PAWTUCKET — Many readers enjoyed the story that appeared in the Times of bride-to-be Beth Coakley and her “corn crop dress.” The satin and lace bridal gown, first worn by Coakley’s great-aunt, Mary Gantz Bader, in 1949, had been passed down to a bride in every generation of her mother’s family after that, from the 1950s to the 1990s.
Coakley is happy to report that the heirloom dress officially stood the test of time at her Aug. 31 nuptials to Pawtucket native Robert M. Bedard on Cape Cod, and she provided The Times with wedding photos to prove it.
With its high-buttoned neck, long tapered sleeves and generous train, the antique, cream-colored satin gown evokes the charm of yesteryear and the farmer’s daughter who first wore it. According to family lore, Coakley’s great-grandparents had grown a bountiful crop of corn in the fall of 1948, which yielded the $300 used to purchase the dress.
Yet, the gown looks as though it was tailor-made for Coakley, who added her own touch by using a piece of lace from the collar—the only time something on the dress was replaced—to create the short “birdcage” veil that she wore on her headpiece.
“The dress was temporarily tacked up for two of the shorter brides. You can see where the stitches were if you look closely,” she said. “But it has never been taken in or let out.”
Coakley told the Times that the wedding and reception were held at the Cape Wind resort in Falmouth, Mass.
“The ceremony, which was outdoors in a shady grove overlooking the water, included the reading of blessings sent in by family and friends, as well as a unity bouquet,” she said. She added that Michael Bedard, cousin of the groom, was the Justice of the Peace, and Abigail Coakley, cousin of the bride, was the flower girl. The groom was dashingly clad in a cutaway-style tuxedo from Roberts Formals.
The reception was held in a large tent, with 125 guests in attendance. Among them were Susan and James Coakley, parents of the bride; Vivian Beaudette, mother of the groom, and Robert Joseph Bedard, father of the groom.
Five of the other brides who had worn the dress were also present. Besides Beth’s mother Susan, they included Janet Gantz Falcone, Susan Gantz Coakley, Barbara Gantz Frizzell, Barbara Falcone Smith, and Beverly Bader Buckley, said Coakley. Her great-aunt Mary, the original owner of the gown, is living in a nursing home and couldn’t attend, and the second of the “corn crop brides,” her great-aunt Dorothy Gantz Tigerman, has passed away.
Following the ceremony, the newlyweds drove off in their 1941 Ford, while guests enjoyed Big Band music at the cocktail hour. The couple’s first dance was to “A Moment Like This,” by Kelly Clarkson. Coakley added, “The weather was overcast all day Saturday with a few sprinkles before the ceremony began in the afternoon. There were loud thunderstorms in the middle of the night.”
Coakley said the weekend event started with a “meet and greet” reception for all wedding guests under the tent Friday night and wrapped up on Sunday evening with a private sunset tour of Nobska Lighthouse in Woods Hole, followed by a campfire back at the Cape Wind.
Bedard, who works as a custodian at Slater Junior High School, met Coakley when she was a teacher there. The couple lives in Pawtucket, where Beth works for the Child Opportunity Zone (COZ).
And the dress? “It is definitely going to be preserved,” said Coakley (now Mrs. Beth Bedard). “We’re not sure who might choose to wear it next. My cousin Barb (corn crop bride number six) has two daughters who are 9 and 11 years old. Also, I think Mary (the original bride) has two granddaughters who are not yet married.”
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