The Wedding Dress: Part 5

I take both wedding dress tops into my new, local tailor. Her name is Suji and she’s very sweet. Stephen found her on Yelp, and the first time we drove together to her storefront, there was a sign on the door saying that they were closed because of damage from the hurricane, but you can call this number for service. We consider going somewhere else, but Stephen thinks it might be nice to call and support a local business. (He’s pretty great.)

At her apartment, we are welcomed by Suji and her husband, Son. He doesn’t speak English as well as Suji, and when I ask him his name, I think he says Son. I ask him to spell it, and he laughs, as if to agree with me. I leave it at that.

Suji has already hemmed our curtains, fixed a bathing suit for me, and gotten a zipper unstuck out of a brand new dress with tags on it, that I didn’t even want (I was stuck in that dress for 20 minutes – not my finest moment). She’s been great so far, and assures us that her store will be up and running soon. I don’t mind coming to her apartment, though. She has enormous portraits all over the place of her and her family. They look straight out of the 90s, a la “Glamour Shots.”

I try on the size 4 and the size 6. I still can’t tell which one I should get. The 4 is a little snug, but it already feels better than the last time I tried it on. The 6 fits, but there’s a little space between the material and my armpit that doesn’t happen with the size 4. Still, Suji recommends I get the size 6, and she can tighten it up a bit. I can’t decide. I still have 30 days to return the size 6, so I walk out of Suji’s apartment with both tops.

After about 25 days (it’s now April… I’m getting married in May), I try them on again. Now I know for sure. The size 4 is still a little snug. I’m keeping the 6.

I call Tierney at BHLDN and she’s not there. This time, I allow one of the other people who work there to help me. I explain – as quickly as I can – the situation. I am then told that it’s no problem – I will be sent a return packing label and will only be charged $5.99 for the return shipping. I’m not sure why it’s now OK for me to not have to return it in store, but I don’t question it (I just confirm three times that I will get a full refund).

I return the size 4, happy to finally have my actual wedding dress finalized. Now I just need to get the skirt hemmed and the top straps tightened.

I go back to Suji and try on the dress with my shoes. They’re nude. Suji asks, “These are the shoes you’re wearing for your wedding?” Yes. “These shoes?”

Suji doesn’t like my shoes. It’s OK. I’m used to everyone telling me “You’re weird” and “Why do you have to be different?” and “Can’t you do anything normal?” when it comes to my wedding.

She’s also positive that the top of the dress should go over top of my skirt. She tries to pull it out and for a split second I actually question myself, like, have I been wearing it wrong this whole time?

But, no. It looks stupid the way she likes it and beautiful the way I like it. It’s a shame that every moment someone questions what I want for my wedding doesn’t end like this – with me so sure of myself.

Finally, Suji has the dress pinned in all the right places. It will be ready on April 25. We leave on May 10.

Nothing like figuring out my wedding dress until the very last moment!!!

The Wedding Dress: Part 4

The top of my wedding dress doesn’t fit. I don’t understand! Why why why why why why why???

Thankfully, Stephen’s not home this time, so he doesn’t get to see my panic. I try to talk myself down. You got this. You’ve got two months. YOU WILL FIT INTO THIS DRESS.

Later that night, I talk on the phone with Nina and explain to her what I’ve been telling myself all day – it will be fine. I just have to lose weight. She’s deadpan on the other line. “You need to order a size 6 now.” Something about hearing her say it brings me back to reality. I am equal parts relieved that I don’t have to stress about squeezing into a top that is too small, and terrified that I won’t be able to exchange it because I am well over my 30-day free return (OK, maybe it’s 40% relieved, 40% terrified, and 20% pissed off that I can’t fit into a freaking size 4).

The next morning, I call Tierney, the BHLDN stylist who has helped me all along. I need to speak to Tierney, and only Tierney. I don’t care if someone else can help me. I don’t care if they have all my information on file. If I’m going to sound like a crazy person who’s panicking two months before her wedding, I’d rather do it with someone who knows me. Tierney has seen me naked. She knows me.

