On the rare occasion I tune into Say Yes to the Dress or Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids, I find myself scratching my head. I know reality TV isn’t real, but there is a small detail on these shows that I actually find more odd than anything else: the pushy mothers-in-law and the picky bridesmaids. I’m confused by them—and not by their behavior, but their very presence. Every time I see one of these shows, I find myself thinking, “Who are these women who have all of their bridesmaids and their mothers in the same place at the same time?! And how do all their friends know each other so well!?!”
The Myth of the Montage
The idea that our friends and family will be with us through the planning process is an accepted part of the cultural narrative of weddings. In movies or on TV, you see brides surrounded by bridesmaids, mothers, and mothers-in-law at dress fittings, cake tastings, appointments with the florist, showers, and bachelorette parties. (The sort-of-but-actually-not-all-that-funny joke is that they are more involved than the groom.) For me, the traditional wedding exists mainly as a montage (one that typically includes really over-the-top hair). In reality, wedding planning unfolds across a longer time period, and, for many of us, across a much longer distance.
Eric and I live in Houston. My family is in Michigan and his family is in Kansas. We’re getting married in Austin. I have two bridesmaids in Chicago, one in DC, and a bridesman in LA. None of them know each other. While I wish we lived closer to all the people we care about, I know there’s no way to really make that happen and I’ve accepted it. And since I don’t buy wedding planning as THE HAPPIEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE™ I didn’t think being alone while wedding planning would be different than being alone any other time. But…it is different.
The Wedding Dress Selfie
When I started thinking about wedding dresses, I wasn’t sure if my grandma would make my dress, or if I’d buy something. At the very least, I wanted to get some ideas of what I liked and what looked good on me sooner rather than later, but I didn’t have anyone to go with me. My friend (and bridesmaid) Julia was going through the same thing on the East Coast. We shared our feelings of, “Um, should I be embarrassed about this?” over IM one day, and together made the decision that we should each just go alone.
My whole experience shopping for a dress was very business-like, particularly after I stopped fucking around in ball gowns and went to try on the one dress I was seriously considering buying. There were no tears or champagne or even much excitement; my whole reaction was just…”Yep.” As in, “Yep, that’s the dress I wanted to try on,” and, “Yep, I like it as much as I thought I would. Yep—it’s for me. Yep, that’s all I needed, I’ll be in touch when I’m ready to order.” I took a coworker I’m close to (his wife is a costume designer so he knows and appreciates fashion) and we had lunch afterward. It was a perfectly nice, “Yep, we just ran an errand and now I’m hungry for lunch,” but not the, “Eeee we just went and looked at wedding dresses!” kind of lunch I would have had if any of my bridal party or family members could have been there. I don’t mind shopping alone, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was the one time when you aren’t supposed to go shopping alone. Continue reading Rachel: Going the Distance