Lauren Wedding Planning: Oh My! Dress… Part 2

I don’t know about you guys, but I am really excited about assistant editor Lauren’s final post on picking her dress. Lauren’s dress search echos my dress search (which was so epic that it has its own section on the site). For both of us, figuring out the wedding dress was a story of figuring out ourselves, and who we wanted to be when we got married. It was loaded, and complicated. And for me, it was  worth it. In July we’ll find out if it was worth it to Lauren, but I’m betting yes. And now, without further ado, the long waited (at least by me) next post on Lauren’s wedding planning.

So last time I left you, I was a sweaty mess in a bridal boutique in Chicago, aware of what I didn’t want and with a vague idea of what I did. Before we go any further, I need to come out and say this, just so we’re clear: Dress shopping is hard. It is not at all what I thought it would be, and even now, after spending a chunk of change and time at two fittings, it’s still hard.

Two months after the bridal boutique that made me take my shoes off and wash my hands before they allowed me even to think about dresses, my lovely friend, Maris, visited  me in San Francisco. It was time to have another go at this thing. I had an appointment at a bridal shop in Burlingame (45 minutes outside of the city) that had carried a few styles I had liked and seen on the The Kn*t’s giant searchable-dresses website. (A very handy tool for a girl who has no effing clue what she’s looking for, I’ll give them that much.) When we arrived we were the only people in the store except for a lovely older Russian woman who could have been a fabulous aunt-friend-of-the-family type. She was fantastic. Her name is Georgette. And I had no issues, whatsoever, whipping off all my clothes in front of her because all she really did was praise my ta-tas and tell me every dress I had on was made for me. We all need these people in our lives. The ones who go, “Oh my god, whatever. When I was your age I was begging for an a*s like that. Put this on, you’re going to look amazing.”

So, I picked a dress. I bought the dress. I called my mom and told her I had bought a dress. I felt good about the experience. I felt relieved that the entire thing was over, Maris high-fived me and then we made our way over to the donut shop and I had the biggest apple fritter of my life. Done and done, right? Except not.

I went home and Maris flew back to Chicago and she emailed me all of the photos she had taken with her cell phone camera. And I looked at them and I looked at them and I wondered why on earth anyone had ever let me buy that dress. Why? I was very unsure if I even liked my non refundable dress anymore. It’s not that I thought the dress was ugly, it’s that I saw the dress, then I saw me in the dress, and I didn’t think that those two things went together. And I was very unsure if I found the dress flattering at all.

But, I pushed it aside. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s not THE dress you’re going to take home, it’s not fitted to you, it’s not even pressed! Who’s to say what that dress will look like in 6 months. Besides, I’m sure it’s just the photos.” So I put it out of my mind, I carried on with my life, and every once in a while I would look at the pictures and bite my lip. Did I like it? Did it matter? It was my wedding dress. That’s my wedding dress. Accept this fact and move on, Lauren. I would tell myself it was just the pictures, this became a little mantra. It’s just the pictures, it’s just the angle, it’s just the wrinkles in the dress, it’s just and it’s just and it’s just some more.

And then the first fitting came and I was stoked. My parents had flown in for this and I thought for sure the dress would look awesome, that it really was the photos, and that the dress I ordered would fit. Hoorah! But when I put it on and stood in front of the mirror on that stupid pedestal that they make you stand on, I just kept looking at myself thinking, “It looks good? It looks good. It looks ok. No, it looks good. Does it? Yes, it looks good.” But did it? I sure was trying to convince myself that it did. I told everyone that I liked it, and I kept every single doubt to myself. My parents visited and then they went home and they sent me the photos in my email just like Maris had. And I looked at them, and looked at them, and was honestly shocked that I still did not like my dress. I didn’t feel any panic, I didn’t feel that not loving my dress was the end of the world. I felt like it was a secret, for sure, because I didn’t want other people freaking out that I didn’t like my dress. I mostly felt regret that I had jumped on the dress so quickly, and then resignation that no matter what I wore I was getting married and it may not be the best dress I’ve ever purchased, but I was still going to have a lovely day. And I tried, for weeks, I really tried, to convince myself that all of that was enough.

But my anxiety and my regret continued to build. I asked Maris what she really thought, I sent the photos to people I trusted would be honest with me and they all told me it was lovely. And all that did was make me feel like a crazy person! I thought for sure that I would have looked and felt way more comfortable in a different dress, one with a poofier bottom, one with no embellishments, one with pockets. Yes, I thought for sure, that’s the dress I should have bought, but instead I bought this other one. Why why why.

So, one evening I was sitting in bed lamenting my dress and asking Kamel again and again, “What if you don’t like it? I’m worried you won’t like it, I don’t think it’s flattering. Can I show you the dress I SHOULD have bought? Can I?” Of course he kept telling me I would look great, but then he finally did relent and allowed me to show him a dress I had never tried on, and yet was convinced was THE dress. And his reaction? “No. Not at all. That’s not you at all! That’s not fun. Your dress needs to be fun, with sparkles, and … no. If your dress doesn’t look like that, I’m glad.” And that’s when I realized, I needed to show him my wedding dress. This was a big deal. Kamel was adamant that he did not want to see it, this was a tradition he was incredibly excited for. He wanted it to be a surprise, I wanted it to be a surprise, and suddenly I was 100% sure I needed it not to be.

When he saw the first photo he gasped and started saying again and again, “That’s your dress, that’s your dress, oh Lauren, we’re getting married, we’re getting married. You’re going to be my wife. I’m going to be a husband!” And I am not even kidding you – tears sprang from my eyes and I stood up and hugged him and cried into his neck like I see all of those girls do on TV when they realize the dress they are wearing is “the one”. But I was crying because I heard in Kamel’s voice, in his excitement, how moved he was to see me in the dress I was going to marry him in, and that made everything ok. Suddenly, we were in this together. This wasn’t about my best friend’s opinions (As much as I value them), it wasn’t about the angle of the photos, it was about Kamel and me. And that’s what it’s going to be about on July 16th. It’s going to be us two, standing up there in front of friends and family, wearing goofy stuff we’ll most likely never wear again, telling the world how much we love each other.

Does my dress matter to me? Yes. It matters to me that I’m comfortable and that I feel like I look good, and it matters to me that Kamel sees me when I’m wearing it, sees his (future) wife standing there telling him why I choose him forever and ever. That matters to me. And when I went back for my second fitting and it still wasn’t what I wanted, I tweaked it where it needed to be tweaked, I made the changes I needed to make to look and feel the way I need to feel. For me, finding my dress was an exact parallel to accepting and readying myself for marriage and to add another layer to how I identify myself. It takes work and reflection and growth to choose to be with someone forever, and it took me a lot of work and reflection and growth to be able to stand in my wedding dress in front of a mirror and say, “Yes. I am here, I am comfortable.”

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  • Rose in SA

    Love this post!

