Denise Etheridge Column Teaser

My co-worker, Stephen Milligan, penned a sweet feature story last week about a hand-made wedding dress that was worn for four separate weddings by four different brides.

Our editor made the comment that most young ladies planning a wedding today would be horrified to contemplate wearing someone else’s dress that had been wore before.

Being a fan of “Say Yes to the Dress,” and seeing countless fancy weddings filmed on numerous other reality shows, I concur — not to mention the year it took to help my daughter carefully plan her wedding seven years ago.

Rachel took on much of the preparations herself, and saved money by investing time and labor. On “Say Yes to the Dress,” the bride’s entire dress budget generally matches or far exceeds the budget Rachel had set for her entire wedding.

Yes, weddings have become more complicated – and expensive – affairs today.

Still, weddings continue to evoke hope for a couple’s future. I also believe that families are bound when their children marry, for better or worse. My husband and I, and our children, are fortunate that for the most part we — and they — get along with the in-laws. I am well aware that is not always the case.

When Frank and I married in 1982, our wedding plans coincided with final exams, college graduation and his commissioning ceremony when he became an officer in the U.S. Air Force. It was further complicated by the fact that his parents and sister lived in coastal Georgia and my folks and siblings had moved to Bend, Oregon.

Not to mention we are an interfaith couple. Interfaith marriage is more commonplace today, but nearly 40 years ago it caused a lot of emotional upheaval among some family members.

So, Frank and I ended up having two weddings. I wore the same simple wedding dress for both. (It was gorgeous; puffy princess sleeves, a sweetheart neckline and it was ivory satin. Instead of a veil I wore a wide brim hat with a slight peek-a-boo veil that just covered my eyes. It, and the hat, cost a total of $93. The shoes were an extra $20.)

My parents, bless their memory, pretty much took care of everything for the first wedding. My dad worked at Sun River Resort at the time, and having been in the restaurant business for ages had no issues planning his own daughter’s wedding. Frank and I just had to fly west, collect our luggage and arrive a week ahead for a few last minute errands and a load of fun ahead of the actual wedding.

My husband’s parents and sister were unable to attend the civil ceremony. They had a terrible tragedy in his dad’s family just two weeks prior. Frank’s uncle and first cousin were the victims of gun violence. Which is one of the reasons we held a second wedding three months later. That one was held at the Catholic Student Union at the University of Georgia in Athens. (I had no issue with the Catholic Church ceremony. When our children were born, our daughter was named in the synagogue in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and our son had a bris in Sumter, South Carolina.)

A judge officiated the ceremony in Oregon. He wore a ten-gallon cowboy hat and fancy cowboy boots in his western cut suit. My twin sister was the maid of honor. She wore a lavender gown similar in style to my dress. My brother was the best man. He, my dad and my groom wore dark blue suits. My mom wore a stylish floor length dress with matching jacket. There were no mass fittings for bridesmaids, no trips to tuxedo rental shops.

We stood on a little bridge, with the mountains and golf course in the background. As we were taking our places, a couple that was golfing walked over the bridge, golf bags in tow, congratulated us and headed toward the clubhouse. Our guests gathered to stand at the foot of the bridge.

Following our incredibly short and sweet ceremony, we took some photos and then headed into the lodge where our family and friends were already celebrating.

Our four-day honeymoon, which was spent at the lodge, cost us around $3.50 — for a phone call we made. My father’s bosses and colleagues made sure we didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket.

Our wedding day was just the beginning. It evokes lovely memories, but the real work at keeping a marriage healthy was, and continues to be, each day after.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The

Walton Tribune. Her email address is

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