The Tale of the Traveling Wedding Dress

According to the website, it is believed that wedding gowns began to be preserved in the late 1700s when royal weddings became very popular events across Europe. Up until quite recently, it was common practice after the rice had been swept up and the gifts all opened, for wedding dresses to be delivered to a preservationist and then returned in an unyielding box the size of a Volkswagen for us to stick in the attic with the hope that it would see the light again on some future date!

But, that was never going to work for Liz Stafford.

Liz and Mark Stafford were married on November 11, 1989 in St. Peter’s of Charlotte with a lovely reception immediately following at Jonathan’s. Liz had four bridesmaids who wore gorgeous green velvet and her Mom was her “best woman.” Mark’s dad was the best man. All of this sounds delightful and pretty traditional, right?

Yet underneath a classic, white wedding dress and veil was the heart of an artist, so the line between traditional and unexpected is a thin one! Liz and Mark had a jazz band at the reception and their first dance was a romantic little number called “Linus and Lucy.” That’s right, the theme song of “Charlie Brown!”

So, it should come as no surprise that Liz did not put her wedding dress and veil in a tightly sealed box in the attic after her wedding. Liz admits that she had no big dreams of what her wedding dress would be back in 1988 when she and Mark got engaged. She went into Belk, found a dress marked down to $100, it fit and she loved it, and that was that.

Until November 11, 1991, that is.

On the Stafford’s one-year anniversary, they ate their previously frozen cake topper for breakfast and were surprised by how delicious it was! They enjoyed a romantic Sunday in their new home, and the dress and veil were the furthest things from their mind.

But, on Anniversary number two, something changed. “We went to work and had no real plans for the day” said Liz. “Where was the excitement? That was the first time I decided to wear the dress again and have some fun! After all, why do we buy these beautiful dresses and then never wear them again?” After work, Liz ran by her house, put on the dress and veil and told Mark to pick her up to go out for a drink. Imagine his surprise when he pulled up to the sidewalk to find his wife, in full wedding regalia, holding a sign with the words “will you marry me” on it? As a foolish young husband, his first words were “You can still fit into that thing!?” and they were off to Gatsby’s for drinks and cheers of congratulations from the bar crowd. “That night broke the mold on not wearing the dress again,” said Liz.

Since that joyful anniversary 30 years ago, the dress and the veil have contributed to some very memorable celebrations!

  • Out to dinners at local Triad restaurants.
  • Visiting the club on Bald Head Island where the Staffords have a house.
  • Liz wore it while grilling steaks one anniversary. “I thought that was hot,” said Mark.
  • On a Gallery Hop “promotional tour” for Snapfingers Shop where Liz’s art was featured (Mark even donned a tuxedo for that one).
  • A Panther’s football game.
  • Alongside Pam as she and Jim got married at Niagara Falls.

Liz and Mark love how many special memories are now visible on the dress and veil. Liz shows me her grandmother’s lipstick on the sleeve from when they hugged each other on her wedding day. The veil has tire marks and is ripped from when it got caught under a golf cart tire. I think we can call this a different kind of “wedding dress preservation.” A tradition that preserves the joy and delight of our wedding days by recreating a small part of the day each year! “I loved that dress” said Liz. “The days that I have worn it have been some of the best days of my life.”

(Look for Part Two of The Traveling Wedding Attire…rumor has it, the veil might make a 30th Anniversary trip to Europe later this year.)