A Beautiful Tradition that Ought to Spread?

I’m am about to venture into dangerous territory. It is territory that is doubly dangerous because it has to do with women’s fashions, AND weddings, two areas where men should never seek to render any opinion whatsoever. I don’t know if it helps to point out that the idea I am about to brook came from a woman, but in case it helps, I offer this character witness on my behalf.

Even more dangerously I am going to suggest something about THE most critical aspect of wedding fashions: “The Dress,” as in, “The WEDDING DRESS.” Yes, I must go delicately into that world “where no man has gone before….”  😉

Yet there is a tradition about the wedding dress that is so beautiful and moving that I felt I had to share it. Some of you may say, “Oh Father, we have done that for generations in my family.” But I had never heard of it, and though I am not the most savvy and informed, I suggest that others have not heard it either.

The tradition I speak of is that of taking the wedding gown and, instead of packing it away in some trunk, the gown is converted to baptismal robes or gowns for the children that will come. In some cases, where there is a lot of fabric, several gowns for children can be made. In the case of simpler wedding gowns with less flowing folds etc, one baptismal gown (or robe) is made to be worn by all the children who will come.

What a beautiful tradition (it seems to me) that links the wedding and the marriage to blessed pro-creation and to the gift of children. Weddings are a day when we celebrate love, beauty and attraction. And the wedding gown celebrates these powerfully. And yet love, beauty and the attraction of the spouses for each other is meant to bear fruit, the fruit of children. Yes, children are the fruit of the marital love that is celebrated on the wedding day. How fitting it seems, that the dress that signals love, marriage, beauty and attraction, should become the fabric of the baptismal robes for the children, who are the holy fruit of that love.

I can see that such an idea may not always be possible. Some women do not, in fact, purchase a special dress just for the wedding. Back in 1959, when my mother was married, it was not uncommon for women to rent a gown or to wear a gown passed down from their mother or a friend. The photo at the upper right is of my mother in a wedding dress, a dress that she and several other of her friends had passed down, with necessary alterations.

But these days most brides tell me that they buy their own wedding dress. The costs some of them quote to me, scare me, especially since the dress will only be worn once. I understand now why, in the old days, dresses were often handed down, from mother to daughter or from close friend to close friend.

But for those who own their wedding dress and wear it only once, what do you think of the possibility of converting it to a baptismal gown or robe for your children? I think it is a beautiful thought, but I am just “some dude.” I can almost hear some women now reaching over to pat my hand and say, “Oh Father, you’re such a dear, but you really have no idea of what you speak. Leave such topics to the experts and stay in your own lane.”

And yet I really do wonder what many of you think. It seems quite a beautiful thought to me. How say you ??

Here are some very nice and modest wedding dresses (but what do I know, I’m just some dude).

47 Replies to “A Beautiful Tradition that Ought to Spread?”

  1. While making baptism garments out of the wedding gown is a beautiful tradition, I’m very thankful my mother didn’t choose to do that.

    Instead, she preserved her wedding dress and gave both my sister and I the option of wearing her wedding dress when we got married. My sister decided to buy her own wedding dress, and I decided to wear my mother’s wedding dress. They truly don’t make wedding dresses as modest as they did back in my mother’s day! Following our wedding, I preserved my mother’s wedding dress in case any of her grandchildren want to wear it.

    In my family, my sister and I both wore the same baptism gown, and my parents’ grandchildren will have the option to wear it. My sister and I also wore my mother’s First Communion dress, and we both hope our daughters are able to do so as well.

    If one doesn’t plan on preserving their wedding dress, this is a beautiful tradition. However, I felt having a visual sign of my parents’ marriage and their example was a beautiful tradition as well.

  2. Another beautiful tradition is this: the mother of a priest turns her wedding dress into an alb for him to wear at his first Mass he celebrates. I’m not sure if my mom kept her dress; it would be neat if she did and would do that when the day comes for me to become a priest.

    1. My mother took her wedding dress and had it converted into a chasuble which I wore for my first solemn Mass of Thanksgiving (and continue to wear on appropriate days). It is a treasure for me, and having shared this with my parishioners, they too find it very special.

  3. I love this idea, especially if you do not plan to hand it down, but you never really know if you would or not, and it would be a shame to cut up a lovely dress. My sister made her own dress and I believe she still has it, but her daughter bought a dress. I still have the dress I bought for myself (nothing special given my graduate student salary), but I would’ve loved to borrow my sister’s — however, she was in England raising her young children so she couldn’t come.

