NEWS

Military brides-to-be get free wedding gowns

Joyce Kelly

Several dozen future brides were stunned Thursday to discover they have a fairy godmother: Mireille Stanbro, owner of Boutique La Reine Bridal.

Stanbro gave away free wedding gowns worth $800 to $3,000 to women who are going to marry men who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, or who have been deployed themselves.

"This is miraculous," said Army Pfc. Sarah LaBrada, beaming.

"I didn't realize stuff like this went on," said LaBrada, who is stationed at the Natick Labs.

Women came from Maine, West Springfiled, Pawtucket, R.I., and Attleborough, among other places, for the free gowns, Stanbro said.

LaBrada, who is marrying Army Spc. John Budano Jr. on July 31 said she couldn't believe her good luck when "a civilian" at the lab sent her an e-mail notifying her of the wedding gown give-away at Le Reine.

"Oh, my God - I got the e-mail, and I about jumped for joy. It was amazing, because right now, my fiance and I are stressing about the fact that we're trying to plan a wedding on a military salary - that just isn't going to fly," LaBrada said.

Stanbro told her, "God bless you - go pick out a dress."

"And thank you for what you do," said Stanbro.

Stanbro, whose son-in-law serves in the military, said she was the first bridal shop owner to give dresses to brides either deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq, or marrying someone deployed to those countries, in 2003.

She wanted to show her appreciation once again by donating 100 wedding gowns yesterday - the boutique's third time donating the dresses to military brides, she said.

The only requirement for brides to receive a free wedding gown was proof of deployment.

"We were booming in the morning. It was so much fun - it was kind of like Filene's Basement a little," said Stanbro, laughing.

The women tried on as many gowns as they wanted to find the perfect match.

The first bride of the day - who arrived about four hours too early - ended up getting "the dress of her dream," Stanbro said.

Her fiance returned in full uniform to thank Stanbro, she said.

"I thought that was so sweet. That was the beginning of my day. So cute, so cute," said Stanbro.

"This day was perfect. Everybody fell in love with the gown of their dreams - there was a lot of tears. I wish I could do it every day," she said.

Three women from Maine who heard about the event, but couldn't make it, are still getting their dresses: They sent in their measurements, and Stanbro is sending their gowns, she said.

Bride-to-be Pam Leahy, who serves in the Air National Guard and lives in Pawtucket, said she was very excited to get her free gown.

"I'm ecstatic. I'm thrilled at the thought," she said, smiling.

Stanbro said she will hold another, similar event for military brides in January 2010.

Joyce Kelly can be reached at 781-398-8005 or jkelly@cnc.com.