EVANSTON — Since she first began a few months ago, DeVelia Davis has matched up several brides with free wedding dresses to help them feel like princesses on their wedding day.
Davis, who is still waiting for her own perfect ceremony, has been on the lookout for affordable or free wedding dresses so she can give them to brides in need.
“There’s a lot of girls in this town alone that are putting their weddings off because they want to feel like a princess,” Davis said.
When Davis has a dress to give away, she puts out pictures, size and dress details and information about the dress giveaway on Facebook, asking for nominations. She then reads submitted stories to decide who needs the dress most.
One young woman in Evanston, Martie Dean, recently won a dress from Davis. She said Davis’s generosity has given her the chance to celebrate her wedding as she hoped.
Dean said that when she and her husband became engaged this May after 10 years of ups and downs, she knew the wedding ceremony would have to be simple and inexpensive. She didn’t even plan on a wedding dress because finding one that fit would be expensive and time-consuming.
However, Davis began a wedding dress drawing around that time, and a friend entered Dean’s name. Dean said she hoped to win but, feeling certain she would not win it, continued to plan the wedding. She married her husband on July 7 in front of family — and learned that same day that she had won the dress.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Dean said, adding, “I have a hard time finding anything that fits, but it couldn’t have fit better if I had had it made for me.”
She will be able to wear it at her wedding reception in September, and the whole experience has left her glowing.
“I always thought I would have the wedding with the white dress and all the things [that] go with it,” she said, “but life rarely works how we planned, so I had pretty much given up on that for me until this very nice lady decided she wanted to help women have their perfect day.”
Davis said she is not well-to-do herself, but she sees needs around her and longs to meet them if she is able. For instance, along the way, Davis has received several requests for plus-size dresses and hopes to be able to provide some in future.
She has also connected with other women around the country through the wedding dress giveaways, learning others’ stories. One such story she remembers was when a maid of honor nominated a bride who had lost her home and belongings in a fire.
Davis said her own journey started when she wanted to renew her marriage vows and started planning the ceremony, since she never had a formal wedding ceremony. She ordered what she thought would be her dream dress online, but when it arrived, she was devastated to discover it wasn’t what she imagined. With the support of her husband, she sought out ways to redesign the dress, but it still wasn’t what she hoped for.
“She (the designer) did as I asked, but when I put the dress on, … my heart was broken. It wasn’t the dress I longed for,” Davis said, “because the dress we renew our vows in I also want to wear to Heaven when my time comes.”
She tried a couple more dresses to no avail — but the situation inspired her to offer the dresses to other brides in hopes that they could have the day and dress of their dreams, even while she continues the search for a dress that will “make [her] heart sing again.”
So far, Davis said, she has matched up three brides with dresses, and she hopes to give away at least one more before Christmas.
“[There are] so many girls in this town that are so poor and needy,” she said, “and every woman should deserve to feel beautiful on her wedding day.”