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Christine Velure Roholt

© 2003

If The Wedding Dress Could Speak . . .

“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today . . .”
I was gathered on three wedding days. Gathered, pinned, and hemmed until a perfect fit. Then pressed, primped, and fussed over until everyone “ohhed” and “ahhed” in front of the mirror.

My reflection changes with time. I am a long, white, satin train of memories that flows down past the floor. I spread out and glide along the aisle. For what appears to be only 21/2 feet of shimmer, is truly a 63-year reflection of love, passion and partnership. I carry on me stories of commitment that continue long after the day promises are made. My true white commitment moves and changes as I cream with color.

My princess bodice meets the satin stories of three women, all connected through the matriarchal line. My bodice fits each bride to a tee and showers her with lace of bursting gardenias and small, five-petaled, stephanotis. These flowers never wilt in the yellowing lace, but grow richer in color taken on over time in the cedar chest. My arms extend, softly pointed, out to the hands. The three brides’ hands hold grace, pride and strength.

My forearms are fitted like long gloves of the 40’s style into which I was born. As I continue up the arm, passed the elbow I grow fuller, allowing movement, and the puff style beauty transforms the bride into a princess. Where the neck meets the shoulder I fall down and then turn into a scallop that meets the other in the center. Each bride stands to look at her reflection and the reflection of those who have come before her.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

Something old: A handkerchief from each of our mothers.

Something new: A piece of jewelry given by the groom, in tradition, on the eve of the ceremony. A set of pearls, a diamond necklace surrounded by a heart of gold, and a sapphire bracelet.

Something borrowed: For two of us, the wedding dress. For the original bride, a handkerchief carried during her own mother’s wedding.

Something blue: For each of us, new, wedding garters with blue satin strips woven within the white elastic lace, like our stories, my story.

A penny taped into each shoe. For luck? Yes, but also tradition. I am tradition. The tradition of a Saturday wedding. The tradition of a gorgeous morning, that starts out cold. Then grays and mists which turns to rain and finally snow. Snow that on the first wedding day stops the entire Midwest in one of the worst blizzards of the century. It stops grandmother and grandfather from making their New Orleans honeymoon. I travel only as far as Hot Springs, Arkansas.

My satin and lace were purchased for $9, a patterned picked and sewn for an additional $11. My pattern, as traditional to the time, was also used to make the three bridesmaids dresses, all in white. I first traveled down the aisle worn by Francis Rahl Parker on November 10, 1940. Eventually, stain and all, I was put into the cedar hope chest to be left to rest for another 43 years.

In desperation I was brought out again, after long hours of dress shopping and no success. I was a dash of hope 30 minutes before Pam Parker boarded her plane back to New York City. I was pinned and fitted in 15 minutes by my first bride. Francis assured the soon-to-be bride that the stain from the punch on the backside of the sleeve near the hand, would come out. I was laundered and worn down the aisle of the second wedding, December 31, 1983. A perfect fit. And back into the chest I went, minus any stains.

Thirteen years later, out of a longing for tradition and honor, I am restored and fitted again. This time by the mother of the bride. It is this daughter who has inherited Francis’s amazing gift to transform ordinary cloth into gowns fit for queens. And so the third bride’s mother does her magic again. All three brides emerge from the reflection in the mirror. They walk enveloped in the love and support of the family and friends surrounding them. They each glide down the aisle, first in the Evangelical church, second in the Presbyterian church and the last down the stairs of a 100 year old B & B. They march to their own music, this time each breaking with tradition. However their march is toward a tradition. Toward the groom who waits in awe, seeing his bride in the dress for the first time
I am pronounced part of the man and woman union. Mr. and Mrs. Parker. Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. Mr. and Mrs. VeLure Roholt. Mr. and Mrs. . . . to be continued.

Clinking glasses, tears, hugs, best wishes. The successful flight from the reception out the broken window in the coal room, because the door is locked. The stole of a grandmother carried in memory on my bride’s shoulders. The visit to an ailing grandfather who could not attend the ceremony. The 24 roses sent by family-like friends from Japan who could not be present. The spilled punch on my sleeve as the bride blindly reaches for the groom, but grabs hold of an ear owned by the now beet-faced pastor. The midnight ceremony attended by only family, followed by a flurry of pictures, champagne and cake. All of these memories have blended, weaving themselves into one. One dress that celebrates commitment and lifetime partners. It is tightly stitched into the fibers of this dress. To celebrate they share in food, laughter, and words.

The Words
Do you promise to love, honor, cherish, and protect? To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer? With this dress I thee wed; with all our love we do thee give.
Three brides pass on a gift that is not only tradition and memory, but the love and commitment of this family devoted to each other. To be continued is to pass on this dress and the stories woven into it. The dress invites future brides to become part of its fabric of marriage.