One Glorious Day

A mother-of-the-bride recalls finding “the one.”


My daughter wasn’t going to go overboard for her wedding. A modest reception. A few flowers on the tables. Not too many guests, not too many bridesmaids. A DJ instead of a band. When it came to the dress, she wanted something “bride-like”—some sort of puffy sleeve, a cinched waist, a full satin skirt. Easy. 

The whole event—four hours out of a lifetime—was looking fairly affordable. That was eons ago.  

Admittedly, I cringed a bit when Charlotte said she wanted to go to a bridal salon. “It will be fun!” she said. “We don’t have to buy a dress. We’ll just look.” 

So it was on one glorious day that my daughter and I—along with her mother- and sister-in-law to be, and maid of honor—drove to the former Bank of Fredericksburg to Ava Laurenne.

Instead of a retail bank, this upmarket bridal shop is now an epicenter of nuptial bliss. Walls on two full stories are lined with 5,000 wedding gowns—beaded, ruffled, smooth, sleek, and taffeta’ed. It is a sea of elegance, of joy, of promise. We watched very happy women move in waves throughout the building, gasping and gushing as they swarmed around their bride in her moment. There was Champagne and an assigned choreographer. Ours was Katey. “You’ll know,” she breathily told Charlotte. “When it’s the perfect dress. It will speak to you.”

We perused the racks, narrowing down our choices, and then sharing them with Katey, who swept Charlotte into the dressing room. In she went in flip flops and a flower-print sundress. Out she came all dressed in white.

Out indeed. Transformed. The giggling young woman who had stepped away nervously now stood before us in a sea of white silk, her long blonde hair rising and falling over bare shoulders, her eyes bright with excitement. She turned. She twirled. She looked in the gilded, full-length mirror and flushed. She was stunning.

In she went to try on another dress, and out she came again and again. We gasped. We gushed. A tight lace bodice on this one, another hugging her hips in ways I had never seen my daughter before—beautifully feminine, an hourglass silhouette.

Katey was right. We finally found “the one.” Not the one that made my daughter look like a glamorous star, but the one that made Charlotte look like Charlotte, the one that revealed her true essence.

With the dress chosen, we moved to the lofty, two-story main room filled with women shedding happy tears. “We’re not going to cry,” I said as other customers dabbed their eyes with tissues, and we all agreed. Then Katey delivered a small glass box. “Take out a card and read it to Charlotte,” she instructed me. Then off she went to the register to seal the sale.

I opened the box, took out a card, and read it out loud. “The first time I saw you, I ….” I paused, recalling the moment Charlotte had been placed in my arms 28 years before, born breech after an excruciating 13 hours of back labor. I remember how her head had turned at the sound of my voice and her bleary blue eyes had looked into mine, observing the world and her mother for the first time. “You are going to be my best friend,” I had whispered. Now, facing my daughter at Ava Laurenne, I recounted this memory, adding, “and you are my best friend.” Then I began to cry.

Future mother-in-law took out a card. “What I love about you is .…” she read. Pausing, she then said to Charlotte, “Ever since you came into our family, you have brought out the best in us. We are all a closer, happier family when you are with us.” Then she began to well up.

Future sister-in-law, age 19, pulled out a card and read, “I appreciate all the times you …. played with me,” she said, clearing her throat. “I have known you since I was nine. I’ll never forget how, every time you came over to see my brother, you took time out to play with me.”

Now we were all crying.

As we wiped our tears away, Katey ushered Charlotte into an antique phone booth and instructed her to leave a voice message for her future husband, Ethan. It seemed a bit schmaltzy, this phone booth bedecked in artificial blooms, but as I swiped the credit card, I watched her from across the room—my child born into the mobile era, who had never even used a phone booth. She cradled the phone into her neck, smiling as she spoke, conveying a love message that Ethan would hear just before their wedding. I realized that this was a rare moment for all of us, one that would be preserved in our memories forever. 

We walked out into the late afternoon sunshine. It had been a glorious day.

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