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Much More Than A “Moment”


At one point, a reader pointed out that APW was really about growing up (seriously, check out that term searched on the site), which yes. Weddings kick you in the ass and make you grow. So this week is about Life Stages, from wedding planning, to getting married, to separations, to growing old together. First up, Heather on choosing her wedding dress, and how that can matter in planning (but not in the way that’s marketed to us by force).

Much More Than A Moment | A Practical Wedding

I didn’t really believe in the moment that some people talk about having. I didn’t believe that when I put on a dress, it would suddenly, magically become clear that this was the dress that I should wear to get married in.

Getting engaged years after most of my friends have gotten married probably has something to do with that. Being part of a financially independent couple who is paying for the entirety of their absolutely enormous (to us, three hundred people is huge) wedding has made planning a wedding that is honest, practical, and simple of the utmost importance to both of us.

I set what I thought was a reasonable budget that would include dress, shoes, bra, alterations, and accessories. I went to a big chain store with my mom and we powered through about twenty-five dresses in an hour and a half by ourselves (consultants—who needs ‘em?). None of the dresses were great. None felt magical. The one I thought looked best, in fact? Extraordinarily itchy. Blegh. Also—trying these things on makes my feet ache—even barefoot or wearing comfy TOMS. Why did no one tell me this would happen?

Eight months later, as I was visiting home without my fiancé, mom suggested we pop over to this little bridal store that she’d heard great things about. Since I hadn’t even thought about trying on dresses since that first escapade, we went. I tried on about ten or twelve dresses, found one that was totally different from what I thought I’d wear, and thought, “maybe.”

I went back two weeks later with my sister, my mom, my aunt and cousin in tow. Yep—I was that girl…the one with the entourage. It was pretty awesome, actually—we had a great time laughing and trying on all different kinds of dresses until, four hours and perhaps forty dresses later, we all were hangry and I still had not decided on a dress. And again, my feet were killing me.

Oh, the drama! This process was exhausting. They were all so expensive. I wasn’t comfortable spending so much on a dress that I’d only wear once, yet knew that sentimental me would want to keep for always. All these people I dearly love were voting for this one lacy number that was beautiful. But it still didn’t seem like it was worth the money and I didn’t really feel excited about it. Besides, when my sister asked me to rate my two top dresses one to ten, ten being “the best dress you’ve ever put on in your life,” I rated them both as a seven point five. I mean—I thought that was good! It’s a high standard! But, the consensus of my loving entourage was that I “needed a ten.” So that trip was over.

At least I knew what I wanted, right? White, chiffon, sweetheart neckline, lightweight—almost ethereal—fitting for our simple in-the-park-ceremony and champagne brunch reception. I should be able to find something that fit the bill on the cheap, off a rack at Macy’s, no? I didn’t need a “moment.” I didn’t need to spend tons of money. I didn’t need a “ten.” I needed something that looked nice, fit well, and was comfortable. Practical. Period.

The day after the epic four-hour dress marathon, my mom and sister and I went to yet another bridal store. I tried on ten more dresses, and while I was in one and my sister was on the opposite side of the store, she pointed out a dress on a mannequin that was not white, not chiffon, and super poufy. We both kind of loved it, and were excited by the sequins (I mean, sequins!) so she wrestled it off the mannequin and I put it on.

And I had a moment.

I had a moment that was so raw that I instantly started ugly crying and for a minute, all I could say was “oh.” It was so defining for me—perhaps the most defining moment I’ve had since we got engaged. I felt amazing (despite the ugly crying). This dress was a return to my princess-loving youth, a dress that screamed frivolity and playful and not practical. The moment was so strong and so honest, that when I could speak again, I said, “You guys, I’m getting MARRIED!” and then immediately followed that up with, “I think I’m getting married in THIS DRESS!”

See, after a year of focusing on everyone else and how to make our wedding not an imposition for them, I had forgotten to ask myself what I truly wanted. In that “moment,” I realized that I can be true to what I like, be true to who I am, and still throw a wedding that people will probably enjoy. I hadn’t realized how much I was avoiding the focus on myself until I had that moment (still unpacking that—perhaps a future post?). In fact, even after we filled out the paperwork and ordered the dress, I was still wondering if people might scoff at my really girly princess dress. Really. I thought that.

I was insecure about my choice because I felt selfish for putting the focus on myself, and I also felt selfish because I was so excited about a damn dress. It wasn’t until later that day, when I was still smiling like a goof and marveling that I chose a dress so different from my plan, and my mom said something along the lines of “if you weren’t still excited about the dress, I’d be concerned. You should be excited! This is an exciting time!” that I started to think that maybe it was okay. This one time, for our wedding, I can wear anything I want and people can’t (and won’t—right? Hopefully?) say anything but nice things. I don’t know who I’m worried about—all of our three hundred people are genuinely good, loving, and kind people. I’m the one doing all this questioning: is this an okay choice? Will I be judged for being frivolous when I’ve tried so hard to establish myself in the eyes of my family and community as responsible and—yes—practical?

Who cares? It’s our wedding!

I’m allowed to want this giant, poufy, tulle-with-sequins princess dress for our very simple, not-many-frills wedding. I can be the frills. I’m allowed to want that dress, and I’m allowed to wear that dress, and dance with my (eek!) new husband in it. I should do all of that. Because it’s okay for there to be pieces of our wedding that aren’t incredibly practical. Sometimes we need to have a reminder that we are loved exactly as we are—not who we want people to think we are—even if that reminder is a big poufy dress (complete with sneakers) in a park.

When my fiancé and I see each other that morning, and he sees the Glinda-style dress I’m wearing, he’s going to laugh a little, and then be so glad that I got a dress that was just so me. He’ll tell me I look beautiful. And then we’ll get married. Which is really the only part that matters, anyway.

Photo by: Corinne Krogh (APW Sponsor)

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  • Francis

    Yes, yes, yes! This is so completely true and exactly my dress shopping experience. And a much needed reminded because even months after our wedding I sometimes wonder if it was the right dress to pick and whether I should have picked something more “practical”. Thanks for confirming that it is okay and more than okay that I picked the dress I loved :)

  • http://somethingshavehappened.blogspot.co.uk/ Siobhan

    Yes. Just yes to this whole post. Yes.

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    “Besides, when my sister asked me to rate my two top dresses one to ten, ten being “the best dress you’ve ever put on in your life,” ”

    Gosh that’s a lot of pressure for a dress, isn’t it? Kind of goes with the idea that the wedding should be the happiest day of your life. The weight of expectations like that is really hard to live up to.

    • Heather

      OP here.

      It is a lot of pressure! But I will say that it was said with absolutely the best intentions- of wanting the absolute *best* for me…

      which, again- pressure! But that entourage experience reinforced that I am very, very loved. And so fortunate. I wouldn’t trade that day for anything.

      • Jashshea

        Couldn’t agree more – I’m not a very fussy person. I’m independent in my outfitting/personal care decisions. But nothing was better than having my mom, my fiance’s mom and two dear friends around when I picked out my dress – letting them fuss over me and letting myself get swept up in the excitement is a memory I treasure.

