By Gina Beach
Wedding bells are ringing, and the blushing bride will look her best in a handmade dress sewn on the Ohio University campus.
No, it's not from a new bridal shop; it's a generous gift from two friends.
Two Housing staff members -- Records Manager Associate Libby Dudding and Administrative Coordinator Nancy Love -- literally worked morning, noon and night to complete co-worker Alvena Harris' wedding dress.
The two came in as early as 6 a.m., worked through lunch and sometimes stayed until 7 p.m. Dudding, who is a quilt maker, brought in two sewing machines so that she and Love could work at the same time in their makeshift sewing room in Chubb Hall.
Harris, a records management assistant, had asked around the office if anyone had a bridesmaid or wedding dress she could borrow for her wedding day. The plan to sew the dress was hatched while Harris, the newest person in the office, was out sick for a few days. Love asked to speak with her when she returned to work. "I figured everyone was mad at me," Harris said.
Instead, Love and Dudding, who have made clothes for themselves and their children, asked Harris if she'd found a dress yet. She had not.
"Nancy showed me this picture, just like the (dress) I wanted. It was sinking in that they were going to make my dress. I could feel the tears coming," Harris said. Speechless, she managed to squeak out, "You guys are awesome."
To heighten the suspense, Dudding and Love didn't permit Harris to see the dress until the final fitting. "She was surprised. She didn't know what the fabric was going to look like," Dudding said. "We had her blindfolded the first time she tried it on."
Harris cried when she finally saw the long, ivory dress, which is simply cut and has a chiffon overlay. The whole process from start to finish took about a week. "We bought the fabric. The next day we were laying out pieces, then cutting them the next morning," said Love, who has made other wedding dresses.
Outside of work, Dudding and Love exercise together and take in the occasional movie. At first, Harris wasn't used to the tight-knit nature of the office. When hired about a year ago, she asked Dudding, "So you see each other outside the office?" Harris soon fell in step with the family-like atmosphere.
"She trusted us," Dudding said. "She put her whole wedding in our hands." Other co-workers loaned Harris jewelry to match the dress.
Dudding and Love will help Harris get ready this Saturday as she prepares to wed fiancé Mike Collins near her home in Pomeroy. The handmade card that accompanies their gift reads, in part, "Love from the heart were the stitches that bind this together."