Say Yes to the Dress

I was not a girl who dreamed about her wedding.  Maybe because I spent much of my young life as a wallflower and the notion of finding a husband when I couldn’t even find a date was beyond me!

My thinking didn’t suddenly erupt into visions of invitations and lace and flying rice when I met my husband.  Except for one small thing:  I knew what I’d be wearing.

I am the most sentimental NON-sentimental person you might ever meet.  Pragmatic and realistic, not dreamy and misty-eyed.  But when it comes to family heirlooms, I feel a connection.  Something about them stirs me.  I find them filled with meaning.

When I got engaged, the way I told my parents was to inquire as to the whereabouts of my mom’s wedding gown.  I knew I wanted to wear her dress.

So, after unearthing it in a closet where it was carefully packed away waiting for just this moment to arrive, my mom and I headed to the dressmaker.  There we stood.  The woman who had thoughtfully, carefully, chosen the dress decades earlier, and the woman who had lovingly chosen that same dress, not because of its style or fit, but because of its meaning.

There was something about standing in front of a mirror, seeing myself in a wedding gown, that felt both real and surreal at the same time.

The dress was a style that I would never have chosen for myself.  The cut, the length, the neckline, the blue accent on the bodice, the need for a crinoline.   But I loved the connection to my parents; I loved the closeness I felt to my mom.  My only regret – that I took the advice of the dressmaker and let her make some style modifications to “update” the dress.

Twenty-four years later, the dress is once again safely packed away and stored at my mom’s house.  Waiting.  Just in case.  But, since I only have sons, my guess is that the dress has seen its last wedding.  Unless some little piece of it can be transformed into something old or borrowed or blue, when I someday become a mother-in-law:)

Thanks, Mom.

And happy anniversary, dear husband.

Are you sentimental?  Do you have a favorite family heirloom?



Filed under clothing, family, history (my past), influence of others

46 responses to “Say Yes to the Dress

  1. I think it is a lovely dress. I also did not know that your husband is to tall. Mine, too. Me being a shorty, he being a tally: your picture reminds me of us. Happy anniversary to you both.

    Yes, I have a set of china that was my grandmother’s. It is now over 80 yeas old. We salvaged it all in the fire, too. Only a few serving pieces evaporated! So, yes, sentimental about those dishes!

    • Karen

      Oh I have a china story too! When my paternal grandmother died, my mom asked if I wanted her china that my dad had brought back when he was serving over seas. My dad, who had passed away years earlier, was an only child and I am the only girl. I said “no” because I didn’t like the pattern. So my mom took it. And some years later, sitting at her table, eating off that china, I realized how much I wanted it because it made me feel connected to two very special people. My mom was very gracious in letting me take it:)

  2. What a lovely dress, and a lovely idea at that.

    I don’t think I have got any favorite family heirlooms… hmm, no. And I think my mother’s wedding dresses are really ugly. Plus she got divorced several times, thus: Bad luck!

  3. Happy Anniversary! Your wedding picture is beautiful. I do not have a favorite family heirloom. I LOVE looking at old family pictures. So if those are considered heirlooms?? I am VERY sentimental Sometimes too much! 🙂

    • Karen

      About a year or so ago I collected some fabulous old photos from both my family and my husband’s and framed them and put them going up our stairway. I love it:)

  4. Oh my goodness! That first photo – the double photo of you and your mom in the same dress years apart – gives me chills, goosebumps, or whatever you like to call them.

    I understand the non-sentimental yet very sentimental nature. I’ve been accused of being extremely sentimental (though as you know, I’ve been accused of having all kinds of extreme emotions), but I wouldn’t say it’s in every area. I don’t scrapbook, though the idea of it is very appealing. If I ever get to have a child or get married, I have some ideas for becoming a scrapbooker. I do love to take pictures, and there’s little I enjoy more than sitting around with the older members of my family listening to them talk about things from the past. It makes me feel all warm inside.

    • Karen

      Someday you and I can talk about scrapbooking. I started when my oldest was 13 and now wish I had done things very differently. But I don’t take nearly enough photos! I also love stories. I wish I had recorded my grandmothers telling tales before they died.

  5. I’m not all that sentimental, but am appreciative of the few things I have that are heirlooms. I have a full set of Noritake China that was shipped to an old maid aunt of Mr. B’s during the war by a beau that she ending up not marrying. The factory was bombed shortly afterwards and that pattern was not resumed so the pieces are not replaceable. It is ugly china (IMHO!), but I use & display it proudly. It is a full service for 8 with all pieces intact except one cereal bowl with a chip in it. She had already died when we married, but we wandered if that is the only piece she ever used!

