10 Incredible Stories That Will Change The Way You Look at Your Wedding Dress
Few items of clothing are so lovingly looked after, as the wedding dress. It’s only worn for a few hours, on a single day, and then it’s carefully cleaned and stored, sometimes for decades. This piece of embellished fabric holds so much symbolism, and it’s a tangible reminder of one of the most important days in your life. We’ve found some remarkable dress stories that will get you thinking about your own search for The One.
Two years later, Nicole and her husband were going to work, but decided to drive a different route. They passed a dry cleaners, and in the store window was a dress that looked like Nicole’s wedding gown. She returned the following day, receipt in hand, to reclaim her dress.
What she didn’t know was that the original store had relocated, and the shop’s owner, Hector Pacheco, had displayed the dress in his front window, hoping that it would be discovered. He said that his old shop had been completely flooded, but he’d found the dress – stored in a secure box – floating on the surface of the water. It was the only thing that had survived, and it was in pristine condition. He couldn’t trace who the dress belonged to, as all the records were stored on computers which were destroyed in the flood.
In those two years he’d had numerous requests from brides to buy the dress, but he’d refused them all, believing that one day the owner would find it. By chance, Nicole and her husband happened to pass that dry cleaners on that day, and they stumbled onto her wedding dress. It was the perfect present for their second wedding anniversary.
Most brides will have nightmares about things going wrong at their wedding, but for Amanda, a bride from Washington, this became a horrifying reality. On the day she was getting married, she was packing her car with wedding goods, to take to the venue. She placed her dress on the backseat of her car, and went back to the house to fetch another item. When she returned, she realised that her dress was no longer there.
In utter distress she phoned 911 to report the theft, and was put through to Candice. The emergency operator had gotten married 18 months earlier, and could completely empathise with the traumatised bride. After the call Candice asked her boss if she could offer Amanda her own dress, and with a resounding yes, she tracked down the police officer at the scene, and sent a picture of her gown.
The two women seemed to be the same size, and they’d actually bought their dresses from the same store. Amanda agreed to wear the dress and Candice, who couldn’t leave the call centre, got her husband to drop it off before the ceremony. Remarkably, the dress fit Amanda perfectly, and the rest of her wedding went ahead just as she had planned.
It was only a couple of weeks until Kela Toussain’s wedding day, but an accidental fire nearly reduced that dream to ashes. Kela and her fiancé were making dinner, when they realised they needed a few things from their local grocery store. They left their apartment but forgot to turn off the stove, and when they returned, they saw in horror that their home was on fire. The couple believed they’d lost everything in the blaze, but the firefighters had somehow managed to save her wedding dress, bridesmaid dress and a few of the wedding decorations. Quick thinking from the firemen enabled the young couple to still get married.
When a powerful tornado struck Oklahoma in May 2013, Michele Hoke and her family found refuge in a storm shelter. After the twister had passed, they surfaced to find the 340km/h winds had completely destroyed their home. Together with volunteers they looked through the rubble trying to salvage what remained.
One of the volunteers came to Michele holding a muddy bundle of white fabric that turned out to be her wedding dress. Aside from a few rips and a bit of dirt, the dress was remarkably undamaged. Standing on the remains of her old home, Michele had found something irreplaceable and that treasured memory gave her and her family hope.
In 1944, an American pilot named Major Claude Hensinger, was part of an operation that dropped bombs on Japan. On his return flight his engine caught alight, and he had to jump out of his plane and use his parachute to land safely. On the ground he took shelter under it until he was rescued. The pilot decided to bring his parachute home, with the intention of one day marrying a women in a dress made from the material.
After the war he met Ruth, and he proposed to her in 1947, with his parachute. She hired a local seamstress to sew the bodice and veil, and then set about making the skirt herself. The parachute was completely transformed into a gorgeous dress for her marriage to Claude. Years later it was worn by their daughter, and again by their daughter-in-law, who all walked down the same church aisle to get married.
Love at Last
Kiang Junfeng was only 18 years old when she was abducted and sold to an elderly man. She was treated cruelly, forced into marriage and held captive for 15 years. When Kiang finally found the courage to run away, she was taken in and protected by a woman in a village far away. It was here that she met the woman’s brother Zhu Zhengliang, and they fell in love and married in 2004. According to Kiang, her wedding day was the happiest moment in her life, and she didn’t want it to end, so she simply decided to carry on wearing her wedding dress.
It’s now been 10 years and Kiang still wears a wedding dress every day, but she’s had three other gowns made, so she has one for each season. Locals refer to her as “sister wedding gowns”, but she’s unperturbed by their opinion, and her husband doesn’t mind as he knows that it makes her happy.
While she’s found love, she can’t officially register her marriage to Zhu, as there is no paperwork from her first wedding. But this modern fairy tale may still have a happy ending, as the town’s authorities are considering making an exception for the couple.
