I never thought I would stand in white. I never thought I would marry the man of my dreams. I lost hope years ago and sunk into a person I didn’t recognize, and a life that I never wanted to live.
But the restoration of God came in the darkest hour. Hope healed its way back into my soul and spirit. I looked for goodness again and goodness found me in the form of a man named Greg. I was far from perfect. I was far from the bride without stain or blemish, but I was the bride that I never thought I could be.
Since I was small, I had sat in my Grandma Walt’s library and gazed at photos of her in her wedding dress and dreamed that one day I would wear her dress. The dress was forgotten, my childhood dreams buried in reality. Marriage threatened to never find me.
But like I said, I had not been forgotten.
A few months before our wedding, I slowly lifted the dress out of the suitcase with my mom and sister hovering close. Me, slipping into a white dress, to be presented to Greg as his wife. My mother gasped as my sister clasped the buttons down the length of the back of the dress. It was almost a perfect fit. "Oh EJ. It was made for you,” mother exclaimed.
We dragged a full-length mirror from the closet for me to examine the dress. As soon as I turned and looked in the mirror I knew I was meant to wear this dress. The lace still had to be sewn to the neckline and the hem and the arms needed to be taken in, but besides that, it was a true fit.
My grandmother, Josephine Holmes Walt, was married in Memphis, TN in 1951. This was the write-up in The Commercial Appeal the day before she married my Grandfather, John Dabney Walt, Sr.:
“Miss Holmes’ exquisite bridal gown is fashioned of luminous ivory duchess satin, with a shell yoke and off-shoulder neckline, enhanced by a bertha of handsome heirloom rose point lace. The sleeves are long and petal-pointed over the hands. The voluminous circular-cut skirt falls gracefully from a fitted bodice and ends in a full cathedral train. The veil, which was the wedding veil of the bride’s mother, is of full length rose point lace in ivory poised over ivory imported French illusion and held in place by a demure Victorian bonnet of rose point lace. The bride will carry a dainty cascade bouquet of lilies of the valley.”
This same dress and veil were worn by my two aunts in 1983. The veil I tried on in my mother’s bathroom that day was my great-grandmother’s.
I had my moments of doubt over the dress. What would Greg think of me dressed in this old-fashioned gown? The dry cleaners said that they would not steam it because it was too fragile. The tailor eyed the holes in the veil with a questioning look. But it was more than just the dress or how I looked in it. It was about honoring what the little girl in me had wanted and restoring dreams she had lost. I thought of my 8-year-old self crouching in the library over my grandma’s black and white bridal picture, and I knew I had to wear this dress. It was about honoring my heritage, the history of blessing that long cathedral train carried, the covering of prayers underneath my great-grandmother’s veil.
This would be a holy day to remember what the Lord had done for Greg and I, to celebrate redemption, and I want to be dressed accordingly. There was this idea of ‘the bride of Christ’ that I was at the dawn of understanding. Who is this bride and how was I becoming her? How would I become her for the rest of my life, presented as holy and blameless to God? I stood in their blessing as I walked down the aisle. Their stories were a part of me. The pooling of their prayers and covering carried me to this day.
For me, everything was old, my shoes were new, practically all of it was borrowed and I forgot about the blue. I sometimes look at fancy modern gowns and think that I might have looked more chic, but then I remember the why and how I felt in the dress and meaning I carried with me into marriage. I will never regret wearing my grandmother’s dress.
Photos by Mackensey Alexander.