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.

Love, Friendship, Faith

Kate is making her First Communion with four of her good friends. So the moms hired a photographer and on Sunday we dressed them up, took them to a pretty farm and took pictures.

Officially, to mark the importance of the occasion.

But in the far-reaching, planner’s part of my heart, it’s so we have these pictures to show at rehearsal dinners when they are all bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We do live in a small valley. You never know.

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These three met at our house to get their hair done. By the moms, none of whom qualify as “hair people”. It required wine…

We hired the magnificent and magical Tonya Poitevint, who did our family pictures last Fall. She was amazing, like a mother hen with five snow white chicks following her around. She has such a way of coaxing beautiful smiles.

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We shot at Orchard Home Bed and Breakfast , which has breath-taking grounds and the afternoon light was just…just.

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In the middle of the shoot, it came to me what we were really doing.

We were guiding our girls to the next place. We were doing it together and they were doing it together and Tonya became part of our together. It was this amazing, prayerful feminine energy and it was powerful.

These five beautiful girls, with their arms around each other, laughing in God’s sunshine.

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And the mothers, who have brought them this far in keeping with the promises we made when they were baptized, but really before that, when they were whispers of hope in our hearts.

As our mothers before us. And before them. And back and back and back.

All of this to say: You are a beloved child of God, and of mine. And it is your province as a woman to wear these things as symbols of who you are and celebrate what is holy and sacred.

This is what it means to be a woman and a mother in our church.

Love, friendship, faith.

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Tonya Poitevint Photography!