An Oakbrook Terrace bridal shop is teaming up with the national charitable organization Brides Across America by donating couture wedding gowns to military brides in celebration of the Memorial Day holiday.
Bella Bianca Bridal Couture opened its doors at 11 a.m. Tuesday so that military brides could search for the gown of their dreams. The bridal shop honors the brides by giving away gowns designed by prominent designers.
Briana Casey of Yorkville is marrying an Army lieutenant currently serving in Afghanistan.
"I am not sure if I am going to find the perfect one here," said Casey. "I hope I do."
Casey's mother Linda became emotional when she walked out in a fitted strapless dress.
"She is my only daughter," said Linda Casey. "It is beautiful."
To qualify, brides or their fiances must be on active duty in the military, either currently deployed or deployed within the last five years.
The shop selected close to 40 dresses that range in price from $1,000 to $10,000 to give away.
Nicole Chhokar's fiance was deployed in Iraq and spent time in Japan.
"It is wonderful because in the Chicagoland area you don't get a lot of military appreciation," said Chhokar.
Two sisters, owners of Bridal Bianca, help the military brides select their gowns.
"There are so many ways to give back. We thought this was a great way to get involved," said co-owner Natalie Bauer.
Bride-to-be Marine Sandy Vital did two tours of duty in Iraq. She is marrying her high school sweetheart, also a Marine. She tried on a number of dresses before she found the one.
"It's a big help," said Vital. "It feels nice to be thanked for what we do out there because not everybody thanks us."
Bella Bianca Couture and Formal Wear also raffled off items donated by various local wedding vendors, including florists, music companies, bakeries, jewelry designers and much more.
Since 2007, Brides Across America and its partners have given away more than 5,000 wedding gowns nationwide.
Bella Bianca says they will participate in the program again.