    But first things first, we must teach our daughters to sew!

  4. Maybe I’ll share this to my sister. It’s her wedding this July. I think she’s having problems already in her Wedding Gown. Hope this will help.

  5. Hmmmm…I have actually never heard of this tradition, but it sounds like a good one. I am engaged, and looking at many different things with planning my wedding. I know that I don’t want to spend a ton of money on a dress, and I also know that I probably won’t wear it just once (I was thinking of wearing it on every yearly wedding anniversary – that way the dress is still special but not just put away in a box). If anyone ever catches an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” (I think it’s on TLC or Lifetime or something) – some that stuff on there is scary! Some people will pay $12,000 or more for a dress. Other people will have second and third wedding gowns for their 10 year and 20 year wedding anniversaries to renew their vows.

    @Andy – the tradition of the mother of a priest turning her wedding dress into an alb for him sounds pretty awesome!

  6. I did that very thing with my wedding gown. I had a train on my dress (not very long, actually), but the seamstress was able to make a baptismal gown with the material from the train and leave the rest of the gown in tact for potential future use. Both my children have now worn the same baptismal gown cut from my wedding gown. I find the tradition and the symbolism quite moving.

  7. In our family, a handmade baptismal gown of embroidered linen was passed down through three generations. It might make it to four, but all of us cousins want the gown for our own grandchildren and we grow further apart as we grow more numerous. A baptismal gown is easier to pass down through generations than a wedding gown. For one thing, a baby doesn’t care what he wears, as long as he’s able to fit into it.

    I love the idea of passing these symbols of the sacraments through generations of a family. It shows that the church continues.

  8. My Mom did this with her dress when we had our first child. She now uses it as the Baptismal gown for all of her grandchildren. A great little family tradition that unites two Sacraments in a beautiful and inter-generational way. Highly endorse this devotional practice coming out of the heart of the laity.

  9. When you asked us to pray that you should be bold I am sure that I am not the only who has done so; then and since.
    Seems quite bold to me and the women who have so far responded appear to have treated this with respect.
    And, with that said, I will now go downtown to Legislature (roughly equivalent to a State Capital building) to celebrate Canada’s birthday; while drinking nothing stronger than chocolate milk.

  10. Thank you for a video of MODEST gowns…just too much strapless stuff on the market these days. It’s ironic that a bridal shop has to advertise that they sell “modest” wedding dresses. Many of these are Mormon owned. No strapless in the temple!

  11. This is a great tradition! To all the brides out there, almost every bridal store now carries modest wedding dresses. You can ask for the “Kate Middleton” dress, the “twilight” dress, or just something modest. Just ask. The more we ask, the more that dress makers will get the hint. Also, if you watch the stars weddings dresses on magazines, you will see they are all wearing modest dresses! What’s up with the stores not keeping up? Fashions are changing!

  12. From the dude point of view, I agree that it is a beautiful idea for dresses that are only going to be worn once.

  13. My mother made my wedding dress into two baptism outfits. One gown for my first child, a girl, and one into a little suit for my boys. I am currently exptecting baby number 4, our third boy, and he will be wearing the suit 🙂 I love that we were able to do this. I would reccomend it to everybody!

  14. My dear friend (now deceased) decided to do this with her wedding gown which I had helped her select. An older Italian lady who lived on my street and was a beautiful seamtress, transformed the gown into a lovely, flowy baptismal gown. My girlfriend and her husband ended up having four beautiful daughters and each one was baptized in that dress. A truly lovely tradition!

  15. It is hard to call something a “tradition” when no one seems to know much about it!
    Perhaps just another fashion trend is a better idea. This, too, has bad idea written all over it!

  16. Alas, I thought this was going to be about the immodesty of many, if not most wedding gowns worn by today’s brides. I do hope that your parish has some guidelines about gowns, no strapless, no bosom showing, etc. Some parishes furnish a type of shawl to cover up the bride in the church if she is wearing too little on top. A great idea, and one that known ahead of time, might persuade the bride to choose something more modest. Saving a wedding gown for baptismal dress(es) is a splendid idea. The afternoon of my wedding, we stopped on our way to our honeymoon, and gave my dress to the Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, because before a Sister received her full habit, she came into church dressed as a bride of Christ. Alas, that tradition has all been lost, and the religious order that received my dress gave up their canonical status decades ago. And I nearly got hit in the face sometime ago by a “sister” who was insulted that she was married to Christ. No doubt Sisters in the newer, orthodox Orders, are happy to be called brides of Christ, since that is what they are.

