Working in a hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic is hard enough on its own, but trying to plan a wedding at the same time is near impossible. Just ask Kristen Carmany who has been living that struggle since March.
That’s how she ended up at Diamond Couture in Frederick on Saturday. The business partnered with Brides Across America to give free wedding gowns to 20 first responders, health care workers and military brides-to-be.
“It was amazing,” Carmany said. “They’ve been very nice and flexible.”
Olga De Simone, owner of the shop, said she has been working with Brides Across America since 2017, when she opened. She holds an annual event with them to offer free dresses, but the addition of health care workers was new this year because of the pandemic.
“[I like] that we can make these girls happy to find a dress,” De Simone said. “And since I am a seamstress, a dressmaker, I can help them with some ideas for how to customize that dress for them.”
Carmany is an X-ray technician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she has been working in and out of the COVID unit and the emergency room. She said she has been tending to children on ventilators who are as young as 6 months, and as old as 14, many of whom had no pre-existing conditions.
She came down from her home in New Jersey with her mother and maid of honor. She said she had only looked for dresses at two other stores, both of which had restrictions in place that made the process difficult.
She managed to find a dress on Saturday that wouldn’t require much alteration — something that’s also difficult to find during the pandemic. While some tailors are operational, the turnaround time for wedding dresses is usually long, and Carmany doesn’t want to cut it too close to her October wedding.
Due to the pandemic, she will be holding her wedding in her backyard, with a very limited number of guests.
Ashley Stolte came up from Alexandria, Virginia, and only had to try on two dresses to find her perfect match. Stolte’s fiance is currently deployed in Afghanistan, and she said coming to find the dress with her mother and sister was a very welcome event during his absence.
Once she had the second dress on, De Simone and her staff were able to offer an idea about how to add sleeves, which was Stolte’s original vision. In effect, her dress will be one of a kind.
De Simone said she’s happy to be able to give back to first responders and the military. As a native of Peru, she wants to offer something to the country she has seen as very welcoming.
“This country gave me so much,” she said, “so it’s some way to give back to this beautiful country.”