Long before Allison Rinaldi got engaged, she knew which dress she would be wearing when she said I do. Allison was going to follow tradition and use the gown that had been passed down from her great-great-grandmother Nellie Campbell. Nellie bought the dress in 1884, which made it 127 when Allison slipped into it on her wedding day.
To Allison the dress wasn’t simply a family heirloom, it carried a sense of history, and it represented four other love stories. She believed that it was lucky, as all the women who had worn it, had enjoyed long and happy marriages. Five women in her family have fitted into the same dress, and it’s now carefully packed away, waiting to carry on the tradition and be worn again.
Lilly Lax was born in 1924 in Czechoslovakia, and had 5 brothers and sisters. Her mother died when she was young, leaving her dad to raise the children on his own. When Lilly’s older sister Celia moved to America, sent tickets to her family so they could escape Europe, but they couldn’t get visas, and in 1944 their family was arrested and deported to Auschwitz.
In a devastating series of events, Lilly’s father and brothers were killed, and she and her sisters were taken to the Bergen Belsen displaced person’s camp. When the British army liberated the camp in 1945, Lilly and her sisters were taken to the nearby town of Celle, where she met another Czechoslovakian survivor Ludwig Friedman. When Ludwig asked Lilly to marry him, she said yes, but she had one request – to get married wearing a white gown. Having survived torture and starvation, this was an entirely different challenge for Ludwig, but he managed to trade coffee beans and cigarettes with a German pilot, in exchange for an old parachute, which he presented to Lilly.
A seamstress helped create Lilly’s wedding dress, and with the leftover material she made a shirt for Ludwig. In January 1946, hundreds of people walked 24km, through snow, to watch Lilly and Ludwig get married in a synagogue that had been repaired by the displaced persons. Six months later Lilly’s sister, and then her cousin, wore the same dress to their own weddings, as did 20 other young brides from the Bergen Belsen displaced person’s camp.
When 100 000 Jews were allowed to emigrate in 1948, Lilly, her family, and her dress moved to America. This incredible garment is a piece of history, and it’s carefully displayed at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum where it will be preserved for hundreds of years.
Ruth Sullivan was 92 when she finally got to put on a white wedding dress, and feel like a bride. She married Norm Sullivan in 1946, but could only afford a blue wool dress in a peplum style, and after her husband died in 2004, Ruth was convinced her dream would never be realised.
She moved into a care home that works with Second Wind Dreams – a non-profit organisation that tries to fulfil the requests of elderly American citizens. When she was asked to make a wish, she didn’t hesitate to answer: she wanted to wear a white wedding dress.
The day after her 92nd birthday she thought she was going to a doctor’s appointment, but instead she was taken to a bridal salon, where she got the chance to try on different wedding dresses in front of her family. She was also presented with a cake, champagne and a bouquet of beautiful flowers. Her fairy tale wasn’t quite over as she was then whisked away by limo to a surprise reception, where the venue was filled with flowers, jazz music was playing and all her guests were given wedding favours.
When Ruth married Norm, her sister told her that if she put a dime into her ring box, their marriage would be blessed and they wouldn’t suffer financial problems. As it turned out, they didn’t have a dime for the box, so they used two nickels instead, which Ruth still has to this day. As overwhelmed as she felt, she was in for one more surprise. She was presented with a ring box and when she opened it, she found a dime inside. Ruth had waited her whole life for the day when her dream would finally come true.
One Dress, One Woman, One World
Jennifer and Jeff wanted to get married somewhere exotic and remote, and a volcano on top of Easter Island appealed to the two avid hikers. To get there they would have to fly thousands of kilometres to Chile, drive across the island and then climb up the volcano, and they needed a dress that would survive being carried in a backpack.
Jennifer is a guidance counsellor and Jeff is a professor who teaches computer science, but he’s also a self-trained photographer. He was taking photos of his new wife in different locations around the island, when the idea was born to look for more exotic backdrops around the world. Most brides only wear their dress once, but Jennifer was about to take her wedding dress on a never-ending honeymoon around the world.
While Jennifer’s dress can’t talk, the photographs can, and she’s gone dog-sledding in Iceland, diving in Jamaica, paragliding in New Zealand, on a rollercoaster in Las Vegas, snorkelling in Hawaii, swam with dolphins in the Bahamas, hauled in lobster traps in Maine, hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, floated in the Dead Sea and she’s even experienced zero gravity. All in her strapless white wedding gown with a lace overlay. The dress is now a bit frayed, but it’s held up remarkably well, and to clean it, then just use local dry cleaners.
They got married in 2008 and since then they’ve been to 23 countries, had 182 photo shoots, have travelled nearly 300 000km and it’s still not the end of the road for Jennifer, Jeff or their wedding dress.
Every dress has a unique history and every dress will tell a story – what’s yours?