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The gift of a wedding dress allows a Rindge bride to dream bigger

  • Michelle Plourde of Rindge talks wedding dresses with Cathy Furze, owner of Country Bridals and Formal Wear in Jaffrey.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Cathy Furze of Country Bridals and Formal Wear dresses up a traditional wedding gown with a veil and necklace at her store in Jaffrey last month.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Cathy Furze of Country Bridals and Formal Wear discusses the 11th Annual Bridal Fair at her downtown shop in Jaffrey in January.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Cathy Furze of Country Bridals and Formal Wear discusses the 11th Annual Bridal Fair at her downtown shop in Jaffrey in January.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Cathy Furze of Country Bridals and Formal Wear discusses the 11th Annual Bridal Fair at her downtown shop in Jaffrey in January.<br/><br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Michelle Plourde of Rindge shares her vision of the ideal wedding dress with Cathy Furze, owner of Country Bridals and Formal Wear in Jaffrey, in January. Plourde won a free bridal gown at the Country Bridal's 2012 Bridal Fair.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Michelle Plourde of Rindge talks wedding dresses with Cathy Furze, owner of Country Bridals and Formal Wear in Jaffrey.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Michelle Plourde of Rindge talks wedding dresses with Cathy Furze, owner of Country Bridals and Formal Wear in Jaffrey.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Michelle Plourde of Rindge smiles as she explores the diverse collection of bridal gowns at Country Bridals and Formal Wear in Jaffrey last month.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Peonies and David Austin garden roses were used by Bonnie Coll Cutter of Coll's Garden Center and Florist in Jaffrey to make this one-of-a-kind bridal bouquet. <br/><br/>Courtesy photo
  • Floral centerpiece by Bonnie Coll Cutter of Coll's Garden Center and Florist in Jaffrey.<br/><br/>Courtesy photo
  • This white frosted cake with elegant bead work is by Denise Fox of Tastefully Wright Cakes in Wilton.<br/><br/>Photo courtesy of Latrice Cooper photography
  • Couples and their families speak with the Monadnock region's wedding professionals about photography, flowers, dresses, tuxedos and venues at Country Bridal's Bridal Fair last year.<br/><br/>Courtesy photo
  • Couples and their families speak with the Monadnock region's wedding professionals about photography, flowers, dresses, tuxedos and venues at Country Bridal's Bridal Fair last year.<br/><br/>Courtesy photo
  • Photo courtesy of Latrice Cooper photography
  • Photo courtesy of Latrice Cooper photography
  • Photo courtesy of Latrice Cooper photography
  • Brides and their families stop at check out the floral arrangements and other displays from wedding professionals in the Monadnock region at Country Bridal's Bridal Fair in February 2012.<br/><br/>Photo courtesy of Latrice Cooper photography<br/><br/>Courtesy photo
  • Photo courtesy of Latrice Cooper photography
  • Couples and their families speak with the Monadnock region's wedding professionals about photography, flowers, dresses, tuxedos and venues at Country Bridal's Bridal Fair last year.<br/><br/>Courtesy photo

She first envisioned a simple, but elegant, backyard wedding with immediate family and close friends this fall. A traditional wedding dress, with a veil and charming white dress flats did not seem to fit into the picture she had in her mind. But that was before she won a free $700 bridal gown.

Michelle Plourde of Rindge attended Country Bridals 10th Annual Bridal Fair in February 2012 never imagining that she would return home with the grand prize. That day changed her life, Plourde said in a recent interview with the Ledger-Transcript, because in winning the dress she could begin imagining a grander affair for her wedding. In September, Plourde will marry her fiancé, Jim Eddy — a Peterborough native who currently works for Jaffrey’s Department of Public Works — at the historic Jaffrey Meetinghouse in Jaffrey Center.

“[Winning the dress] has us thinking about enjoying this day in a completely different way,” Plourde said. “I received a “Congrats on your engagement” card that said, ‘Now all you need is the dress.’ Who knew I would win the dress?”

Plourde had left the 2012 bridal fair, which is held each year at Hidden Hills Banquet Facilities in Rindge, early and was not in attendance when her name was called as the winner of Country Bridal and Formal Wear’s raffle prize: a free bridal gown by designer Maggie Sottero. Plourde said she found out she had won when reading a message the shop’s owner Cathy Furze posted on Facebook that day. Then, she read it again. And again.

“I asked my daughter to come check it out and to confirm what I was reading. I couldn’t believe it,” Plourde said.

While she has not yet found the perfect gown, a few from Maggie Sottero’s collection at Country Bridals in Jaffrey have caught her eye. Plourde isn’t looking for a dress decked out in glitz, glamor and lace, she said, but rather one that is traditional and simple .

As she continues her search for the perfect dress, Plourde said she will be returning to this year’s bridal fair where she hopes to decide on a venue for the wedding reception, and choose a local baker for her cake or cupcakes. After leaving last year’s fair with business cards and information packets to help her plan her special day, Plourde said she is excited to attend this year’s fair to make a couple final decisions.

More than 25 wedding vendors have committed to the 2013 bridal fair, Furze said, so the options for couples and their families promise to be diverse. Photographers, transportation providers, entertainers, caterers, beauty care professionals, as well as wedding and reception venue owners are among the list of returning participants at the fair on Feb. 17 at Hidden Hills from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Furze started the show 11 years ago in order to build her own connections in the community as a new business owner and to provide an opportunity that didn’t exist locally for couples. Other bridal fairs were closed shows, but Furze wanted to get the community involved.

In addition to a free wedding dress for a lucky bride at the 11th annual fair, Furze said a groom will walk away from the event with a tuxedo package for five free tux rentals from Country Bridals. Both raffle prizes were offered to guests of Country Bridal’s 2011 and 2012 fairs as well, and are valued at $700. Other raffle prizes will include gift baskets and gift cards from area business participants.

Rindge-based JP Stephens Restaurant and Tavern and Cathedral of the Pines; Wilton’s Tastefully Wright Cakes; Jaffrey-based Coll’s Garden Center and Florist, Love’s Token Photography and Atlas Pyrovision Productions; Keene-based Adventure Limousine; Thomas Transportation of Swanzey; and Underneath It All in Peterborough are just a few of the businesses that set to participate in this year’s bridal fair.

“I’m still working out a surprise twist to the show,” Furze said. “I really want to bring in a little bit more hands-on opportunities for couples to get involved.”

A spa and salon setup, a couple of sessions of line dancing and the chance to interact one-on-one with wedding professionals will provide for a fun and rewarding afternoon for couples and their families, Furze said. “A wedding is for the couple, but it is also for the family to celebrate the new life they are starting together,” she said.

Bonnie Coll Cutter of Coll’s Garden Center has been participating in the bridal fair since the beginning. Cutter said she always has sample bouquets, floral idea books and a slideshow of pictures, featuring wedding arrangements she’s created, at her booth.

“It’s always such a happy event,” Cutter said. And, the relationships she develops with the community don’t begin and end with the wedding, she added. “After the wedding ceremony, you have anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. You might think you are doing flowers for the bride, but over the years there is a deeper connection you build.”

Tom Doane of Love’s Token Photography said the bridal fair is in many ways a one-stop-shop for couples planning a wedding and a place where business relationships are fostered. “Half of our business this year is referrals,” Doane said, noting that the bridal fair has helped expand his clientele. Doane’s wife, Christine Doane, photographs with him and the two work as a team to capture those special moments as a couple starts their live together.

The bridal fair is the perfect setting for the bride and groom to talk with a multitude of professionals about their wedding and to find out what personalities and visions mesh well with theirs, Furze said. “There is a wide range of services for all budgets,” she said.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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