When Natalie Nicolson got engaged to her longtime love, Nathan Suits, she had a very specific vision in mind for her wedding dress.
"I was pretty sure I wanted something fitted and modern like my best friend, who wore a two-piece dress to her wedding, or a simple boat neck, tea-length dress," she told TODAY Style.
But after months of searching for the perfect gown, Nicolson realized it had been right under her nose all along. When she walked down the aisle on Jan. 14, 2018, Nicolson wore an off-the-shoulder Bonwit Teller gown from the 1950s with a full skirt. It was the dress that both her mother and grandmother had worn to their weddings.
"I had really considered a white dress from Anthropologie that wasn’t meant to be a bridal dress, but I realized it didn’t feel special," she said. "I love 1950s and '60s style, but it hadn't occurred to me that something vintage would be an option."
After looking at several dress shops and coming up empty-handed, the bride decided to try her grandmother's gown after her mother suggested it. Actually, it wasn't the first time the California resident had played dress-up in the retro design (she first tried it on at the age of 12), but this experience was different. As soon as she stepped into the elegant gown, Nicolson realized she wanted to continue the family tradition.
"I think I was so caught up in the excitement of wedding dress shopping that I didn’t seriously consider it at first," she said. "I had all these ideas about what looking for a dress was supposed to be like. I thought I had to find something that was distinctly ‘me’ and that once I found it, I’d know it right away. That just didn’t happen (until that moment)."
Nicolson's mom had altered the dress to wear to her own wedding back in the '80s, but luckily no further alterations were necessary. It did, however, need a quick dry clean to freshen up the white color.
The gorgeous gown really stood the test of time and, besides the few size adjustments, looked nearly identical at all three weddings. The only exception? When the bride's grandmother Marlene wore the gown in 1955, it had a big hoop underskirt, so it looked a bit fuller.
Since the gown was several decades old, Nicolson opted to wear a second dress to her reception, just so to avoid damaging the treasured family heirloom.
"I was nervous I would tear it. I knew I would be doing a lot of dancing. I wanted to make sure I took good care of it. I don't know that anyone thinks it’s going to last another generation, but who knows!" she said.
Nicolson's mom, Carson, told TODAY Style she was thrilled to see her daughter continue the family tradition. "Seeing my beautiful daughter wearing the same dress that I had worn and my mother had worn filled me with a feeling of warmth for the family bonds that we had over time," she said.
The groom also thought it was a sweet gesture, but wanted to make sure his bride was wearing the gown for the right reasons.
“When I was told it was also her grandmother’s dress, I didn’t know what to expect," he told TODAY. "I checked to make sure it was what she wanted. When I first saw her in it though, it didn’t matter where the dress was from because she was the most beautiful bride I’d ever seen."
Nicolson also made sure to represent her father's side of the family on her wedding day by sporting a pearl necklace her paternal grandmother had once worn. "It was a completely surprising, touching moment that made me (and everyone) cry," she recalled.
Looking back on the experience, Nicolson is happy her mom suggested she try on her grandmother's gown.
"It was really special to me. It meant something to my family, of course, but it also felt like me. I might have regretted wearing a trendy dress 25 years from now, but this dress will always be timeless," she said.