Tierney is completely calm, sweet, and empathetic as I freak out and try to tell her everything – including my feelings which are not pertinent to her helping me – in one breath. She assures me, “We will get you down that aisle!” I relax and pull my shoulders away from my ears.

“I talked to my manager. Good news – if you want to order the size 6, of course we can place that order for you, and then if you want to take the 4 back, we’ll be able to accept your return – in store.”

Tierney further explains that if I return by mail, I won’t get my full refund. She makes a suggestion: “Are you coming to New Jersey between now and the wedding? For a bridal shower or anything like that?”

I want to groan. Well, Tierney, no. My mother would love that, but I am not having a bridal shower. (Because bridal showers are dumb.)

Could I send the dress to my Mom, and have her return it? “No, you have to be the one to return it.”

Maybe I should have a bridal shower…

But again, Tierney assures me, “We don’t need the 4 back anytime soon. Just whenever you can. Don’t worry about it. Once you decide what you’re going to do, call me and let me know.”

I hang up the phone, relieved and perplexed because I really have no idea the next time I’ll be going to New Jersey/Philly. Do I really have to plan a trip, just so that I can return the top of a dress??

The size 6 top arrives quickly and I immediately try it on. Tierney warned me that there might be a big difference between the size 4 and size 6 top, but wouldn’t you know, it feels pretty good?? Unbelievable.

 

It’s Time to Move On

Stephen is not a depressed person. At all. Ever. But the closest I ever see him to depressed, are the days following the news of not getting the gray townhome that we so badly wanted.

He’s quiet, withdrawn, and constantly on Zillow. I am extremely, extremely bummed out, but I’m trying to stay positive. It was the first time we physically went to look at homes. I’m sure that this process can take a long time for people. It just wasn’t meant to be. We will find something. And if we don’t, we’ll rent until we do. It will all be fine.

Stephen, though, is torturing himself. Wondering how much the people bid who got the home. Thinking we should have put in a higher bid. Constantly looking at the pictures of the townhome that was supposed to be ours. Finding new homes that don’t match up to the one we already found. Realizing how great the price was and how there’s nothing else on the market for that price in great condition.

By the fourth day, I have a talk with him. It’s time to let this go. We have to move on. Stephen agrees. Everything will be fine. If we can’t find something else soon, then we’ll rent until we do. We have a plan.

He goes upstairs and sits at his computer. Shortly thereafter, he says, to himself or to me, “That’s weird.”

What?

“Our townhome just went back on the market.”

He should really stop calling it our townhome. And why is he looking on Zillow again?

Just then the phone rings. Stephen tells me before he answers it, “It’s Happy.”

Our realtor. I gasp a little as he answers the phone. What happens next is a tiny miracle. I can actually hear Stephen’s spirits lift. I can hear him smiling as he talks and listens to Happy as he paces back and forth. When he hangs up the phone, I stand waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. He barrels down and we stare at each other smiling.

What happened???

“Apparently, one of the people who purchased the home didn’t get to actually see it, and when they went to see it, decided they didn’t want it. The seller is offering it to us for less than the list price.”

I scream. Stephen and I throw our arms around each other and jump up and down for longer than normal. We can’t stop laughing and smiling and celebrating.

We got it. That tiny, beautiful, newly renovated gray townhome in the best location is ours.

We’re going to be homeowners!

The Wedding Dress: Part 3

I thought my wedding dress was all figured out, but now BHLDN doesn’t have my size for the skirt. AWESOME. So what are my options?

  1. Pick out a different skirt in a size 4.
  2. Pick out the same skirt in a different size – they have both the size 2 and size 6.

