Leighanne Hustak and her husband have always loved Halloween. So when their 20th wedding anniversary rolled around on Oct. 11, 2017, it made sense to celebrate their relationship in a festive way.
"Every year, we go to a local Halloween party with some other couples and are always looking for a unique couples costume idea. As our anniversary was approaching, I was feeling sentimental. My wedding dress had been preserved in a special box and I had not opened it since 1997," the mother of three told TODAY Style.
Knowing her daughter didn't want the dress, Hustak decided she could rewear her gown as a Halloween costume without worrying about damaging it. "I thought it was a shame to keep it sealed in that box for 20 more years or until someone else disposed of it. I got it out and it fit, maybe not quite as comfortably as it did in 1997, but well enough," she said.
So the nurse practitioner told her husband she was thinking of a “Phantom of the Opera” theme, and the rest was history. "We both love that musical. He agreed he would be the Phantom and I would be his love Christine Daaé from the masquerade ball," she said.
Hustak is just one of many brides who have repurposed a wedding gown as a Halloween costume. And for her, the experience proved to be both meaningful and fun.
"We had a ball together and it was a nice celebration of 20 years. I decided that every five years — on those big anniversaries — I will put it on and enjoy the memories, until it won’t fit! It hangs now on the back of our master bath door. I see it and think, 'I am still enjoying the memory much more than having it in the box shoved in the closet,'" she said.
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When Mary Grace Nichol got married in 2004, she loved her corset and skirt gown. But it would be another 10 years before she stepped into the masterpiece again. In 2014, she decided the look would make a nice angel costume for Halloween.
"It actually fit better since I had recently become a Weight Watchers member and had lost 40 pounds. The skirt needed to be taken in three sizes. I felt great being able to wear such a beautiful dress again," Nichol said.
But the fun didn't stop there! Nichol realized just how much she loved repurposing her gown, and she decided to break it out at Christmas for a holiday-themed house tour. She's also worn the corset on other occasions and plans to wear it again in the future.
Cindy Richard Sattal started wearing her wedding dress at Halloween in 2007 after marrying husband Thomas Sattal in August 2001 (a second marriage for both of them).
When the couple bought an old, large home that nearly looked haunted, Sattalfelt inspired to throw a big Halloween bash. And when it came time to settle on a costume, she didn't have to look far for inspiration.
"I have only varied the costume a little bit. Always a dead bride. A few of the earlier years, I wore a different wedding dress but for many years I have used my dress from my marriage in 2001. My husband will dress up as different characters depending on what he feels like doing at the moment. He is very last minute and just wings it," the small business owner said.
For years, the couple has dressed up on Halloween and decorated their front porch to the nines.
"The kids loved it. They also loved the boy mannequin we would dress up and keep in our stairway window year-round. My dad also built us a coffin for the front yard. We would take turns laying in it to scare the children and, more often than not, the adults as well," Sattal said.
But last year, things changed a bit for the fun-loving couple. "It was the first year we did not decorate or dress up and it was heartbreaking. We had sold our large home in the city and moved to a smaller home in Connecticut. My husband's health was failing after suffering a major heart attack, and the large home was too much for me to take care of," she said.
Still, Sattal plans on wearing her gown again: "I am grateful for the sweet memories of the past and I am also grateful that after 18 years of marriage, I can still, although a little more snug, fit into my wedding dress and have unlimited opportunities to wear it if I wish."
Her eldest grandchild, Maddie, 9, has also caught the Halloween gown bug.
"Maddie has already asked me if she can have my dress once she's grown enough to wear it. She already has started her own never-ending story, dressing up as a bride and creating her own dead bride look. It may have skipped a generation, but my love of gore runs in the family," she said.