Growing up, I daydreamed about my future wedding (when I was old enough to have one). Pretty common for most little girls. Unlike the stereotype, the biggest thing in my mind wasn’t the party, or the flowers, or the dress; I always wanted to know what the face of my groom looked like. The doors would open, everyone would stand, and there he would be across the aisle. How would he look? Who would he be? The most exciting thing about getting married was figuring out who I’d be married to.
It is astounding how wise I was when I was six, and how lost in the details I became once I began planning a wedding.
Once my boyfriend and I finally got together after years of skirting the issue, we knew we were going to marry each other. This was it, this was the person we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with. Years later when we bought the ring together, the stress of the perfect wedding began, and I immediately grew concerned about the details: the party, the flowers, and the dress.
Of course, I’d need a gorgeous, earth-shattering dress. A dress that would turn heads. A dress that would make me look radiant, feel beautiful, and bring the congregation to tears when they saw me enter. And all for the price of $800 or less (leaving $200 for alterations within the $1000 dress budget). Of course, I’m a budget-savvy bride. I know all about David’s Bridal and sample sales. Most of David’s dresses, unfortunately, made me break out in hives due to my dermatographia, and the ones that didn’t were too simple for both my mother and myself, so I stalked the Internet looking for designer gowns to be bought on the cheap because they were “out of style.”
I found a bridal boutique nearby that regularly sold sample dresses, called ahead asking if I could schedule an appointment to only try on the sample dresses (I could), and did just that. It was the third store my mom and I would go to that weekend, and I was on a bridal high. However, upon our arrival our consultant belittled me for my meager budget, was very short with us, and only after I insisted that they did, in fact, have dresses that ranged between $500 and $800, demand that I tell her which dresses they were. I frantically looked up their website on my phone to show her the sample sales that were clearly advertised and she pulled out exactly one dress. She helped me into a $2000 gown marked down to less than $500. It didn’t look like much to me, but I felt so defeated in that store and the consultant pushed me to finish the sale. The final straw was when my mother gave me a stern look implying, “You will never find anything as nice for less.” With the swipe of her credit card, the dress was gently placed in the back of my car and we went to my parents’ house to drop it off.
It wasn’t long before I began to truly hate it. It made me feel fat and frumpy. It was purchased out of fear, at a time of insecurity and weakness. Above all, it certainly did not make me feel beautiful. I cried about the whole debacle, desperate for a solution, some way to comfort myself that this dress was okay. Months later I snuck my fiancx into my old bedroom and presented the dress hanging in the closet to see if it would help me feel better. (He said it looked pretty, and that I would be beautiful—what a keeper.) I considered buying a new dress (knowing my mother would kill me for wasting her money). I went alone to another bridal store to look at different sample gowns. My maid of honor generously offered to help me pay for a new dress because she could see my devastation. The DJ was perfect, the photographer was brilliant, the flowers would be lovely, and I would feel terrible in an awful, evil dress.
I never did switch dresses. I was too scared of my mother’s wrath if I bought a new gown. Instead, I slowly desensitized myself to the issue. I watched dozens of bridal gown shows, where hundreds of gowns blended together until I just didn’t care anymore. I bought a reception dress that I did like and made it my own with a blue petticoat and flashy brooch. I began to look forward to other aspects of the wedding: the mad crazy dancing, the great food, and spending the rest of my life with someone who would always tell me I was beautiful no matter what dress I wore.
And the wild thing? The day of the wedding I just did not care. No matter what Randy Fenoli may say, the dress was unimportant, and it certainly did not make me a bride. That morning I couldn’t help but notice the faces of all my bridesmaids as they helped me into that stupid dress, and I felt wonderful. I arrived at the church ecstatic about the wedding finally being here, seeing friends and family who were excited to see us get married regardless of what dress I wore. And, more importantly, I married someone amazing. We were surrounded by family, friends, joy, and love. There was laughter, delicious food, and so much dancing. And in the end, the best part of the day was the moment I turned the corner and saw my husband at the end of the aisle. Nothing else mattered.
THIS POST ORIGINALLY RAN ON APW IN April 2015.