I decide to do all three options. As long as I return the ones I don’t want in 30 days, they’re no extra charge. So I order the size 2, the size 6, and I pick out another skirt in a size 4. The other skirt is more expensive but looking online, I think I might like it more than the original. It’s got a high slit, which I love, but it’s fuller, heavier, and has a train, which I don’t love.

The dress comes in. I try on the top and zip it up. I am able to zip it up, but holy crap, I can’t breathe. I’m afraid that if I breathe all the way out, something is going to snap. Stephen witnesses this and I can feel myself about to freak out. I tried this exact size on in the store in early November and it fit perfectly. Now, after our week-long vacation in Puerto Rico, then Thanksgiving and Christmas, it doesn’t fit!!

I try to calm myself down but I can’t stand that Stephen is seeing this not fit me. He tries to tell me that it’s going to be fine. I try to tell myself, too, but I can’t help but feel horrible about myself for gaining weight, and panicked that I won’t fit into my dress. I take it off and am resolute – I just need to get rid of the holiday weight. I will quickly get back to where I need to be and everything will be fine. It’s totally fine.

As for the skirts, who was I kidding thinking I could squeeze into a size 2? That’s out. Oh, and isn’t this perfect – the size 6 pretty much fits me. Insert eye roll here.

I try on the new one – the size 4 with the slit. It’s tight. Are you kidding me? Did I really go up a whole size in less than two months? I hate myself.

Which skirt do I like better? I want to like the size 4 better. I decide to bring both into the tailor and see what she says. I try on the top and hold my breath, then put on the size 4 skirt. I stare at it in the mirror, wanting this to be it. I tell her that if I go with this skirt, I don’t want the train. Then I try on the size 6.

Yea, this is it. I like the weight of this skirt. And, eye roll again, this size 6 fits me better than the 4. I ask if it would be possible to put a slit in this skirt. She doesn’t recommend it, saying that it will collapse and I wouldn’t even really be able to tell that I have one. That’s fine by me, it’s not like I need the slit, anyway. I love how pretty this skirt is, just as it is.

“Are you planning on losing weight?” She doesn’t say this in a rude way. It’s more like, ‘Oh, bride-to-be’s always try to lose weight for their wedding. Is that what you’re doing?’ Without any shame I answer with a resounding, ‘Yes,’ so she tells me to come back in March. I then show her Mom’s veil. This is the first time I’m seeing it together with the dress. The lace in Mom’s veil matches the top of my dress PERFECTLY. I think it’s long and ask her if we should cut it. She looks at it and tells me that it’s a good length. Perfect, actually. And since I don’t have a train, the veil will look nice when I’m walking down the aisle.

This is great. I’m getting the cheaper skirt and I don’t have to make any changes to the veil. I come home feeling good. I pack up the size 2 and size 4 skirt to send back, then store the size 6 skirt and size 4 top in my closet. Now I just have to get back to a healthy diet so that my top doesn’t feel so tight. No problem.

Fast forward to March. I have not tried on my top since late December, but I have been doing incredibly well in the healthy living department. I feel great. I don’t own a scale, so I don’t know how much I weigh, but I know that I’ve lost weight. I can tell. I decide to try on my dress.

I put the top on and feel dread course through my body. It’s still tight. I still can’t breathe.

Kill me.

 

 

The Gray Townhome

Stephen and I go to our favorite spot for lunch – Tower 7, right off the beach – to talk things over before we decide if we want to put in a bid on the gray townhome. I don’t want us to make a rash decision. We just came down here for the day to look at places, we don’t need to commit to anything yet. But as we talk about the pros and cons, we very clearly start to imagine our life together there, and it kind of seems like the perfect place for us. Now we’re eager to get the check and get out of here.

Back at Happy’s real estate office, Stephen and I go through the process of making a bid on the townhome.

This is so stressful. I have no idea how this all works. There’s a list price for the home, but when we look at other units in the complex, we see that they’ve all sold for less than the listing price. Should we go under to account for this? But the one we want is so much better than these other ones! Not to mention, it’s a 3-bedroom. A lot of these other units are only 2-bedrooms. We want a good deal, but we also don’t want to lose it.