  • I love this. And totally teared up. Thank you for sharing it!

  • Clare

    So glad you’ve found your dress Lauren and thanks for your lovely, insightful post.
    I’m no-where near getting engaged but always struggled with the idea of my partner not seeing the dress. We go shopping together. We’ve been together so long, the clothes he’s mentioned he doesn’t like I’ve grown out of! Of course he has to see it! Just like he would get a say in anything else wedding/life related, he totally would have to see the dress. But then there’s that tradition…

    Maybe we can say photos don’t count? I certainly doubt seeing a pic months before hand would take away from the first look moment, especially if it gives him something reassuring and special to look forward to

  • Carbon Girl

    Great post, Lauren! I too had major doubts about my dress. I secretly went to other shops and tried other dresses on. I had one I wanted to order and I had the money for it, but then my cat became sick and needed surgery and the money was gone. Without money, I resigned myself to the dress and went back and tried it on and realized it did feel great on even if it was not as modern as the ones that I had liked later. In the end, I loved my dress.

    I wonder, so many brides-to-be have dress regret and end up buying two or more dresses–perhaps its not the dress that they are really freaking out about. As we have discussed here, a wedding is big but a marriage is huge, and the WIC and society expects brides to freak out about the wedding but not the marriage. People want you questioning the floral arrangements but when you start questioning your partnership, your role and identity in your partnership, that is somehow seen as negative and un-bride-like. Brides-to-be are especially expected to agonize about the dress, so the dress becomes a safe outlet for the nervousness about the enormity of getting married. Think of how even the language people use with the dress mirrors that of finding a partner, you must find “the one.” Then with the fact that clothing can be an outward expression of your inner identity, which is likely changing a little by getting married, its no wonder finding a dress is so loaded.

    In conclusion, like Lauren indicated, the wedding dress can be about a lot more than the dress itself.

    • This is so right. The dress becomes a safe outlet for the nervousness of the enormity of getting married… yes!

  • Oh my WORD… I seriously don’t know how you guys do it.

    This issue has been on my mind all weekend. I spent an hour on sunday googling my dress that I bought a few months ago, trying to convince myself that it was the one. Trying to convince myself that if I didn’t like it online, well, that’s ok, because it will look different on me. Admitting to my flatmate that I wasn’t sure of my choice. Sneakingly looking at ‘dresses I never tried on but maybe should have?’ .Going over in my mind what would happen if I decided it was wrong, and what my mum would say… And I really wanted to find out if this was a normal wedding planning reaction or not…

    And then, Monday lunchtime, here comes this. All through your post I was waiting to see if you decided to scrap it and get another dress. And I LOVED, loved, loved, Kamel’s reaction. If you ever needed proof that man was right for you…

    I think all the pressure comes from having suddenly realised this weekend that all those people we have invited to our wedding will be looking at me. In a dress. And not even standing still, I have to walk down stairs (yes, not an ailse, stairs!) And it’s not the fact that I really expected people to go “ooh, bad dress choice Anna” or that I might fall over (cause that would be a bit hilarious…with hindsight) but that moment holds so much gravity, I can’t really keep it all together. That moment, that dress, those stairs, are saying so much about who I am and who I want to be. And that is a tonne of pressure to put on a dress!

  • What a wonderful post, Lauren! And, may I just add, I think I went to that exact same bridal shop in Burlingame, had an amazing experience with the sales lady, and bought the first dress I tried on (after trying on a few others). :)

  • Rebecca

    I too, am scared out of my mind about my dress. Should I have gone more formal, more traditional? Will I look okay? Will the dressmaker F it up at the last minute? Should I just go with a ‘regular’ dress.
    I don’t know if you’ve eased my restlessness, but you’ve eased my worry about being restless. It’s normal! I can do this!


  • Oh, me oh my. I am in the middle of a dilemma VERY similar to yours Lauren, but I haven’t yet reached an outcome. I have two dresses that I am trying to decide between, two very different statements I could make, and I just don’t know which one is me or if I even like either of them enough to choose one. It is causing me so much grief and I just want it to be over.

    I think you are so lucky to feel “at peace” with your dress after going through so many emotions, and I think it is so so great that Kamel was the person to give you that peace of mind.

  • Vmed

    (I’m making my dress this week, cause this is the one thing that has made me truly insane in the wedding planning.)

    I’m really glad you found a way to be sure about your dress, Lauren. And I totally get the “needs sparkles” sentiment. I kept rejecting elegant unembellished dresses because they didn’t really say how I felt about J. You know. Since dresses talk and stuff.

    • Amy

      “You know. Since dresses talk and stuff”

      This cracks me up!

  • MichelleP

    I adored this post! Lately, I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety about the dress I ordered back in October (which has yet to arrive). Like Lauren, I stare at poorly lit photos at odd angles trying to understand what went through my head when I made the final decision.

    I have tried to analyze why I feel so much anxiety about a dress when there are so many other issues in the world that merit much more of my attention. A bride experiences so much pressure to be the most beautiful woman she will ever be on her wedding day. With this expectation, it does not suffice for a dress to be beautiful; we feel it must be above-and-beyond-oh-my-god-my-eyes-are-popping-out-of-my-head gorgeous, a level which very few articles of clothing will ever attain. To comfort myself, I have tried to reinforce that my experience with the dress should not be about an unfair standard that the wedding industry has set for me; it should be one part of an incredible day in which my beauty matters to one person and one person alone, my husband-to-be.

    • Jessica

      “A bride experiences so much pressure to be the most beautiful woman she will ever be on her wedding day.”

      This is so dead on. I don’t necessarily feel pressure to be more beautiful than everyone else, but I TOTALLY feel like, if I don’t completely maximize my own potential, that’s a failing. And that’s scary!!! It makes it hard to choose the dress, choose the makeup artist, figure out hair, shoes, jewelry, etc. All these choices just feel so loaded.

  • I too had a period of freakout about my dress choice.

    On OBB Ariel writes about when to stop with the wedding porn. My failure to take this advice was what caused my freakout, nothing more.

    On the day it looked great, I looked like a very polished version of myself (usually pretty scruffy) and I am now extremely happy with my decision.

    HOWEVER, there’s always gonna be part of me that goes “… ooooh big white froofy dress… missed my chance now… ” but I’ve come to accept that. I suspect that had I gone with the big white froofy dress a bigger part of would always be going “… why wasn’t I braver with my dress choice? Why didn’t I wear the amazing black wedding dress that made me look like a 1950s movie star?…”

    I would also say DEFINITELY share this stuff with your partner. Definitely.

    • Amy

      just posted a comment below yours, then read yours, and it calmed me down. this is exactly what i think i’ll be telling myself very shortly about my own adventurous choice. thank you!

