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Elisabeth: Changing Course


by Elisabeth Snell, Contributing Editor

Elisabeth: Changing Course | A Practical WeddingElisabeth: Changing Course | A Practical Wedding

Up to now, I’ve spent a lot of time fretting over our wedding clambake. Between negotiating my divorced parents in the same place, and my genuine questioning about whether getting married as queer women is the right thing to do; between our extrovert-introvert unbalanced guest list, and the feeling of blowing our life savings on a one day event; yep, I’ve been fretting. K and I have been jointly fretting, actually, although about different things, which has meant some tense conversations over dueling laptops and Excel spreadsheets. About a month ago she wanted to delete a column where I was collecting stats on neither-responded-nor-invited-yet guests who might decline a pre-wedding event, and I could not possibly understand why she wanted to delete said column since it was key for my estimates, all of which culminating in me shrieking, “Data is the basis for the entire field of epidemiology and frankly all of public health and you can certainly delete that column, I’m just POINTING OUT it is everything I stand for personally and professionally.” About ten seconds after saying that, I wanted to shove myself back in the closet, but it’s too late and now K pretends that I am John Snow, getting married in between field collection at the local water pump.

In the past week, though, the vibe has definitely started to change. Last Saturday I woke up at the crack of dawn to head for the Short Hills Mall, that magical suburban Mecca that I once heard referred to as the heart of darkness. I had two of my most fashionable friends with me, and we were going to find me a dress to wear at my wedding. I had a BPA-free water bottle, supportive running shoes, and protein-based snacks. Find me a goddamn dress and let’s get on with it.

I’ve mentioned my struggles about trying to figure out my wedding outfit, about what one should wear if one doesn’t want to wear white and doesn’t fit into “regular” sizes. Since that post, I can report I’ve done exactly nothing except fret (well, and rail against the media’s portrayal of women). In March, a friend made me go to Lord & Taylor (we tried Saks, but the one in the city doesn’t carry sizes past 14. Thanks, Saks!). She picked out about four hundred possibilities, and I picked out one that I thought was properly festive. It seemed promising. I did a slow turn as my friend diplomatically said, “That would be a great wedding dress, if your wedding was a dance club in Miami instead of a daytime clambake cocktail party.”

Elisabeth: Changing Course | A Practical Wedding

Real talk: if I did this on my own, I’d end up in a sailor shirt. A friend once described my gender identity as “camping femme.” Accurate! I refuse to wear those zip-away combo shorts-pants, but other than that, my standards are sensibly low. That, combined with my general shopping disdain, frustration at rarely finding things that fit well, and major unease with the wedding industrial complex, brought me here, about four months out from the wedding with not even any ideas for what to wear. So when we pulled into the parking lot ten minutes before the mall opened, I took a long slug of decaf coffee and ordered myself to think differently.

You guys, we were there all day, at least seven hours past my normal shopping tolerance. Thank god for those sneakers. Four department stores, a restorative stop at Brookstone for an energizing shiatsu chair massage (where I stared in amazement at the full wall of personal massagers that Brookstone now carries), my first and last meal at the Cheesecake Factory, and free shots of espresso from the helpful Bloomingdales salesperson operating the Nespresso machine, but we were completely, totally successful. We found not one, but six dresses. Six dresses I’d be happy to wear at our low-key joyous clam bake, dresses ranging from whimsical to nautical to festive to sexy, dresses that feel very much like me. None of them are white or particularly wedding-dress-like, although one of them is gold lamé and would look fabulous on a dance floor, yet somehow also manages to look appropriate for a daytime clambake. And as I slipped each of them on, I got a little thrill, every time.

My friends snapped pictures of the top dozen, so we could make an educated decision, and I kept flipping back through them when I got home that night. In some of the pictures, I look bossy, hands on my hips and project managing the situation; in some of them I’m speculatively checking myself out in the mirror. When I look at them, I get that thrill all over again. So this is what everyone’s been talking about. Knowing what I could look like has freed up some of the fretting space for excitement; for the return of those funny, stomach-flipping feelings I’d get when I first started thinking about marrying K. I am excited to get married, messy politics of it and all. I am excited. I’m excited to slip one of these dresses on, excited to walk out of our apartment and hop on the Q train together to ride to the church, excited to marry her.