  • Hannah K

    This is a lovely and moving post–working through the fear of being judged inadequate and the assumption that people are thinking negatively of you is such an important issue (and such a signal growing-up process for a lot of us, right? certainly for me). But should this freedom and self-possession happen only because of or at one’s wedding, like that’s the only acceptable excuse to deviate from [insert norm here]? I hope that, after a realization like this, being-true-to-oneself would make *more and more* appearances in one’s life, not just one!

    • Maddie

      Well, I think that sometimes this realization can happen within a bubble of the wedding. Certainly not for everyone, but weddings have a tendency to make us feel like our decisions need to accommodate everyone under the sun, often at the expense of ourselves, which may or may not be a deviation from our rest-of-life behavior (for me, when I got married, it was like my people-pleaserness got put into hyperdrive and I had to learn how to take it back down, which ended up teaching me how to take it back down even further in real life when the wedding was over).

      But then again, sometimes a wedding CAN be a catalysist for major life changes, and can rocket us right into adulthood. I don’t think a wedding is necessary for these life changes, but major life events (college, marriage, etc.) sometimes speeds up or kickstarts these processes by the nature of how big they are and how many people are involved in the process.

      • http://www.devabydefinition.com deva

        This. So this. Getting engaged has been a kick in the pants for me on so many levels. SO many levels. It’s almost as though I am finally able to define something for me as an adult. It’s so fun and exhilarating and FREEING and terrifying all at the same time.

        and I love it.

      • Copper

        We get such conflicting messages. It’s “your wedding! It’s all about you two, whatever you want!” but it’s also all about the family, and “having your people there around you is the most important thing” (even if they come with an absurd list of accomodations). So if you’re doing things to accomodate people, then you get fed the “but it’s about what YOU want!” line, and if you actually are doing something for you, then you start imagining yourself categorized as that selfish wedding girl dragging everybody around and now things are always about you-you-you, maybe even the b-z word.

        My first instinct was to say that it’s a trap and you can’t win, but I suppose it’s just a really fine line to walk, and if there’s any trapping it’s done in our own heads.

  • Kara

    Thank you for this so very much this post. I had a similar search, purchased dress number 30 (or so) for a couple hundred dollars and never felt quite comfortable. I finally started looking again (after sobbing* to my mother about how unhappy I was), we found a (sample) dress three months before the wedding. I didn’t get the sobbing, but I did have a moment of “Oh! I look pretty!!” and finally felt at peace about it all.

    *Note: My dress search made me feel thirteen again, with all the puberty-induced hormonal awfulness, combined with generally feeling uncomfortable about my too-tall, too-stocky body. When I’m sane, I’m pretty ok with my size, even if I do need to lose some weight…

  • KH_Tas

    “I’m allowed to want this giant, poufy, tulle-with-sequins princess dress for our very simple, not-many-frills wedding. I can be the frills.”

    Woot!

    • Teresa

      I LOVED that line–“I can be the frills.” Hell yes you can!

  • http://everythingcomesfromnow.blogspot.com/ E3

    Thank you so much for sharing – I’m in just the same practical boat!

    Everything we’re choosing is to accommodate the most people, save the most money, etc. When it came to the dress, I was down to two: one that was traditional, practical, and cheaper, one that was a princess dress. I chose the practical one, but I’m hoping I don’t regret it too much!

  • Laura

    AHHHHHHHH I CAN TOTALLY RELATE TO THIS POST!

    When it comes to cultural narratives thrust upon us by the Wedding Industrial Complex, I always have to wonder what came first, the chicken or the egg? I mean, if you work in a bridal salon or design wedding dresses, it’s just a matter of due course that you’re going to encounter brides who have a moment with their dresses. And that, no doubt, is pleasant to see. But it wasn’t until bridal magazines and shows like Say Yes to the Dress came along that “The Dress Moment” became enshrined as an Absolutely Necessary Milestone of Weddings.

    I mean, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE Say Yes to the Dress, but until I started watching it I had no idea that having an entourage for dress shopping was even a Thing. And when it came time to find my own dress, I really struggled at first to figure out what to do this this narrative. Was I really supposed to spend as much on my dress as some of the women on that show do? (Because I can’t afford that.) Was I supposed to have an entourage? My family members get along well, but part of me was honestly afraid that the whole excursion would erupt into a mother/daughter or aunt/niece showdown just because that’s what I’ve seen on that show.

    So when my aunt found me a second hand dress from a drycleaner friend that was such a good price, I thought, ah, this is practical. This is the route I should go. But when I tried it on my reaction was “Meh.” It looked okay, but I definitely wasn’t having the moment. But what if the Moment was just some overblown thing foisted by the wedding industry? I didn’t know if I should chase it or just be happy to have such a good deal.

    Fortunately, like yours, my mom said, “I don’t think you really like this dress.” The next day she and my aunts took me to a bridal salon without an appointment. We all wandered the racks together and I tried on all the dresses I picked for myself and all the dresses they picked for me. It was a lot of fun and there was no drama at all. But when I finally found the perfect dress for me, yes, there was definitely a moment.

    That dress was twice as much as the second hand dress. It’s certainly not a practical dress either. But as you say, who cares? I love it, it was still within my means, and I got to have The Dress Moment on my own terms without any drama. It’s just about figuring out what makes you happy. :)

    • Jashshea

      About a month after getting engaged and before I’d ever tried on a single dress, I got an email from Ruelala about a bridal sale. I logged in, looked around, and found a simple lace number that I loved (on the model) for about $300. It was already sold out in my size, so I clicked the “notify me if this becomes available” button and forgot all about it. Another few weeks later, they send me an email that they’re charging me for the dress and sending it to me. In the interim, I’d tried on about, oh, 45? 50? dresses with various cackling entourages and found a few that I liked, none of which were simple or lace. But $300!? Unbeatable! I could be the smuggest smug person who ever smugged about the deal I got on my designer wedding dress!

      LSS – The dress arrives and looks like complete shit on my body type – I have an hourglass figure and am huge on top and it’s a shift-dress with a straight across neckline. I returned it and bought something that cost way more money but looks great and makes me feel awesome.

      • Laura

        I’m so glad you found a dress you like!

  • Megan

    My dress was pretty much the white version of my princess prom dress. I said I wanted simple for our outdoor wedding, but when I put on the giant dress I picked I felt more like me than I did in anything else. So I went barefoot, drank shiners and ate barbecue in that dress. No one said a word about it being over-the-top, and by the end of the night I danced so hard that there were pieces of tulle floating around the dance floor.
    I am so glad you found your dress, but even more, it’s fantastic to have a few moments where your wedding feels like it’s about you. I don’t think I got that until I started looking at our photos months later…

    • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

      Fact: The bride can never be over-dressed.

      • Heather

        I love this.

      • elisabeth

        amen!

    • Sandy

      My sister-in-law did exactly this. By the end of the night, which included dancing barefoot on a dance floor coated in beer, 2 post-wedding bars, and a walk down the street at 2 a.m., her dress was wet and BLACK about 6 inches up from the hem, with pieces of tulle stretched over 20 miles. She had a blast and when her mom complained about how dirty the dress was the next day, K said “I’m never wearing it again and that’s what dry cleaning is for!”

      • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

        My bustle ripped out twice, my dress is strained with rum, white wine and a bit of blood from where my husband stepped on my bare feet while dancing. I’ll never wear it again, so didn’t even bother dry cleaning it. It sits in my closet, an imperfect monument to what an awesome time we had at our wedding.