    • Charm City Vixen

      Did you buy an amazing black wedding dress that made you look like a 1950s movie star? On the hunt for a black wedding dress now and looking for recommendations :)

  • Amy

    ugh, totally to all of this. with less than 2 weeks to go, i wish i could say this dress anxiety has passed for me, but alas, i think that will only happen on the day of, if at all. every time i try it on for my partner and express any doubts, he reassures me – you look amazing! you’re just being crazy for thinking it’s not right. (like you, i NEEDED his input and for it not to be a surprise). and i agree that it looks amazing on, but ‘is it the image i want to convey’ seems to be the recurring theme here. unfortunately, the dress still holds a lot of clout and meaning even for us offbeat brides! still waiting for my zen moment in these last few days!

  • Erin

    Awwwwww. What Kamel said? That’s the sweetest. That’s the best :)

  • Amanda

    Oh Lauren, thanks for this post. I had a similar experience, and even if I am already married, sometimes I look at the pictures and still get “doubts” because somehow in the pictures the dress does not look as good as it felt wearing it, if that makes any sense. Or at least not from every angle.
    Actually the first dress I ever tried was actually the dress I would have loved to wear, it was just perfect, short sleeves, with an empire line, the right amount of lace, and no big puffiness. But turns out that in the meantime I moved countries and by the time I was going to actually choose and get the dress… this model was impossible to be found or ordered (unless of course I decided to travel for it… which… did not make much sense). In the end I found a similar dress to this one, which made me feel like “me” and not in disguise, as much of all the other dresses, but all along I kept comparing to this first dress I had tried. And reading you I could relate so much with your feelings, with looking at pictures and saying oh it is the pictures, it will look nice, and the fact that during the fittings the dress is huge does not help.
    But it didn’t matter, hubby said I looked beautiful, when he saw me, and people did as well.

  • Amandover

    Lauren, that’s the best explanation I’ve read of what is so important about the dress. It has to be special, but it has to feel like you – like you in the best, fanciest outfit you’ll ever own. I showed my future husband because he does know what you look like when you feel beautiful, and he’ll tell you if something isn’t “you.” Congratulations on finding a way to make your dress yours, and finding a magic moment with your future husband, too.

    I chose to wear a dress that’s been in my family for 4 generations. I had the bodice re-made to fit me. And it will be beautiful. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be the most flattering dress I’ve worn. (And it wasn’t as thrifty as I’d hoped.) But it will carry history, and the love of the 4 women who helped get it re-made for me.
    Likewise, the dress I bought for my reception will be flowy and feminine. It *was* thrifty, and it won’t be the most flattering dress I own, either. But it will let me dance without worrying about anything falling down or getting ripped, or tripping. And anyway, I’ll be married. In 5 days.

    • Zan

      That is f-ing awesome! I tried on my Mom’s dress but it was stained and torn and just not going to work but I would have loved to have worn it. I love that you’re wearing a 4 generations dress, holy wow! Also – 5 days!!! Hooray!!!

      • Sarah

        Same here, Zan! I would have LOVED to wear my mother’s dress … it even fit! But, it was stained, and there was nothing we could do about it without re-making the dress.

        And Amandover … YAY! 5 DAYS!! Congrats ahead of time!!!

    • Amy

      Please write a wedding graduate post with pictures! I’m dying to hear more about the four generation dress.

  • Manya

    I have been following your dress search, and enjoying it (in that way we enjoy things that make us realize we are not alone). I’m so glad that you love it after all. Your feelings about your dress ring very familiar.

    I had a pretty ridiculous dress search myself. It started during our pre-engagement well over a year ago (when I was pretty much obsessed with wedding porn, and holding back extreme excitement, but trying to pretend like I didn’t care). I live in Kenya, and wedding dresses are not easy to come by in Kenya. Well, you can find them, or have them made by good tailors, but the incredible luxury of choice of style just doesn’t exist here, so when I was in the states for Christmas I felt like I needed to seize the moment to try some on.

    I was SO SURE my love was going to ask me over Christmas 2009, that I sneaked into Dav*d’s Bridal all alone and tried on a bunch of dresses. The experience there was good actually (except for the fact that I was somewhat ashamed to be NOT ENGAGED and was mumbling lies about “my fiance” and “our plans” to the sales woman who was truly trying to help).

    The nice thing about DB, is that they have every dress in every size… so you can get an idea of the shapes that look good on you, whether you end up with a DB dress in the end or not. I fell completely in love with a short, simple little Grace Kelly looking thing that truly looks incredible on me. I thought about buying it that day, but didn’t. It was too crazy to buy a wedding dress before I even had a fiance, right?

    So fast forward 8 months… I’m back in the states AGAIN starting a distance MBA program. STILL NOT ENGAGED. But this time, I talked my sister and mom into coming with me to a super swank place to try on dresses… again: I live in Kenya. Engagement is IMMINENT. I want this iconic experience.

    It was mortifying. All of us felt like goofy posers and it was hot as hades in there. I was sweating like a pig, and was clipped into the tiny dresses with jumper cables and a cloth diaper. The woman kindly suggests that If I am serious about one, they will SPLIT IT UP THE BACK so that I can get an idea of how it would look on me. (WHAT?) I tottered out onto the podium feeling like a big fat fraud. I left the place with a knot in my throat and a stain on my conscience. Two days later, a letter arrived for my parents from my love, telling them of his plan to propose in Cairo, and asking for their blessing. Oops.

    When the proposal finally came, I called my mom and asked her to buy the DB short Grace Kelly dress for me, which she did. Done, right?! Wrong.

    We’re getting married on the beach. It’s windy. The dress might blow up, and while I love my “I do” Hanky Pankys, I don’t want my bum to feature in our ceremony. Plus I had been indulging in still more wedding porn, and had gotten obsessed with ANOTHER dress. I decided to do a long dress for the ceremony and dinner, and then do a costume change for dancing and cake cutting. I screwed up my courage and contacted a bridal shop near my parents’ house. I measured myself, sent them the measurements, and bought a non-returnable dress from thousands of miles away, WITHOUT TRYING IT ON.

    Just 3 weeks ago I came home for yet another visit to the states (it’s unusual for me to get back so often!)… the dress had arrived. I went and tried it on AND….

    Well… It’s a beautiful dress, and I look pretty in it, and my accessories are gorg. It’s too big, which makes alterations a cinch. It matches the vibe of our wedding, with vintage details, and a hint of old world romance. It looks way more expensive than it was. I wanted to be hopelessly in love with it. I am not. I’m wearing it. I’m hoping that when it is altered and actually fits, everything will fall into place. I’m wondering if I should change the back from buttons to a lace-up corset style and hoping that will make the waist runching a little less bulky. I’m wearing it. Done.

    And secretly, deep down inside, I feel a little sad and a touch foolish and a lot extravagant. If only it were “just a dress…”

    • Oh dear.

      It’s totally okay to be a little sad that “The Dress” wasn’t/isn’t everything you want it to be. But you know, as you said, you look pretty in this beautiful dress, and if you’re comfortable in it as well, it’ll get you through the day. I know that my saying this won’t make you love it any more, but know that there are many more days to wear many more fantastic dresses. And you’ll be married. WAM.