As long as I leave the tags on, I can keep all six dresses until I’m ready to make the decision. So now a large chunk of our wedding budget is tucked away in my closet (behind the camping supplies, obviously). I tried on every last one for K that evening, who was appropriately congratulatory, appreciative, and occasionally misty eyed. I preened in front of our bedroom mirror, clothes strewn everywhere and cats lolling around, and spun out in a particularly full-skirted one. “I could get married in this dress,” I crowed. She held my hair in a ponytail and we looked at ourselves in the mirror, grinning. “You could marry me in that dress,” she agreed.

Photo of Elisabeth dress shopping from her personal collection

Elisabeth Snell

Elisabeth is an MPH working in public health in New York City. Her old okcupid profile said she’s really good at: fixing socially awkward situations at parties, return trips to Ikea, whipping up excellent mac and cheese on camping trips, leaping into the ocean, being chronically late, and having Friday night adventures all over Brooklyn. In September 2013, she married her introverted, punctual K.

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  • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

    You are Drop-Dead Gorgeous in *both* of those dresses. I can only imagine the other four are equally flattering. Kudos to your shopping posse and congrats on the excitement!!

    • Elisabeth

      Oh Sarah E, thank you! And yes, huge, huge kudos to my friends, who basically made the event non-mandatory though I tried to get out of it 3002490 times.

  • Dawn

    I think deleting a column in excel might be legitimate grounds for divorce. Then again I’m a data analyst and luckily my boyfriend is in IT so we’re kind of on the same page there. I think if we ever decide to get married we too will have dueling excel files, all with probably way too much information in them.

    I love your last paragraph.

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      There is a reason Excel lets you hide things. It is still there if you need it, but not getting in your way when you don’t. Delete? Yeesh!

      • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

        Exactly exactly exactly!! Why delete when you can hide?!?

    • Copper

      Y’all make me feel better about the morning that I came into work and thought my project manager had *rearranged my grid* in a publication design. I just sat there flipping out going, “but, but… the grid is EVERYTHING!!! None of this makes SENSE anymore! What. Did. You. DO?”

      I cannot imagine that feeling directed at my partner. I may have to password protect my computer, just to make sure it never happens.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00388929873803169413 Kristen

    “I could get married in this dress,” I crowed. She held my hair in a ponytail and we looked at ourselves in the mirror, grinning. “You could marry me in that dress,” she agreed.”

    Seriously made me tear up. Beautiful writing and even more beautiful sentiment.

    • Elaine

      I so love this! I tried on dresses for my fiance as well, and even though I absolutely didn’t expect it to be, in hindsight, it was probably my very favorite part of wedding planning. It involved a lot of happy dances and exclamations of “Holy crap, we get to marry each other!”

      • Elisabeth

        Yes to this! I really love that we get to share in each other’s excitement. Although we did not accompany each other on the actual shopping events. I offered to go with her to her bespoke suit tailoring appointment, in case she got any flack for being a woman in a menswear store, but she gently turned me down because I know .00001% about masculine gender fashion.

  • Lauren

    Thoughts:

    1: Both of those dresses are stunning.
    2: Lord & Taylor, eh? They no longer have one in my town, but I’ll be on the lookout…
    3: Camping femme! I am like that some days. Other days I am femme femme. And I do love the zip-away shorts/pants, so there is that.
    4: The last scene. Ah! So lovely. I am so excited to (vicariously) attend your clambake!

    • Parsley

      Yes, I totally love the camping femme label! I may have to start using that!

    • Elisabeth

      Oh jeez, Lauren, I reported you instead of replying. Sorry!! Anyway, here’s my 90 second round up of the stores we went to —
      1. Neimans — no plus sizes, but tons on the website.
      2. Nordstrom — gold. I tried on about 40. Also great selection on their website.
      3. Bloomingdales — many of the same dresses as Nordstom, for 30% cheaper, plus some really, really cute summer dresses. Decent website.
      4. Macys — I was speaking in tongues by the time I got here from exhaustion but this is where we found the Ralph Lauren gold lame number. Also on their website.
      Lesson learned — I could have done all of this on the internet, but needed the friends and the instant gratification!

      • Amy

        Nordstrom will also price match other stores prices. One of the many, many reasons I luuurrrve them.

        • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

          And Nordstrom will tailor, even if you need it done literally overnight. (Husband decided four days before a Navy ball that we should go. Overnight dress from Nordstrom.com, overnight alterations in store saved the day.)

