By Natasha Brown


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CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) – Saying yes to the perfect dress for your wedding day is a huge part of the planning, and it can get costly. But on Tuesday, Camden County officials did something they said was unprecedented.

They gave away hundreds of dresses to veterans and military families.

Every girl dreams of the big day, their wedding day, and nothing seems more important than finding the perfect dress.

“It’s an amazing dress. I look beautiful,” said Nazel Custis. “I look like a princess. I’m happy.”

For the 54-year-old Custis, these are tears of joy as she’s marrying a United States Navy veteran.

Nazel Custis. (Credit: CBS3)

“It’s taking me somewhere else because I don’t have my mother anymore,” said Custis. “And I’m thinking about how I wish that she was here for this day.”

This day, in a room filled with beautiful wedding dresses as far as the eye can see, these women shared a common bond.

They’re either veterans themselves or families of veterans who will be getting a brand new dress.

“This is our annual Salute to the Dress event where we’ve been able to offer free wedding dresses, in the amount over 500 dresses, to local Camden County veteran families,” said Camden County Freeholder Bill Moen.

The dresses were all donated and came with a special request.

“We received this donation from M&M Realty (Partners), which is a local realty company that came to us and said, ‘We have up to 500 dresses that we want to donate and our only request is that they get into the hands of local veteran families,’” said Moen.

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Rachel Dietrich is marrying into a family of veterans. Her soon-to-be-mother-in-law is a Gold Star sister whose brother died while serving.

“It just means a lot to me that they acknowledge our veterans and even Gold Star families,” said Soliada Santiago Ramos, a Gold Star family member. “Because it’s just another way for me and everyone else to honor who served.”

It’s a salute to the dress, fit for a bridge.

“I’ve never seen so many affordable wedding dresses in my life,” said Dietrich. “To see all this and to know I could get it, it’s a blessing.”

Due to the overwhelming popularity of this initiative, Camden County officials filled 200 spots Tuesday for folks to come through and get dresses. Another 100 will be filled Wednesday.

You have to register online to attend, and you can do so by clicking here.

Organizers say these are dresses for weddings, vow renewals and even Valentine’s Day.

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