Big C Bridal Blog: Emma’s Story
A story behind every dress
At the Big C Bridal Boutique, we have an extensive range of gorgeous bridal gowns, but we wouldn’t have this stunning collection without the help of our donors. Each one of our bridal dresses has been donated which means every dress has already been blessed with love. Donating your dress means that we can carry on the cycle of love by helping another bride to find their dream dress, whilst also raise money for our charity.
We recently spoke with one bride who recently donated her dress to our Boutique about why she decided to donate her gown. She also told us about her wedding gown journey and shared some inspiring words of advice for other brides who may be thinking about donating their dresses too.
Emma Grant is a local HR professional who juggles working life with being a busy mum to Delilah (now aged two years) and is a passionate Norwich City supporter in her spare time. She is married to Big C service user Stuart, and the family live in Attleborough, Norfolk. The past 18 months has seen her life flipped on its head as maternity leave with her new-born baby was interrupted by news of her husband’s brain tumour diagnosis. Because of his diagnosis, the couple ambitiously planned their wedding in only 21 days, as they wanted to enjoy their wedding day without delay and before Stuart’s surgery and treatments started.
What was the story behind your dress?
“In February 2019, Stuart was diagnosed with a brain tumour. We did not expect this diagnosis as Stuart did not have any symptoms. Seconds after we received the devastating news, our world changed forever and our journey together took a new route. Our daughter Delilah was already six-months old and we had often talked of getting married at some point. Unbeknown to me, Stuart had already started planning a proposal long before his diagnosis.
“So, on Valentine’s Day 2019, I said ‘yes’ and became Stuart’s fiancée after a romantic, candlelit proposal involving our baby girl wearing a baby grow with the question “Mummy will you marry Daddy?” printed on it, and our dog with the ring attached to her collar – a real family affair!
“We started all the usual wedding planning research but with news that Stuart would need brain surgery in May 2019, which would be followed by daily radiotherapy and a gruelling chemo regime, we decided ‘why wait?’.
“We thought to ourselves: ‘How hard could it be to plan a wedding in little over three weeks?’ We set the date for Easter Sunday (21 April) 2019, knowing that was the first opportunity that most of our nearest and dearest would be free to join our celebration.
“I knew finding ‘the dress’ would be tricky because I had no idea what I wanted, and with only three weeks to find it, I knew I wouldn’t be able to have something custom made, so had to look for something off the shelf. I also needed something to comfortably breastfeed my baby in, so I knew my options could be limited. I threw myself into trying on as many dresses as I could, visiting lots of bridal boutiques and bridal charity shops too, to try and find that one that made my heart skip a beat.
“I’ll never forget some of the looks I received turning up to bridal boutiques, with my feeding baby accompanying me, when I told them the wedding was only three weeks away. Sadly, those judgements also fed into the decision of which dress would become the one for me, as I wasn’t prepared to support any business who were so quick to cast judgement, without knowing our story.
“Unable to find the one via any second hand routes (I desperately wanted to support a bridal charity with my purchase), and with a limited budget for our wedding fund, I found my beautiful Lavinia dress from Wed2B. I knew it was the one as soon as I tried it on, it met all my requirements and more importantly with limited time to the big day, would only need a couple of minor adjustments to be the perfect fit.”
Why did you decide to donate it?
“In September 2019, just five months after the wedding, I decided to donate my wedding gown to the Big C Bridal Boutique. For me, donating to the shop was an easy choice.
“In the short time since Stuart’s diagnosis, the Big C Centre at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) had become like a second home to us. It was somewhere to seek refuge away from the clinical hospital environment, and somewhere we were warmly welcomed from day one… baby and all! Whether my baby and I were waiting for Daddy to have his treatment in comfort, or we needed some information and advice about Stuart’s diagnosis, someone was always on hand to offer support and emotional help. We even got to try the free complementary therapies which was a rare moment of relaxation during our rollercoaster journey.
“I knew it was tradition to keep your wedding dress. Since our daughters religious blessing was the same day as our wedding, we wouldn’t be turning it into a christening gown. I also did consider keeping it for when she grew up and wanted to marry, but ultimately would not want her to feel obliged to wear it – in years to come I am sure fashion and tastes will change too.
“The reality was it would be stored in the back of the wardrobe, and perhaps I would pull it out to look at every so often. What a waste of a beautiful dress. What if we weren’t the only ones getting married in a hurry for whatever circumstance? What if there were others who couldn’t afford the dress of their dreams? What if there were others just like me that wanted to support local charities and buy their wedding dress while donating to charity at the same time?”
Was it hard handing your dress away?
“I’ll admit I felt very emotional when I handed my dress over and I walked out of the bridal shop in Norwich with tears in my eyes.
“But I wanted to donate it to go to a bride-to-be in need who could perhaps experience the same joy that I felt when I wore it on our big day, and my mind was set on donating it.”
How do you feel knowing your donation has helped both Big C and another bride have a lovely day?
“Last year was a tough year for us, and undoubtedly Stuart’s ill health and me still being on maternity leave had a huge impact on our finances. But we had both talked about all the support the Big C had given us and how we wanted to commit to helping them in whatever way we could going forward, knowing that other could benefit from the support we received too.
“Donating my wedding dress was the perfect way to show our support and give our thanks for the lifeline Big C had provided for us.
“I would love to find out what happened to my wedding dress and the story of its second life. I often wonder what has happened to it and hope that it’s brought happiness to another family too. Hopefully sharing my story is another piece of the puzzle for whoever purchased it, to know the history behind how the dress made its way to Big C Bridal. If you bought a Lavinia size 10 wedding dress after September 2019 from Big C Bridal then please do get in touch with them as I would love to hear the second part of its story!”
What would you say to people who are considering donating their dress but are a bit unsure?
“I have beautiful memories of our special day and my dress was one part of that story, but I am so glad I have been able to help raise money for such an amazing charity and the dress has continued to spread happiness, rather than collect dust in my wardrobe.
“Donating a wedding dress is a big decision, and an emotional one, but if you are considering what to do with your dress after the big day, please do take some time to think about the happiness it could bring to someone else and the difference that the funds it raises could make to such an amazing local charity. I’m a big advocate of ‘paying it forward’ and this is just one way of being able to do that.
“Speaking as someone who has donated their wedding dress to Big C, and experienced first hand, the fantastic support this charity can provide, please do get in touch with if you want to know more about the difference your dress donation could make.”