  • KEA1

    If the other 4 dresses look half as good on you as the first two, you will be doing all six dresses a favor if you keep all of them and wear them at every opportunity. Because you make those first two look INSANELY good.

    I fully understand that you have better things to do in life than doing favors for inanimate objects. %) But you definitely found some awesome contenders for your dress, and you wear them really well.

    • meg

      Doin’ those dresses a FAVOR.

  • morningglory

    Where did you get those green shoes!? Love them!

    • Elisabeth

      The green shoes were a steal of a deal at a Goodwills in Westchester….in 2008. I grabbed them on the way out of the house, almost an afterthought, and so glad I remembered them. They are Steve Madden Violit pumps, in green and are super comfortable and easy to wear. I hope they bring them back!

  • js

    I hate shopping. I recently gained quite a bit of weight and am no longer the same size I was all my life up to this point. Lots of people may not understand, but it’s very hard to even want to go through the trouble of trying things on when you’re not excited about the body whatever you’re wearing has to cover. I love the second blue dress on you; the collar looks very nautical to me. Also, the last paragraph and the way you captured such and intimate, every day moment between you two and made us all feel like we were in the room makes me think that dress you were twirling around in must be THE DRESS. I’m very excited for you both.

    • meg

      It’s such an complex thing. I gained half my body weight in pregnancy, so shopping for stuff to wear after I had the kid was mostly just confusing. I’d pick out things that seemed like they’d fit for sure, and then I couldn’t get them over my head. I didn’t feel badly about my body, really (positive body image is the gift that keeps on giving), but shopping was making me GRUMPY. Anyway! Maddie took me to Target, and did a one on one shopping session where she found me stuff that fit, and explained the how and whys of what I should look for. Those items have been my go-tos as my body has slowly found it’s way back to stasis.

      Moral of the story: if you’re having shopping issues with body changes, bring a friend with you who can give advice AND who is body positive. It’s not helpful if you’re with someone who says negative things about bodies. If done right, I think this can get you excited about the body you have to cover. Half the battle is just finding things that make you feel pretty (or it is for me).

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      Oh, man, I hear you. Dress shopping was seriously emotionally fraught for me because of weight gain and negative body image, but finding a dress I’m psyched to wear to the wedding wound up being a really beautiful thing!
      1) I made plans to look at dresses places with my mom and two childhood best friends. They were the ultimate cheer leading squad, and I felt very safe. That feeling safety was verry important.
      2) I don’t have a great positive sense of my body, but I vowed to *try* and see myself as others see me, and went to great lengths to avoid sinking into negativity.

      I’m going to pick up the dress with my mom, my aunt, and my 10 year old cousin next week. Wanting my 10 year old cousin to always have a healthy sense of herself will be the perfect source of motivation to keep from saying mean things about myself.

      Also, for what it’s worth, I have started training for a half-marathon. I may have jumped in waaay over my head, but focusing on what my body can *do* rather than what it should look like has been a great tool in refocusing the voices in my head. The race is 2 weeks before the wedding, and I figure that I’ll feel like a boss no matter what I look like because I’ll have just run 13 miles! Like I said, it’s a bit of an insane endeavor, but maybe training for a 5k or signing up for a yoga retreat a few weeks before the wedding or just finding a fun dance class or something might help to reprogram how you see yourself. I’m not trying to change what my body looks like, but instead focus on celebrating all that it can do.

      Good luck; this is not easy stuff.

      • Elisabeth

        Yes to all of this. Meg is right — having a supportive wingman is key. I didn’t think I needed them, yet they were essential. And Kyley, signing up for something new has also been a boon for me — after a long absence, I joined a masters crew team here in NYC. Now I get to see the city from the water, work out, sleep better, and feel aces about my thighs, which just helped move the boat from Spuyten Duvil to Yankee Stadium. WHAT.

      • meg

        You know, that’s sort of the key for me. My body can do amazing things, and that’s what it’s there for. I dress it nicely as a thank you, but that’s not its reason for being. (I’ve had a lot of chronic pain issues, so every day that my body feels ok and works, is a day where I’m super grateful). I never know if that helps for anyone else, but thinking about my body as this amazing amazing part of me, helps so much. It’s also why I felt pretty ok after pregnancy. I’d made a NEW HUMAN. Getting new pants seemed like a pretty ok trade off, since we were operating in the miracle department.

        I know my perspective is sort of out there and unhelpful for lots of people (and possibly living proof of why all girl children should grow up without TV or fashion magazines) but maybe it’s helpful to someone. If so, take it. If not, ignore.

