Brockville woman seeks owner of mystery wedding gown

After struggling to open the professionally sealed package that had been tucked away in her closet for 11 years, Melissa Hoogenraad had a stunning realization.

This was not the gown she was married in.

So where, then, was her diamond-white dress? And who owns the mystery dress she’s kept in her closet for so long?

In the hope of finding answers, the 39-year-old Brockville woman has turned to social media. Her post to Facebook describing her search was shared more than 800 times in two days.

“Some people might think, well it’s just a dress,” says Hoogenraad. “But it’s an important dress.”

Hoogenraad’s mother bought the gown for her daughter’s wedding in the fall of 2003, telling her it was likely the last special dress she would ever give her. Her mother died six years later.

Not long after the ceremony, Hoogenraad brought the dress to a Brockville dry cleaner to have it “preserved” — a process that involves professionally cleaning the gown and placing it carefully in a tissue-lined “window box” that allows it to be seen without the package being opened. The window box is then placed in another box.

The cost was about $200, but she says she wanted to make sure she would have the chance to pass it on to any future daughters. She and her husband, Alan, have two sons: Nicholas, 7, and Keegan, 3.

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She’s not sure why she and Alan decided to open the package after so many years, but says they ran up the stairs like little kids to unwrap what they remembered to be a beautiful dress.

“I guess I just really wanted to look at it again,” she says. And naturally, she adds with a laugh, “I was curious if I’d even be able to fit in it again.”

Alan was initially skeptical about her insistence that this was the wrong garment, but for Melissa there was no doubt. Her dress was a two-piece. The gown they pulled from their closet is a one-piece.

She’s says she’s tried not to think about the possibility that she won’t find her dress, but knows there’s a chance that whoever has it moved away. Or worse.

“What if someone who went through a bitter divorce had it?” says Hoogenraad. “What if they angrily pitched it into a bonfire or something?”

The owner of the dry-cleaning shop is helping the Hoogenraads in their quest.

Louise Severson says she has contacted city hall seeking marriage licences from 2003, placed ads online and in print and asked a Brockville photographer who took pictures at 12 weddings around the time to look through his photos for the owner of the mystery dress. She’s also looking for records from the time of the transaction, but notes that the shop is required to keep records for only seven years.

In 24 years in business, says Severson, this is the first time such a mixup has happened.

Hoogenraad says she understands that mistakes happen and doesn’t want to hold the cleaner at fault. She only hopes to find her dress and reunite the other one with its owner.

If you were married in 2003, she’s asking you to check your closet.

The dress you have now may not be the dress you had on your wedding day.

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