    I bought my wedding dress, but am proud to say it has been worn twice since my wedding 34 years ago. My sister wore it four years later and then a family friend who could not afford a dress of her own, wore it several years later after I offered it to her.

    Happy Anniversary! I’m a blog friend who has actually met your hubby and I think you chose well. SO DID HE!!

    • Karen

      If you come back to read this, go up to the top comment by Michele and read my “ugly” china story. He is a keeper:)

  6. Oh, how wonderful! I doubt my daughter would want to wear my dress, but I do still have it. I’m not very sentimental about things, but I do have an appreciation for the antiques I have from relatives and all of the many things my Dad made for us when he took up woood working (from furniture to cutting boards to toys). Those do have special meaining.

    • Karen

      I have a painting hanging in my living room that my dad had chosen and liked. I don’t really like it much and it does not match my decor, but it does make me think of my dad. I wish I had more stuff of his since he died 24 years ago. Yep, not long before my wedding:(

  7. Ooops – forgot to add: Happy Anniversary!!

  8. Lee

    I think your dress is lovely. I also dreamed of wearing my mom’s dress, but when I tried it on-it was so small (although we were the same weight, our bone structure was different) and her velvet had become see through.

    Have you thought about making an heirloom garment out of your dress for your sons so that when they have families-perhaps it can be used as a christening out the material or some other significant piece to add to their bride’s “something old” when they get married? Its a thought.

    • Karen

      I had no idea if my mom’s would fit me. She and I are similar heights, although she’s now shrinking, but built differently. It actually was too big, which surprised me. But maybe should not have since my dad died after I became engaged and it was the first time in my life that I lost weight because of stress and emotions.

      Yep… might be fun to see how I can incorporate it into their weddings someday, if the bride is willing. Maybe as garters?

  9. How sweet that you wore your mother’s wedding dress to your wedding! And I think it looked good on you! Happy anniversary! 🙂

  10. Happy Anniversary & I love the story & seeing your pic! It wasn’t until I read your post that I realized that I too am sentimental – because I feel a connection!!! I’ve never seen that in myself before! If I don’t feel a connection, I don’t feel sentimental about the item. I did love my mom’s wedding dress and would have worn it also, but she’d given it to a missionary who was getting married 😦 . I loved my wedding dress – and I did choose a design a lot alike to mom’s (but different too) but it isn’t a style that I’d choose now. I’m much more classic in my choices now and I married in the ’80s!

    • Karen

      I like to watch the TV show “Say Yes to the Dress.” It makes me wonder what I’d pick. I am sure my style now is different than it was back when I got married.

  11. First of all, happy anniversary! and as for your questions, OH YEAH.. I am like you! For my recent wedding, I wore my grandmother’s necklace that she always wore to her “events”, her blue cameo pin in my hair, and her pearl ring that she wore each and everyday. It was my connection to both my Mom and her!

    Also, years ago, after my divorce, I took my wedding ring, my ex husbands ring, my mom and dad’s wedding bands and had them re-made into a ring the shape of the infinity symbol. I gave that to my daughter just before my wedding for her to carry on the hope of new beginnings.

  12. Happy anniversary to you & your husband!

    I am sentimental about some things. Pictures mostly. But I have a few treasures from my father which I hold dear. In a few weeks it will be the 8th anniversary of his passing and I will no doubt honor him by spending some time with what I have held on to and remembering him fondly.

    That dress, regardless if it is ever worn again, you will always be able to look to it and remember fondly those sentimental thoughts it holds for you.

    • Karen

      I lost my dad 24 years ago. Yes, not long before my wedding. I wish I had more “stuff” of his. My brothers got his little bit of jewelry, like watch and cuff links. Not much to pass on to a daughter. But I have a great photo of him that is front and center in my house, right next to the one of my husband’s (also dead) dad.

  13. Happy Anniversary Karen!!! Love that pic!!!!!!!!!!!!! Today is the anniversary of the day I met my hubby – not the wedding!

    Such a wonderful thins to pass the dress as they say.. I have heard a lot about this from others & some modified it as it went from generation to generation.


    Your hubby is TALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Karen

      Yes he is! Just over a foot taller than me. When we first were dating I insisted I was 5′ 3″ and we had to measure. I was wrong; I was 5′ 2.75″ instead. But now we are both already shrinking a bit.

  14. Happy Anniversary! I love the dress story. I am so sentimental about family things, it isn’t even funny.

  15. Drat it all and my misty eyes.

    Happy anniversary indeed hunky husband and sentimental despite her protestations wife.

    I so hope DIL of the future takes a piece of that gown. Preferably the blue accent.

