Bride With Third-Degree Burns Gets Her Dream Dress As Store Gives Away $55,000 in Free Gowns
It was an emotional scene at an Australian bridal store Monday when staff gave away 35 gowns and other goodies — worth a total of $55,000 — as a way of giving back to women unable to afford a dress.
"They ended up giving me the dress I [had previously fallen] in love with," Graham said. "It wasn't even part of the give-away selection, but Karen [McConnell, who runs the store,] wanted me to have it, so I pretty much just walked in and got my dream dress."
Graham, who was left scarred with third-degree burns across 30 percent of her body after an accident when she was a baby, told InsideEdition.com that it was especially important she wore a dress with long sleeves for her upcoming December wedding.
After looking around tirelessly, Graham soon discovered the sunny city had few long-sleeved gowns on offer—until she visited Bridal by Aubrey Rose and found the gown of her dreams.
Unfortunately, it was way out of her price range.
She tried to come up with alternatives, until she saw her favorite bridal store's give-away event on Facebook.
According to McConnell, the idea behind the event was to give 35 brides in financial need 10 minutes to pick a gown off the sample rack, worth up to $3,200.
She intended for the event, which started at 9:30 a.m., to last two hours, but instead, "We were still dressing brides six hours later," McConnell told InsideEdition.com.
Happy to choose from the sample rack, Graham said she was second in line when she showed up at the store at 4 p.m. the day before. Armed with a tent, blankets, camping chairs, pillows and snacks, she said she spent the rest of her night laughing, drinking wine, and befriending the other women in line.
"The whole experience waiting turned out to be quite life changing," she said. "We played games, and got to learn everyone's different stories of life and love."
McConnell said the event was inspired by a former bride who came back to the store and asked if she could donate her lightly used gown and veil to a bride in need.
"[We] meet some truly beautiful people on a daily basis," McConnell said. "I really wanted to give back."
To the brides who were late in scoring their dream dress, the store also gave away 32 vouchers for a $200 discount, and worked with Crystal Rose Couture to give away eight pairs of shoes worth $2,600.
In total, boutique gave away $55,000 worth of free wedding merchandise.
"I have never experienced such a feeling of pure love and gratefulness," McConnell told InsideEdition.com. "Every single bride had their own story as to why they were there, and every bride cried as they found their dream gown."