'I want to help as many women as I can find their dream dress. Everyone should feel the magic and beauty I felt the day I married my best friend.'
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on June 14, 2022. It has since been updated.
After getting married in the wedding dress of her dreams, bride Gwendolyn Stulgis embarked on a mission to make the gown shopping experience a little less stressful for future brides. When Stulgis began the search for the perfect dress for her big day, she wanted one that made her feel beautiful. After visiting several shops near her home and trying on many dresses, Stulgis finally found "the one" at a local boutique, Evaline's Bridal & Tuxedo, in Warren, Ohio. The champagne-colored wedding dress by Allure Bridals featured beautiful sheer long sleeves and gorgeous beading and lace enhancing all the right parts.
There was just one catch: Her dream dress was priced at a whopping $3,000. Speaking to Insider, Stulgis revealed that although she set a budget of $1,000 for the wedding gown and the champagne dress was way out of her budget, she loved it too much to pass on it. "I got emotional looking at it because it was everything I really wanted," she said. "I don't think I could have pictured myself in anything else. That dress was just made for me." It was money well spent as Stulgis looked stunning on her big day on May 6, 2022, when she tied the knot with her now-husband, Frank Stulgis.
After the celebration, like many brides, Stulgis hung her dress in the closet. However, after a few days, it dawned on her that the gown was not much use to her—or anyone else—stored away. Wanting to give the dress a second life, she decided she would give it to another bride that could wear it on her wedding day. "I want someone else to feel the way I did on my wedding day—to look beautiful," she explained. "I want the person to feel like they are worth something. I want them to get the dress of their dreams without worrying about buying one. A wedding dress shouldn't just be kept in a closet."
So less than two weeks after her wedding, Stulgis took to Facebook to share her desire to pass her wedding dress on to a future bride. "So, after much consideration, I have decided to give away my wedding dress. I want it to go to a woman who deserves to have the dress of her dreams but can’t afford one or settled for something more in her price range. I felt absolutely gorgeous in it and want someone else to feel how I felt," she wrote. In the post, Stulgis stipulated two conditions: The bride's wedding should be sometime within the next three months and the bride should promise to pass it on too. "I have been very fortunate to have the dress of my dreams, I am forever grateful. There is no real sense to box up such a beautiful dress," she added.
"In order to decide who to pick, I want the bride-to-be to tell me in a couple of paragraphs why she deserves the dress. They can Facebook message me. All messages will be read up until June 2, so it gives us a couple of days to go through them," Stulgis explained. She and her husband pored over the submission every night for days until, on June 4, they picked the winner, Margaret Hyde. Hyde's future sister-in-law, Alycia Ashley, had secretly sent in a submission just a few days before the bride-to-be submitted herself. "Margaret is just an amazing person. She is the type of person that will give you the shirt off of her back. She's always the one doing the giving," said Ashley, adding that she anonymously submitted Hyde because the bride-to-be had mentioned wanting to enter but hesitated.
"I was in complete shock; I feel extremely loved," Hyde said of winning the dress, thanks to Ashley's submission. "I'm a simple girl that wears jeans and T-shirts, so I don't normally wear dresses. I'm looking forward to feeling like a princess for a day." The bride-to-be revealed that she had planned on making her own wedding dress before seeing Stulgis' post. She now plans on passing the dress along, just like Stulgis wants. Since the original post in May, Stulgis has inspired many brides to part with their wedding dresses and pass them along to future brides who cannot afford one.
She added that she also saw shoes, accessories, bridesmaid dresses and mother-of-the-bride dresses—like that of Stulgis's own mother—donated through the "Shared Dream Dresses" Facebook group she created earlier this month. "I want to help as many women as I can find their dream dress," Stulgis said. "I honestly didn't think it would get this much traction, but I am excited to see it blossom. Everyone should feel the magic and beauty I felt the day I married my best friend."