  16. Hi Karen! You look so pretty in your wedding picture! Happy anniversary!

    🙂 Marion

  17. Happy Anniversary! And thank you for sharing the lovely story of your dress!

    I have a quilt that my great grandmother pieced and then my grandmother quilted when she was expecting my mother. And I also have my grandfather’s pipe tobacco jar. I use it to store odd and interesting matchbooks I come across in my travels.

  18. Jan

    Happy Anniversary! The top picture of you and your mother is stunning. And, you were a beautiful bride.

    I have some of my mother’s jewelry, nothing expensive but all very cherished by her and now so meaningful to me. My prized heirloom is quilt that was started by my maternal great-grandmother, almost finished by my grandmother, and finishing stitches added by my mom. My sister had a professional quilt specialist neaten the edges and add a block with the history of the quilt. It arrived the week before my mom died.

  19. Don’t rule out your granddaughters for that dress!
    That photo of you and your mom in the same dress is beyond beautiful, special….
    Thank you for sharing this.
    We got out our mom’s wedding dress a few years ago (six girls in my family) and it was hilarious. It’s so tiny, it’s like someone from the 1800’s could wear it. She was tall but skinny. Even my “skinny sister” couldn’t have fit into it. I should get a picture of it.
    Happy Anniversary to you and your dear hubby!!!!!!

    • Karen

      I’m lucky my mom and I are fairly similar in size. Our builds are different, but not enough that it mattered. I wish I could wear all her clothes! She has great taste and dresses very well.

  20. DH

    Happy Anniversary, right back at you! (3) DH

  21. I love the first photo! Happy Anniversary to you and the hubby.

    I’m a very sentimental person. When they ask what you will grab first if a fire ever breaks out in your home I always answer “after my family and pets, my quilts and photos”.

  22. Happy Anniversary! You and hubby are a beautiful couple 😀

    I LOVE that photo of you and your mother in the same dress- you should enter it in a photo contest or something- I’m so sure it would win! 😉

  23. Happy Anniversary Karen and hubby! Your story is adorable, thank you for sharing it with us. I too am very sentimental.

    I have lots of “treasures” in my house that mean so much to me, not because of their monetary value (most wouldn’t bring much $) but because they come from people I love and admire.

    That photo of you and your mother in the same dress is amazing.

    I too married a tall man!

  24. Roz@weightingfor50

    Happy Anniversary Karen!!!! Love the story of the dress, and love the photos!!!!!!

  25. apparently I am sentimental as I loved this post.
    yet as a woman married in running tights and a sweatshirt Ive nary and heirloom to pass…

  26. Oh – I LOVE this post! What a wonderful way to honor your mother! I would have loved to wear my mom’s gown too – but alas, it was far too small for me.

  27. LOVE the dress and photos. You were a beautiful bride, and you haven’t changed much! I’m usually sentimental, but I didn’t show it in regards to my own dress…I got rid of my wedding dress after we were married b/c it was just taking up space and it had a hole in the front b/c I slipped and tore it. It wasn’t an heirloom or I wouldn’t have considered it, but it’s funny that I have boxes and boxes of cards and letters and paper memories taking up space but I didn’t keep that dress. I have one of my Great-Grandmother’s aprons that I keep hung in the closet and never wear. It’s precious to me. But my most treasured gift is the antique watch my Dad gave me when I got married. For years I thought it was my Grandmother’s, which made it even more special to me, but when I found out Dad bought it for me, it gave the watch another sort of specialness that is just as wonderful. Happy anniversary!

    • Karen

      I saved all the cards and letters from my husband when we were first together. They came in quite handy a few times over the years. I packed a bunch in his suitcase several years ago when he was on a business trip on the 10 year anniversary of our first date. And a few years back I made him a scrapbook of our romance and used quotes from the letters. Maybe I am a bit more sentimental than I give myself credit for:)

  28. How beautiful and lovely for you to share this with us. I am sentimental ~ keeping even old emails form my dad since he passed away unexpectedly almost 2 years ago. Unfortunately I have no children (and can’t have them) so I often wonder “who” I am saving my keepsakes for since I have no one to pass them down to. I have scaled back on a lot of “stuff” but keep some very dear things ‘just for me’.

    This is so timely because I just got engaged 2 weeks ago and we are planning a wedding for this Christmas. I wish I had something so special for my own wedding but we will make new memories for sure.

    Happy Belated Anniversary! Here’s to many more years together!!

  29. Aww!!! I’m so glad I didn’t miss this post. Talk about sentimental! Happy belated Anniversary to you both. What a beautiful couple you were (and still are!)

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