Dress-stress averted

JUST IN TIME: Lerae Barrett, right, with her friend Maria Dudley who suggested she tried Classic Hits for help after her mail order wedding dress failed to arrive.
JUST IN TIME: Lerae Barrett, right, with her friend Maria Dudley who suggested she tried Classic Hits for help after her mail order wedding dress failed to arrive.

"A desperate wife to be" whose wedding dress did not arrive in time as promised, got married in a beautiful dress thanks to the kindness of complete strangers.

Lerae Barrett ordered her dream wedding dress on an internet site with weeks to spare before her April 12 wedding.

The company she bought the dress from - which looked like it was Australian but was actually in China - promised Lerae her $377 dress would arrive between March 23 to 30.

However as the wedding day loomed her dress had not arrived.

"Obviously as the time was getting closer I was emailing them saying there is only 10 days until my wedding. Where is my dress?"

The company replied that her dress would be posted the next day; it then needed five to seven days to arrive in New Zealand.

Although it was cutting things fine Lerae still thought her dress would arrive.

But with two days until her big day and still no dress she eventually discovered her dress had only left China the day before.

"I was like awesome, my dress is not going to be here by Saturday."

Lerae and her friend Maria Dudley decided to scour Nelson for a cheap wedding dress on the day before her wedding. They failed.

" In the end we resorted to the fact we were going to stay up all night and make something. Because what else can you do?"

With nothing to lose Maria suggested they approach radio station Classic Hits in the hope the station could put a notice on air and someone might have a dress they wanted to sell cheaply.

The station's promotions co-ordinator Emma Helleur suggested they put a call for help for a wedding dress sized 10 to 14 on the station's Facebook page.

"Obviously at this stage hope was very very very small. I couldn't find anything in Nelson at all and I wasn't going to buy a brand new dress somewhere else," Lerae says. ". Driving home honestly I said; God I need a miracle and I got my miracle."

Back in Richmond Lerae went to her wedding rehearsal totally stressed, unaware of the amazing response her appeal was getting on social media.

Lerae does not have a Facebook page but asked her son to show her the Classic Hit's page and was amazed.

"I was gobsmacked. At that stage it was only an hour and a half since the post went up and in that time there was a lot of people who had posted pictures of their wedding dress and comments of: ‘She can use mine'.

"I'm just standing there in absolute awe, ‘going oh my goodness this is crazy'."

Lerae says a woman called Ruth, whom she does not know, was doing an amazing job in co-ordinating the search.

Stoke woman Cherie Llewellin's mother told her of Lerae's plight and Cherie offered her dress.

"I unzipped the bag to have a look and I was like ‘Oh my goodness'," Lerae says. "It was absolutely incredible, a beautiful dress. I tried it on and it fitted."

Five minutes later and another lady Amanda turned up with another dress that was unfortunately too small.

"‘I was speechless. Words can't describe how you feel."

Cherie says she was happy to help.

"I couldn't imagine what it would be like for her not having a dress."

Lerae had the perfect wedding to husband Brendon. She is just so touched that people rallied to help her.

"I'm thinking how cool, total strangers jumping in to help. I was amazed how people pulled together."

Her wedding dress arrived two days after the wedding, and to give something back Lerae is going to auction her dress on Trade Me to raise money for the Salvation Army.

The company she bought the dress from said as the dress was custom-made Lerae could not return it, but if she paid to ship it back they would pay her $35.

"But none of that even matters now. It's not that side of the story for me any more, it's about how the people jumped in to help a desperate wife to be who had no dress to wear."

Emma from Classic Hits is equally stunned that so many people cared. She was only expecting a couple of comments but the post was shared 23 times and attracted 53 comments.

"It was huge, people were straightaway ‘she can have my dress'."

Emma has been in contact with Trade Me who will run Lerae's dress auction on their cool auction site.