The Thirty-Dollar Wedding Dress


What kind of wedding would this be? No family around, no reception, and no gorgeous gown.

“But how can you go on a mission? I’m getting married, and you’re the only member of my family who can come. You’re my mom! I mean, it’s only the most important day of my life. What kind of wedding is it going to be for me with no family to celebrate?”

I remember the conversation as if it were yesterday. I was a freshman from California going to Brigham Young University planning to marry George, a quiet boy from Manti, Utah, who had just returned from his mission to Italy. My parents had divorced when I was 12, but I had a wonderful non-LDS father, two inactive sisters, and a devout and adventurous LDS mom who, at age 47, had decided to go on a mission. She would leave just months before my scheduled wedding day in the Manti Utah Temple.

Mom hadn’t intentionally planned to miss my wedding, but she hadn’t told anyone about sending in her mission papers. George and I had surprised everyone, including ourselves, with a Valentine engagement and a May wedding date. I cried for days. It seemed the event I’d been so anxiously awaiting was now a source of great sorrow and disappointment.

George called my dad to explain why we were getting married in the temple, since my dad would not be able to attend. My father’s voice was thick with emotion as he questioned my fiancé. George explained how much he loved me and how he wanted to convey that love by entering into a marriage that, if worked toward, would last through eternity. He also told my father how much we loved and respected him.

My father shared his feelings of love for us and said he understood, but listening on the other line, I could hear tones of doubt and disappointment in his voice. I was his youngest child, and he wouldn’t even have the chance to give me away in a traditional wedding. I hung up the phone and cried for two more days.

My mom left for her mission, and I concentrated on school and preparing for finals. Preparations for my May wedding almost became an afterthought. In fact, my attention would not have been as focused on wedding plans if a girl in my dorm, Teresa, had not also become engaged on Valentine’s Day.

Teresa and her fiancé were planning to marry in the Salt Lake Temple and have a large reception afterwards. Each weekend she would go to Salt Lake to work with her mother on the preparations. And each Monday, Teresa would return with stories about their progress, including a detailed description of her beautiful dress.

I was making my own dress, and since I only managed a C minus on my apron project in 10th grade home economics class, the design was, needless to say, simple. I had chosen cotton material with six satin-covered buttons down the front and a bit of lace around each cuff. It cost 30 dollars. My terrific dorm mom helped me put it together during finals week.

I remember sitting at the sewing machine late one night picking out stitches from yet another seam and grumbling about Teresa’s professional fittings into a gown with yards and yards of cascading white satin draped with hand-sewn French lace. I could imagine that Teresa must look like a dream bride as the seamstress would pamper and pin and her mother would compliment and cry.

I’d cry, too, every time I thought about Teresa and her plans. It wasn’t that Teresa was flaunting her good fortune. It was me, not she, who had some repenting to do.

I awoke on my wedding day to sunshine and the smell of lilacs. I pushed open the small second-story window and felt a gentle May breeze dance its way past me into the room. The Manti Utah Temple stood gleaming on the hillside, beckoning.

As I turned from the window, I saw my simple white dress hanging on a wall hook by the side of the bed. Someone had lovingly pressed out the travel wrinkles and quietly hung it there while I was sleeping. Tears welled up in my eyes. I missed my mom, dad, and sisters. I wanted them with me. How could I possibly get married with no family, no reception, and no gorgeous gown?

Then, as my eyes rested on my 30-dollar dress, the Spirit spoke clearly to my soul: What you do in faith is rewarded in power.

I caught my breath. I wasn’t marrying for this moment, or even this lifetime, but for eternity. Against earthly disappointments, I was manifesting my testimony in action. I loved my Heavenly Father, I had faith in His system of marriage, and because of that faith He would bless our union with power.

It was true. We are now celebrating nearly 30 years of joyful commitment. Even though there have been times of miscommunication, disappointment, and struggle, the power of eternal bonding has pulled us through. We look across the breakfast table at each other and think, There is my very best friend.

The power has also extended to other family members. My mother and I are great friends. And my father, even though he has now passed on, truly did honor and respect George and me as “young people with stability in this crazy, mixed-up world.” My sisters, although still not active in the Church, are beginning to see some consistency in what George and I have put together.

Please don’t think I’m flaunting my good fortune. I’m just so exuberant about the wondrous ability God has to bless our lives if we put our faith in Him. It’s that simple. Love Him, trust Him, and the miracle of eternal sealing can happen, even in a 30-dollar dress.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh