26: Up in Flames

26: Up in Flames

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

Up in Flames

The Service you do for others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.

~Muhammad Ali

On April Fool’s Day 2005, 7:10 A.M., the day before I was to be married, the telephone rang. It was our prankster friend, Brad.

“You’re not going to believe this,” he said, “but there are twenty-foot flames coming from Magic Moments Bridal Shop.”

Neither my fiancé Aaron nor I believed a word he was saying. Brad insisted that it was not a joke. We tuned into the local radio station and heard the news ourselves. After months of looking for the “perfect dress,” the one I found was now engulfed in flames along with three of the four bridesmaids’ dresses. We were in total shock and did not know what this meant for our wedding. What were we going to do? Who should we call? Should we cancel the wedding?

The telephone rang again, and we were afraid to answer. It was The Bridal Boutique, the other bridal shop in town, asking how they could help; a dear friend had notified them of our dilemma. They offered to let the three bridesmaids and I come into their shop and pick out different dresses. Moments later, my mother and mother-in-law Shirley were at the door offering to help. A bridal shop in Eau Claire heard the news about the fire and called to see if they could help. One phone call after another, family and friends called to offer their services, wedding dresses, money, and sympathy. With all the offers to help, I began to believe that the wedding could actually go on.

In the midst of the commotion, I recalled that I had tried on the exact same wedding dress months earlier at Thelma’s Bridal, an hour’s drive from home. Maybe I would still be able to wear the “perfect dress.” After an anxious hour waiting for the store to open, I called Thelma’s Bridal. I blurted out, “I am supposed to get married tomorrow, and my wedding dress went up in flames this morning.” Immediately, I had the salesperson’s sympathy. She found the dress I described and agreed to sell it off the rack, something they don’t typically do.

My mom and I drove two hours roundtrip and picked up the dress from Thelma’s Bridal that by some miracle only needed hemming. We brought it to The Bridal Boutique where the Magic Moments alterations team, the owners of The Bridal Boutique, and my mother-in-law had gathered. They were cheerfully cutting apart and re-sewing the bridesmaids’ dresses. It was an incredible and heartwarming sight to see everyone rallying to make our wedding day a reality. My cell phone rang at about 8:30 P.M. It was The Bridal Boutique calling to tell me they were locking up shop, and everything was ready to go for the next morning!

As I lay in bed that night, I reflected on the unbelievable day and the newspaper story that read, “No lives were lost. It was just bricks and mortar. Bricks and mortar can be replaced… and so can bridal gowns.”

The big day arrived, and what a wonderful day it was! I had the “perfect dress” and the fairy-tale wedding I had envisioned. Yet, it was a richer and more memorable experience because of the many hands and hearts that helped to make it possible.

~Jennifer J. Heeg

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