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Brides-to-be say yes to free wedding dresses after store gives them away

PUBLISHED: 12:01 25 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:19 25 July 2020

Ash Johansen, manager at Say Yes! Wedding dress shop, with some of the dresses at Norwich's Castle Quarter. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Ash Johansen, manager at Say Yes! Wedding dress shop, with some of the dresses at Norwich's Castle Quarter. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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Brides planning their big day despite coronavirus said ‘I do’ to a free dress from a Norwich wedding store.

The wedding dress that Elise Rhoads won from Norwich but without giving away too much to her husband to be.
Pic: submittedThe wedding dress that Elise Rhoads won from Norwich but without giving away too much to her husband to be. Pic: submitted

Ladies who put others first throughout the Covid outbreak were selected to each win a wedding dress worth between £1,000-£1,500.

Boss of Say Yes wedding dress shop in Castle Quarter, Ashleigh Johansen gave away four dresses after asking brides to be to describe how they had been helping others either as a key worker, in the NHS or just voluntarily in their local community. She was inundated with entries and four lucky ladies each got a dress.

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Elise Rhoads and her fiance Aaron Linwood. Ms Rhoads won her wedding dress from Norwich. Pic: submittedElise Rhoads and her fiance Aaron Linwood. Ms Rhoads won her wedding dress from Norwich. Pic: submitted

The store is now giving another dress away in Castle Quarter’s ‘Freebie Friday’ competition.

For Lyndsey Mears, 40, from Norwich, a mum of five who works in office admin, winning a wedding dress really was the best bit of luck she’s had in a while. Both she and her fiance Vincent Clarke, 43, a mechanic, have been out of work during coronavirus. They’d planned their wedding only to cancel it because of lockdown and are now looking at postponing it until next November. She actually proposed to Mr Clarke on Christmas Day two years ago and they’ve been hoping to tie the knot since.

“I never win anything, my partner put me in for it and when they phoned me up, I just couldn’t believe it. The dress is a perfect fit, I’d tried ones on and they were too big, too small but this is absolutely perfect.”

Ms Mears was chosen for the work she did for local neighbours in lockdown. She put cards through all their doors to offer any assistance, did shopping for the elderly, took their rubbish out and kept a regular check on everyone. Her partner said: “Lyndsey does so much for people and never expects anything back.”

Another of the winners, Elise Rhoads, 25, a school teacher, but suffering from asthma, found herself unable to work in a school during coronavirus and so set to work preparing lessons for teachers and children instead. Her fiance Aaron Linwood proposed as a complete surprise in lockdown. “It was my birthday in April and I came downstairs and he’d made breakfast and put candles on the floor.”

Owner of Say Yes, Ms Johansen said they’d given away two dresses in blush pink and two in ivory, all different styles. They selected the winners together with Castle Quarter management based on the selfless work which the ladies had done. “Each dress was worth up to £1,500 although the store sells them at a reduced price so most of their dresses are priced up to £799. “We were very happy to give the dresses away to these selfless ladies. It was hard for everyone in lockdown but we’ve been booked up since reopening and brides are buying for next year and 2022,” she said.

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