After much discussion – mostly between Stephen and Happy with me watching them, clasping my sweaty hands on my lap and feeling helpless – we decide on a number. It feels like we’re gambling. I don’t like it.

Happy makes the call. She can’t tell on the phone where the seller stands. All we can do now is wait.

Stephen and I jump into the car and head over to a mortgage lender recommended by Happy. His name is Brad and he’s handsome and friendly and engaging and I immediately feel comfortable around him. I’m positive that he’s gay, like no chance that he’s not gay – and then he starts talking about his wife and kids.

I also thought Colton was gay and was SO MAD when he was named The Bachelor – because he’s gay and all these women are fighting for his love on the show. Turns out, he’s definitely not gay. He’s super duper in love with Cassie. So I should probably stop.

We go through this whole thing with Brad of getting a mortgage for this home, but we don’t even have it yet. It seems like bad luck.

Over the course of our 3.5 hour drive back to Charlotte, we go from really, really, really liking the townhome, to really, really, really not being able to live without this townhome. It’s PERFECT. It’s literally exactly what we want and need. It has everything and more. We start planning everything: what we’re going to put in each room, how we’re going to decorate, which walls we’re going to paint. I can see it all. I can see our future in this place.

We get home, exhausted but giddy at the prospect of buying our first home. We can’t help but feel like it’s ours. We make a plan that when the seller comes back to us to counter, we will go all the way up to the listing price. That’s how bad we want it. It’s totally worth it.

The next morning, we get a call from Happy. The seller has decided to go with the other buyer. Doesn’t even ask us to counter. Doesn’t give us the opportunity to do anything. Doesn’t tell us why.

To say that the wind has been taken out of our sails would be a gross understatement.

A Wedding Dress: Part 2

The day has arrived. I’m shopping for my wedding dress at Grace Loves Lace in New York City. I’m giddy with excitement, sure that I’m going to find my dress here. I arrive at the store and look around. The space is beautiful but more than that, every single dress is beautiful.

I’m directed to a fitting area in the back. Nina is meeting me here; she should be here any minute. I feel so nervous and I can’t stop sweating. I’m having so much anxiety and I don’t know why. Maybe I’m too hopeful and it won’t work out?

Nina finally arrives – she couldn’t find parking – and when I hug her I immediately start crying. “Are you crying?” I keep hugging her so that she can’t see my face.

Yes.

“Why are you crying?”

I don’t know! I missed you.

“Should I be crying??”

No! I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m just emotional.

I really don’t know what’s wrong with me. The last time I saw Nina I was saying goodbye to her. The following day I moved from California to North Carolina. That time, she was all waterworks and I was the one laughing at her. It was a year and a half ago. We’ve talked a number of times since then, but something about seeing her right now just opened up the flood gates for me.

Vanessa is my stylist today. She offers us water or champagne. I’ll just have water. Nina interjects. “I’ll have champagne. She will, too.” The champagne comes, and Nina tells me to chug it. To get rid of my nerves.

They seem to be a little stricter here. Yes, I have an hour but I was only able to choose five styles online. They’re all waiting for me in my dressing room. Vanessa puts me in my No. 1 pick first. The Harri. I have had my eye on this dress for months and can’t believe that I’m finally trying it on. These dresses have this incredibly stretchy material and they’re all lace. Basically, they’re super comfortable and super gorgeous.

I put it on and look in the mirror. Love the material, love the halter style, love the back, love the print. Nina is wonderful, because she has an opinion of how it looks, but she also is reading my reaction and trying to see how I feel in the dress.

“That’s really pretty. I love that.” I think I love it, too.