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          Mine is still dirty in my closet too!

      • Bethany

        The tulle on my dress ripped, and it got completely dirty on the bottom. I keep thinking that I should get it cleaned, but I actually love it more, dirty and all. It still holds the memories of the day.

  • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

    I think you live inside my brain! We are also having a huge (250 people) wedding (also simple even though it’s big) that we are paying for ourselves. I also wanted a simple, floaty dress. And I also ended up with a big, very wedding-y dress. And I was totally excited, and beat myself up for being so very excited about a dress.
    But you know what? I bought that dress 7 months ago (long engagement). And I still sneak looks at the picture of myself in dress on my phone. It makes me smile every time. So now, I’ve let go of feeling bad about being excited, and I’m just enjoying it.

  • Leslie

    My tiny wedding was two weeks ago, and after it was all over and I took the dress off, all I could think was, “There was really no need for me to have such an expensive dress.” This is challenging, because I really love the dress and everyone thought it was gorgeous, but I’m pretty sure that a much cheaper, off-the-rack number would have been great, too. I feel like I was half-way to having a full-on practical wedding, but I got caught up on a couple of the more industrialized “traditions” – the dress and the flowers – and I got carried away. When I have a moment where I feel kind of guilty and weird about it, I remind myself that it was only (my) money and no one got hurt. So really? Meh. I guess if I had to do it over again, I would try to be more strict about my dress choice. But, since I’m (hopefully) not going to do this over again, I need to own my decision and love the heck out of that totally impractical, way expensive moment of extravagance. After all, it truly is a very lovely dress.

    • Laura

      We talk a lot about cultural narratives on APW, and what is the WIC after all but one that is mass-marketed and to which we feel we must conform? That is why it is so refreshing to come here and find a space where one can talk about all of this with a cool head.

      However, that said, since the WIC and all its madness has become culturally codified, I think we all want to keep the Practical end of things free from codification too so that it does not become as equally restraining as the WIC. Because that would be terrible! So there’s no need to be guilty about your dress. Sometimes, certain aspects of the dominant narrative happen to work for you – like the large, expensive wedding dress that you LOVED. And that is totally okay! It wouldn’t have made sense for you to wear a dress you were lukewarm about just in the interests of being “practical.”

      The WIC tries to push us to have elaborate events beyond our means just for the sake of impressing others. But it sounds like you had an event that suited you, which included flowers and a dress that you enjoyed and made you feel special. That sounds extremely practical to me, and totally in the spirit of what APW is about. :)

      • melise

        Yes. My wonderful parents are giving us a generous amount of money to use for a wedding or a trip or a down-payment – whatever we decide. Originally we wanted to use half of it for the wedding and save the other half, and I wasn’t going to let myself spend much on the dress. And then we started planning, and I started getting stressed. I just couldn’t find a dress that made me feel special in my original budget. And then I started dreading all of the wedding planning because it was hard and expensive. I cried about venues, I didn’t want to look at dresses, and I was overwhelmed by the whole process. So we decided that maybe it would be okay to spend a little more after all, and it’s saving my sanity. Our wedding will be beautiful and fun, and I’m excited about the next 10 months of planning. It might not be as “practical” as I thought it should be, but it turns out this is what I need to keep from being stressed and actually look forward to the wedding!

        • ElisabethJoanne

          This is one of the best illustrations I’ve come across about how it’s not “just one day.” Some personalities can put all the fun into the one day. I can’t. I’ve had FUN choosing flowers, designing my dress, etc. Not that it hasn’t had its stresses, too. But all those people who say, “Don’t care. Don’t get excited. It’s just one day” don’t understand human nature. Lots of people can spread out the fun and excitement with the planning. [and the more I plan, the more I realize that my wedding day is the kind of day where I'll have to try really hard to have fun - not joy, or meaning, but fun, if that's going to be a goal, which it doesn't have to be]

          • Laura

            I think that the statement “It’s only one day” comes out of a reaction against the cultural trope of the couple that gets so caught up in the details of the wedding planning that they don’t deal with glaring issues in their relationship that could have serious repercussions on the marriage later on. And I have seen this happen so there is definitely merit to that concern.

            But if you have given measured thought to what your marriage will be like (and since you’re on APW I think it’s safe to assume that you have) then why not get super psyched about your wedding? Sure, it’s “only a day,” but it’s the FIRST DAY! That is awesome! So plan away, and have fun with the details!

  • Anon

    Do you have any idea how badly we want to see pictures of your dress? :-)

    • Kelsey

      Yes please! Please do consider writing a graduates post because I would love to see that dress!

    • http://www.jandrfoods.com Rachel

      Yes. Loved the post and we better see pictures of this dress. Sequins!

  • Zeph

    I had the exact same moment!!
    We had a small outdoor garden wedding and I wanted a dress like the first one your described…light and breezy, kind of a Greek goddess vibe to it. Or a vintage lace one. What I got was neither of those. What I got was a lace and beaded top with a satin pickup skirt. And it was perfect. But all those times that my dress was away from me being altered, or pressed, I would start freaking out about the dress not fitting in with the semi-formal feel of our wedding. And then my dress would come home, fitted just to me, pressed and beautiful and I would take a little peek at it through the garment bag and my eyes would tear up and I couldn’t stop smiling because this was the dress that I was going to be MARRIED in!!

    And on my wedding day?? I felt like a princess and a bride and putting on that dress made me feel so damn pretty and I didn’t want to take it off ever.
    I’m sure it will be the same for you. You’ll be getting ready and feeling all those wedding emotions and then you’ll look at yourself in the mirror in that beautiful princess dress that is totally you and realize that today you are getting married to a man you love. It is going to be an amazing day and wearing your dream princess dress is going to be part of that.

    • MDBethann

      I thought I wanted a straighter, more A-line dress, preferably lace, something sort of whispy. I ended up with a ballgown (fortunately there was hardly any crinoline, which I hate) that I was not expecting, but I LOVED the dress and while it was a bit over what I thought I’d pay, it just made me feel like I was getting married. I tried on some other lovely dresses that looked great on me, but when it came down to it, my ballgown made me feel like a bride. My second choice dress made me feel like I was going to walk the red carpet (an equally awesome feeling, not one I wanted on my wedding day, even though the church has a red carpet on its isle).

      I ROCKED that dress at my wedding and loved every minute of wearing it. Sure it’s been “preserved” and is hanging in my guestroom closet, but I felt so beautiful (I don’t have self esteem issues, but I don’t usually think I’m gorgeous) I don’t mind that I spent a bit more for the dress than I planned. Everything else was pretty practical, given my 150 person guest list, but my dress didn’t have to be – it just had to look like me.

      • Heather

        “…but when it came down to it, my ballgown made me feel like a bride. My second choice dress made me feel like I was going to walk the red carpet (an equally awesome feeling, not one I wanted on my wedding day…)”

        THIS. You just articulated something I haven’t been able to. Thank you for this!

        • Laura

          I know what you mean! I tried on one dress that looked INCREDIBLE on me and I loved it, but it felt like something to wear to a ball in imperial Russia, not to my own wedding. I ended up choosing a dress that was a little more Victorian and just suited both my and my FH’s personality a bit more.

          (Although, I do kind of wish that I could attend that ball in imperial Russia now.)

