From Wedding Gown to Angel Gown

It sat, sealed in a beautiful box, for years. My wedding dress was incredibly special to me, especially since I’d made it myself. After the big day, I did like many brides and had it cleaned and sealed to save for the magic day when a daughter or grand-daughter wanted to use it. That didn’t happen, however, since my daughters and grand-daughter wanted to make their own special choices. The seal was broken when my oldest daughter got married, so that she could use my veil and headpiece for her own ceremony. Years later, the veil was used again when her daughter, my one and only grand-daughter, was married. But the dress stayed carefully preserved and packed away, in spite of my husband’s grumbled words, “Just get rid of it. Sell it or give it away. The darn thing is just taking up space, and nobody in the family is ever going to want it.” Harsh words, even if they were true, so the box just stayed in a dark corner of our storage shed.

My youngest daughter had a similar box in her house. Her marriage had ended in divorce, but the dress was a magnificent gown with a long train, huge wide petticoats to hold the voluminous skirt, with all kinds of lace and beads covering the beautiful white material. She didn’t want to give it away or sell it for next to nothing, so started researching what to do with a used wedding dress.

To her amazement, she discovered The Angel Gown Program, a service provided by the group NICU Helping Hands, Family Support for Fragile Beginnings. The Angel Gown Program combines gifts of wedding gowns with the skills of volunteer seamstresses throughout the United States. The garments they create are provided for babies that were either stillborn or pass away in the hospital just after birth. The gowns are used for final photos and for burial services. The program also provides support resources and mentoring programs for the families.

The minute I heard about this program, I jumped to the computer for the website,

and was reduced to tears. Over 700 seamstresses throughout the United States create amazing little gowns, which are wrapped and shipped to to destinations all over the country. Hospitals can stock the garments through a simple online request procedure, but families can also make personal requests online as well. The organization also accepts traditional donations to help cover the costs of shipping the gowns to hospitals and families who need them.

As I read all about the various services the NICU Helping Hands organization provides, my thoughts turned to an amazing little boy who our family lost when he was only four years old. Seth was a tiny, mischievous little guy who had a heart pacemaker implanted at just two weeks of age. He collapsed at two years old, then spent a month hospitalized in San Francisco where a new pacemaker replaced the first one. His life was a gift to the whole family, and when he died everybody who knew and loved him was devastated. Losing a child has to be the most difficult loss anyone can face. I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child before it even gets to go home from the hospital.

Within two days my wedding gown, my daughter’s wedding gown, and her best friend’s gown were all boxed up and shipped to The Angel Gown Program in Fort Worth, Texas. My dream of seeing a family member wearing my special dress as they walked down the aisle never came about, but the knowledge that a grieving family could lay their tiny, precious baby to rest wrapped in a garment made from my dress warms my heart in an entirely different way.   If you have a lovingly preserved wedding dress, I urge you to consider donating it to The Angel Gowns Program. I promise you’ll never regret it.