Just like an engagement ring, I never gave much thought to my wedding dress until I was engaged. I’m not typically a superstitious person, but why would I look at wedding dresses until I knew I was going to get married?
Actually, that’s not completely true. I did always love my Mom’s wedding dress and the pictures of her in it. It had long sleeves with lace on them, and a pretty little collared neck. When I was younger, I thought, maybe I could wear Mom’s wedding dress on my wedding day. But Mom was so TINY when she got married. In college, when I got really skinny in an unhealthy way, I thought about sneaking into her room and trying it on. Ultimately I decided against it – one, because of that whole superstitious feeling that I wasn’t supposed to think about wedding dresses until I was engaged; two, because there was a small voice in the back of my head telling me, ‘You will never be this skinny when you actually get married, so don’t torture yourself.’
That said, the wedding dress is a VERY big deal. It’s the most important day of your life. You’ll have these pictures for the rest of your life. Your kids are going to look at these pictures. Blah blah blah. Is it really THAT big of a deal? I don’t know.
Of course I want to look great on my wedding day and I want to love my dress, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to pay an obscene amount of money for a dress. Also, I’m doing a week-long wedding event. I need outfits for the whole week, people! I need to spread out my dress budget.
But I get it; sometimes, you just fall in love with a dress and you do not give a shit how much it costs because it’s PERFECT. I’ll leave a tiny sliver for this possibility.
My first trip, I go alone to New York Bride & Groom (in Charlotte, North Carolina). I book an appointment online, and on a rainy day, walk into the gigantic store in an outfit I would probably wear to bed – I like to be comfortable when shopping for clothes. I immediately feel like I should have worn something else. There’s a chandelier hanging from the ceiling and the people who work here look very professional. Now I’m even a little nervous. I can’t believe I’m about to try on wedding dresses. It’s kind of surreal.
Diana (50’s) with a blonde pixie-cut and thick Southern accent, is going to help me today. She’s warm and sweet, like a Mom. She tells me to take a look around and grab anything I like. It’s a lot easier to pick out what I don’t like. I don’t like strapless, poof, or really tight. I soon realize that I do like lace, an open back, flowy, and simple.
The first dress I want to try on is one that I found online. It’s called Juniper by Rebecca Ingram. Spaghetti straps, A-line, a little bling on top, flowy and simple. I like it. It’s very pretty, and it’s $800, which is right around what I’d like to spend on a dress. But I’m underwhelmed. All I can say to Diana is, “It’s pretty. I like it.” Clearly, I’m not in love with it. I told myself that it’s OK not to be the most gorgeous thing that I ever wear in my life, but when I put this thing on on my wedding day, I’ve got to feel some kind of awesome feelings.
I try on about 12 more dresses, and there are two that I like. One is very pretty and lacy, but also a little poofy. I like it a lot, but it’s not me. Diana is quick to tell me, “It’s OK to not be you on your wedding day. You get to be whoever you want that day. You get to stand out.” She means well, and I’m agreeable so I agree with her, but it doesn’t feel right.
The third one is more tight-fitting, and I’m surprised at how much I like it. It’s a halter-style, with a beautifully soft material and faint geometric design. It hugs my curves and the back is super low with a little clasp across the bottom that sets it apart from other dresses I’ve seen. Stephen would like this.
Diana is kind enough take pictures of me in all three dresses from all different angles. I thank her profusely before I head home, thinking that this might be my wedding dress. When I get home, I look at the pictures and am horrified. I look trashy. That low back is WAY too low. And look at my gut in that tight dress. Ew. No.
On to the next. Let’s try Anthropologie’s wedding brand, BHLDN. This time, I’m accompanied by Mom and Stephen. Yes, Stephen. I don’t think there’s anything wrong or weird about having him here. IT’S JUST A DRESS. I certainly don’t need him to approve it but I do hope he likes it, so yea, I’d love to have his opinion.
Tierney is my helper today. I shouldn’t call her my helper. Stylist? She offers to come into the dressing room with me to help me get in and out of dresses. I would never even think to agree to this in any other circumstance, but apparently when I’m shopping for a wedding dress, all normality goes out the window. Maybe it’s because I only have her for one hour. If she’s in there with me, it moves much faster, which means I get to try on more dresses. Besides, I immediately like her. She’s young, maybe mid-20’s, and super bubbly without being over-the-top. Just incredibly sweet and real.
I picked a few out online and we get right to those. Everything I try on here is light and more on the simple side. It’s more me. There’s one that feels really good. It’s actually a skirt and top – not that you can tell that it’s a two-piece when I’m wearing it. The top is a tight corset top with thin straps and a lace bodice. The bottom is an A-line skirt that goes to the floor – no train – and flows.
I’m getting married in Puerto Rico, so light is good. I really don’t care for a train, either. I’ve been on the hunt for floor length wedding dresses and it hasn’t been easy to find. Mom and Stephen like it. I feel really good in it, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “But you don’t LOVE it.”
Back at my parents house, Mom’s wedding dress hangs on display in her bedroom. It’s no secret that I’ve always loved it, and now she’s had it restored. When I spoke to her on the phone about it, I voiced concerns that it will be too small, but she assures me, “It’s a size 3! It’s a generous size 3.” So I try it on.
Well, I try to try it on. I pull it up, gently, and pull the arms through. That’s about it. I can’t get the zipper up. It’s too small. It’s soooo small, like there was never any chance of me fitting in this thing. Still, I walk downstairs to show the twins and Dad. Dad seems genuinely so surprised that it doesn’t fit. He can’t believe it. The twins and I are not. We’re quick to remind him that Mom was a china doll on her wedding day.
I’ve got one more place to go. The place I am looking forward to the most. It’s called Grace Loves Lace. They’re based in Australia and have a showroom in LA, but recently opened one in New York City. I’ll be there over the Christmas holiday, so I schedule an appointment. I am obsessed with these dresses. They’re more on the expensive side, but I know I have the potential of having that moment. That moment where I say, “I don’t care how much it costs, THIS is my dress.”
And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll get the dress from BHLDN. Sounds like a solid plan to me.