Nova Scotia

Cape Breton bride living in Fort McMurray overwhelmed by dress donations

A Cape Breton woman's wedding will go ahead in Toronto this weekend thanks to the kindness of strangers who helped replace her gown destroyed in the Fort McMurray wildfire earlier this week.

Élise Boissonneault's wedding dress was destroyed in wildfire, Halifax friend turns to social media for help

A bride-to-be from Fort McMurray says she's overwhelmed by the outpouring of support she's received from Torontonians after her wedding dress was destroyed in the wildfire that is still consuming much of the Alberta community. 0:49

A Cape Breton woman says both Maritimers and Torontonians really stepped up to help after her wedding gown was destroyed in the Fort McMurray wildfire earlier this week.

Élise Boissonneault is originally from Sydney and now lives in Fort McMurray. She was getting ready to leave for Toronto for her wedding when the evacuation orders were issued and she had to flee the Alberta city.

"I was ready for the wedding. I already had bags semi-packed, so I was able to bring some of my stuff, but then this happened and it's just unreal," she told CBC's Maritime Noon.

Wedding dress at seamstress' home

Boissonneault's gown was being altered at her seamstress' home and there was no time to retrieve it.

"I'm being told that part of town has been burned, so I don't expect to see it," she said.

Élise Boissonneault at a Toronto dress store with the first of two wedding gowns she will have on her wedding day. (Wild Eyed Photography/Alex Neary)

Boissonneault landed in Toronto stressed and without a gown. That's when her friend back in Halifax, Alana Ritter, stepped in.

"I made it my mission to do what I could do to help her out. I just posted an ad on Facebook," Ritter said.

'So many generous offers'

The post read: "I know it's a long shot, looking for a cheap one or even just to borrow as she now has nothing. She would obviously prefer not to get married in jeans but that may be the only option."

Ritter was overwhelmed with the response.

"My phone was going crazy for a few hours," she said. "Offers of dresses to borrow, and for free, it went crazy."

Boissonneault was equally surprised.

Élise Boissonneault in the second gown donated for her wedding. (Wild Eyed Photography/Alex Neary)

"I thought she was going to ask a couple of friends maybe, if they had a spare dress kicking around, I didn't expect that," she laughed. "I didn't think she'd post it all over social media."

Ritter said time was of the essence as any dress they got in Halifax would have to be in the hands of Boissonneault's parents before they left for Toronto Thursday afternoon.

"I knew Maritimers are a very giving people anyway, I knew somebody would come forward so I thought, 'I'll get what I can and meet her parents at the airport and shoot it off,' but there were so many generous offers," she said.

As word spread through the wedding industry, a Toronto dress shop, Lee-Ann Belter Bridal, stepped forward and offered a free gown.

Not just one

On Thursday, Boissonneault ended up with not one, but two dresses for her big day.

"There were two dresses I was torn between and they said, 'Just take them both, you can have one for the ceremony and one for the reception,' and I'm just blown away by that as well," she said.

In total, more than 100 dresses were offered by people, as well as other free services, from hairstyling to jewelry.

Boissonneault has since heard that her home in Fort McMurray is OK. That will be one less thing to worry about as she gets married on Toronto Island on Saturday.

With files from Norma Lee MacLeod and Maritime Noon