        • MDBethann

          You’re welcome. And honestly, that was the conversation I had with my mom and the bridesmaid who joined me in the shopping expedition – church isle vs. Oscars red carpet. I honestly couldn’t decide between the two gowns – they both looked great and I loved both of them. With veils, I really only loved the ballgown on me. I went home, slept on it for a week, and kept coming back to the ballgown.

  • KB

    Heather, how did you get inside my head??? Because, seriously, I was reading your post and thought, “This is damn SPOOKY how everything is exactly the same as my dress experience!!” I was so determined NOT to have a moment that it got in the way of actually finding a dress that worked because I didn’t want to be “That Bride.” In the end, though, I found a less expensive dress that fit my vision of what I wanted to look like – one billion dress appointments later.

    Also – I totally tried on the Glinda dress as well (if it’s the dress that I’m thinking of!) and had a moment of “Good God, this is gorgeous.” Didn’t end up going with it, although it was insanely pretty!

  • Moe

    Your post made me cry on the morning train, it was beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

    My dress search was just a huge glaring reminder of all the things I despise about the bridal/fashion/retail industry and then it was mixed with all my personal baggage about being a 40-year old formerly obese girl. I didn’t have an entourage because I was embarassed to be a plus-sized bride.

    I love fashion, style and glamor and was so excited to have my day in My Dress. I didn’t realize that the experince of shopping for one would become such a huge pain in the ass.

    My DD boobs wouldn’t fit in anything. I wanted something age appropiate. I wasn’t a 19 year old size 2 bride and frilly puffy dresses aren’t going to look right on me.I wanted to look like the modern, sophisticated, stylish woman I had grown into.

    One bridal consultant had a pair of Spanx waiting for me in a fitting room. Seriously?!

    After several trips to some retailers I finally I tried one the one dress I had orginally found online. That was it. I was at peace. My boobs fit. It had pockets! There were no beads, sequins or lace but it was a big poofy ball gown skirt. I don’t know if it qualifies as a “moment”. It was more like a “Oh, ok. I’m going to put my clothes back on now. This is the one. Thanks.”

    Oh ladies, please accept yourselves for who are in all of your flaws and inperfections! They make you YOU. My chubby arms and abundant boobs will be a part of my wedding photos and there’s little I can do about it. All these things are reminders of the journey I’ve made so far. I’ve conquered obesity, I’ve done a lot of work to battle compulsive eating, I might be 40 but I am just as fabulous as any young bride.

    • Heather

      Hell yes, you’re fabulous!

      I’m so sorry that you had to deal with all that crap (Spanx in the fitting room, seriously?!) but I am so happy for you that you have gotten to where you are!

      I definitely feel you on the boobs not fitting thing. And I was thrilled when I realized that I wasn’t going to feel like I needed to get a spray-tan, get my teeth whitened, or go to bridal boot camp because I love my dress, exactly as it is, on me- exactly as I am right now. That was really freeing for me.

      And POCKETS?! Jealous.

      You are going to look modern, sophisticated, stylish, and beautiful on your wedding day- I’m sure of it. :)

    • One More Sara

      OMG thank you! When I got my dress (and had decided it was my dress) everyone in the store just stood there staring at me. I didn’t know what to do and just wanted to get back in my normal clothes. For MONTHS now I’ve been feeling pangs of dress regret bc OMG I WANTED TO TAKE MY DRESS OFF. IM GOING TO HATE IT ON OUR WEDDING DAY. HOW AM I GOING TO AFFORD ANOTHER DRESS. But that’s just the kind of shopper I am. I see something I like try it on (maybe) and go buy it. I don’t sit there and stare at myself in the mirror, so I shouldn’t expect that buying a fancy dress should be any different.

    • Sarah

      Love your story, Moe. Wedding dress shopping is so tough to take on when you have a different body/look. Even for some of us size two girls, it can be difficult (I’m also a DD and at 5″, I simply don’t have the height to pull off a lot of styles). But you are such an inspiration in encouraging everyone to embrace who they are. I hope you feel amazing in your dress. I’m obsessed with pockets, myself.
      I have to admit, though, I LOVE spanx and I’ll be wearing them under my clingy silk gown!

  • Beth

    Maybe I missed the point of this post…but isn’t this the exact reaction that IS marketed to us by force by the WIC? That you haven’t found a good enough dress until you have a full blown in tears reaction like the one you describe here?

    I’m not saying this is wrong, and it’s great that you found a dress that makes sense to you! Just pointing out that it sounds straight out of a Say Yes to the Dress episode.

    Personally – I found a dress that I liked and said “yep that is gorgeous and it will do!” I had no strong reaction, and reading something like this on a practical wedding blog has made second guess myself – what if the dress I bought ISN’T good enough? What does it mean that I didn’t openly weep when I put it on? Am I practical or am I just missing out?

    • Jennie

      I think the point of this post is that it is okay to have that moment and to choose something that doesn’t fit with your otherwise low-key/practical wedding. Not that if if you don’t have that moment you’re missing out.

      I too did not have ‘the moment’ in my dress. I went with my mom and friend because they wanted to go dress shopping and I thought it’d be fun to try on dresses. The family trying dresses on next to me had a moment for me in a dress that was NOT me at all (that was the only moment). I tried on the dress I ultimately bought and liked it, my family liked it and it fit well on my body. I went home and slept on it and went back and got it the following week.

      There was no moment or crying, I could probably have found another dress I liked as much. But ultimately for me, I felt pretty in it and that was enough. I was comfortable in it the whole day of our wedding, people thought it looked great and now I’m married to my husband.

      If you tried this dress on and thought “yep that is gorgeous and it will do!” then you’re right. You don’t need to second guess youreself!

      • Maddie

        Yes. This.

        Also, I don’t think Heather is suggesting that we must have a moment in order for our choices to be valid. But her choice was met with an unexpected moment that resulted in her learning an important lesson, which was to value her own needs. And I think that is really the heart of this post. The dress being the catalyst is really just circumstantial, but it’s hard to divorce that from all the cultural stuff.

        • Heather

          Right!

          I should have included in this post something about how indecisive I was feeling- but I still have trouble articulating that.

          I found lots of dresses that looked nice, and was considering getting varying dresses for all the wrong reasons (mainly, what other people might like, what other people might think). I didn’t expect a “moment”- or need the dress “moment,” but I did need a reality check, and reminder that it’s okay for me to pay attention to (and value) my own preferences.

          In a way, I wish I’d been able to decide without this “moment.” I still get all misty-eyed and my stomach goes flip-floppy when I remember how raw I felt in that bridal store. And it’s sort of sobering to realize that something as silly as a dress provoked that kind of response.

          I think it’s great that you decided on a dress the way you did! Weeping is overrated. Trust me. Ugly crying… it’s ugly. I’m sure your dress is perfect for you- and I’m glad you didn’t need the gut-punch reality check the way I did. I think that’s awesome.

          • Beth

            I think that your experience sounds wonderful and perhaps I feel a little sad that I missed out on something like that. And I’m glad you finally realized that you can focus on yourself for your wedding!

            But…I can’t get past this voice in my head asking: isn’t that exactly what the WIC sells us? That this is THE most important dress you will ever wear and it must be a perfect 10 and you must indulge yourself completely while shopping for it? On all those reality shows there are countless brides that after trying on dozens of dresses, being pulled in a million directions by trying to please others, they finally have a breakthrough – or breakdown (maybe it’s just exhaustion) and finally find THE dress.

