About a year ago, I had my first introduction to Rachel Hauck with the book The Writing Desk. I loved it. It’s one of those books I’ll keep and re-read in years to come. And that is why I didn’t hesitate to snatch The Wedding Dress off the shelf as I perused the shelf at a used bookstore just two days ago.
I began reading it that night, though I admit I didn’t get very far into it before I needed to put it down. Last night was a different story. After spending a lazy day with my husband, spending a lazy evening reading sounded just about perfect. At one a.m. when I finished the last page, I knew I had made the right choice. Even this morning, tired as I am from my late night, I’m not sorry I didn’t put the book down in favor of a good night’s sleep. Sometimes, you simply need to stay up late reading a good book.
That’s what The Wedding Dress is, a good book. Though the gown has been worn by four different brides over the span of around a hundred years, the book fleshes out the stories of the first and current owners of the dress, Emily and Charlotte.
Charlotte’s life is about wedding dresses. She pairs each bride who enters her shop with the perfect dress for them. Not content to make cookie cutter brides, she finds the unique dress to match the spirit of each bride. She considers this a gift God has given her to help each woman’s special day be as wonderful as it can be.
Her own life is a little messy though. Charlotte and her fiance seem a little off. Plans are not being made in a timely way for their wedding. Charlotte, the lover of wedding dresses, hasn’t even found her own. In what she believes is a desire to seek out answers, Charlotte goes to a special place from her childhood for solitude. What she finds is an auction, a mysterious man, and a battered trunk that she pays more money than she believes it’s worth to win.
As her engagement and relationship with her fiance fizzle, Charlotte opens the trunk to a beautiful, antique wedding dress that seems shrouded in mystery. In her current state she doesn’t believe the dress is for her, but she is driven to find out what she can about the history of the dress.
One hundred years earlier Emily is also engaged. In a time when racial tensions were high and women were pushing for the right to vote, Emily faces her own doubts about marriage to Phillip. On paper, he is her best choice. He’s from a good family that will raise her own family’s social standing. Everyone is in favor of the marriage. But something feels off.
When her first love comes back into her life, matters are complicated. Truth tries to come into the light, but Emily feels trapped. She’s made her choice, and she will honor it. She longs for freedom, but she can’t seem to find it even in something as simple as obtaining her wedding dress.
Emily’s mother and her fiance’s family have chosen the best wedding dress maker to create a gown suitable for a wedding of the highest social caliber. Emily finds the woman rude and conceited. Her design leaves Emily feeling constricted and weighted down, trapped.
Against social norms and possibly even laws she seeks out a woman of color to design her dress. Gifted in much the same way Charlotte feels gifted in the future, Taffy designs and sews the wedding dress Charlotte finds years later in the trunk. The dress is a perfect fit and style for Emily, but her mother insists it cannot be worn for her wedding to Phillip.
Emily and Charlotte, along with the other two owners, struggle to fully embrace what the dress means for their lives. For different reasons courage and faith are needed by these women to accept the dress as theirs and live with the events it brings into their lives.
Rachel Hauck does a wonderful job telling the story of Emily and Charlotte, but she doesn’t stop there. The gown is a character in it’s own right, and it’s story is rich with history and meaning as it weaves together the lives of these four women. The Wedding Dress is a beautiful story of love, betrayal, brokenness, and redemption that will be as timeless as the gown it’s named for.