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        This has been the best thing that running has done for me! Look what my body is capable of! I trust it more now, respect it more and try to be kinder to it. I ran my first half as a present to myself on my 33rd birthday – the gift of getting myself fit. One of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I still hate running a lot of the time that I’m doing it, but I love what it’s done for me.

    • Amber

      I can relate. I managed to bypass the freshman 15, but definitely got the grad school 20. Weighed more than I ever have in my life. Definitely took a while to get used to. And, didn’t help that since I’ve been in grad school, and I was only working part time (now not working at all to finish my thesis), I didn’t have extra money to go out and buy clothes that actually fit me. So, everything was a little snug for quite some time. Recently I’ve taken charge and changed the way I’m eating. I did a 3 weeks cleanse and reset my system and I’m slowly getting back to the body I’m accustomed to. But, it’s definitely not easy getting used to body changes. I know some of it comes with age and metabolism and hormonal shifts. But still. Weird. And yes, like Meg said, shopping for a changed body is confusing!

      • Nora

        I’m with you on the grad school 20! So frustrating. I’m hoping to lose most of the excess before the wedding. I just want to be back to the weight at which I feel more myself. It’s so hard to plan wedding dresses while simultaneously planning for my body to completely change shape between now and the day I wear it in public. At least I will end up with 1 new husband and 2 new graduate degrees in one month, which is a lot to be happy about regardless of what I’m wearing :)

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

      The last paragraph and that moment was totally an example of “how to be in love”. Gave me little chills.

  • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison

    “Data is the basis for the entire field of epidemiology and frankly all of public health and you can certainly delete that column, I’m just POINTING OUT it is everything I stand for personally and professionally.”

    ::epi/public health fist bump::

    Also, I am obsessed with that navy blue dress. You look AMAZING. :)

    • Paige

      YES! As an epidemiologist and current person-planning-a-wedding, this is amazing. However, the data can obscure the real purpose of the day. I sometimes need to be steered away from “I can’t believe the rehearsal dinner is going to cost $45.30 a person” and focus on how much love there is going to be during our wedding weekend.

  • Lolauren

    1. Yay Public Health
    2. I love your glasses
    3. I’m sure all the dresses are gorgeous but I’m particularly smitten with that = navy lace number with the lovely scalloped neckline.

  • Laura C

    Love this! In so many ways. “Extrovert-introvert unbalanced guest list” is great, for starters.

    I recently made an information-gathering trip to Lord & Taylor and Saks and established that I will be able to find some kind of evening gown I’d be reasonably happy to wear at my wedding. Like, there was nothing that I had to have that minute, but if it had been a year later and the wedding approaching, there were a few things I would have been perfectly content to get. But I had to do that alone, and this post also made me feel sad because my best friend used to live 10 minutes from the Short Hills Mall and we’d go shopping there together, and now I need to buy a dress for my wedding and she’s moved to Canada. Where I will visit her, but I won’t exactly be able to make the multiple shopping trips with her over a period of months I would have wanted.

  • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

    The dress in the first photo reminds me of Meg’s ice skater dress from the book tour. So obviously it wins!

    Or whichever you like the best, I guess that’s fine too.

    • meg

      THAT’S WHAT I TOLD ELISABETH!!!!

      • Elisabeth
        • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

          Dude, that dress look awful on the model. Especially since I saw it on you first. It just hangs on her- not flattering.

          Send your photo to Nordstroms, and tell them to update the site- they’ll sell more dresses fo’ sho’

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            Foreal. You vs the photo online are why I can’t do online shopping. I love things on me that I’d never pick off a model (either because it’s not a flattering photo or the models a totally different body-type) and get so disappointed by things that I do pick. Now that I live in a city, it’s actually less painful for me to go by a store.

        • MDBethann

          Thanks to the Duchess of Cambridge, lace dresses are IN, which is great because they are GORGEOUS. I vote for the navy lace dress too (even though I have no idea what the other dresses look like). Lace is just awesome.

    • Rachel

      Also, you guys? I’ve narrowed it down to two dresses. I’m either buying a dress, or my grandma is making my dress. (I am seeing my grandma next week and we’re figuring this out then.) Anyway, if I buy, the dress I chose? Is that navy dress, just in ivory.

      I feel like this is like the APW Sisterhood of the Not-Quite-Traveling-But-Super-Similar-Dresses!!!

