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200 wedding dresses for 200 brides

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Bride-to-be Monissa Aguilar who will be getting married on the beach in Maui looks at the back of her wedding dress in a mirror during Saturday’s $50 wedding gown event at Marissa’s Closet in Ripon.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED January 29, 2012 10:27 p.m.

RIPON - There was magic in the air as hundreds of engaged women from as far away as Red Bluff and Santa Rosa flocked to Marissa’s Closet in Ripon Saturday morning where new wedding gowns were being offered for a mere $50 to raise funds for the non-profit.

The first bride arrived with her dad and sisters at 3 a.m. They camped outside the former Ripon Drug Store building in the center of the old downtown district with their sleeping bags and chairs drawing the attention of one Ripon Police patrol officer. By the time Melinda Shaw, her sister Christina Trujillo, and their mother Debbie Kriletich, along with a dozen volunteers, opened the doors at 10 a.m. the line of brides and their families circled the building.

Only groups of 15 at a time were welcomed into the shop – a building provided rent-free by Ripon’s retired longtime pharmacist Dale Larson. In the first two hours alone, some 200 dresses were carried out the door by smiling and emotional brides – dresses with price tags ranging as high as $3,500.

Gowns donated by two bridal shops

The gowns were provided by two bridal shops and from the same owner – Jamie Bridal in Pleasanton and Beautiful Beginnings Bridal in Turlock . Both are currently in the process of downsizing their operations.

The bridal shop owner said when she heard about the “warm hearted” mission of Marissa’s Closet to provide free “prom dresses” for girls who would otherwise not be able to attend that dance night in May, because they didn’t have a gown – they wanted to help. And help they did. The money raised at $50 a wedding dress will go back into the fund to provide more prom dresses for the high school seniors for the upcoming graduation season.

A fresh supply of wedding gowns is expected to be coming from the same bridal shop benefactor this week to allow the Ripon non-profit to open their doors to prospective brides once again next Saturday at 10 a.m.

It wasn’t just bridal gowns that were being sold, but flower girls’ dresses, ring bearers’ white suits, custom shoes and bridal veils. Three vendors offered their services at a 25 percent discount. They were Studio Hair & Skin Salon of Ripon; La Bella Sade, fashion and interior designer; and Sweetness Unlimited, a Turlock Bakery.

One young bride voiced her excitement at finding her perfect dress saying now she would now have the money to invite three more guests to her wedding planned for this coming weekend in the snow near Reno.

In addition to the coverage by the Manteca Bulletin, brides-to-be said they were alerted to the availability of the bridal gowns by Channel 31 after Alan Sanchez visited the shop last week and broadcast live from the Main Street location. After the show aired some 300 phone calls went to Marissa’s Closet plus emails and many Facebook contacts.

Trish Jones who teaches Criminal Justice at Kaplan College in Sacramento was one of the early ones who drove to Ripon for her oldest daughter and for her future daughter-in-law. She said she has always donated her two daughters’ prom dresses to a similar organization in Sacramento.

Anne Couvrette and her future mother-in-law Tami Wise drove down from Auburn Saturday morning hoping to be lucky and find a dress for her Sept. 15 wedding. She was ecstatic when she looked into the full-length mirror with what she saw – the first dress she tried on.

Anne called a girlfriend, Lindsey Cummings, who lives in Modesto and asked her to come right over to the Ripon streetfront. She wanted her to see the gown of her choice. What she didn’t tell her was that she wanted to surprise her and ask her to be her matron of honor. Anne wanted to ask her friend while she was dressed in her wedding gown.

It was 15 to 20 minutes later that Lindsey walked in showing complete approval with her friend’s choice of a gown. With that Anne dropped to one knee, took Lindsey’s hand, and asked her if she would be her matron of honor. There were tears all around including Anne’s future mother-in-law.

Another bride ecstatic with her find was Monissa Aguilar, a 2005 Ripon High School graduate. The dress had single muted and three dimensional floral decorations on the straps that fit the theme of her wedding set for July 21 in Maui, Hawaii. Her mother Chris was mirroring her daughter’s excitement with double thumbs up. The groom-to-be is Clo Zuninga also an RHS grad.

Outgrowth of prom dress program started by Marissa

The last shopper was a girl who couldn’t decide between two dresses, both of which she had tried on numerous times. It was nearing 4:30 and the sale was scheduled to be over at 4. She had been talking with a grandmother on the phone that was going to handle the alterations for her dress making the appropriate adjustments. Christina Trujillo went into the rear of the building and found a gown that hadn’t been with the others hanging on the racks – it was a perfect fit and the once frustrated bride-to-be left smiling ear to ear.

Melinda Shaw has proudly carried on the prom dress program her daughter launched from their home before her untimely death while a student at Ripon High School. Shaw has gone the extra mile with all her heart in organizing fund raisers and even putting on proms for special needs young adults. Melinda has gone out of her way to find boyfriends’ tuxedos and flowers in addition to the gowns – even providing prom bids.

Once again she’s going the extra mile after hearing from a young woman who is planning a wedding, but who doesn’t have a gown or really the funds to support her dream of at least a budget wedding and having to wear a simple street dress.

Melinda told of the woman having taken care of three of her sisters children for two years and having two boys of her own with serious medical problems. Melinda Shaw is in the process of taking care of that woman who asked for her help Saturday saying she only wanted to look pretty for at least one day and walk down the aisle in a white gown.

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