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Wedding Officiant makes a bride’s day shine with borrowed wedding dress

Published Saturday, Jun. 5th, 2021

Cover image via Donna Norris

Something borrowed, something true… A young bride gets the wedding dress of her dreams with some help from a compassionate AMM Minister! 



The young couple wasn’t dressed like most folks might expect a bride and groom to be on their wedding day. Wearing casual shirts, slacks, and sneakers, they might have just been out for a walk or headed for a cup of coffee. 


Still, AMM Minister Donna Norris knew as soon as they stepped into the wedding chapel that they were in the right place. They had the look


She'd seen that starry-eyed, in-love look many times since opening Off the Beaten Path: an inclusive micro chapel and boutique located in downtown Newport, Tennessee. The chapel’s right next door to the Cocke County Courthouse, making it easy for couples to walk over after picking up their marriage license if they want to -- no fuss necessary. 


As Donna got things set up for the couple’s ceremony in front of the twinkling backdrop, she noticed the bride making a few slow loops around the inside of the boutique, gazing longingly at racks filled with new and consigned formal dresses, gifts, and gowns.



Image is a photograph of decorative white wedding dresses in the Off the Beaten Path Micro Chapel in Eastern TN

Dozens of wedding dresses in a variety of designs, colors,

and fits fill the racks of Off the Beaten Path.

Image via @offthebeatenpathsmokies



“She so badly wanted to get married in a beautiful wedding gown,” Donna said.


But between the two of them, the young couple only had about 60 bucks --  not nearly enough for a ceremony and a new dress. Plus, they’d come to the chapel on their own, without friends or family to share the cost or offer support. 


Suddenly, Donna knew just what to do to make them feel truly celebrated on their wedding day. She would make that dream dress happen!


Donna told the young woman to pick out a dress, any dress, and she’d lend it to her for the ceremony. 


The woman was overjoyed!


The dress she picked was much too big for her, so Donna spent the better part of an hour pinching pieces of fabric together and carefully fitting it to the young woman’s small frame. 


When the gown was finally sized and ready, she handed her a pair of stylish shoes to finish off the look. 


As the bride slid out of her sneakers and into the heels, Donna knew she’d made the right choice. 


“She was so happy!” Donna said. “They were adorable… Their ceremony had me tearing up!”


Then, when the ceremony was over and the newlyweds had gone, she steam-cleaned the very special dress and put it out on the sale rack, for the next lucky bride who found herself celebrating love off the beaten path.



Newly weds embrace in a micro chapel elopement in Tennessee


Image via Off The Beaten Path




AMM Minister and professional wedding officiant Donna Norris opened Off the Beaten Path in early 2020, right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


It was a tricky time to launch a wedding venue, and several long months went by before it was safe for couples to start holding ceremonies again. But love found a way, and once couples were able to start booking safe elopements and micro-weddings with her, they never stopped! 



Image is a photograph of Officiant Donna Norris posing beside colorful dresses in her wedding chapel and boutique in Newport, TN

Officiant Donna Norris poses with some of the special dresses

in her Eastern Tennessee shop, via @offthebeatenpathsmokies 



Many of Donna’s couples are looking for non-religious or nontraditional ceremonies, planning on a budget, or are LGBTQ+ and interracial couples who often can’t find an officiant to marry them in the small, conservative Tennessee town. Whether she’s performing a small elopement in her chapel, delivering a custom ceremony at an upscale private home, or traveling to various offbeat venues in the region, she makes it her business to help any couple get married just the way they want to -- especially those who might not be able to otherwise.


In fact, Donna was the first wedding officiant in Newport, Tennessee to openly welcome LGBTQ+ couples. She was nervous about it at first, afraid of rejection and not sure what the town’s response would be to her inclusive approach, but her neighbors quickly showed their support. 


As Donna puts it, she’s a ‘minister of the universe.’ She welcomes everyone equally, saying:


“I am what I am, you be what you are, and we’ll all be happy.”


Follow her wedding adventures on Instagram or Facebook



Donna Norris poses at her desk while working on a wedding ceremony script, beautiful white wedding dresses hang behind her in the background

Business owner and wedding officiant Donna Norris in her natural environment --

working on writing wedding ceremony scripts and surrounded by gorgeous dresses! 

via @offthebeatenpathsmokies




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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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