Turning Your Wedding Dress Into Something Old and Forever

Kate makes her First Communion on Saturday. And she’s doing it in my dress.

This is kind of a thing in our family. Back when my brothers and I were getting married, my mom used her dress and my grandmother’s dress to make garters for the brides. They were our something old, and especially meaningful for me, since my grandmother passed in a horrible car accident only a few months before I met Shea. She should have been there on my wedding day and the garter made me feel like she was.

When the grandbabies started coming, my mom made a christening gown. Five grandsons later, she got to make a bonnet for Kate.

As soon as she found out Kate was going to wear my Communion dress, she sent me some lace from her dress to trim the veil and satin covered buttons from my grandmother’s dress.

My grandmother, Virginia (1944):

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My mom, Terri (1968):

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Ted and Terri, August 17, 1968

Me (1979):

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Kate in her christening gown (2008):

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Kate in my dress with lace trimmed veil:

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My mom says all she has left of the two dresses is scraps. I think it makes her a little sad.

But the wedding dresses are a magical part of our family history. They could have hung in closets for the last 50 years, and for what? My grandma was tall for her generation, but still five inches shorter than my mom, so even though my mom wanted to wear her dress, it was too short.

I am the same height as my mom, but…how shall I say…more bosomous. I didn’t fit in her dress.

They would be hanging there still if my mom hadn’t had the courage to make them into something new, and lasting.

Now I have a garter to pass on to my girls when they marry. Or I will make them new ones from my dress and pass mine on to my granddaughters. Maybe eventually, there will be a collection from which to choose, our version of the Crown Jewels.

The christening gown is embroidered at the bottom with the name of each child who has been baptized in it—all three of mine and one of my nephews. It’s a living record of faith that I hope gets handed down for generations, until there’s no more room for names and a descendent of mine cuts up her wedding dress to make a new one for her grandchild.

In the meantime, Annie swears she will also wear my Communion dress when the time comes. And before anyone goes bridal dress shopping, I’ll pull my dress out of storage, just in case. If not I won’t be afraid to take scissors to that thing and make precious heirlooms for the grandkids that come along.

Just like a wedding is about a marriage and not a day, a wedding dress is about a family and not a bride.

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