RIO VISTA -- Shawna Caley narrowly averted a wedding day disaster recently, and she has her congressman to thank for it.
The Rio Vista resident was facing the real possibility of tying the knot while her dress was still stuck on the other side of the country when the office of U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, staged an 11th-hour intervention.
"I was freaking out," said Caley, 38.
But staffers for the 3rd District congressman saved the day by prodding U.S. Customs to resolve the holdup at New York's JFK International Airport, where the gown had been languishing.
Caley finally had found The Dress after an approximately two-year search for a gown in keeping with her camping-theme wedding, which took place May 1 at the base of a waterfall in Yosemite National Park followed by a weekend celebrating the man of her dreams and the beauty of nature with guests at the Wawona Campground.
"It was just kind of one of those things I wanted to be perfect. I really, really wanted this to be me," Caley said of the spaghetti-strap creation of vintage lace, cotton and rayon that she spotted online. "This dress just spoke to me."
And so on Dec. 30, she had commissioned the designer -- a woman in Poland -- to sew a similar gown fitted to her measurements with the understanding that the project would take about two months.
But that timetable came and went, and Caley became increasingly nervous as the weeks slipped by.
The woman finally mailed the dress the evening of April 18, just 12 days before the wedding.
The package arrived in New York City three days later -- and was promptly, inexplicably waylaid by U.S. Customs.
By the time Caley found out that the federal government was holding her prized possession hostage, the wedding was five days away.
She began shopping for a backup but couldn't find anything she liked or that fit, and postponing the ceremony wasn't an option because of the difficulty getting campground reservations.
So Caley resigned herself to getting married in cargo pants with a matching jacket and making the best of it.
"I didn't turn all bridezilla -- I just tried to pretend that it wasn't important," she said.
But Caley still held out hope that her luck might change.
When U.S. Customs didn't return her calls, she turned to Capitol Hill in desperation.
Caley emailed Garamendi's office on April 26, and two days later received word that it would get involved.
The following day her phone rang: Garamendi's staff had found the dress and would have it shipped to her overnight.
And at 12:20 p.m. on April 30, a scant 24 hours before the nuptials, a mail carrier delivered it to her workplace.
"I just started crying -- I couldn't believe it was going to come," Caley said, recalling her doubts and emotional exhaustion. "I finally could breathe again."
And there was one other mishap that she might be able to laugh about in time: The wedding rings Caley and her fiancé had ordered from an artisan in Washington didn't arrive until the day after the wedding.
Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.