I realize now that I didn’t love it but I wanted so badly to love it. No doubt about it, a beautiful dress, but for $1800?? Geez, I thought I’d feel like a million bucks in this thing. And the thing I’m thinking is the thing I say to Stephen most times when I try on something that I don’t feel good in – ‘It makes me look frumpy.’ I am definitely obsessed with the criss-cross open back. Obsessed with the material and design. But the overall look and how I feel in it? Not spectacular.

I try on my other four dresses. All beautiful, none that make me feel great. I’m very quick. I try a dress on, I don’t dilly-dally. I know right away. Yes, no, or maybe, but get me out of this dress and let’s try on another. So after I try on the five dresses in about 20 minutes, I hope to try on some more. I saw a few others that look incredible, so I ask Vanessa if I can try on those.

This is when I start to feel a little uncomfortable, like we’ve worn out our welcome. “Well, you only get to try on five, but… which ones were you thinking?”

Here’s the thing that bothers me about this: at this store, their sizes are simple: Small, Medium, Large. I am a Small, but I did try on one dress in Medium. So literally, two of the three sizes they have, I can fit into. It’s not like they don’t have most of these dresses in my size. Why is it such a big deal for me to try on more than five, if I end up walking out of here purchasing an almost $2,0000 dress??

I show Vanessa the dresses I’m thinking about. I ask her the prices. I don’t want to try on a dress that’s over $2,000, and I know that some of these are more than that. She slowly finds out for me, and I almost feel like she’s disinterested in me at this point.

Nina does not give a fuck. While Vanessa is gone, she grabs two dresses and tells me to try them on. They’re just OK. But more than that, the fact that I want to try on more dresses really means that I’m not in love with the Harri. That’s the bottom line. We thank Vanessa and leave.

I have a bit of a sour taste in my mouth after the experience, but the more I think about it, the more I am SO EXCITED about the BHLDN dress from Anthropologie. It’s exactly what I want. I needed this experience to help me realize what I wanted. I want that beautiful, simple, elegant dress that has destination wedding written all over it. I could even wear the top again, with a different bottom. How cool is that?!

I have decided on my wedding dress. Yay!

It feels good to know that I’ve nailed this down. When I return home to Charlotte after Christmas in New York and New Jersey, I email Tierney – the stylist who helped me in November – to place the order.

Instead of emailing me back, she calls me, and I feel like this can’t be good.

I’m right. Fortunately, the top that I want is in stock, but the skirt, in my size, is not. Usually, if it’s not in stock, it’s not for very long, but Tierney apologizes and tells me that, “This never happens, but they won’t have that skirt back until April.”

Of course they won’t.

To Buy or To Rent

Stephen and I are ready for a change in location. Charlotte’s been great, but what it offers – events, sports, breweries – no longer lines up with what makes us happy. It’s also getting more and more expensive.

Last summer, we had two beach trips – one to Hilton Head, SC and one to Wilmington, NC. Towards the end of our second trip, during a long walk along the coastline, we realize what does make us happy – the beach. The views, the smells, the sounds, and the feeling of the sand on my feet really just makes me feel so good. And Stephen, who showers nearly twice a day, is a different person at the beach. He’ll take a dip in the ocean and then NOT EVEN SHOWER. (I know, crazy.)

We consider our options. California is out. Way too expensive. Besides, the water there is ALWAYS cold. And I’m not gonna lie, I’ve gotten accustomed to the warm summer nights on the east coast. I missed them. How about Puerto Rico? There’s a lot of tax incentives to move there (so Stephen tells me). Our parents are not thrilled about this suggestion. I am up for the adventure, for moving far away, but after a trip in November, we decide that we’re just not ready for that leap yet (shotty internet, no hot yoga). Perhaps Wilmington? It’s a cute little beach town, not yet overrun with people and hotels and chains. It’s got a lot of charm to it. And it’s got everything we need, which isn’t a lot – gyms, restaurants, shops, an airport, the beach. Actually, Wilmington seems like the perfect option!

