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Brides-to-be find wedding dresses at an unlikely site

BRANDON — Lidia Sanders and her sister-in-law stayed up late Thursday night, sketching out Sanders' ideal wedding gown.

"I definitely want the princess wedding," Sanders said.

She found the dress of her dreams early Friday morning in an unlikely place: the Goodwill store in Brandon.

Sanders and Lori Sandusky, the sister-in-law, were among 100 prospective brides, mothers, friends and even a few grooms who lined up before sunrise for the store's six-hour Bridal Bonanza.

The booty? One hundred twenty-five brand-new wedding dresses originally priced up to $2,000. Most were selling for half price or less. The cheapest one was just $60.

There were also racks of accessories, including photo albums, picture frames, cake toppers, shoes and veils.

Doors opened at 6 a.m. Eager shoppers were ushered through an archway of purple and white balloons while the soundtrack from the movie Father of the Bride played in the background.

The dresses were donated by five local bridal shops, said Michael Ann Harvey , a Goodwill Industries spokeswoman.

All proceeds go to Goodwill and will offset recent county budget cuts. A similar sale takes place today in Lakeland beginning at 6 a.m.

Sanders, 28, of Brandon was first in line Friday morning. She stayed away from the fitting rooms, where only two dresses at a time were allowed. Instead, she stood in the main part of the store and slipped about 20 different dresses on over her clothes, eventually picking a layered, sequined white gown for $275.

"This is it," she said.

Sanders and her fiance, Antoine Safford, 28, haven't set a date yet. Technically, they're not even engaged.

The lack of a ring to make it official seemed to be a trend.

Ariana Perez, 20, of Valrico took her place in line at 4:50 a.m. She told her boyfriend she was going to help a friend look for a dress.

Two and a half hours later, she left the store with a dress, veil and shoes, all for $203.

Yvonne Barnes, 44, was taking an even bigger chance on love. She's been divorced for 15 years and doesn't even have a boyfriend.

"I'm a lady in waiting," said Barnes, who lives in Temple Terrace and works as a minister.

Yet she walked away from the sale with $58 worth of shoes, a silver wine bucket, a white unity candle and other wedding accessories. Barnes already has two wedding dresses at home, and admits having a closet full of wedding apparel and decorations.

"It keeps hope alive," she said.

Jan Wesner can be reached at jwesner@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2439.

Brides-to-be find wedding dresses at an unlikely site 06/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 12:24pm]
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