    1. Ann… great idea on the Church providing a shawl. A girlfriend and I had talked about crocheting some shawls to keep at the entrances of our church for those with too little on attending Mass. An usher could simply hand it to those with low tops, exposed shoulders, …We would have to get permission of course. A soft introduction, is incubating the idea, an idea that for many simply has never been explained or considered.

  17. My wife had her wedding dress made into a beautiful baptismal
    gown and jacket and hat. All eleven of our grandchildren have been baptised in it.
    Very beautiful!

  18. I have heard about both the baptismal gowns and the albs, and would love to do both! Unfortunately, I did everything in the wrong order, so all the children were already baptized. (that was done first upon coming back to the Church.) I am hoping there is enough dress to make an alb if one of the boys should become a priest. it seems to me that these traditions, as well as saving the dresses for daughters to use all have valid points. It may fall into the category of you never know until the time has past.

    As for costs, my “first pick” dress had a $1,200 price tag. WAY over the budget. My daughter and I went to the goodwill to look for a shelf, and she went over to look at the wedding dresses. I am quite happy with the fact that she found me a dress that was the style I wanted in the size I needed for a whole $25.00. Even at such a steal, I feel silly having it sit in the closet for 20 years.

  19. In my family, we have a tradition of the bride in each generation carrying an antique Irish linen handkerchief on her wedding day. The handkerchief is later fashioned in to a baby bonnet (with just one french knot) for it’s baptism. My soon-to-be born 1st grandchild will be the 5th generation to be baptized wearing this wedding handkerchief.

  20. Msgr. Pope, that is a great idea and I love it. It is true, the gowns are not modest at all.
    Most mothers don’t have much to say to the daughters about that. I had no problems with my daughter,
    she knew what was appropriate.
    As usual you come up with wonderful things to ponder.

  21. I did something similar — I sewed my own wedding dress and purchased enough fabric and lace at the time to also make a baptismal gown for our children. Does that count? 🙂 Meanwhile, my dress is available for my daughters.

  22. Whatever my wife wants to do with her wedding dress, my opinion about it is very, very strong….it’s “yes dear” !!!

  23. I wanted to do that with my wedding gown, but did not get around to it. My family has a baptismal gown that has been passed down and around through the family. So, we used that. I do still like this idea though, maybe I’ll use it for baby number three which I’m expecting now since the family gown has mysteriously disappeared. Thank you for posting. 🙂

  24. I did not use my wedding gown for a Baptismal gown, but I did make a First Communion dress out of it. Three of my four daughters wore it. I saved it for my grandchildren, but they all lived too far away and were too big to wear it, as my girls were very small. It made me happy that they were wearing my gown for such an important Sacrament.

  25. I work on the weekend staff at a Catholic parish and have seen many, many brides in wedding gowns. Speaking from my own experience, it appears the modern wedding gown is merely a costume that brides use to reveal their bodies in public. (Catechesis is badly needed on this point!) I honestly can’t remember a wedding in the last ten years where a bride covered her back, shoulders, and cleavage as a sign of respect for the men in attendance, and especially in honor of her husband to be. I love the idea of a shawl for dissenting brides (and bridesmaids) and wish more priests had the fortitude to put such a policy it in place.

  26. Another option, if you don’t want to cut the actual dress, my aunt used my veil to make the overlay of our children’s baptismal gown.

  27. Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for reminding us of this great idea. My first daughter’s First Communion veil was made of lace from my Mother’s wedding veil. If I can locate my wedding dress, I will indeed have it made into a baptismal garment. My husband and I assist in mentoring engaged couples. I intend to let them know of this idea. The linking of the marriage and baptismal sacraments is beautifully shown with this idea.

  28. We just celebrated the weding of a niece who wore her great grandmother’s veil and grandmother’s pearls….but wore a dress she chose – I will pass on to her the idea of the christening gown as the veil we hope to preserve for at least a few more weddings….