            I’m just not sure it needs to be like that. Out of the millions of dresses out there in the world is there really only one?

          • Maddie

            I do think that’s a lot of what the WIC sells us on, but I don’t think that’s what Heather is talking about. It’s always going to be different for everybody, and for some people the dress is a really important symbol of what the wedding means, and for other people (say, me, for example) it’s just a (not even necessary) necessary evil. It’s unfair to expect everyone to experience any one part of wedding planning the same way, and that goes in both directions. Just like dress shopping doesn’t *need* a moment, we also don’t need to downplay the importance of that experience if that’s what real and authentic to someone’s process.

          • Heather

            Beth,

            I don’t think there is only one dress. I think that the one I put on was a catalyst for me- and had it been another dress, I would feel the same. If something happened to this one and I needed to wear something else entirely, I will still have this experience to remind me that I am important, and so are my preferences.

            The perfect ten conversation was had out of love- out of my family wanting me to focus on me, wanting me to feel like I was one of the two most important people on our wedding day. Yes, conversations like that can smack of WIC, but I always look at everything in context.

            For instance- if I had been watching tons of reality TV, and my entourage and the consultants wanted to overrun me with their ideas of what I should have, then yes- WIC all the way. Alarm bells. Run.

            But my experience with dress shopping served as a reminder that the people I love most want me to feel like one in a million- because to them I *am*. And that allowed me to step out of my self-prescribed “practical/responsibility” box and take a hard look at what I really wanted. Regardless of the WIC yammering on in the rest of the world. My sister finding the dress I decided to wear was really special for me, and she made sure it was within my budget, and was still somewhat “indulgent” for me- since I wasn’t indulging in really any other way (re: the wedding).

            I didn’t have a breakdown because I felt pulled in a million different directions- I started my weeping when I realized what I actually wanted, when I realized it was my choice- and that whatever I chose would be fine. I’m not saying that those reality shows don’t capitalize on these kinds of emotions- but if I take a look at context, I know this experience was really honest for me, and not catering to WIC tenets.

          • Beth

            Sorry,

            I can’t figure out how to reply to your comment down below. I don’t think I downplayed the importance of the dress moment – I even said it sounds wonderful. I was just raising a point that I think a lot of us probably are wrestling with.

            Obviously I touched a nerve. I’m a long time reader of APW and this is my first time commenting – and I thought this community encouraged discussion. My big take away from your post was that the big dress moment was uber important, but I do see your larger point of finding your own voice in the process. As you said maybe you had a hard time articulating it…thanks for writing this and being willing to discuss different POVs.

          • Heather

            Oh, I hope I didn’t discourage you from future commenting and discussing!

            I’m long-winded by nature and always feel the need to clarify in case someone doesn’t see exactly where I’m coming from- I feel like I can “fix” that.

            The reason I love APW is precisely because of all the different discussions and POVs and how safe an environment it is. I hope I didn’t offend you- this was my first post ever, anywhere, and I suppose I’m feeling a bit vulnerable out here. I also want to make sure I’m clear, because I don’t want my family to feel offended if they read this (hence over-clarification). Thankfully this community is extremely supportive, regardless of differences of opinions.

          • Beth

            Definitely not scaring me off :)

            Thanks for being so open!!

          • Laura

            Heather, I cannot stop commenting on your post. It has really resonated with me and I feel like every five minutes I think of something else I want to say! :D

            It’s true that a dress is a dress and it can get totally out of control when brides prize their dresses over the person they’re about to marry. But a wedding dress is also hugely symbolic and because of that, I think it’s really worth it to have a dress that makes you happy and that you look forward to wearing.

            I got some flack for getting an engagement ring. Sentiments like, “What will do your marriage more good in the long term? An expensive engagement ring, or using that money to hire a weekly cleaning service for a few years?”

            Since I was pre-engaged at that point, I gave this a lot of thought. My then-boyfriend and I had done a lot of research into engagement rings and I was so excited for the proposal. But I began to wonder if maybe I wasn’t just being consumeristic by wanting this engagement ring. After all, it’s just a Thing. A weekly cleaning service would have been a more efficient use of funds for sure.

            But now that I have my engagement ring, it makes me happy every time I look at it. You could say that it’s just a ring, but to me it’s not just a ring. To me it is tangible evidence that my FH asked me to marry him and that he made some personal sacrifices to get this gift for me. I wouldn’t trade it for fifty years of cleaning service.

            You loved your dress not only because it is a pretty thing, because of what it symbolized to your marriage and your relationship. Which I think is totally amazing. :)

          • Copper

            Beth, I think that what’s happened is that the Practical community has now become robust enough that we’re doing very meta, anti-anti posts. I think the same way that some of us get down and beat ourselves up a bit for not being “good feminists” and need to be reminded that we can get married and still be feminists, take his last name and still be feminists, etc. Heather was beating herself up (at least it sounds like. Apologies if I’m putting words in your mouth… er, keyboard!) about not being Practical enough. Because Team Practical wants to be such an accepting community, we need to remind ourselves that if we fall in love with something that we’ve traditionally considered part of the WIC, as long as it’s right for us then it’s ok. We rail against the WIC so much that for me this post was about taking a breath and reminding ourselves that just because something is associated with WIC doesn’t mean that it’s automatically bad. It sounds like Heather had this vision of herself as this practical, anti-WIC dress shopper, and then she did the thing that WIC tells us to do because in the moment it felt right, and then had to figure out how to forgive that.

      • JessPeebs

        “I tried on the dress I ultimately bought and liked it, my family liked it and it fit well on my body. I went home and slept on it and went back and got it the following week.”

        This exactly, but with mine, My mom had a moment and it was good enough for me. It fit perfectly with no alterations. And I, much to my salesperson’s chagrin, walked out of the store without the dress. I came back for it after I’d slept on the idea.

    • Cleo

      I was watching Say Yes to the Dress with my mom a couple weeks ago and asked her about when she went dress shopping. She said she, like you, found her dress, thought it looked great on her, and was satisfied. She told me that her dress was incidental to her wedding experience.

      The stories I hear about her and my dad’s wedding (they’ve been married for over 30 years) are more about the unexpected moments — my favorite being that the cantor got a drunk during cocktails and dinner and took it upon himself to toast her and my dad and then yelled at the band to play the hora. The band obliged and no one stopped dancing for the rest of the evening. They were mortified at the time, but my mom says it was the best thing that could have happened (apart from, you know, them actually getting married).

      This isn’t to say that you’re wrong if you really want to have a MOMENT or you had one with your dress, just that, like everything with regard to weddings, certain things matter more to certain people, and just because you choose not to have favors, a flower girl, a slideshow of pictures, a 12 piece orchestra, etc. doesn’t mean your wedding will be deficient in meaning/memories/experiences.

  • Other Katelyn

    Totally had a moment, a melty moment, when I found my dress. The dress was what I was the MOST worried and anxious about in all of wedding planning, because I’m plus-size, and I have a hard time shopping for normal clothes, let alone formal big white gowns (or what have you). But then, on dress #11, I melted.

