In its 11 years in operation, the Andover-based Brides Across America group has given more than 24,000 free wedding dresses to military and first-responder brides.

Twelve more brides-to-be from around New England were added to that list when they picked out wedding dresses at an event at the non-profit's headquarters on North Main Street two weeks ago.

Called the Operation Wedding Gown Event, it featured the 12 brides holding their dresses in garmet bags in the bridal shop after quietly trying them on.

"It is unlikely that a bride will be willing to have a picture of their dress published before their wedding,'' said Diana Revis of Brides Across America. "Many of them prefer not to share pictures of their final dress choices until after their wedding." 

Brides Across America's website says brides dream of having the perfect dress and a beautiful gown on their special day. The organization plays a role in making those dreams come true by giving a military or first-responder bride a free wedding gown during an Operation Wedding Gown Event.

Events are held twice a year in partnership with bridal salons across the country. Deployments, financial hardships and other challenges unique to military members can make it difficult for them to plan a wedding. Brides Across America leaders said they are happy to help to make a couple's wedding day spectacular.

Well-known designer Vera Wang joined the project last summer. She held a contest that included writing personal stories. Last year's 10 winning military and first-responder couples went to the Vera Wang headquarters in New York City for private appointments last month.

Those 10 winners got a free wedding gown and black tuxedo designed by Vera Wang.



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