      • Manya

        Thank you for your kind and true words, Kimberly. You are very right. And who knows, once it’s altered to actually fit, I might fall crazy in love. Regardless, I’m CRAZY IN LOVE with my husband-to-be, and he seems to think I look great in yoga pants. In any case, it was really nice to hear that other people have turmoil around “The Dress.”

        And besides, my Grace Kelly Act II dress is KILLER (and was crazy inexpensive).

  • I gotta say. Everything you ever write about Kamel makes me think that you’re marrying the sweetest guy ever in the whole entire world. This story totally make me tear up, and I know you’re gonna be beeeeuteeeful!

  • Leanne

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I was having a panic attack last week about this very thing – I felt the same way that you did through the first round of photos, the first fitting, the second fitting. I’m getting married in a month and don’t have time or money to worry about a new dress…and SO I needed to read this post and comments, just to know that what I’m going through is not insane or unusual. And that it works out in the end. Another slice of reality was dished out by my super practical mother: “What matters most is not the dress, or the food, or the music. What matters is that you’re marrying the right person.” And when I told her “I know Mom, I know I’m marrying the right person. And I know the dress shouldn’t really matter. But but but…the PICTURES!!!” she calmly responded “oh honey, those will be your favorite pictures for a little while, but my favorite pictures are not from my wedding. My favorite pictures are of you guys when you were babies, of all of us on family vacations, us growing up and growing older together. Not my wedding pictures.”

    Thank you APW and Mom for keepin it real and keepin me sane!

    • Clever Mum! This is advice I need to remember; it is not all about the pictures!

  • Totally teared up during the Kamel seeing the dress part!!! Ahhh! Love it! And I can’t wait for your grad post!

  • Kara

    Oh my goodness I needed this post more than you know! I am in the middle of my dress search right now and feel a tad like a failure for not finding anything I *love* after trying on probably over 100 dresses. I am definitely bookmarking this post… it’s one of those that I will be returning to when I need a reality check about how the dress doesn’t have to be the most epic piece of clothing to ever grace the earth…. Thanks for this post!

  • Zan

    Lauren! This is why we will be friends in real life one day soon. This post made me feel all soul-sistery.

    I’m not going to write about my dress search because I just blogged about it on Friday and I’m not going to reproduce that novel here, but let me just say that it is so nice not to feel so alone with all the attire-based crazy (just one subset of the general wedding crazy that seems so hard to avoid).

    Also, since I’m marrying one I think I can recognize the type when I see it: That Kamel, he’s a keeper.

    Big love to you!!

  • Midwest Lantern

    Lauren, this is my favorite post by you! Nicely done.

  • Gillian

    I had a very similar experience where what it took in the end was for me to show my fiancé and get his reassurance. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • I would’ve loved this post a month ago, as I felt the.same.way about my dress and I love seeing all the comments of similar sentiments…because you’re right, admitting you feel like this CAN make you feel like a crazy person (and also, I’m convinced NO pictures in the shop do it justice). But I stuck with the dress and everyone told me how it was exactly “me.” I have a small amount of anxiety that I didn’t get a lot of the “OMG you’re STUNNING” comments but I’m not a big girly-girl with curls and make-up and sparkles, so I guess that’s fine. In all the pictures, I am beaming with a crazed grin on my face, and that’s what matters to me.

  • Such a great post. I had doubts in the beginning at first when it came to my dress, but in the end loved it. I actually took my fiance with me to help me find the dress, and I’m glad I did – we narrowed down the choices, and then I made the final decision so it was still somewhat of a surprise. I think the biggest surprise was that the dress I chose was one we both originally raised our eyebrows at. I didn’t want a “cake” dress. Once I put it on, though, I think we both knew that was the one I was going to end up with. :p

  • While my story is not exacty the same, I can definitely relate to your feelings. There is so much pressure for this dress.

  • TJ

    After buying an off-the-rack (read: refundable) dress I ended up hating, my solution was to find a dress that I loved, but that I also knew I couldn’t find a single thing to hate about. So I looked for shape and structure instead of details; I can add those myself later. I actually have my first fitting in an hour. Let’s see if my plan worked :)

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  • Emily

    Great post. I never expected the dress to be one of the more challenging aspects of planning the wedding. I have very definite taste and the dress budget is small, so I figured I’d have relatively limited options. I’m also generally a very decisive person — my boyfriend calls me The Trigger because while he can mull over a decision for weeks, but I’m the one who will ultimately break it down and, taking both of our feelings into account, make a choice. Not that I’m in charge, but I’m better about realizing when it’s time to just commit.

    Well, when it comes to The Dress, I’ve got the yips. I know what it is, too. On the one hand, I want to look “bridal”. It’s my wedding day, after all. I don’t want to worry too much about the fact that I don’t wear pristine white (or ivory) dresses with trains and veils and beading in my everyday life — no one wears this stuff everyday, or even on anything resembling a regular basis. So I want to embrace the bride thing. On the other hand, whenever I put on a bridal gown, I look in the mirror and think, “Who the f*ck is that?!” It’s jarring. And it hasn’t gotten better. And it’s a little surprising, because I’m pretty feminine. I wear dresses a lot and like to dress up and do my hair and shit like that. But in a wedding dress, I look like someone else. It’s not that I think I look bad (some of these dresses are frankly amazing in how great they can make person look, actually), I just don’t know who I am. I know this is what Meg is talking about in the intro — finding a dress is, for many of us, about figuring out who we are on our wedding day, and by extension in our married life. I guess I haven’t reconciled who that person is yet.

    (Or maybe I’m still just secretly in love with the idea of eloping, because I’ve got a wee bit of stage fright regarding the ceremony and the reception and I’m more than a little worried about how everyone is going to get along and how much it’s all going to cost and sometimes I peruse elopement packages at Caribbean resorts, just in case…)

    • Emily, I can so relate. I usually dress pretty nicely, and I wear dresses and skirts most of the time, but trying on wedding dresses has been so strange. Even though my friends who went with me were totally sold on certain dresses, I felt out of place, and most of the time I just wanted to be out of the damn things. I also made the mistake of telling my sister I didn’t feel “fancy” enough for these dresses, which she thought to mean I had low self-esteem, when really I meant that they just weren’t me.
      I wanted to elope, too, but I also like the idea of doing the whole deal in front of our friends and family and having an awesome party. For now, I’m putting off buying a dress until August (our wedding is November, but I plan to buy from a non-bridal-salon), and using my free time for things other than scouring the internet for ideas.