  • http://www.thatbridesgotmoxie,com Renee

    So, I am currently in the middle of wedding dress shopping/freaking out. I’ve been shopping for a while (over 2 months), have 2 dresses that I could see myself in, but just can’t seem to pull the trigger.
    I think I watch too much SYTTD and I am waiting for “the moment”, when really? Maybe that moment looks different for different brides. I don’t know. I didn’t think dress shopping would be this emotional or difficult, but it really has been.
    And now, I’m having $$ freak outs where I think I should just order a much cheaper online dress, because how can I really justify spending a few thousand dollars (of my own, hard-earned and saved money) on a dress that I may wear twice?
    I just don’t know what to do. And I’m embarrassed that I care about it this much – I’m 36, for gods sake!
    Thanks for this post, though. It has given me more to think (obsess?) about. In a good way.

    • MDBethann

      Do you LIKE the dresses? Do you feel comfortable in them? Do you look like YOU (albeit really dressed up) in the dress? Can you see yourself walking down the isle in one of the dresses?

      Those were the questions that I asked myself with the two dresses I was torn between. As I noted earlier, both were comfortable and I liked both, but one made me feel like walking down the isle, and the other made me fee like I was going to walk the red carpet. It wasn’t so much of an “ah ha! The Perfect Dress!” moment, and it doesn’t have to be.

      But I think Heather’s most important message (to me anyway) was that it’s OKAY to spoil yourself on your wedding day. So if you can afford a dress that you really like/love over one that is “meh” but a lot cheaper (and may not fit you right if you order it online – I am tall and thin and have a really hard time shopping online), go for it. Get what works for you the best, as long as it doesn’t break the bank.

      • Laura

        I think, too, that we can have room for different definitions of what “The Moment” looks like. Say Yes to the Dress makes it look like you have to break down and cry and sob for you to have a Moment. My reaction was more like “HELLS YES THIS IS IT” and I didn’t cry at all. Maybe for someone else it is simply to say, “Yes, this is perfect for me” and not be emotive at all. It’s not even necessary to have a moment just as long as you are happy and feel like your dress suits you.

        I agree. We can spoil ourselves a bit on our wedding day and make the effort to do beautiful things we wouldn’t normally do because it is a special day. It’s just that the WIC has obscured this original intention with all the hype and pressure. To step away from that hype and pressure does not mean we need to abandon the beautiful and sublime aspects of weddings.

        • MDBethann

          Exactly!

          Prescription: Don’t watch “Say Yes to the Dress” or “David Tuterra’s My Fair Wedding” or other wedding shows (if you’re engaged/planning a wedding) until AFTER you’re married because otherwise they may make you crazy.

          • Denzi

            I cannot exactly this enough.

  • Jashshea

    First read-through made me giddy and want to talk about dresses! And shoes! And hair bows!

    But there are some serious meat and potatoes in here as well that you touch on, Heather. About remembering that while the day isn’t ALL about you it’s also not NOT about you at ALL (I think a triple negative makes a positive, yeah?). Being treated like a bride-doll, rather than a person is, quite frankly, bizarre. You don’t want a pretty dress because ‘that’s what brides want,’ rather you want the dress because ‘that’s what Heather wants.’

    One of the more negative parts about my engagement is that I feel that I’m being treated like a little girl who can’t handle disruption/bad news/not getting what I want – not that they think I’ll B’zilla all over their ass, but that I need to be mollycoddled*. I wasn’t good at being mollycoddled as an infant and I certainly don’t want it now.

    In my line of work, I deal with what I like to call medium sized disasters pretty frequently – they’re kind of my specialty and I’m known as someone who can keep a cool head when there’s chaos in the midst. Major catastrophes make me sweat a bit, but I usually don’t actively lose my ish until after the situation is over.

    Ideally what I’d like most from planning this wedding (19 days WAHOO) is for people to recognize that I’m not an emotional disaster waiting to happen just because I’m getting married. As much as the wedding is not an imposition for the guests, it’s also not an imposition on my mental health or general capability in the world (though I’m not much of a rockstar employee lately).

    * If I hear “don’t freak out…” one more time, so help me God, I’m going to freak out :) In my mind, “don’t freak out” is reserved for one of the following wedding related items:
    1) Venue burned down/flooded
    2) Groom is missing (Amber Alert missing – late/wandered off is normal behavior)
    3) Dress was in the burned down/flooded building (only b/c I really like my dress, I could actually find another one if needed)
    4) VIP is sick/injured and it is life-threatening

    • Denzi

      Jashshea, I agree with you even though I had a totally different mental health experience.

      The wedding was a HUGE imposition on my mental health (someday I will write the wedding grad post about how I had a bad suicidal episode a week before my wedding, and how I learned to be okay with that), and I think that made the mollycoddling even more irritating. If you are telling me “Don’t freak out,” I will freak out. I will think it’s something huge and life-threatening, and not “Making these pinwheels for you is overwhelming and I need to stop.” I will turn “I can’t make pinwheels for you” into something that needs to be freaked out about, because there is a void of freaking out that you are expecting me to fill.

      So yes. Either way, being treated like a fragile doll = NOT HELPFUL.

      • Jashshea

        A hearty yes that planning a wedding can impact mental health – And the most recent “don’t freak out” came from a person for whom that was very much the case. I think in her instance it was her projecting how she felt in the weeks leading up to the wedding onto me (which is fine, it’s what people do). But telling me not to freak out over one friend asking to sit at a different table than another friend? That barely registers as something to be concerned about to me (you know, beyond thinking “that’s really childish and petty”).

        I would love to read your post. There is a darker side to big life events that we rarely see discussed in forums like this and I think it would be helpful for people better understand where other people are coming from.

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

        I HATE when people say “don’t freak out” about anything, not just weddings. Even stating that implies that the person bringing up the issue to you thinks you are going to freak out, and either a) thinks it’s a big enough deal to have a freak out over or b) thinks I’m always going to freak out at every little thing. It comes across as so presumptive.

        I’m sorry to hear that phrase has come up so much in your planning. :(

    • http://asashaparty.blogspot.com thesasha

      …my dress actually was in a building that burned down. But it survived (and more importantly so did all the humans and cats in the building), and there was a lot of cleaning done, and it doesn’t smell like smoke or chemicals at all, and the darts stayed in.

      I am pretty damn excited about my dress. One of my best friends is making it for me.

      • Jashshea

        o. my. word.

        See!? This is why I don’t freak out about seating charts or potential transportation snafus – my potential dress nightmare actually happened to my new friend from the internet and everything worked out fine!

        And I second the part about animals and humans surviving – much more important than a dress, certainly!

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Similarly, what’s been hard about wedding planning for me is constantly re-asserting my personality. Not in the “Let’s make 3 favors for each person that display our personality” way (because making favors is not our personality) but in the “I am a very organized person who knows her own simple tastes very well” way. Sometimes it’s easier to give into the WIC narrative. Who cares if my florist thinks I’m happy I’m not in trial out of state 4 weeks before my wedding, when really I’m bummed? Sometimes it’s easier to say what’s expected. But doing it week after week, with stranger after stranger is draining.

  • http://www.corinnekrogh.com/blog Corinne Krogh

    Regarding the featured image (yay for it being used on this post!), I was actually with the bride when she picked out the dress she’s wearing in the picture. Both my sister and I had already been through practical weddings of our own and allowed ourselves to wear the dresses of our dreams (although afterwards I was judged about the cost of it on my “budget wedding blog” = insert blogging world DYI wedding guilt.). But it was awesome being with another gal allowing ourselves to sip champagne and get totally silly over dresses, something the three of us (Alaskan girls) would RARELY/if ever do. She ended up finding the dress, liking it, going back home to think about, and then ordering a few weeks later. It looked incredible on her during their wedding in the wilderness and most importantly, she felt incredible.