      • Elisabeth

        !!!!!!!! I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

  • http://www.emilyaltphotography.com emily

    I LOVE that navy lace one on top–where is that one from? Love it! I am also quite intrigued by the gold lame number you speak of later in the post–no matter what you end up going with, I’m sure it will be gorgeous and perfect. Your wedding clambake sounds totally rockstar too! Congratulations and enjoy!!!

  • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

    I was just inspired by this to make a John Snow/Jon Snow Game of Thrones joke on FB, and will be really sad if none of my friends get it. I am a nerd.

    Also, I know this isn’t a vote, but I like the dark lace dress better. :)

    • Nicole Marie

      I thought the exact same thing! I’m really glad there was a link to the wikipedia article- I was pretty confused there for a second!

    • Jessica

      I panicked because I haven’t seen the most recent episode and I thought it was some kind of spoiler. Then I figured out it was a totally different John Snow. :)

  • http://whataboutsara.com Sara

    GORGEOUS. I love this post so much.

  • Copper

    ok, you didn’t show it to us, but gold lame? If it looks anything like as good as the two you posted, I’m sold.

    • http://theselfcateredwedding.wordpress.com/ Savannah

      I definitely want to hear more about the gold lamé one!

  • Rachel

    I got chills at your second “I am excited.” (And actually during your whole final paragraph.) Sometimes I think I forget to be excited about my wedding and then some little thing happens and I just get SO EXCITED.

    This post was delightful and I can’t wait to see what dress you end up choosing!

  • http://katemuehe.com/blog Kate

    Yay for public health! Your attachment to data made me laugh out loud (at my job in a health department, no less) because having a public health degree has influenced my wedding planning in the following ways:

    1. Mass amounts of data collection. Excel columns with checks, numbers, codes for whether the save the dates has been addressed and stamped or already mailed.
    2. Real life concerns about food contamination/proper storage if we do buffet style dinner. Also, ensuring that each guest’s dietary restrictions are accomodated and still allows them to have a balanced meal.
    3. Real life concerns about the sugar content of the cake.
    4. Completely redoing a centerpiece idea because the result would no longer be recyclable and/or food-safe for reuse.
    5. Asking our venue to direct people to the stairs rather than the elevator unless they specifically request the elevator for mobility purposes.

    It’s an affliction.

    • Elisabeth

      Love it. This makes me think of Atul Gawande and the checklist manifesto.

  • Ari

    Elisabeth, you had me at clambake, but my devotion was confirmed by “camping femme”. Sailor shirts all the way, except, yeah, can we talk about how amazing you’re making those dresses look? For serious.

    (and yes, the all-the-way zipper is pretty much the best thing ever.)

  • marbella

    Gorgeous! The first dress is channeling some Adele!

  • Vera

    You look beautiful. Where did you get those green shoes in the top (and possibly the bottom) picture? I’ve been looking for something like that for ages

  • jess

    I tried on some dresses for my fiance and it was pretty awesome. Even better was after, as I was deciding if I wanted to send my favorite one back because, even though it was my favorite, I was feeling insecure about how I would look in it. Was I too chubby? Did it make my hips look too wide?

    My fiance was in a different state at the time, and I got a text message, complete with a picture of me posing in said dress, that said “I don’t know if you know this yet, but that’s my wife in this picture.”

    That one comment made up for “dealing’ with all the friends I had who told me I was crazy for showing my guy dresses before the wedding. I just about died on the spot.

    So seriously, you look awesome in these photos, and I’m so glad your wife to be was there to tell you so. :)

    • Elisabeth

      OH, I love that text message so, so much.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    Yay!

  • ferrous

    Brookstone carries a full wall of personal massagers?? I hit a record scratch on that part. *jots note to self to visit Brookstone soon*

    You look fantastic, those green shoes are amazing!

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  • http://johannalynne.com Johanna Lynne

    I got married 10 days ago. So far, we are still grinning giddily at each other when we see our wedding bands, and I doubt I will EVER change my profile photo on FB from the picture it is right now (https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/947213_10100384770239260_765135814_n.jpg)
    ANYWAYS.
    That moment? Where K said that you could marry her in that dress? I know that moment. I am so, so so happy for you both. So happy. And I wish you both fabulosity and fierceness.

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    Ya! Benar… isu nie memang benar… saya ada pengalaman peribadi mengenai hal nie…
    teruskan berkarya admin…

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