Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our Wedding: Memories and Miracles (part 1)

This month I finally got around to putting all my wedding pictures into albums. Yes, yes, it took me almost 15 months. I still feel guilty that they aren't properly scrapbooked, but I had to come to the realization that I'm simply not going to have time for a big project like that any time soon. Managing to get the prints made was a big step in itself, and it's far better for them to be in a real photo album than stuffed into envelopes somewhere!

So last week we were invited for supper at our pastor's family's home, and I took along the wedding album, knowing their girls would have fun looking through it. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing all the memories and special stories with them, and it gave me an extra nudge to (finally) get around to posting more of those thoughts here on the blog. I'd like to have them out in writing anyway, and this will also answer the requests I've been getting from friends who haven't seen many of the wedding pictures yet.

Sound agreeable? Good. :) Let's pretend we're sitting on a couch together with the photo album between us, and I'll start sharing my stories.

Of course, one of the first things any newly-engaged girl thinks about is The Dress. I knew that finding it would be a challenge for me because of several factors: (1) it had to be modest, (2) it had to be affordable, as in super cheap, (3) it had to fit, and I'm a good bit taller than average, and (4) I had to like it, and I really didn't want it to scream "homemade!" I only had 3.5 months from the time of engagement to find a dress, and knew that it was going to require some sort of miracle.

I began to pray about it, asking God if He would please show me the dress that was perfect for me, and that it would cost me less than $200. I couldn't see justifying much more than that for a dress I'd only wear for a day, yet from my browsing around online I knew that finding one for even $400-500 would be quite a bargain. But God could handle it, right? I knew He could.

My mom is a very talented seamstress, so we talked over the idea of having her make the dress for me. After several trips to fabric stores, I ended up buying a pattern (practically the only one in the book that was even halfway workable in style) as well as ordering some barely off-white satin that was on sale. I've never been a huge fan of satin's shininess, but it was the only kind that was affordable and my mom suggested using the fabric inside-out for a more silk-like look. It seemed to be my best option at that point, and I figured I could live with it. The cost was just under $100 and I figured we'd be able to get buttons and lace and layering fabrics with the remaining $100 I'd mentally budgeted for my dress.

A week or so later - this was mid-July already - a friend of mine came up from MO for a couple days. We girls all went out thrift store shopping together, finding a number of things to use in the wedding decor. I looked at the wedding dresses, of course, and was shocked to see the price tag on one was only $2.38. The style was '70ish, not at all what I wanted, and it was too small - but it came with a slip that looked quite usable and I figured it was worth the price.

It was a little further in to July when I was again at Goodwill with my mom and sisters, checking out the wedding dresses. I didn't expect to find anything I liked or that fit, but a seamstress friend had advised us to try to find a thrift store dress with lace that I liked, then transfer the lace to the dress my mom was planning to make. This store had a dress made of beautiful ivory silk, and I immediately fell in love with the lacework around the bodice. It was delicate and feminine but not overpowering, and it had a few pearls scattered here and there for sparkle - yet not the awful "encrusted" look so many of the 90s style dresses seemed to have. Exactly what I wanted! The price was $30.99, but it also had a red tag - and that day all red tag items were supposed to be only $1.29. We asked a clerk if formal wear was included in the tag sale, and her first answer was no...but she was friendly and we chatted a bit about my wedding budget and the plans to use the lace off the dress, and so on. After a bit she said she'd go ask the manager about the dress price, and shortly she returned saying we could have it for only $1.29. Yes! :D

Once we got home that evening I decided to try the dress on just for fun - what girl doesn't like to try on a wedding dress? :) The instant it slipped over my shoulders, I knew this was The One. It was about 4"too short, the back neckline scooped down far too low for comfort, and I knew it needed to have sleeves added in, too. But this was It. :) The ivory silk was absolute perfection, the lace and beading was exactly what I wanted, and the bodice fit perfectly. My dear mother, brave soul, was hesitant but willing to give it a shot. Could we make the dress work?

