After the Big Day, it gets dry-cleaned, wrapped carefully around bodice-shaped cardboard, placed in a double-thick acid-free cardboard box the size of a bathtub, and stored in the closet. And there it stays, year after year.

You look at the precious box occasionally, wondering why you paid that enormous sum for the once-worn outfit, and of more practical items that you could have bought instead—a washing machine, a bicycle, a trip to the Bahamas.

So went the conversation with girlfriends one night at Arbor Brewing Company, over pints of beer and sweet-potato fries. We bemoaned how much we paid for our wedding dresses and reminisced about how little we weighed on our wedding days. Then my friend April suggested it might be fun to wear our dresses one more time, together, at a party.

We chuckled at the thought. But the next time we convened at the pub, it came up again. Finally, after more beer, we decided to seize the opportunity before fitting into the dresses was no longer worth considering. April works at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, site of so many weddings, and was able to secure us a summer evening.

The next time I touched the enormous acid-free box, it was with a sense of purpose. I unwrapped multiple layers of tissue paper, and there it lay, with mysterious stains on the skirt, looking much smaller than I remembered.

With some trepidation, I tried it on, or mostly on—I was able to zip the dress only to my waist. Fortunately, the fabric is cotton brocade, and after I wetted it down it stretched enough to zip most of the way up. I could even take some short, shallow breaths. Sitting, however, would be painful and possibly injurious, and closing those little pearly buttons was out of the question.

As I arrived at Matthaei, two friends in flowing taffeta-and-silk gowns spilled out of their car. We waltzed towards the conservatory together, trying not to trip on our hems as we climbed the steps.

The party room was full of long tables covered with white tablecloths and vases of flowers. The punch bowl and drinks were on one side, the food on another, and an open floor was primed for dancing. There was even a photographer, hired to capture our celebration re-enacted. My contribution to the event was a mini-tiered cake complete with decorator icing and a bouquet of flowers to toss.

Not everyone wore white. There was a butterfly costume complete with wings, and a gaudy bridesmaid dress. A woman who was visibly pregnant at her wedding stuffed a soc-cer ball under her dress to provide an illusion of authenticity. The men wore cowboy hats and suspenders, suits and T-shirts, and one arrived with an armful of colorful caftans, which he changed every hour or so.

During the meal, we clinked glasses with our forks, and a few couples kissed on cue. Toasts were made, mostly to April for conceiving such a brilliant idea. And three of us cut the cake, taking turns stuffing pieces into one another’s mouths, spreading the requisite icing on our faces.

After dinner, we proceeded outside to the formal garden, where we posed for photographs, tossed my little bouquet, and admired the beautiful flowers. And then we former brides returned inside and danced together, twirling and prancing to the music mix April had assembled.

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t entirely fit into the dress. The photographer was stealthy enough to capture our partially zipped dresses in a collage of less than erotic poses, which I didn’t notice until they were posted on her website.

At home that evening, I peeled off my dress and folded it neatly back into its box, grateful to have had the chance to wear it one more time.