NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- A line of military brides-to-be stretched around Maya Couture Bridal Salon in Norfolk, Va., waiting for the doors to open to get the chance to find their dream dress during the sixth annual Operation Wedding Gown event Nov. 12.
Each year Brides Across America, a national non-profit organization, travels the country giving military service members with wedding plans, the opportunity to receive a free gown. For the past five years, they have partnered with Maya Couture Bridal Salon to participate in the giveaway.
"There is nothing more rewarding than to be able to give in this manner and show our appreciation to the men and women who choose to serve our country and make so many sacrifices to do so," said Maya Warburton Holihan, president of Maya Couture. "Hosting this event each year puts perspective and a greater purpose back into my life, my employees, and all the volunteers who help to make this day so special for the brides we are so happy to serve."
Many brides-to-be camped out in front of the salon as early as Saturday afternoon, to make sure they had the first pick of dresses.
Tawny Lynee Munn, whose fiance is the Navy and currently stationed in El Paso, Texas, was the first bride-to-be in line and ready to find her dream dress for her wedding Dec. 28.
"I've shopped around and there's definitely an art to it," said Munn about finding the perfect dress. "Its one of those things that when you look at gowns you say it looks beautiful but you don't know what it looks like until you see it on you."
To prepare for the event, the store received more than 60 brand new designer gowns to add to the selection of the 100-gown giveaway to the first 100 qualified brides-to-be.
"We will also provide sample gowns and discontinued gowns from our stock. The gowns range in price from about $800-$2,500," Holihan said.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Antoinette Gibson came to the event not knowing what kind of dress she was looking for, but her wedding consultant assigned to her at the door, helped sort through the 100 gowns and walk away with a dress to wear at her Jan. 12 wedding.
"I'm not really picky, I'm vey thankful to just get a dress," said Gibson about the opportunity to participate in the event.
To date, Brides Across America has donated more than 8,000 wedding gowns from prominent designers and Maya Couture has donated more than 300 gowns, all in effort to support military brides in their wedding. For Maya Couture, the event has grown since the stores' first giveaway in 2008.
"On a national level the event and overall movement have grown significantly," said Holihan. "Operation Wedding Gown made headlines when it was featured on NBC's "Making a Difference" with Brian Williams this fall, and Brides Across America was just recently honored by the Joining Forces program, a national initiative to support and honor America's service members and their families, which was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden."
To further support military troops and veterans, a portion of all accessories sales generated at the salon during the gown giveaway will go toward the Navy Seal Foundation. In addition to the accessories, the registration fee for the event will go to support Patriot Rovers, a non-profitable organization focused on providing trained and certified psychiatric service dogs to veterans struggling with post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury acquired while serving on active duty.
To help make this year stand out from the past five partnered-years, Maya Couture will host The Red, White and Something Blue wedding giveaway which will honor one military couple the opportunity to win an all-expense paid complimentary wedding valued at $20,000.
"I believe we make dreams come true on a daily basis," said Holihan. "But on this day, we get to touch the lives of so many people in this very special way, and hear their stories and shed tears of joy. My dreams are coming true too."
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.