Josh Shaffer

Shaffer: Wedding dress comes before husband for Raleigh bride

Julie Sasser and her new husband Tim, drawn together only weeks after she won a $500 gift certificate toward a bridal gown.
Julie Sasser and her new husband Tim, drawn together only weeks after she won a $500 gift certificate toward a bridal gown. Courtesy of Julie Sasser

On a whim one Friday, Julie Sasser followed a why-not impulse and entered a contest at North Hills Mall, hoping to win the diamond necklace offered as grand prize.

She took a runner-up’s gift instead, which was nice but not exactly the perfect fit for a 51-year-old divorcee: a $500 gift certificate for a nearby bridal boutique.

“I wasn’t even dating anybody at the time,” she explained.

Maybe the dress possessed a hidden power, some match-making powder sprinkled into the seams, sewn with thread made from the eyelashes of Aphrodite.

Because right after Sasser picked out her gown, she needed it.

“Omen or luck?” she asked, introducing husband Tim. “We got married a month ago.”

How and when a pair might unite is, of course, impossible to predict and governed by wild circumstance. But at least by my reckoning, Julie Sasser, a project manager for Verizon, may be the first bride in history to have a gown before a groom.

When she won the dress, she felt a bit odd shopping in the salon: Traditions by Anna. She figured the $500 was intended to cut the cost of a much more expensive gown. She considered donating her gift to charity, maybe the Wounded Warrior Project, but she decided that if a soldier’s family couldn’t afford a wedding gown, her certificate wouldn’t put them over the top.

Lucky for her, the boutique offered flexibility. Sasser chose a party dress, off-white chiffon, tea-length and vintage-inispired. (My apologies if I’m describing this garment poorly. I’ve never bought a dress before.)

When the custom-made gown arrived, she tried it on and found it needed a few alterations. But who knew when or if she might use it? By the time that day arrived, it might fit perfectly.

“I stuck it in the closet,” she said. “We’ll see.”

Fate intervened just a few weeks after she picked out the dress. She’d gone to a friend’s engagement party and got to talking with Tim Sasser, a retired wildlife officer. They spoke first in a group, then in the dining room by themselves. “We talked like there wasn’t even a party going on,” she said.

Fate didn’t dawdle. They soon engaged. They’d have betrothed sooner than they did, Sasser said, but they didn’t want people to roll their eyes. But wedding planning already had one chore crossed off the list.

“I might already have a dress,” she told her fiance.

The wedding went perfectly, held in a small Mordecai chapel. Sasser’s 12-year-old son walked her down the aisle, and her mother stood as maid of honor.

And Sasser’s dress, fresh from the closet, graced a new bride. It didn’t have to wait long at all.

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