Lifestyle & Human Interest

Retirement Community Displays Residents' Wedding Gowns & Photos To Celebrate Valentine's Day


In this month of celebrating romance, there are plenty of traditions to uphold: dinner dates, flowers, chocolates — and if you’re staff or a resident at Stoneridge Creek Retirement Community, wedding gown displays.

Life Enrichment Director Susan Filice has been initiating displays like this at the home, encouraging residents to tell their stories through their photos and belongings.

“I had done something similar for the veterans, where we displayed their uniforms and medals,” Filice told KTVU. “I wanted to do something for the ladies in our community as well.”

She put out a call for wedding dresses, photos and accessories, and ended up with a heartwarming display of 20 gowns, shoes, veils and black-and-white wedding photos dating back as far as 1907.

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A whole range of styles is represented in the dresses, from off-the-shoulder to collars nestling up to chins. Some have long sleeves, some short, some are made of gunnysack, and some of satin.

“I just love the classic style of this, it reminds me of Princess Grace,” Filice said of one dress with short sleeves and a full skirt.

Pointing out two others displayed next to each other, Filice explained that “They look like they’re from the same era, when in fact, they are from two very different times.”

Indicating a colorful, hand-embroidered Chinese tea ceremony dress, Filice explained its story: “One of our residents served her mother-in-law tea, in that outfit, on her wedding day.”

Some residents really embraced the spirit of the request and provided several generations of wedding dresses. Cindy Mathis brought hers, her mother’s, and her daughter’s.

“My mother’s dress was from 1939 and it was the oldest in our family collection,” she said, “It’s just beautiful satin which has held up for 80 years.”

“I’m amazed because I’m sure money was tight during that period of time to have such an exquisite dress of satin was really special.”

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Mathis also explained how her own train had been converted into a shawl for her daughter’s wedding, which was probably the most recent, being in 2010.

While this is the first year that Filice has organized a Valentine’s Day display like this, it certainly won’t be the last.

“I have other residents who’ve now gone back and found where their wedding dresses are, and have told me they want to include them next year,” she said.

“We also want to make a book with photos and some of the stories that go along with these wonderful dresses. It’s the happiest day in most people’s lives. It’s wonderful to share those joys.”

The display in Pleasanton, California, can be viewed if you make an appointment with the retirement home, and will run through the end of February.

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