Now we need to figure out if we should rent or buy. I’ve always rented, and I’ve always enjoyed it. There’s no permanence to renting, and if something breaks, you just call someone and they come fix it (hopefully). If we do decide to rent, there’s an apartment complex that we like that it’s in a great location.

Buying though, has a lot of appeal. Having something that is completely ours, to do what we want with it and have visitors and host and oh my God, PAINT! I am so sick of white walls in my life.

Stephen has been on Zillow non-stop, scoping out everything that fits our criteria. What’s in our criteria? Cost, location (proximity to beach/safety/what’s nearby), 2-4 bedrooms, at least two bathrooms, and preferably something that doesn’t need a lot of work.

There are two single-family homes that seem to fit a lot of criteria – possibly. It’s hard to tell some things just by looking at them online. Then a townhome pops up and Stephen is really excited about it. He suggests we drive the 3.5 hours to see it and the other two houses.

We meet with a realtor at 11am. Her name is Happy. Yes, really, and yes, it’s a big part of why we contact her in the first place. Who doesn’t want someone helping them buy a home who’s name is Happy??

Happy takes us to the townhome first. It’s in a real hotspot in that these units don’t stay on the market very long. The road takes you directly to the beach, two miles away, and there’s a huge sidewalk to ride your bike on. 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, end unit, pretty small. Stephen and I don’t need a lot of space, but after living together in a loft-style apartment for the last year and a half, we are both looking forward to having some privacy. Three bedrooms is perfect: one for us, an office for Stephen, and a guest bedroom that I can call my “office.” All I need is a desk and a chair and I’m set. Just a nice space to write that’s my own. That sounds nice.

This place has been completely renovated, flipped by the previous owner. The floors are a pretty gray laminate, the kitchen is small but has been completely redone. Sure, the stove is electric (Stephen and I really want a gas range) but we can get a grill and put it on the back deck – because this place has one. Everything is new – the doors, the windows, the floors, the bathrooms, the kitchen. It feels brand new. It feels so clean and nice. Stephen’s first comment? “I love it.” My first comment? “Everything is gray.”

It’s really nice, but I want to keep my options open. This is just our first stop.

Off we go to the first single-family home. It’s relatively close but further from the beach. While we wait for Happy, I stand on the front porch with Stephen. It’s a huge front porch, and there are banisters that go along the length of it. Banisters. This place is big.

People are renting this place. It really makes a difference when people are currently residing in the home you’re considering for yourself. It’s just not as easy to imagine it as your own. The townhouse was vacant, empty; a canvas for me to imagine everything. Here, I’m distracted by family photos and items strewn about, wondering about the family who lives here and where they are right now.

There’s a grand piano in the living area. I don’t know if it’s grand but it sure looks big to me. Something about that piano makes me feel like this place is too big. Because it is. I’m overwhelmed. All I can think is, how the heck am I supposed to clean this place? How am I supposed to keep up? This house is also in a flood zone, so insurance is through the roof.

On to the next. The further from the beach we go, the more it doesn’t feel right. But this place is right on a waterway with a big backyard. We could get a little boat (I imagine a canoe, or one of those really small boats with a motor on the back) and ride over to the bars in the summertime. There’s an amazing deck on the second floor that is so peaceful, with a pretty view. Inside, though, this place seems… old. And rundown. Like it needs a lot of love and a lot of work. Like as soon as we move in, we have to hire people to fix a bunch of stuff. As if moving isn’t already stressful enough. And now that I think about it, how often are we going to be “going to bars” in the summertime. I’m a homebody. Seriously.

We leave, and I’m starting to realize that the townhome really has it going on. The townhome checks all of our boxes and it’s completely renovated. It’s also cheaper than both these homes. Happy gets a phone call – someone just put in a bid on our townhome. OUR townhome. Why am I calling it that? I feel a little panicked, like we just missed out on something, but that’s ridiculous. It just happened. There’s still time. We can put in an offer, too. Or maybe I just feel this way because now I’m afraid we’re going to lose it. Do I love it? Or not?