For couples with one or both members in the military, tying the knot can be an even more complicated and stressful process than usual. Depending on where the servicemen or women are stationed or deployed, long-distance relationships can make planning the big day even more difficult. Many brides often marry with a civil ceremony and postpone a formal wedding ceremony until after they or their fiancé returns home.
Recognizing this difficulty, Sarasota Brides and Formalwear decided to participate in Brides Across America, an organization that partners with bridal shops across the country to provide military brides with free wedding gowns.
“We really wanted to be able to honor our military folks, and this was a great way to do it,” said Diane Warmbier, store owner. “We’re really excited; this is an emotional day for a lot of these women.”
Between Tuesday, July 10 and Wednesday, July 11, qualifying military brides were invited into the shop, where they were offered a free dress and bouquet on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Everything is tentative when you’re trying to plan the wedding,” said customer Melissa Moss, who will marry her fiancé, Hunter, who is currently serving in the Army, this fall. “You never know which dates are going to work. It’s really difficult, and this takes a lot of the stress off.”
In order to qualify, brides or their fiancé must be on active military duty, either currently deployed or deployed within the last five years to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Libya, Qatar, Kuwait or Japan.
Being the only store in the state to participate in the event, brides traveled to Sarasota Brides and Formal Wear from as far away as Georgia and Texas for the opportunity to get a free gown. Some even camped out overnight.
This is the first year the store has participated in the event, but store manager Kristy Musteffe says she isn’t surprised at the big response. She estimates that over the course of the two-day event, the store gave away between 40 and 50 dresses.
“We’re always looking to be a part of the community,” said Musteffe. “We’ve been working on this for the past two months, and we’ve gotten calls from all over. These people do so much for us, and this is our way of giving back.”
These military brides share their stories with the Sarasota Observer.
How did you find out about Brides Across America?
Immediately after I asked my aunt to help me with the wedding, she saw a blurb on TV about it, so she called me and left a message. I couldn’t believe the timing, and she was over the moon.
Did you tell your fiancé you were coming?
Yeah, he’s deployed in Qatar, and he was really excited. He told me I had to come try to find one. He called me this morning to make sure I was up and everything. It really is an amazing opportunity.
What’s the secret to a long-distance relationship?
Skype and FaceTime. It’s kind of nice, because all you have time to do is talk. You’re not distracted with fancy dates, you just really get to know each other. I’m excited to spend the rest of my life with him.
How did you hear about this?
My sister saw it on Facebook and told me about it, so we drove down and got here at about 8 this morning.
Did you find a dress that you liked?
Yes, I’ve been looking for a while now, and I’m really happy with it; it’s gorgeous!
How long have you and your fiancé been together, and how did you meet?
We’ve been together for seven months. My sister and I went to high school with him, but we never met until recently. We met on the dating site, Plenty of Fish.com.
When is the wedding?
We’re getting married in December 2013. I’m really excited for my dress.