      • Emily

        So agree about the “fancy” comment. I’ve gotten that regarding the dress (a friend recently lectured me that I need to “get over” feeling uncomfortable about being a princess-for-a-day-bride… but I really don’t want to be a princess for a day!) but also regarding several aspects of wedding planning. We are planning a pretty low-key wedding with a picnic vibe because we think it’s a setting that will put our guests at ease (our families and friends come from a variety of very different backgrounds, but every one of them enjoys a beer on the lawn with some good music and tasty food because that’s how we roll). But sometimes when I talk about our catering (bbq buffet) or our reception (no formal dancing, but there will be games like cornhole and croquet), people tell me that I should stop lowering my expectations. As though our decision to spend less on the wedding (primarily because we’re saving up to buy a house) or to have a more casual event means that I’m not demanding my “special day” from friends and family.

        Being a self-confident bride means standing up for the things that are important to you and your partner. It doesn’t mean signing up to become a very specific kind of generic-bride-person for the duration of the engagement. Ideally, on my wedding day, there won’t be a disconnect between feeling like myself and feeling like a bride, because I’ll be the bride! I shouldn’t have to try so hard to feel like one, since that’s actually who I’ll be.

        • ‘As though our decision to spend less on the wedding (primarily because we’re saving up to buy a house) or to have a more casual event means that I’m not demanding my “special day” from friends and family.’
          Ugh, me too! If I hear or read “you deserve…” one more time, I’m going to lose it. Of course people will say “you deserve to have the wedding you want” in one breath and then discourage me from wearing a tea-length dress in the next because our wedding is in November. Sometimes it feels like it would be easier to just slip into whatever is expected rather than fighting every WIC-induced stipulation at every turn. It’s worth it though, right?

          • Emily

            By boyfriend keeps reminding me to pick my battles, and I have to admit it’s helping. Whenever someone tries to ague with me (and it’s always me they talk to, even if he’s in the room) about our wedding choices, we have a rule that we only engage if that person has some real say over the wedding (like if it’s one of our parents). Otherwise, we nod and say, “Oh, of course. I’ll have to think about that.” And then later we bitch to each other about how everyone always thinks they know better. But it definitely helps smooth things over.

            And everywhere, all over the world, women wear dresses that are tea-length or shorter all through the winter. So go rock that dress in November!

          • I had to put my foot down with my mom and sister this weekend, and I’m glad I did. It wasn’t even anything big, just them insisting that there was no way I could wear a shrug or cardigan with one of the dresses I like online. Yeah, I stood up to my mom on mother’s day…sorry, mom. It was pretty mild, though: “You guys are being bossy. If I want to wear a cardigan with that dress, I’ll wear one. Even if you think it looks weird.”
            It was the most bossy I’ve been so far. I feel pretty good about it.

        • Jeannine

          whoa emily, you and I are in the same zone–low-key picnic that lots of people around me keep trying to fancy up. I decided to get a non-bridal dress that would help set the casual/fun tone of the event. I do love it and I know it’s perfect for what we’re having, but I have occasional pangs of regret that I’m not doing the princess white poof bride with the wedding to match, I assume (thanks subconscious!). But I’m banking on you being exactly right: no matter what, you’ll feel like the bride because you’ll actually be the bride.

          • sylvia

            As someone who wore a flowery, tea length dress from a normal shop for my wedding please let me reassure you. I felt like a bride. Done.
            Also, I totally empathise with everyone whose low-key intentions are misinterpreted as low self esteem, I honestly think that right up until the day my Mum was convinced I was being all self-denying and martyrish. Right up until we had our low-key wedding and she effing loved it!

    • While I was able to find a wedding dress I love and feel like myself in (aside from the obvious spectacle that a wedding dress can create), I feel similarly about all of the bridal accessories. When bridal salon employees tried over and over again to put a veil on me, I always just felt… like it was an out-of-body experience, I guess. So, my politically-motivated decision not to wear a veil became a personal-comfort decision to forgo it as well. You will find something that you love (or you won’t, and that’s okay, too!)

      (And I absolutely feel you on the wedding cost, etc., anxiety and wanting to elope!)

      • Emily

        Thanks for the encouragement Shae! I know you’re right. I think once we’re a little closer to the wedding date (it’s still more than a year off, which is definitely contributing to me not seeing myself as a bride), the old me will return and I’ll be all “Dress – done” like I am about most things.

        I feel you on the veil, too! At my second dress-shopping appointment, I made the mistake of expressing to the consultant that while I loved every dress I’d tried on (literally, every one — they were all stunning, I just didn’t feel right), I didn’t feel like a bride. She responded by “briding” me up — veil, tiara, that fake bouquet they always have on hand. She totally meant well, and I can see how doing this might help a lot of people more properly imagine the day. But it just made me feel less and less myself. The more accessories she gave me, the more I felt like an actress trying to get into character by playing with the props. Out-of-body experience indeed!

        (And hilariously, I’m still not 100% against a veil. I don’t want to wear a real veil over my face, but I might still wear one back over my hair or a little blusher if I go with a short dress… all the more evidence that my dress weirdness isn’t so much about the wedding clothes as it’s about my general confusion over what it means for me to be a bride.)

        • I had a full-blown panic attack when the consultant put the veil/blusher/pearls combo on me during my first shopping trip. I kid you not.

          • The same thing happened to me! The short veils/blushers were okay – I plan to wear something like that – but the cathedral veil (is that what it’s called?) and the bouquet of red roses shoved into my hands…ack.

  • Lauren, I love this post so much. I love the moment you had with Kamel because those are the moments you just won’t forget. Even AFTER you get married, you have those moments and they’re awesome and wonderful and comforting and exciting, “Holy crap, you’re my HUSBAND! We’re married! Ahhh!”… I also think it’s awesome you showed him the dress when you really needed to. Sometimes you have to just say screw the tradition and do what you need to do.

    I’m so happy you feel comfortable in your dress now; and from the sounds of it you are going to look absolutely beautiful that day. :)

  • AAHHH. KAMEL. that is the sweetest thing I’ve ever.heard. totally teared up! also I just have to say, from that little snapshot, that dress looks amazing (I know it’s not the point, of course everyone is going to tell you it’s lovely, but I just have to say it). I cannot wait to see more angles. it is true that bridal shop try-ons are a bit underwhelming sometimes. so glad you’ve been able to feel good about the dress again!

    • Just wanted to add that I teared up as well! So happy for you guys, L&K!

  • Eped09

    Lauren, thank you for both of your brutally honest dress-search posts. There seems to be this huge misconception that shopping for a gown is all smiles, champagne, and Vera Wang, and that is just not the case. I found my dress last week, and I love it, and it was not nearly the ordeal I had manufactured in my head, BUT, it’s like putting a huge microscope on the way you feel about yourself–emotionally, mentally, physically. It can be exhausting. Many, many congratulations to you and Kamel and thanks again!

  • KC

    My experience was like this, too. I’m a white, middle-American girl, my now-husband’s family is from India. I waffled a lot: Did I want an American-style white dress? Did I want an Indian-style dress, but in American-wedding white instead of Indian red? Did I want a sparkly, colorful, not demure at all Indian red dress?

