It was the lacy, flowery trim on her mother’s wedding veil that stole her heart.
The recently-engaged Ame Bartlebaugh knew the simple, sleeveless, 32-year-old dress and its accessories — which had been preserved in the summer of 1985 — would be perfect for her own special day. So, she scavenged through her grandmother’s attic to retrieve it.
But the dusty box held nothing other than a stranger’s wedding gown — a long-sleeved, tiered dress with ruffles.
“I really had my heart set on using my mother’s veil. But I immediately knew this wasn’t the dress,” Bartlebaugh said.
Turns out, the Ohio dry cleaner, which closed down decades ago, gave Bartlebaugh’s mother the wrong dress.
The same day, Bartlebaugh took to social media in hopes of finding the gown’s owner. Within 24 hours, the dress had found its way to the rightful heir.
“It was unbelievable,” she said. “Surreal.”
In a video posted on Twitter, Michelle Havrilla, also of Ohio, ripped open a gift-wrapped box. She sobbed, her face buried in her palms.
“Are you kidding me? You found it? How did you find this? This is it!,” Havrilla told her sons. More than three decades ago the same dry cleaning company gave her someone else’s boho-type gown. Havrilla never found the garment’s bride.
“I guess that’s probably why they’re closed down,” Bartlebaugh said jokingly.
Havrilla’s son, Brian Havrilla, captioned the emotional moment on social media.
“When she opened the box for the first time in 2013, after our basement flooded, she discovered the box she was given wasn’t her dress. She was heartbroken. Well ... We found it,” he wrote.
Bartlebaugh said she’s “really happy the dress is with the person it belongs with.”
“I already knew how it felt not having the dress. I can’t imagine someone else feeling that way,” she said. “The fact that I was able to take away that bad feeling, and replace it with a great feeling, felt really amazing.”
But Bartlebaugh’s dress is still missing.
So, the 25-year-old preschool teacher launched a second virtual campaign. This time, with the hope of finding her mother’s dress before her own wedding in late 2019.
“You can’t just hunt down everyone who had a wedding dress dry-cleaned in 1985 — or can you?” she said.
“My mom looks so happy in her dress and her veil. I love looking at the pictures. I hope that when I get married I look that happy, hopefully with that same veil and dress.”