It hung in the closet. I’m not sure why I left it there since it served as a daily reminder of a dream shattered, a happily-ever-after that didn’t end very happily at all. It wasn’t the dress’s fault. I loved everything about it. The relationship was what didn’t work, so it was good that the dress didn’t make it down the aisle, at least on me. But it deserved better than hanging in a closet collecting dust as it memorialized a broken engagement. The dress needed to go — for the both of us.
A consignment shop was my first thought, but it didn’t feel quite right as I knew the dress would likely be shuffled about and tried on by many potential brides. I worried about the delicate lace and sleek, silky sash that could get lost or damaged. I wanted the dress to be perfect, brand-new, not only for the bride but also for her groom who would catch his first glimpse of her walking down the aisle in it.
So, I posted the dress on preownedweddingdresses.com with hopes of finding the one destined to be its new owner. There was a taker in Wisconsin, but issues with Paypal became an obstacle. The bride-to-be pulled out apologetically after several days of failed payment attempts. Besides, I really wanted to meet the recipient of my dress – although that was unlikely with requests and questions coming from all over the country. But one day I received an email from a girl named Emily. She lived in Indianapolis and wanted to try on the dress.
We met at my mom’s retirement home, which had a locker room. As I approached Emily and her girlfriend (also Emily) with bagged dress and veil in hand, I knew the dress and style would be a great fit. But I wanted to take any pressure off this young, sweet bride, and immediately after introductions I gave her an out. “I love this dress, but if you don’t and it’s not exactly what you want, I don’t want you to buy it,” I said. “On your special day, you need to have the perfect dress.” She smiled, and I could tell my words put her at ease as we headed inside. As the Emilys disappeared into the makeshift dressing room, I could hear giggles on the other side of the door. Their comments made me smile, “It fits perfectly. It’s beautiful. I love it!” The Emilys appeared a few moments later, and the bride-to-be peered into the mirror for her first glimpse. At that moment, tears began to flow — from all of us.
Emily2 took many pictures of glowing bride Emily1. She resembled a model out of a bridal magazine as I placed the duster veil on her head. More tears trickled out. I knew the dress had found its new owner, but what did the bride think? “This is the very first dress I’ve tried on, but it’s perfect!” she said. “I’ll take it!” She even had cash ready. As we walked through the retirement home’s dining hall on the way out, Emily2 exclaimed, “We said ‘Yes’ to the dress!” I’m sure the 80+ year olds having a late lunch had no clue what she was talking about, but her excitement could not be contained.
After taking a few final photos outside, we hugged and said our goodbyes, promising to stay in touch. As I got into my car, their giggling continued and, in my rearview mirror, I could see them joyfully skipping to their car with dress and veil in hand. My tears began to flow again — one chapter behind me and a new one ahead for both of us, me and a stranger named Emily.
And so indeed, my wedding dress will make it down the aisle on a beautiful, glowing 22-year old bride who is marrying her high school sweetheart.
May they live happily ever after — Emily, Ethan, and my unworn wedding dress.
Note: A picture of Emily in the dress was intentionally not included here. I didn't want to risk the groom seeing her in it before their wedding day!