Belles of the ball

By Tyler Kula
Special to the Grand Bend Strip

Standing between pink-draped tables in the hotel ballroom, a woman chats with her daughter-in-law. She is wearing the same wedding dress as she wore almost 40 years ago, and she smiles and glances around the room while her daughter-in-law sips champagne. The younger woman is also wearing a wedding dress.
And they’re not the only ones.
This is, after all, the Bride’s Ball, and the women – Hessenland Country Inn owners Christa and Liz Ihrig – are among more than 100 people attending the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation fundraiser at London’s Lamplighter Inn.
Besides raising money for a good cause, the February 29th event was an opportunity for women to don their wedding dresses again.
“When I put it on, it made me think back when I got ready in our farmhouse with my mom and my sister,” Ihrig said, recalling her wedding in Germany.
“It was a very hot day,” she added. “It was in the summer.”
She remembers her father bringing her down the stairs of their house to the guests waiting below, and to the man she was about to marry.
“It’s different in Germany. You walk together to the church and down the aisle with your husband to be.”
The Ihrigs have hosted many weddings at Hessenland over the past 24 years; the inn opened a year after Christa and Ernst moved to Canada with their sons Eric and Frank. Frank’s wife Liz is the inn’s wedding coordinator.
One of the reasons the Ihrigs attended the ball was to see the different dresses and how styles have changed through the years. They also came to support the cause.
“[CBCF] is a charity that basically every single person can say that they’re touched by,” said Brides’ Ball co-producer Lori Eldridge of Timeless, Elegant and Professional Events. “We thought it would be a good one to showcase for the very first event.”
This was the first year for the Brides’ Ball, with another held in Kitchener the week before. Organizers plan to take the event to other places in Ontario.
“We’re probably going to expand it into other cities — for instance, into Toronto sometime in the fall,” said Eldridge. “But, it will definitely be annual in London.”
Fundraisers included the $85 ticket, 50/50 draws and raffles for various prizes. A selection of tiaras was also available, with proceeds going to the charity.
One unique fundraiser was the pink wall, a wall plastered with more than 80 pink envelopes. Participants paid $20 for the chance to open one envelope, and each one has a minimum prize value of $20 with the chance for more valuable prizes inside. Prizes included spa packages and jewelry donated by various sponsors.
Sarnia resident Wendy Blacklock late husband lost his mother to breast cancer.
“I always support fundraisers for that,” she said. But it’s more about “a fun getaway to have some girl time.
“Girls are a weird bunch,” she added. “Any excuse to get dressed up.”
Blacklock’s friend Dawn Potter also lost someone to breast cancer.
“My boyfriend’s mom just passed away in November,” she said. “So I’m doing this for Dorothy.”
She wore the same dress she did for her wedding 23 years ago, but there wasn’t any meaning to it, she said, because she’s long since divorced.
“It’s just a howl that I can still fit into this thing,” she said.