Why I refuse to take off my wed­ding dress

My bar­gain wed­ding dress was too pretty to wear just once Dawn Winfield-Hunt, 54, Isle of Wight

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Pick­ing the dress off the rail, I looked at it, un­con­vinced. ‘It’ll look much nicer on,’ the shop as­sis­tant as­sured me. It was June 2019 and I was shop­ping for my wed­ding dress.

Only, I hadn’t booked into an ex­pen­sive bridal bou­tique.

In­stead, I’d heard about one clos­ing down – they’d do­nated all their wed­ding dresses to char­ity shops.

‘Might find a bar­gain,’ I told my fi­ance Steve, 57.

Brows­ing the lo­cal char­ity shop wasn’t ev­ery bride’s dream, but I didn’t care.

And if it meant I could save a bit of money… Even bet­ter. Slip­ping into the dress in the chang­ing rooms, I gasped – it re­ally did look bet­ter on!

‘It’s per­fect,’ I said.

It still had the old price tag on – £1,800 – but I bagged it for just £300. At mine and Steve’s cer­e­mony in Au­gust 2019, I felt beau­ti­ful sashay­ing in my frock.

‘You look gor­geous,’

Steve whis­pered. Later, I was re­luc­tant to take my dress off.

‘It’s a shame to put it in the wardrobe,’ I said.

My style was usu­ally jeans and a blouse but I’d loved feel­ing fab­u­lous for a day and didn’t want it to end. So as I re­turned it to the hanger, I had a thought. ‘I want to keep wear­ing it,’ I

made up my mind. ‘As much as I can, for the next year.’ A cou­ple of days later, my­self, Steve and some friends went to the beach to go pad­dle-board­ing. When I turned up in my white dress, on­look­ers were shocked – es­pe­cially as I waded out into the wa­ter. Some­how, I man­aged to get on the board, kept my bal­ance through­out.

But when it came to get­ting off, the dress had started to soak up wa­ter. It was heavy and wrapped around my an­kles, caus­ing me to top­ple off the board. Splash!

My beau­ti­ful white dress was com­pletely soaked – but I couldn’t stop laugh­ing.

‘That was great fun,’ I gig­gled.

That night, I soaked it in the bath.

And soon, it was ready for its next out­ing.

Hit­ting the su­per­mar­ket, I was stopped ev­ery few min­utes as I made my way through the store.

‘You look like a princess,’ one lit­tle girl gasped. I beamed with hap­pi­ness. I snapped pic­tures along the way, and set up a Face­book page called The Life and Times of a Wed­ding Dress, where I could share its out­ings. I’ve also worn it to a fes­ti­val, even just around the house, do­ing chores!

Ev­ery­one has been sup­port­ive, and I’ve had loads of mes­sages on my Face­book page.

I wish I’d done the same thing, but I’d never fit into mine now! one lady wrote. When I first told my son Sam, 31, my plans, he rolled his eyes – but since then, he’s been tex­ting ideas of places to wear my gown.

I’m plan­ning to go to a scooter rally, and I’ll be trick-or-treat­ing in my dress come Halloween.

Next year, two days be­fore our an­niver­sary, I’ll host a wed­ding-dress char­ity ball – with all pro­ceeds go­ing to four char­i­ties close to my heart.

Once the year is up, I plan to take a pic­ture of the dress – warts and all.

The stains, tears and marks will tell a story.

I can’t wait to look at each of the mem­o­ries and smile.

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