    That said, I never had that ‘moment’ with my wedding dress, neither did my sister, or the bride we were with. Maybe because we’re all pretty practical girls, but I honestly felt pressured to continue looking until I found one that would make me have that reaction… because that’s what was supposed to happen, right? I actually ended up buying one that made my mom and grandmother cry, but then later I went by myself to another store and bought a different one that felt more me. And I felt gorgeous, which reflected on both my own and my husbands experience the day of. I didn’t only give the gift of really feeling beautiful to myself, but to my hubby also because he experienced me feeling that… which in my opinion is some of the best money I could have spent.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      This is a perspective I needed. I have my make-up trial on Saturday, and my future husband and I have been half-joking, half-seriously discussing what I/we want. Two things have made us nervous: 1) I got a makeover a few months back when I bought some everyday make-up, and neither of us liked it. 2) The first thing the wedding make-up artist recommended was plucking my eyebrows, which is something I just don’t want to bother with, as a kind of principle, and he doesn’t think he’ll like, aesthetically. I was finally happy with my hair trial when I saw how much he liked it. It’s just helpful to hear someone else say, “Be beautiful for you, and be beautiful for him.” Or, better, “Be beautiful for him by being beautiful for you.”

      • MDBethann

        YES! To the “Be beautiful for him by being beautiful for you.”

        Some of my favorite wedding pictures were the ones taken of my now DH as I walked down the isle – he is a fairly reserved guy, but he had a HUGE smile on his face and he was glowing.

        And when one of my BFFs got married 3 years ago, her DH was literally BOUNCING up and down with excitement and joy as she walked down the isle toward him.

  • Jaime

    I saw my cousin experiencing this struggle between trying to have a small, intimate beach wedding and, to use Heather’s word, an all-the-frills wedding. She didn’t pick up a garter, and so I asked if she did want one because I’d be happy to get one for her. She declined, but I still did it. Hey, that’s what cousins are for :) I’m so happy I did, because she enjoyed wearing it, had a really fun moment with her husband taking the garter off, and you could tell that he loved it too! It’s tough when you don’t want to be having a “traditional” wedding, but you still yearn for those traditional moments. I could tell she was having a hard time letting people dote on her too. “It’s just a small wedding. I don’t want anyone to go to any trouble.” No matter the size of the wedding, it’s always a BIG deal. This is you proclaiming your love and faithfulness for life towards another, so it NEEDS a couple frills. She also hadn’t planned on throwing a bouquet, but she did :)

  • alyssa

    I can’t even tell you how much it feels like I wrote this post, myself! I wanted something simple, because the wedding was simple, but then I ended up with something that looks more like a tutu! Which actually makes perfect sense, since I grew up dancing ballet. Why wouldn’t we feel most beautiful and most comfortable in what we felt was most beautiful as little girls/high school students/24 year olds?
    ROCK the tulle and sequins! You’re going to be gorgeous and everyone will love how *you* you’ll be. :)

  • Joanna

    I love this post, even thought it’s quite different from my experience.

    I thought I was being so clever, and outsmarting the WIC when I decided to make my dress. I worked on it occasionally, for about 5 months. When it was almost complete, I realized I didn’t feel great in it. It’s like I was looking for my moment in a dress I had been fussing with for half a year. But I also felt guilty for not being happy with my handmade dress. Sure, it’ll do. But I would probably feel self-conscious in it, and focus on its flaws. And worrying about how I look is not how I want to spend my wedding day.

    I came to terms with the reality of the situation, and got down to business with online dress research that night. The next day I made an appointment at a bridal shop, and took public transit in the rain to another city. I went alone. Not ideal circumstances for a typical bride shopping experience.

    There was a sample sale. I tried on a few dresses, and when the attendant finally gave me the one I was most hopeful about (which coincidentally also had the lowest sale price), I felt it. Not an aha! moment exactly, but a slow creeping feeling of easiness. I couldn’t stop looking at myself in the mirror, and I couldn’t stop grinning. That’s how I knew to look no further. As it turns out, it’s not easy to find a dress that is not poofy, not shiny, not strapless. But I’m extremely lucky; I found a dress that’s soft and flowy with a flattering silhouette. I think even being alone in the change room made it easier to feel my instincts and know it was the right choice.

    • Laura

      That’s a really nice story. :)

    • kath

      bleedin heck, that is me! I very much enjoyed reading the first poster’s experience – and i felt it a wonderful experience. I’ m delighted she loves what she’s chosen and she most certainly has the right to be “the frills” – and she will shimmer as “the frills”. Her story makes me smile that she is happy, that is how it should be.
      Joanna I had to comemnt on your post above.. we’rea couple of 14 years, are payig for all our wediding , and like you I thought I would make my dress. I couldn’t spot anythng in any store that was what i wanted in my budget. so i’d make it. but i didn’t allow enough time as i really underestimated how much else a wedding demands in terms of organisation (hiring venue for 4 days, sourcing all caterers, sorting on site accomodation….won’t bore you ) and i put all of that first and i stopped enjoying the process of the making and creating.The bit I had wanted to do. It became a horrible stress. it had become clear my skills were not up to my immagination and my pride would never le me be happy in my badly made dress. i wanted to shine, not skulk about in shame cos it wasn’t looking right. So today, with less than a with a week to go, I took myself off to town this afternoon to remedy the situation. And i tried on some off the peg white numbers. nope. not right. Felt cheap, looked pregnant, empire line on small boobs a great disaster, nope, not me.so i wandered on in the drizzle. And i stopped dead in the street and looked up at a shimmering dress. Not Bridal. Not White. But i was in it in the changing rooms 5 minutes later grining at myself in a floor length sequinned dress.. it starts bronze coloured, merging to black at floor length. I’ve never worn anything like it. I am insaneley practical & a great budgeter – I do love clothes and shopping, but am fussy on fit and fabric and quality.This was something else. This was spontinaety th likes of which i have submerged for years! A bit of a transition has occured. I feel a woman, and sophisticated and relaxed… far from the girl in white i was imagining. But This is The Dress I will marry in next wednesday. And now I am actually excited, rather than shellshocked at all the organising wedding brings with it. Now it will be fun.That was what was supposed to have happened.(and every thing that happened was self inflicted , so we’ll see what I have learned from this!!)
      weddings sure do teach you a lot!!

  • http://WillowynJP.com Jeanne Pounder

    I was in my mid-40s when I married for the second time, and our 16-person wedding was two months after we were engaged. My sister encouraged me to get something special to wear, even if it wasn’t a gown.

    On a whim one day, I stopped in a bridal salon to see if they had anything like “past season” or “markdown” racks, or just something simple and flattering. The salesperson greeted me like a Mother of the Bride who was missing the requisite bride. When I said I was shopping for myself, she put on a smile and asked when I would be married. I said (happily), “October”. She gasped, “THIS year?!”

    Angry and embarrassed, I beat a hasty exit.

