April 9, 2014 at 3:24 PM ET
Kelly Cays left the wedding gown she had just picked up from the bridal store in the back of her Jeep after getting home late one night last month. She planned to leave early the next morning and take the gown to her parents' home.
“The next morning my car was gone, with my dress in it,” she told TODAY.com.
Cays panicked. She immediately called her fiancé and asked if he had moved her car or driven it to work. She then called police after circling her entire apartment complex.
“The first thing I said was, ‘My dress is gone.’ I didn’t even say my car. They didn’t know what I was talking about,” the Colorado Springs, Colo., resident said. “And then I explained, it was in my car, which is also gone.”
The $1,800 gown had just been paid off by her twin aunts in New York as a wedding gift. Cays, 22, and her fiancé, Zach Rose, immediately began making calls to area consignment stores and pawn shops, hoping to find the gown there. They came up empty handed.
Ten days after the March 14 theft, police found Cays’ vehicle in a nearby residential alley. The Jeep was empty and trashed. Not only was Cays out of a wedding dress, she also had to shell out money to fix her damaged car and a rental vehicle she could use in the meantime.
“It was extremely stressful. We were wondering, where is all this money going to come from," she said.
Initially, her aunt expected the credit card company to replace the stolen dress as part of an insurance policy, but Cays learned the company would only cover the last payment on the gown – which came to roughly $800.
So Cays started looking at other, less expensive gowns. But she couldn’t forget about the one she had, a strapless, all-lace gown that looked strikingly similar to the one her grandmother wore at her own wedding 60 years ago. Her grandmother recently passed away after an unexpected illness.
"When I went back and saw the dress again, I still felt like, ‘Oh she’s going to be there that day,'” Cays said. “I still felt like I had this connection.”
With the help of her aunts, Cays made a modest deposit on the same gown and a payment arrangement with the bridal store where she bought it.
Around the same time, Cays' fiancé called the local Colorado Springs newspaper and told them what happened. He initially hoped someone reading the story would help track down the dress. Instead, Cays got offers from more than a dozen women willing to loan her or give away their own wedding gowns.
But Cays, who is 5-foot-1, declined the offers because of the major alterations she likely would have had to make. She also said that finding the right wedding dress is like finding the right man.
"You just know when it's the one and I couldn't imagine anything different," she said, while expressing thanks to all the woman who offered to help. "I’m grateful there are people that wonderful in the world."
Then Cays got a call from the bridal store manager.
"She said that she had amazing news and that someone had come in and anonymously paid off my dress,” she said. “I just started crying. I’m just so thankful. They don’t even know me, and it was a wonderful thing to do."
Cays calls her benefactress her "wedding angel" and would love to thank her in person. “I’m so, so grateful,” she said. “If I can find her, she can come to the wedding.”
Sarah Steinmeier, the bridal consultant working with Cays at Danelle’s Bridal Boutique, said the unidentified woman walked into the store on March 29 and asked about the dress. She then paid off the remaining $1,400 balance.
“The donor’s niece had bought her dress here and they all had a great experience," Steinmeier said. “She said, ‘My niece had the perfect day. I want Kelly to have the perfect day.’”
Cays joked that when her gown comes in some time within the next week or two, she plans to sleep with it until she gets married on June 14.
"It will be going straight to my mom's house so her and my parents' dog can keep watch over it," she said. "I'm sure it is just going to be even more special when I get to see it again with everything that has happened."