I mailed off my wedding dress today.
Yep, you read that right. Today, I bundled up my dream dress – so elegantly covered in beading, lace, and tulle – and put it in a cardboard UPS box never to be seen again…at least this side of heaven.
You see, before I married the man of my dreams, I knew I wanted my day to be filled with special moments and memories. One of which, was of course my wedding dress. For any bride-to-be, that white or ivory gown is one of the most important aspects of her day. I was no different. I took my mom, sisters, grandmother, and mother and sister-in-laws-to-be with me and played dress-up. But there was one catch before we bought it. After the wedding, I would ship it far, far away to be used in an angel gown project.
Angel gown projects are part of a ministry that receives donated wedding gowns and transforms them into burial gowns for babies that don’t come home from the hospital. Usually donated to NICUs, these gowns (along with a lot of prayers) are given to moms and dads whose small babes will never have a wedding celebration of their own. There are many different angel gown projects around the country and globe, but for me, Real Imprints was the way to go.
Real Imprints hosts two projects. One is based in the United States, while the other project operates out of Guatemala. Before a dress is donated, donors have the option to select one of the two projects and mail off their gown to be repurposed. For me personally, I chose the international program because of the reach it has…and after hearing Lindsey Thomason’s heart about the matter.
After taking over a domestic angel gown project, Real Imprints’ founder, Thomason went on a medical mission trip to Ghana, Africa. It was there where she came face-to-face with the reality and reason for these gowns. Thomason was at a local hospital when a couple gave birth to a stillborn. The mother was too sick to leave, so the father was handed his little girl’s body in a cardboard box.
Shocked, and in disbelief, Thomason went to the father and asked if he had anything to bury her in. Grieving, he said no. Thomason went back to her hotel to find an angel gown that she had packed…and it was a perfect fit.
She said, “God brought a dress all the way from Idaho to Ghana for that family. Even though the memory is difficult and makes me cry every single time, it is a great reminder of why we do what we do and that God is the One in charge.”
And just like that, she began making headway on the international program, now located in Guatemala. But wait, it gets even better. When choosing the international program, the dress is shipped to and sewn by Guatemalan seamstresses employed by Real Imprints. Many of whom experienced having to bury their lost child in rags because they could not afford anything else.
According to the WHO, “In 2018, 4.0 million [deaths] (75% of all under-five deaths) occurred within the first year of life.” I was unable to find a more recent number, but I think COVID-19 and other diseases have probably impacted it. Around the globe and in the states alike, infant mortality is a heart-wrenching reality. If you doubt it, ask a NICU nurse.
It is during those moments, like the one mentioned from the father in Ghana, that make the hype about wedding dresses seem kind of silly. But God uses them. He uses them to form a union and to bring His children home. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but be overjoyed at the fact that I serve a God that can use tiny pieces of material to help mend broken hearts.
Marci Preece, who is the director of the international program, said, “The Lord is aware of each of us. He is aware of every tear, every heartache, and every hurt. Through the hands of many, He dries those tears and helps mend heartaches with little bits of beautiful fabric and willing hearts.”
And you know what, she’s right.
He’s with us through the heartbreak, and if we’ll let Him, He can mend what is broken. He can even use a wedding dress to do it! Even though I knew this was something I wanted to participate in since high school, I still cried as I drove away from the delivery store. But as precious as that piece of fabric was to me, I can’t imagine what He’ll accomplish through it.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it,” Malachi 3:10.
For more information on how to send your dress through Real Imprints, click here.