March 1, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Happily ever after

By |2018-03-21T18:42:58+01:00January 19th, 2011|First Person|
The girl was happy. The boy was happy.

his past Christmas, I donated my wedding dress to a thrift store. Its story started a long time ago…

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful white wedding dress made from the finest creamy silk, with pearls stitched on the bodice, short sleeves and a long flowing skirt that graced the ground when worn. This dress was in the racks of a second hand store, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering thrift shop, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, with a few other abandoned wedding dresses. The proceeds of sold items went to cancer research.

One fine summer August day, the store had a sale.

“Everything for $8!” cried the large black salesman, who doubled as the store’s security man. High school girls gathered around the wedding dresses.

“You wear this to the prom!” “No, you wear that to the prom!” The girls pulled at the seams of the dresses, urging each other to buy the white gowns.

“Girls if you want to play around, go to McDonalds,” said the salesman in a James Earl Jones baritone, shooing the girls away.

The dresses caught another girl’s eye. She was watching the scene from the opposite side of the store. “Even these dresses are $8?” she asked the salesman incredulously, touching the silky fabric. “Everything, Ma’am. Try it on. It’s a bargain.”

There was just one problem. The girl wasn’t engaged. She had a lovely Italian boyfriend of four years, but neither one wanted a big traditional wedding. If they had a ceremony, they didn’t want it to be about wedding registries or the choice of banquet food. Instead, they went on living together and were very happy.

At that time, the girl’s boyfriend was studying English at a language school in Midtown. When she met with him, she took his arm. “I have to show you something.” And they walked to the store. “Oh no, shopping,” he said.

She directed him toward the dress.

“I know this sounds weird,” the girl told the boy, “but even if it is not with you, this would be a pretty dress for a wedding someday. And if I don’t use it, I could give it back to charity.”

The boy was momentarily baffled, still thinking about subjects and predicates, but soon regained his composure. “Would you like to try it on?”

The girl unhooked the prettiest dress’s hanger from the racks. She felt the weight of the dress as she brought it to the changing room and pulled the yellow curtain shut. Once on, it fit like a glove. She emerged from the stall like a swan setting out to sail.

“Let’s see!” Women shopping in the store gathered with curiosity around her, ooing and aahing, touching her waist and the dress fabric.

“This is a very expensive dress,” one said.

A French woman said, “I was gooing to buy zat dress for my granddaughter. She ez only five ears old, but zey grow up so quickly!”

The Frenchwoman and an Englishwoman decided she needed a veil. “Is there a veil in this store?” The salesman brought over two and the ladies examined each one carefully. The Englishwoman confided in a whisper that she liked the simpler of the two. The Frenchwoman, who had aristocratic airs, preferred the ones laden with pearls. “Eet would have cost at least $250,” she announced.

The girl tried on the pearl headband, at which the salesman piped up: “The price is $8, including the veil.” He winked. “You gotta have a veil with that dress!”

The girl was happy. The boy was happy. The ladies asked him many questions, “When are you getting married?” “In December,” he replied, not missing a beat.

“Oh, and she didn’t have a dress yet! The wedding is just around the corner.” The ladies crooned. They wanted him to turn his back. “You really shouldn’t see her in her wedding dress!”

At the register, the salesman stuffed the gown into a large black plastic garbage bag, the only bag that fit. “Congratulations,” he shook their hands.

The boy and girl, hungry now, picked up tomato and cream cheese sandwiches at Pick A Bagel near the subway for $9 dollars. “The dress cost less than a lunch sandwich!” said the boy.

They carried their loot on the downtown subway to Brooklyn, to her brother’s apartment where they were staying. They then displayed their purchase.

“But it’s a wedding dress!” said the brother, astonished. Later, the girl’s mother found the same dress on the Internet for $4,500.

Once back in Rome, the boy surprised the girl in Villa Borghese and proposed to her on one knee. They were married in December, with just her immediate family and his, just the way they’d wanted it.

The boy and girl jogged together on the morning before the ceremony. On the day itself, the girl wore the wedding dress to the church and her sister held her train, so that it didn’t get soiled. Afterwards, everyone had dinner around one round table, eating and laughing. No one discussed the choice of food.

A few years later, the girl’s sister married her boyfriend in Chile. You probably can guess which wedding dress she wore.

And they all lived happily ever after.

About the Author:

Associate editor Katie McGovern is from Connecticut. She graduated from Harvard with a BA in English and American Literature, received a masters in International Affairs on a Fulbright scholarship in Germany, and an MBA from INSEAD on a Rotary Scholarship in France. She resides in Rome with her Italian husband and young son.