your 20s for a blog run by divorce coach Mandy Walker, who offers sessions including a “trash-your-dress ceremony.”

She continued, “After your physical and emotional transformation is complete, you’ll feel way hotter than you ever did when you were married. The resulting photos will be your sweet revenge.”

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