Over the next few weeks, brainstorming went on in earnest. My mom's seamstress friend generously gave us her expert opinions along with a small bag of lace pieces she had leftover from another project. We pulled a dress out of my family's costume closet (a ball gown given to us when a friend cleaned out her closet) and realized that the sheer overskirt fabric exactly matched the color of The Dress' ivory. Maybe it would be what we needed for the sleeves and back neckline? My mom spent many hours carefully tweaking the sleeve pattern so it would hang just right, and then painstakingly creating an inset piece for the back, complete with hidden darts so I could breathe and a row of hidden hooks and eyes. I lost count of how many times I tried the dress on and stood for fittings, sweltering in the August humidity of our un-airconditioned home. Talking to Joe on the phone during fittings did help the time go faster, though he insisted I not tell him anything about the dress - he wanted to be surprised. ;)

Finally the sleeves and back were mostly finished, and it was indeed beautiful - but the hemline was still too short. Sometimes it'd sure be handy to be normal height instead of almost 5'11". ;) We really weren't sure how to lengthen the dress as dropping the original hemline wasn't enough to make much difference, and I desperately didn't want it to be obvious that the lengthening had been necessary. Quite a few different ideas were talked over, until someone (I don't remember who) suggested we look again at the overskirt from the ball gown. It was very full, and as we held the hemlines together, we realized that it was almost a perfect fit. But how could we disguise the seam between the original skirt and the additional border? More brainstorming - and we thought about the lace from the first wedding dress I'd purchased (the too-small '70s dress for $2.38). It had yards and yards of lace several inches wide and a nice off-white color. One section was dingy, but it came out nice when washed. It ended up being exactly what was needed to layer over the seam, and even I was satisfied that it didn't look like an add-on. PTL!

For the finishing touches, we bought several bags of tiny pearl beads from Hobby Lobby (at 50% off, of course!) and Lydia spent many tedious hours sewing them on the hemline lace in a regular pattern. This helped it tie in more closely with the lace and beadwork around the bodice, and I was thrilled. Beautiful! One of the silk rosettes from the back was missing when we purchased the dress, so I redid them to make three out of the two. My mom moved the row of fake buttons from below the rosettes to the added-in back area, and I carefully sewed the bits of lace from the seamstress on to the front neckline and the edges of the sheer sleeves. Everything tied together perfectly! I ended up wearing the slip from the $2.38 dress afterall, and it provided just the right amount of fullness.

All told, the dress itself and the supplies used in the alteration, ended up costing less than $10. It was as if God was saying, "You thought you were asking for a miracle when you trusted me for a $200 dress. How'd you like a $10 dress, more beautiful than anything you dreamed possible? That's just a little peek at how much I love you, my daughter." :)

Since the dress had ended up costing so little, I felt free to "splurge" a bit for the rest of my outfit. I bought ivory ballet-style slippers which I dressed up with the last bits of beaded lace (about $10), which ended up being comfortable and practical. I found a gold and pearl tiara on ebay for $22 (exactly what I wanted - not too gaudy, not too big or too small, in a princess-style shape but also flowery and delicate)...and ebay was also where I found the perfect veil for $20 - a fingertip length lightweight ivory with a scalloped edge (matching my bridesmaids' tops) and just the right amount of delicate pearl beading. Perfect!

I was - and still am - absolutely thrilled, and simply in awe of God's provision. All through my wedding day I had so many people come up and say I looked like a princess, and it warmed my heart. Not only does Joe call me his princess (so sweet), but I am the daughter of a King, a true Princess. It was such a special reminder of God's love for me that He cared enough to provide the exact dress He knew I'd like best (admittedly a "frivolous" thing, yet close to my heart) - and at such an unbelievably low cost. How can I doubt His love or His ability to provide all my needs when I have seen Him so super-abundantly provide something so perfect and miraculous as this dress? I can't help smiling whenever I think of it. :)

God is good, my friends! Amen?


  1. I love the story of your dress. I too wanted to find a dress that was modest (or could be made modest) and my budget was $300. Unlike you though, I love the big fancy ball dress style. After trying on lots of dresses I was starting to get discouraged that I would never find one. The ones I liked were too expensive and even if they weren't I didn't think they could be made modest. One night my dad was teaching a class that he teaches for the court system in our county and something came up about my wedding. One of the guys asked if I had a dress. Dad told him not yet. Well this guy had bought a dress for his fiancee but she dumped him and he said I could have it if I wanted it. My mom and I went and looked at it the next day. It was strapless but was high in the front and straight across so I knew it could be made modest. It came with a wrap out of the same fabric so we had extra material to work with. My mom made sleeves for it and my sister beaded them so they would blend in with the rest of the dress, because like you, I didn't want it to look "fixed" :) It was perfect and I LOVED it. It is so wonderful how the Lord provides for us.

  2. That is so sweet and awesome! :)

  3. Thanks for sharing, Beckisue! Your story is really amazing, too. Isn't God good?? :D

  4. God is so good, always!! Hearing about your "miracle" wedding dress was very encouraging to me. May I never underestimate God's power.