    While driving home, I remembered that I’d seen wedding gowns at the local Goodwill store, and stopped in. Sure enough, there was a small selection of gowns. And hmmm. I kinda liked that one. It was my size. I tried it on alone in the tiny closet-like dressing room, and the “wedding fairies” referenced in Shelley Christiansen’s wonderful book, “The Wedding Guide for the Grownup Bride (When You’re Old Enough to Know What You’re Doing…and in Love Enough to Do It Anyway)” WOKE UP and whispered, “Ooooh, it’s a wedding gown!”. Like today’s post, it was Glinda the Good all over. White. Bouffant. Low-cut. And nothing like I’d ever dreamed I’d wear. But — that wasn’t “the moment”.

    I rolled the gown up into a ball and paid $99 for it at the counter (figuring that if nothing else, I’d made a $99 contribution to a good cause). I drove down to my daughter’s apartment, climbed the stairs to her 3rd-floor bedroom, and put on the dress. She sat cross-legged on the floor, cupped her chin in her hands, and examined me top to bottom. “Not bad,” she reported, “But you have to get rid of the bow on the butt.” THAT was my moment.

    The gown was tailored and pressed for me by a DIFFERENT bridal shop – and they treated me like gold. (We returned the compliment by renting my husband’s tux from them.)

    My darling daughter will be married this coming Friday, and she – to her own surprise – chose a gown that some might call a bit impractical. But I am THRILLED that in the midst of practicality and budget-mindedness, she’s allowed herself some frivolity and frills. She deserves it!

    • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

      This is the nicest thing I have read all day. How lovely for both of you!

  • http://www.ktmade.com Katie

    Heather, what a lovely post. It’s funny what moments really bring it home to us that we’re getting married. I had a really simple dress, and it was as close to exactly what I had been envisioning as I could’ve gotten without having one specifically made, but when I put it on, I still got misty-eyed. Not full-out ugly-crying, but there were some tears.

    I think because you can’t get married naked (well, I guess you could), choosing the dress you’ll wear is often that DING! moment where it becomes real that it’s actually going to happen.

    I know you’re going to look stunning on your wedding day, and I’m so happy that you’ll be in a dress that you love. I think it’d be awesome if we were wearing clothes that we adored every day. So on that day, for sure! :)

  • Becca

    I had no “Say Yes To The Dress” moment, but it was close. I did a lot of online research before making an appointment at a bridal salon (this one particular designer really appealed to me, and her dresses were very affordable, and there were only two places in my state that carry her line). After trying on only two dresses, I knew I’d found the one. There were no tears or blushing or fawning or anything like that… I just knew it looked great on me, suited my down-to-earth personality while still looking ethereal and “like a wedding gown”. And, ya know, I felt like I just beamed as I stood in front of that mirror. Few times in my life have I felt so beautiful standing in a dress in front of a mirror (I’m not a dressy kinda girl). My mom and sister-in-law were with me, more for constructive criticism than anything else, and they both commented on how happy and great I looked in it. But still, it was a quiet, small moment. I tried on the rest of the designer’s dresses to make sure I didn’t miss something better, and then caught the saleslady by surprise when I said I wanted to buy that second dress, right now. It was a surprisingly pleasant and non-stress inducing experience.

  • Tessa

    Those last two sentences are what got me through all of the bullshit. Weddings expose the small fractures in everything in your life; relationships, organizational skills, patience. No matter what happens, always remember those last two sentences and you’ll come out of it in a good place!

  • Amanda

    Ohmygosh… I’m grinning, and misty, and overjoyed by this post. Your honest, authentic uncertainty about having desires that are – gasp! – not utterly practical. Your raw, vulnerable love for a dress (choice) you didn’t think you wanted but really had just talked yourself out of because you were afraid you weren’t supposed to want it. Thanks. I needed this.

  • Marika

    I teared up. Yes, you CAN have that moment! It’s more than ok.

  • Leigh Ann

    I also ended up with a bigger, fancier dress than I thought I would want, and I also felt guilty about wanting such an extravagant dress — and on my wedding day I felt glamorous and beautiful and was so glad I chose it. Good for you.

  • Kira

    I love this! I feel like my fiance and I have been getting so bogged down in difficult details (catering, rain plans, negative family dynamics) and managing family expectations (yes, you CAN legally get married outside a designated “wedding venue”) that we’ve gone a little too far in the opposite direction–“It’s just a small wedding. It’s not a big deal. No, we’re not having bridesmaids. We’re just baking our own cakes and playing our favorite songs from an iPod. It’s not fancy or anything.” I’ve been eyeing a Wai Ching dress that looks amazing and is totally reasonably priced, given the lovely materials and hand work that go into making it. It’s gorgeously colored and I just gasp every time I look at pictures, but I wince thinking about myself wearing such a fancy thing at my not-a-big-deal wedding. And I resist the focus, in general, on brides’ appearance at a wedding. Then again, my dad has already picked out his outfit, so maybe it’s OK for me to do so, too.

    • Heather

      It’s totally okay! Go get that dress!

    • kath

      you’ll see my saga above, i’ve just bought a floor length sequin affair and now have an honest grin.
      go get the dress that caught your eye.you are allowed to look great- not just good!

  • http://www.encorebridal.com Julie

    Good for you!! I’ve found that if brides have been trying on a lot of the same style (the style they think they want – or think they “should” want) and it just isn’t doing it for them, it might be the style, not the dresses. I usually suggest trying on something completely different, just like you did. Often what we think we want, and what seems most appropriate, isn’t what makes us glow. I’m glad you’ll be glowing in a dress you’re excited about and love on your wedding day. That’s what your guests will be focusing on – your glow.

  • Kathy

    I have been looking and looking for a dress and originally set out to be practical (budget of $250) and mindful of the environment (recycled or repurposed). I also wanted it to be a good fit for my body type, make me feel that I looked lovely and like myself, oh and not be a really arduous search that made me “that bride” who was all about the dress being perfect. Not too much to ask, right?

    So here we are and I am trying to come to terms with where the search has brought me. I’ve put a lot of time and energy into it, both online and with trying on dresses. And while I believe I’ve found what would be a wonderful dress for me, it hasn’t fallen into my initial “requirements.” Because it’s from 2008 and is therefore no longer available, I am looking into have the dress made, which would consume new materials. Afterwards I would then sell it online to at least offset the fact that it’s using new materials, “but still…” my minds says. (Apparently I have no problem buying a simple top or pants at Target that are made in China under goodness knows what conditions, but for my wedding dress I suddenly attached all kinds of conditions to it.) The dress will cost A LOT more than I originally planned to spend, which in retrospect I think was partially to be able to say “See, I am not influenced by the WIC. I kept things simple and inexpensive and didn’t fall into the traps. I am different! I am that good!” I am in my 40’s and engaged to a long time partner and we are paying for the wedding ourselves and I can afford the extra cost. But by potentially paying more and putting so much into the dress, I am having to be mindful to not use it as a way to think less of myself.

    Sheesh. It seems it doesn’t really matter what we do. We can find ammunition in all-things-wedding to beat ourselves up. What I most appreciated about this post and the comments was – “Be true to you.” In whatever way that ends up evolving. Not totally self-indulgent; not out of control. But discovering what feels right and authentic to you. One can still be practical and yet find a place of peace with what we choose. It’s a journey like anything else in life. It just happens to revolve around a wedding.