    Then I decided that white is absolutely not a flattering color on me, and I’d prefer to wear the red sparkly Indian dress. I waffled some more. Would I regret not wearing a Big White Dress? Maybe I should change into one at the reception.

    We went to India to meet the part of the family that still lives there, and did some wedding shopping at the same time. I tried on dresses. It was HARD. Is this “classic” enough (in a fashion history context that I know next to NOTHING about)? Will it be too sparkly in the sun? Is there even such a thing as too sparkly? I found one I liked, but I couldn’t decide to buy it without asking nearly everyone in the family (including my fiance) what they thought of it. They approved. The dress was bought. It was altered to fit better and to add a way cool lace-up back, but I didn’t try it on after the alterations.

    Then I waffled for another 6 months before the wedding actually happened. Was this the right dress? Was it THE dress? Would my grandmother diss me for not wearing white? Would my mom cry because I didn’t wear what she Always Imagined? Would I look like a dumbass white girl playing dress-up in “Exotic South Asian Garb”?

    Long story short, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the dress until I put it on and my bridesmaids helped me wrestle the dupatta (veil-like thingy) onto my head. Everything fit together. My dress was awesome on its own and completely appropriate to go with the flowery colorfulness that was our Big Fat Indian Wedding. I absolutely don’t regret skipping the Big White Dress in favor of an exuberantly colored sparkly confection. My grandmother asked if she could borrow it to show to her bridge club. My mom said it was stunning and agreed that white is kind of sucky anyway. I remember feeling like a very fabulous queen. And the nice thing about Indian wedding dresses is that you can often re-wear them when you attend other Indian weddings. (You just wear less jewelry and don’t put anything on your head.) Bonus!

    • Yaaaaaaaay pictures!

      You look lovely and happy.

    • Class of 1980

      I’ve never seen anyone in an Indian sari that looked bad in it. It’s flattering to everyone and you are no exception. You look great!

      • Girl, you are rocking that lengha!

        Those aesthetic issues that you had in India? All us American desis have them too. I remember shopping in India being like, why are all these lenghas so glitzy and bedazzled? Can’t I find something simple?! And why is everything made of net?!

        India has just as many weird fashion trends as we do in the U.S. but when you aren’t living there, you don’t just come to accept and embrace the fashion trends you might have at first found bizarre. Also, I think Indians just have a higher tolerance for sparkle, which really, there ain’t nothing wrong with a little sparkle (especially on your wedding day). You just have to get used to it.

        • KC

          OMG I totally hate the net fad that is going on right now. I liked it for my wedding lehenga — the blouse was pretty long, so the net dupatta didn’t create a Flat Abs Requirement like it does with all the short-choli saris they have these days, and it was cool that you could see the brocade dots under the net over-skirt — but in general I hate it. Why use a yucky synthetic net when you live in the freaking land of silk? Just make a really light georgette or something. Seriously.

          I still can’t make peace with the all-over-bedazzled look. I like it a lot better when the bedazzlement has some negative space to give it shape, or to accentuate the shape of the garment. This makes my MIL think I don’t like very formal clothes, because degree of formality is apparently directly proportional to degree of bedazzlement.

          But I got used to it eventually. I spent (still spend) a lot of time doing a kind of web-searching fashion anthropology so I would begin to understand how to dress for family activities. This takes a lot of time, but is also a total blast. I also had to learn how to have a wedding — the first Indian wedding I’d ever been to was my own. I meant to submit a post on that learning process, but haven’t got around to asking my photographer for watermark-free images.

          You should see the outfit I have my eye on for Cousin Wedding Season this winter. It’s pretty bedazzley, but definitely fits with the “cool design and tailoring first, bedazzlement second” interpretation of the issue that I have developed.

          • Haha, I love that someone else understands the shopping issues I went through!! FINALLY!!

            I actually ended up going for a very “traditional” look … I think my grandmother and aunt might have been surprised. But the thing is, the traditional looking lenghas don’t feel stuffy and old to me because as I said I’m removed from current fashion trends. And I love those traditional patterns and work. Plus, the more traditional looking lenghas are generally not as glitzy and over-the-top looking as the current hot fashion trends. Luckily my mom has pretty simple taste herself, so she agreed with me whole heartedly on the lenghas that looked like a six year old with a princess fetish had attacked them with beads.

            There is still some “getting used to it.” Which is exactly why my fiance came to the store and was wholly involved in the process. He’d been to a few Indian weddings before, so he had slowly gotten acculturated to the look and style, but it was important to me to pick something that he was comfortable with. He (obviously) had never really imagined that he would marry someone who didn’t wear a white dress, but now that he’s seen me in my sari and my lengha, he couldn’t imagine my wearing anything else.

    • bumblebee611

      From a South Asian girl who’ll be wearing a strapless white sheath dress at a very Western style style wedding, you look BEAUTIFUL (and your husband looks terrific, too). Thanks for sharing the pics!

    • Aaah you look amazing! I spent a year in Bangladesh, I would love to have mhendi like that on my wedding!

    • Megan

      Uh, seriously, one word for choosing the red sparkly in the pictures:


  • I bought a dress for the wedding I was supposed to have in January, and 24 hours after prancing around in it when I bought the sample off the rack, I was bursting into tears on my living room couch because I hated my dress. I blame a lot of things, mostly the fact that it was the only chance I had to go dress shopping with my mom, and she really, really wanted me to buy a dress with her, so I was a little trigger happy. The dress is beautiful, but very formal, and now that we’re planning an August wedding in a garden, it absolutely didn’t work. So I’m trying to sell it, but so far haven’t been successful.

    I bought a dress for that August garden wedding, and have loved it since the moment I bought it! It feels like me. So, even though I still look at other wedding dresses and occasionally get a pang of dress envy, I know I have the right dress (and there have been no tears this time!) and I can’t wait to wear it — it’s a good thing we’re storing it at my fiance’s mom’s house 2 hours away, or I’d be wearing it all the time!

    It was never an option to keep the dress from my guy. We do most of our shopping together, and I am no good with secrets. I tried it on for him as soon as we picked it up from the store, and haven’t regretted it. He hasn’t seen it fitted to my body or with me all done up (or, you know, on our wedding day), so I suspect there will still be some magic there ;)

    Also, I think wedding dresses are such a difficult thing because a lot of the pressure to perform gets wrapped up in the dress, and because societal expectations in general tend to get played out on women’s bodies. Without the ceremony, a lot of what makes a wedding look like a wedding is a woman (or two) wandering around in a big white dress.

  • lauren…first. the dress is beautiful.
    second. i get like this too…i’m wildly independent…but for some reason lately, with clothes and wedding stuff…i feel insecure about something until i know it has isaiah’s stamp of approval. it’s ridiculous and makes me feel insane and all of that…but nothing makes me feel better than isaiah’s (sometimes too honest) opinion that something is PERFECT.

    i think/hope this is a normal transition…either way, i think it’s AWESOME kamel put the stamp of approval on your dress and you feel better about it and all of that, because it’s awesome.

