Five years ago, I discovered that my wedding dress, photo albums, and a few fragile items with sentimental value ended up in a dumpster somewhere in Atlanta, Georgia.
It wasn't my choice to throw away my beloved sentimental items but that of our property management company. I discovered it long after it had happened, so there was nothing to do but accept what happened and move on.
I tried to rationalize away my sadness and to make sense of the grief I was feeling over *things*. Afterall, nobody was sick, nobody had died, but I was still heartbroken over this loss.
Sentimentality is expensive
When it comes to sentimentality, highly mobile people select their "must have" items very carefully. Each relocation costs money and each box packed represents only the items we "must have" or what we think we must have when we move to a new place.
During every relocation, boxes are lost or damaged. Basements flood and houses catch on fire—my wedding dress could've been destroyed in a various other ways by random chance.
Women everywhere get rid of their gowns. They donate their wedding dress, sell it online for a fraction of the retail price, or nobly repurpose it into an outfit for stillborn babies.
So, why fret and worry about a dress that I probably would've gotten rid of anyway?
My emotions weren't giving me rational answers.
All I could imagine was my beautiful wedding dress in its dry cleaning preservation box crushed under garbage in a dumpster.
I accepted that my wedding dress served only one purpose on our wedding day.
"Find your dress if it's important to you"
My husband encouraged me to find my dress online before it became impossible.
I searched and found a Chinese dress distributor who still had my design style. It was $500 plus international shipping would round out closer to $800, and that seemed like too much money to replace something that I didn't need.
"No, it's silly. I don't need to find my old dress. I'll be okay."
It was too much money to spend on something silly. I didn't need my wedding dress to sit in a closet and the money was better spent on other things.
Like so much of our lives, we rationalize away self-indulgences that make our spirits happy because they are impractical or "silly."
Is it silly if it makes you happy?
Beau Taplin gets me. He said, "I am awfully sentimental. Of books, belongings, people, places. It matters very little how positive or negative the experience was. If it shared some meaningful time in my life, I'll have trouble letting go."
Today is my eighth wedding anniversary, and like always, it snuck up on me in surprise. I wasn't expecting anything special because we don't really do anything big for our anniversary—usually a delicious home cooked meal once the kids go to bed. That's all I was expecting, anyway.
In the morning, my husband handed me a card with my coffee that read, "When I saw you in your wedding dress, I thought you were the most beautiful woman, and I was the luckiest man in the world. You are even more beautiful today than you were then."
After kisses and hugs, he told me to come upstairs in a minute with the kids.
Of course, I tried it on. Two kids and eight years later and the dress fits me like it was meant for me. Whoever wore it first has the same exact body I have now (thank you, mystery woman).
"I'm surprised it fits you!" my son said with a healthy dose of honesty.
"You and me both."
My daughter said I looked prettier than Elsa, which is a high compliment coming from her. I told her she could have my wedding dress when she got married if she wanted it. She nodded her head yes in reply, and kept muttering, "It's so shiny."
The Story Behind the Second Dress
After a few more tears and hugs, my husband told me about the difficulty he went through to find the wedding dress and the lengths to which his sister and mother went to get it to us in Sweden.
My husband had no idea how to find out what model number or style I was wearing on our wedding day. Fortunately, he spoke to his intelligent sister who called up the wedding boutique outside of Atlanta where I bought my gown—how she knew which shop it was, I have no idea. They had my name on file and gave her my dress' style name and number.
With that information in hand, my husband purchased the wrong dress on a secondhand wedding dress site. (We now have an extra wedding dress in Rhode Island. If anyone is looking for a dress on the cheap, we can cut you a good deal.)
(Many of our purchases are based around who can fit what in their suitcase on their next visit out to us. Our mothers are modern day mules and they bring us packages, books, leggings, etc., etc., in their suitcases whenever they visit us in Sweden.)
My husband did the logistical arrangements so the dress would arrive to his parents' house before they flew out to Europe. However, he ordered the wrong dress!
In full freak-out mode, he found the correct dress and as luck would have it, that woman lived near my sister-in-law. My sister-in-law then met with the woman and shipped the dress overnight to my in-laws.
And may I remind you, they did all of this for a woman who is already married and will not wear this dress to another wedding ever again. I appreciate them so much for their efforts and the stress they endured for this surprise gift.
They gave me back the potential to do whatever I wanted with my dress. Now, I can sleep with it under my pillow, wear it to a costume ball, or gift it to my daughter when she's older (if she wants it).
It's the effort everyone made that makes the gift so special.
It's not about the dress, really
I mean, it kind of is but it isn't. The dress could be anything. It could be a special coffee mug or a piece of jewelry. It could be a handwritten note from your grandfather or something special that cannot be replaced.
My wedding day was a very meaningful moment in my life and I'm so grateful to keep a reminder of that special day in my closet.
My husband, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law actually replaced something I thought was lost forever and for that, today is a very special day indeed.