FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — Shannon McNamara, 54, of the Cottonwood neighborhood, waited many years for the perfect opportunity to unbox her professionally preserved wedding gown.
"I always envisioned taking the dress out and letting my daughter try it on when she got engaged — not necessarily because I wanted her to wear it at her own wedding, but just for fun," McNamara said.
That occasion finally arrived after McNamara's youngest daughter Caroline McNamara, 23, said "yes" to her beau Sam Rogers on Jan. 14.
McNamara excitedly retrieved the distinctive storage box that had been professionally preserved and sealed by the now-defunct White Way Cleaners following her Nov. 15, 1986 nuptials.
She carefully unboxed the garment to view it for the first time in 30 years.
"I looked at the dress and said to (my husband) Steve, 'I don't remember having bows on my sleeves and these sleeves are short! My dress had long sleeves.'"
It was not her dress.
"I was shocked. I decided to post a picture of this dress on Facebook hoping that someone might recognize it," McNamara said.
At 1 p.m. Jan. 15, McNamara posted photos of the dress with the name of the cleaners and the date. Responses poured in.
At 2:30 p.m., fellow Cottonwood resident Barbara Higgins posted a link to a news report from Dec. 12, 2012 that featured the story of Kim Jones of Acworth, Ga.
After 26 years, mom finds she's got wrong wedding dress
A Nashville native, Jones had her wedding dress preserved at White Way Cleaners following her Oct. 25, 1986 nuptials at Forest Hills Baptist Church.
Like McNamara, Jones had unsealed her dress to share a special moment with her daughter only to discover that it was not her dress.
Both dresses were candlelight in color and had similar beading and applique.
The 2012 Tennessean article reported, "Kim Jones imagines another mom out there who also may be frantically searching for her wedding dress for her own daughter or might not even know that she, too, has the wrong dress under her bed or in her closet."
How right she was. With the help of social media, a story that took over four years to develop was resolved in a matter of hours.
A mutual friend recognized the woman in the article as the mother-in-law of Sarah Jones, who coincidentally had also grown up in the Cottonwood subdivision. She "tagged" Jones in the post, who confirmed that this was her mother-in-law.
It was Sarah Jones' husband, Cory Jones, who'd initiated the call to The Tennessean in 2012 to help his mother find her dress.
After the Facebook confirmation, Sarah Jones immediately called her mother-in-law, "We've found your dress!"
Kim Jones was taken aback. At her first opportunity she viewed the post on Facebook and confirmed that, indeed, her long-lost wedding dress had been found.
"It all happened so quickly for (McNamara), but I've been looking for her for four years," Kim Jones said.
Just four months ago, Kim Jones and her husband downsized to a different house in Acworth, at which time she considered parting with the dress. "I thought maybe I should just get rid of it," she said. "But, one of my bridesmaids (whom I talk to almost every day) encouraged me to hang on to it. 'She'll show up one day,' she'd said.
Indeed she did.
Reporters and camera crews from local and national media arrived at McNamara's home Monday morning to capture the moment when McNamara and Jones met for the first time to exchange their dresses.
"We watch the news. We never ARE the news," McNamara said.
She was anticipating Jones's arrival with her dress at any moment.
McNamara's daughter Caroline stood beside her eagerly awaiting a peek at the dress her mother wore 30 years ago.
Also present was Barbara Higgins, the neighbor who'd recalled the Tennessean article from 2012 that enabled the reunion of the dresses.
Moments later Kim Jones arrived.
McNamara ran outside to greet Jones. Hugs and tears were exchanged.
"I feel like we've known each other forever," McNamara said.
"This moment was four years in the making for me," Jones said.
After the boxes were opened, Shannon and Caroline McNamara had their much anticipated mother-daughter moment as Caroline held her mother's dress up to the mirror and gave it a twirl.
She anticipates a Nov. 11 wedding to Rogers.
"I'll definitely be double checking my dress when I have it preserved," Caroline said.