  • cartascartas

    Yeah, shopping for a dress is hard. Figuring out who you want to be on your wedding day is hard. Reconciling the idea that you had of yourself with the idea your mom and/or your fiance had? um, also hard. I found dress shopping to be one of the most overwhelming AND underwhelming wedding planning experiences. Kamel is a sweetheart and it touches my heart that he was able to recognize his future wife in her perfect dress even when you couldn’t see it at the moment. I hope 19 days from now my future husband sees the same thing :)

  • Aw, Lauren your post made me cry. My fiance came shopping with me for wedding outfits and I think it made the whole process that much easier. Congrats on the dress! It looks beautiful.

  • It’s not about the dress, it’s about the LOVE! Yeah!

  • I made my then-boyfriend/fiance-now-husband look at a photo of me in my dress before our wedding. I was watching Say Yes to the Dress (should have known better) and a girl tried on a similar style to mine which my husband proceeded to trash. I was petrified that he’d hate it. Knowing he loved it and loved me in it let me love it. And it didn’t ruin the “surprise” of it all. I looked a hell of a lot better on my wedding day than I did in Filene’s Basement (at the Running of the Brides) wearing the “oh shit, I never thought I’d buy a dress like this but it looks so good and I’m terrified cos I think I might actually buy it” face and a messy ponytail.

    • Sarah

      Oh man … isn’t that the hardest? My now-husband did the same thing while I was flipping through a magazine. He pointed out a very similar dress to mine and said “Why would ANYONE pick a dress like that?”

      I about died. He’d been FIRM on the not-seeing-my-dress thing. So, here I was second guessing myself.

      Turns out, he loved it. All that anxiety for nothing!

    • Emily

      I think a lot of men just don’t understand the way women’s clothing works. When I go shopping with my boyfriend, he hates everything. Men’s clothes are so basic in comparison, that anything at all unfamiliar and he just doesn’t get it. But sometimes I buy one of those things he claims he hated… and he likes it. On me. In context.

      Wedding dresses seem to compound this by a billion. Just like I have these half-formed notions about what a bride is supposed to look like, and what I’m supposed to look like, and what I’m supposed to look like as a bride, so does he. But where I might approach it very practically (you know, if I add straps to this, it will look more like something I would wear while still being kind of crazy amazing I can’t believe I’m wearing this), he just doesn’t get it. And when it comes to bridal magazines and Say Yes to the Dress, my boyfriend is very easily affected by his perception of the woman wearing the dress. So many dress ads feature models looking scowly or sad. I’ve shown the BF pictures of the same dress from the ad (sad model lounging on ground staring into space) and from a real life wedding on a blog (super happy bride laughing/dancing/being in love) and he DID NOT believe it was the same dress. Like I had to break it down for him. He just isn’t as used to seeing past the bullshit advertising of the fashion industry, I guess.

      In any case, that’s why I watch Say Yes to the Dress only when he’s out of the house (I can’t help it, I like seeing all the pretty pretty dresses and I totally relate to half the brides on the show, with the opinionated families or confused about what they want). :)

  • Amy

    I had a similar situation. I went to the Filene’s Running of the Brides in NYC with my mom (who had rearranged some things to be there because it was such a big deal to her) and a bridesmaid who had bought her dress at Filene’s with my help three years earlier. We all traveled to be there. I had my heart set on a mermaid style dress, having worn one for an inauguration ball the year before, and knew it suited my body. But there were none of these to be found in my size or larger than my size at Filene’s that day. I ended up buying a slinky silk ivory gown that was lovely. But then I got home. I tried it on with shoes, I tried it on with a bra, I looked at the pictures… And I had doubts. It was tight around my ribs–I started working out harder. Can you even lose weight in your ribs?

    I finally started looking at dresses again on, in the privacy of my own living room, without telling anyone, and found a beautiful Amsale mermaid style simple dress in my size for one tenth of its retail cost. I bought it. It fit perfectly and only had to be hemmed. I fessed up to my mom and my friend and everyone who had heard about dress #1. And I felt SO MUCH better. I asked my (then) fiance to look at both dresses, and he was thrilled that I decided to wear the second dress. It was just the right one.

    All of that being said I never had a tearful “OMG this is THE ONE” dress. My dress buying experience was not glamorous. It involved trying dresses on over a leotard in front of 100 other women, and pulling a dress out of a box from the mail. But I did have tearful “HE is the one” moments with my husband at our wedding. AND I felt beautiful.

  • Shannon

    Oh Lauren, this is a wonderful story! I love that you involved Kamel in your dress dilemma, and that it was his eyes finally able to help you see yourself more clearly. Such a great relationship epiphany moment!

    When I first got engaged, the first thing I thought about was the dress. I’ve looked at a lot of wedding dresses and formal wear, and although I always think a lot of the dresses are really pretty, I can just never imagine myself wearing any of them, mostly because they all look uncomfortable to me. I’m all about comfort when it comes to clothing, and I knew right away that I wanted my dress to be soft and stretchy. Since I don’t think such a wedding dress exists (and I wanted it to have certain elements of the Wedding Dress), I immediately decided I would make it myself out of super soft and stretchy (yet drapey like silk) bamboo jersey. With a big drapey hood instead of a veil. Part of the reason I chose to design and make my own dress is so that my slow process of making it can reflect the slow process of getting myself ready for marriage.

    Congratulations on your dress and your wonderful husband-to-be!!

    • Vmed

      “Part of the reason I chose to design and make my own dress is so that my slow process of making it can reflect the slow process of getting myself ready for marriage.”


  • SpaceElephant

    The timing on this is great. For me, this feeling (which I am in the thick of) actually dovetails nicely with the whole “losing weight-being healthy-looking your best at your wedding” issue. Because? When I bought my dress it was very flattering on my body and, um, “hid” all the right things. Since then I’ve been working out a bit and eating better and just generally being healthier, and I’ve been thinking to myself “My body now would actually look GOOD in all those dresses I dismissed when I was buying my dress!” So a little bit of regret there, though my dress is still flattering. It just doesn’t highlight my newly toned body the way it could. So I’m looking for a sexytimes rehearsal dress.

  • Wonderful post! I’m so happy to finally read a “I had doubts about my dress” post that doesn’t end with “and then I got a new one and everything was fine” because, well, ok, that’s a happy ending too, but when you’re one week out from your first dress fitting and terrified the thing will not fit or you’ll suddenly hate it and the prospect of dress shopping again makes you break out in hives, it’s so nice to know that sometimes doubts are just doubts.

  • This was totally my experience too – I had doubts about my dress up until the moment I stepped into it on my wedding day. And then… then I loved it, because it was the dress that I got married in and it was a dress that my husband loved. Would I buy the same dress today? Probably not. Were there things about my dress-shopping experience that I’d like to change? Yes. But at the end of the day… I love that dress because I associate it with all the wonderful memories from the wedding.