  29. Thank you Msgr, for suggesting this. Last summer, I created a baptismal gown for our second grandchild from 4 generations of wedding gowns, using a component from each gown. My dress was the body of the dress; my daughter-in-laws lining was the lining; my mother-in-laws the buttons and loops; and my husbands grandmothers, some pearl embellishments. It is absolutely beautiful and was so precious to tie the past Sacramental weddings to the Sacrament of Baptism, commiting our precious ones to our Holy Mother Church.
    Funnily enough, I am just starting a business THIS WEEK, creating these heirloom gowns, specializing in using previous generations gowns. It is called Stitching with Joy ( Jesus, Others and You– all the participants of our beautiful Sacraments)

    1. That’s awesome Donna! Just curious, where is your business located?

      1. Hi Patti– I am located in Northern Virginia– do you know anyone who would like a gown ?:-))

  30. My wife and I were married in 1963. Her chantilly lace long wedding gown was made into a baptismal robe. This was worn by our 5 sons at their baptism. and by our 15 grandchildren, the latest being in 2012. It brings joy to all the family. Sydney Fernandes

  31. Another option is what I did. My aunt made my wedding dress and we had enough left over material that my mother made my sons baptismal gown out of it. We left it very plain and simple, so for my two daughters we added little fabric flowers (which can be taken of if needed for another boy) and added a bonnet out of the material as well. So for those who will make their dress, get extra fabric for a baptismal gown, and you won’t have to give up your dress if you don’t want 🙂

  32. My husband and I had heard of this tradition from a priest friend of ours. We married in 2008 and I loved, loved, loved my wedding gown. When our first daughter was baptized in 2010, we had the wedding gown turned into a baptismal gown. Now our second daughter, who was baptized about 6 weeks ago, has worn it as well. I was wavering, as my gown was a classic style that my daughters could use on their own wedding days, but using it as a baptismal gown guarantees that they will wear it!

    And Msgr., your mother was a beautiful bride!

  33. My dress was modest, and a simple satin, no beading. It has yeilded 2 baptismal gowns (one orginally, then the twins came), a First Communion dress, and a First Communion white tie and pocket square. Some pieces still remain that I pray will one day be worked into vestments when God graciously calls one or more of my 4 boys to the priesthood. Not sure what if any articles could be made for a religious sister . . .

  34. A great tradition! It’s a great way to link generations and handing down the faith and the lovely graces of Marriage and new life in Baptism. Don’t let the moths have your wedding dress let your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews be radiant with it at their Baptisms as you were at your Wedding.

  35. Great idea. Does anyone know of a pattern I can follow to alter used wedding dresses for items for priests. Any info is very appreciated.

  36. I need a pattern to make a baptism gown from a wedding dress. Where can I find such a pattern?

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  38. Hi,i got married at 20 and we had our first child,a daughter,a year later.she was a premmie,due to some complications i had and she was in and out of the hospital for the first year and a half.After she got straightened out we had to move as daddy was in the army and got transfered quite a lot.due to all the moves and not being permanent,the daughters baptism got put off.Finially,the husband got out of the army and got a good job and we became permanent.the daughter was 14 then and we decided to have her baptized then.Since we got married in the catholic church,we decided to baptize her catholic.we went thru the required classes and every thing was all in place.i had my wedding gown made into her cute baptism dress,It was cut off and made into a top of the knees poofy,baptism dress.With the remainder of the material,her aunt made her the traditional white baptism bonnet that tied under her chin,the bonnet was adorable and had the lace from my gown across the brim of it,then had a pink bow on the back of it.With the dress,she wore white tights and white ‘mary jane’ shoes.her aunt made her the traditional white cloth baptismal diaper fro a package of baby cloth diapers and then we did the plain white rubber pants over it that she wore under her tights.She looked very cute and pure in the outfit and i was thrilled that her dress and bonnet was made from my wedding gown.She made her First holy communion two years later at 16 and wore the communion dress and veil with her baptismal diaper,rubber pants,tights and mary janes,

    1. To linda d.-Our daughter finially made her first holy communion when she was 15 and i had my wedding gown made into her communion dress.since i had the full crinoline in my gown,the communion dress was quite poofy and came to just below her knees.she wore my veil which was waist length and then had the parish required white cloth diaper and rubberpants and tights on under the dress.her shoes were the standard white mary janes.She gorgeous in the outfit and so pure and innocent for her special day!

  39. My daughter is getting married and we are taking the beautiful material off the train of my wedding dress and making it into her veil.It will be her something borrowed and will them become a heirloom to be passed down

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