We have a photographer & musicians & a DJ.
We have a bridal party.
And now... I have a dress!
Not just any dress, though. An absolutely gorgeous designer gown.
Did I mention that it was free?
Brides Across America is an organization that teams up with designers (like Vera Wang, James Clifford, Maggie Sottero, etc.) and bridal salons across the nation to provide free wedding dresses to military brides: ladies who have been deployed to a combat region or are marrying someone who has. How fabulous is that?? I was so fortunate to stumble across their site and discover that I qualified; I not only received a free wedding gown, but I was able to book the venue of my dreams with all the money we saved :)
My mom and my sister, Corrie, were kind enough to make the 570 mile round-trip to Virginia Beach with me, since there weren't any bridal salons in North Carolina participating. We drove up the night before and were prepared to camp outside the store overnight, if necessary (once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil), but there wasn't a line already forming, so we checked into a hotel.
our resort was located on Winston-Salem Avenue in Virginia Beach... how appropriate!
We awoke early the next morning to arrive at Ava Clara Couture Bridal: a gorgeous little bridal salon that is typically closed on Sundays & Mondays, but was opening solely for the Brides Across America event. They went all out for the day: drinks, cupcakes, fruit, shrimp... yes, please :)
We showed up well before the doors opened. I submitted Zach's deployment papers & registered...
The pedestals to model the dresses in front of everyone were located right behind the giant American flags in the windows. I may have teared up getting to try on dresses with the flag as the backdrop.
...and then we waited...
...and then we got to go in! :)
It was crazy going through racks of dresses & picking out all the ones I wanted to try on without looking at a price tag. Something that typically would have played a pretty significant role in what dresses stayed on the hangers and what dresses came into the dressing room simply wasn't a factor. Try on all the dresses!
There was also a wonderful studio photographer at the salon who captured the events of the day, including this super sweet picture of my Mama looking at me in the gown that I ended up getting! (I promise I'll link back & give major credit after the wedding -- no looking at all the pics & seeing my dress, yet).
And a LOT of headshots from my sister in the dressing room:
Needless to say, I love the dress that I picked out! It was the very last one that I tried on, and the moment I stepped into it, my mom and sister made a "this is THE dress" sound. At the exact same time. If you've never heard a "this is THE dress" sound, I'm not really sure how to describe it to you -- but you'll definitely know if you hear it.
Everyone else in the bridal salon (staff, seamstress, photographer, other military brides & friends, etc.) agreed when I stepped out to stand on the pedestal: this is THE dress :) So as simple as that... we got it! They put it in the bag & I got to just walk out of the store. Incredible.
Before we left, the staff asked me to write down a little bit about my fiancé: how we met, the deployment, etc. I had brought along some photos & included a copy of our semi-famous "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not" homecoming picture... a nice reminder of everything we both went through last year. My wedding dress might not have cost us money, but we certainly paid for it in other ways.
When I told Zach that I had found a dress, he asked:
Hahaha, are you kidding me? I assured him would much rather pay for a dress if it meant that he never had to deploy! Nonetheless, I'm so overwhelmed by the generosity of Brides Across America for coming up with a way to give back to the troops and those who stand by them... Zach definitely doesn't get the recognition he deserves for everything that he's been through. I'm also so incredibly grateful for all of the bridal salons and designers who donated time and dresses to make this event possible! You can watch the segment that appeared on the news in Virginia Beach here.
So now I have a dress... and 165 days before I get to wear it.
What's a girl to do?