Bride’s Rushed Wedding for Dying Dad Inspires Sisterhood of the Traveling Wedding Skirt

Amanda Dawson in her wedding gown. (Photo: Artiese Studios / www.artiesestudios.com)

It’s pretty easy to see why any bride-to-be searching for her dream dress would instantly covet Carol Hannah’s bustier and linen skirt. So when Amanda Dawson spotted a photo of Katie Kennedy, a stranger, on Facebook in the flowing, blush ensemble for her January 2015 wedding in Bethlehem, Pa., the Toronto native knew it was the one for her. Little did she know at the time that this was literally true.

Katie Kennedy first wore the Carol Hannah skirt at her wedding in 2015. (Photo: Douglas Benedict Photography / www.douglasbenedict.com)

 

“I saw it and I loved it right away,” Dawson tells Yahoo Style. “I didn’t really try on any other dresses.”

Dawson was relieved to find that the only store in Canada that sold the designer was in her hometown. But there was one big, heartbreaking hitch in her plan: Her father, Steve Dawson, was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer, with only months to live. Last April, she and her fiancé, Dom, agreed to move the wedding up to June, giving them two months to throw the whole thing together. The bridal shop employee said she would have to expedite the order, but it would be possible.

Two weeks later, Dawson and her mother went to their appointment for the fitting. “As I had the sample on and they were measuring me, the store owner asked me what my date was,” she recalls. “She said, ‘That’s just not going to happen in time, I can tell you right now.’”

After breaking down in tears, she began calling everyone she could — stores in the U.S., seamstresses, even the designer’s assistant. The demand was just too high to be able to accommodate her on such short notice. Just when she was about to give up, she came up with the idea to reach out to the photographer, Douglas Benedict, whose picture had made her fall in love with the skirt in the first place. She emailed Benedict, who called her that day and promised to reach out to Kennedy.

“That night I got an email from Katie,” Dawson explains. “She said, ‘I would love for you to have the dress. The only thing I would love in return is if you would send me a picture of you in the dress, so I can put it next to my photo.’ I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t even think about it. She just put it in the mail that day.”

Dawson with her dad on her wedding day. (Photo: Artiese Studios/artiesestudios.com)

Though she had been planning on saving the dress, Kennedy says she didn’t hesitate to give it up to Dawson. “I am a procrastinator, so I hadn’t even gotten it dry-cleaned yet,” she admits, but the skirt was in good shape. “After reading the email that Amanda sent me, I felt like this was what was meant to happen. It just seemed like the right thing to do, to give it to her. There was maybe a moment when I was packing it up when I was kind of sad that this was the last time I would see it, but it’s gotten such a great life after that.”

Dawson used her own top, so Kennedy does have hers as a keepsake of her wedding day. But Dawson is still moved by the fact that the other bride didn’t want payment or the return of her skirt. Such generosity reminds her of her father, a family doctor who was always helping others. Though he was wheelchair-bound by the time of her wedding, he was able to make it down the aisle, pushed by her brother, Paul. Steve died six months later, in December 2016.

Dawson and her dad. (Photo: Courtesy of Amanda Dawson)

“I texted her today and said, ‘Something I’ve never told you is that you and my dad are kindred spirits. People need to hear these stories and to be reminded that there are people like you out there,’” Dawson says.

Now both brides would like to expand their little club.

“We both think it would be amazing if it could go on and someone else could wear the dress,” Kennedy says.

“This dress connects us, but we’re hoping it will create a ripple effect that goes beyond just a piece of fabric, that it inspires people to give generously and not expect anything in return,” Dawson explains.

Though Dawson doesn’t have any specific criteria in mind for the next owner, she would love to hear details about the bride and her love story. If you know someone you think deserves it, tweet Dawson at @AmandaKDawson.

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