    (Also, dress shop/pre-alterations pictures are almost always universally terrible because of bad lighting and the nothing-fits-properly factor. I felt downright ugly at all my dress fittings, and then, the day of – BAM. Hair/makeup/jewelry helped, but I hold to my grad post statement that it’s ultimately joy that begets beauty, not the other way around!)

    • So good to know! It’s so hard to feel pretty when you are standing awkwardly in the middle of a shop trying not to flash anyone….

  • Karen

    Thank you for this, Lauren, and thank you to everyone who’s commented! I bought my dress because it’s the one that made me swoosh around the bridal salon with my hands on my hips, but I had a total identity crisis about it because it wasn’t at all what I had envisioned. (I tried on a version of the one I’d envisioned, and it didn’t work on me. Nice dress, and nice me, but they don’t go together.)

    It took me a month to get up the courage to go back to the bridal salon and say yes to the dress (ahem)…and that’s when my sister took the pictures that I should probably delete because they make me totally stress and wonder why on earth I chose this dress after all that. I hate them. I hate the dress.

    The good news is that I went to the try-on appointment (fittings aren’t till August), and I didn’t hate it. I just hope I get from “didn’t hate it” to “really like it” once it actually fits me.

    Oh, and I went from assuming Brian would see the dress ahead of time to deciding he shouldn’t! But that may change between now and September.

  • carrie

    A wonderful post in so many ways, and I am SO relieved to know that other (sane) women have major dress anxiety. I’m still having dress anxiety after the seamstress told me (and charged me) she could fix everything. Now it’s more I wonder if I did the right thing by getting that dress. It’s as simple as simple can be, but it’s still a *gown* which I didn’t envision getting. I NEVER wear white. Or off-white. I am a DD and it’s frigging strapless. I obsess stupidly over how slim I look in profile. For those reasons, I have no idea why I got this dress. But when I tried it on back in October, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and thought this must be a sign. All the dresses before that, I wasn’t ever looking at my face, only my body in the dress and criticizing. Like it was some other person in the mirror. I don’t think I’ve quite reconciled the two yet, but I will. It’s been really hard not to show David b/c he’s my best friend and he sees everything (no pun intended, waka waka waka). So this story about Kamel (he’s a keeper! ;-)) is just the best. I hate the pressure most of us feel, but at least we’re all in it together.

    Congrats, on all of it, and for the record, I think you are lovely in the dress.

  • Wow, it’s so nice to know other Brides-to-be are in the same boat! Because people certainly make you believe you find “The One” & never doubt it for one second. After I bought my dress, I would stare at the photo of me wearing it at the store & wonder if it was the best dress for me. I hadn’t seen another dress I liked more but the thought nagged me off & on for the next few months. On my wedding day, I loved my dress & my hubs LOVED my dress. I didn’t want to take it off at the end of the night! I suppose the wondering about your dress is only natural for some, I just didn’t know that then.

  • My goodness, I really like this post. I had so so so much anxiety about my dress. Even though I had it made, it still ended up being not quite what I wanted. In the end I was able to put aside my issues as it was close enough and overall I was very happy with it, but there was definitely a time period where I stressed over whether or not it was right.

    But the fact is your dress doesn’t have to embody you, it doesn’t have to make you cry when you put it on like it does for some. It really is just a fancy thing to celebrate the day you join with your partner.

  • One time I asked by boyfriend to draw me a picture of how he’d imagine my wedding dress and he drew this ridiculous dress (on a stick figure, to be fair) with tons of sequins and sparkles and a big poofy skirt. Totally not my style. I was like, “What on earth made you think of this for me?” and he said, “Well you know, you’re really fun and like to party and I think this is a dress that’s also fun and likes to party.” Sometimes men are so wise.

  • melissa

    I was considering selling my dress and getting another one, but I showed my then fiance the dress, actually tried it on for him and his reaction convinced me to just keep it. I figured if it was good enough for him…

  • DH saw my dress in photos in the two weeks before the wedding when I was looking at it again on the computer and couldnt get it off screen fast enough.
    He worried because to him it didnt look “bridal” enough.
    I worried because on the hanger it looked ugly, the detailing didnt seem pretty enough and I didnt think it quite looked how I wanted.

    On the day? Wow. The dress came to life somehow.

    I wore it again on Sunday for a “Love” the dress with 9 other brides, and it did it again. That said? Damn I am glad to never have to wear it again because it was uncomfortable as hell!

    Congrats on the dress Lauren. I really did want DH to have a say in mine, but he was adamant that he didnt want to know, except what colour it was. Old fashioned bloke that he has turned out to be. :)

  • Daly

    Lauren, thank you so much for writing this. I bought my dress online a few months ago and I initially loved it. The dress was just the style that I was looking for and it fit me pretty well. Plus, I saved a lot of money buying it used. But, now I’m having some doubts. It has a sweetheart neckline and I’m worried that I will be too exposed on my wedding day. I have yet to get it altered, but I’m already anxious about it. However, I am determined not to buy another dress, so I am going to make it work somehow.

  • Sarah

    This was too sweet. I cried when Kamel started exclaiming over your dress. Just a wonderful story.

    Also I have to say that I think what we wear is important. It doesn’t have to look like anything in particular, and in fact could be the most beat up pair of gardening pants you own if that is what makes it feel right to you. The point is, what you wear when you marry your love is a RITUAL GARMENT. The process of finding that garment helps the transition to marriage, the act of putting on the undergarments and dress and veil or jewelry or shoes or whatever, helps the transition into the sacred space of that moment. It IS about defining yourself for that sacred event, and that is why it feels so huge.

    Thank you for posting this.

    • Leigh Ann

      I LOVE the idea of a “ritual garment.” Such a fabulous way to see it.

  • Lauren F

    I’m another Lauren who had a less-than-stellar (and super-sweaty) dress shopping experience in Chicago. My future MIL and I got lost walking from the L to the shop and ended up walking around for half an hour trying to find it. The stress of being lost and late to the appointment only added to my sweatiness! The people at the dress shop were fine, but trying on long, tight, heavy dresses while still damp from our ordeal was uncomfortable and embarrassing!

    I had to commit to a dress almost a year before our wedding because I was ordering it from a shop in my hometown, where we’re getting married, and needed it in time for Christmas so I could have my first fitting. As the very indecisive person who I am, it was awful to have to choose so soon, and I agonized over the decision. I wanted to show my fiance the dress, but he refused. Luckily, my twin sister and mom and basically everyone to whom I showed pictures of myself in the dress (which I tried on by myself) agreed that it was the right decision. I never felt that it was “the one,” mostly because I don’t believe such a thing exists, and I still get dress envy sometimes. Luckily, nearly all of the dresses that induce that reaction are way out of my price range. Still, it’s hard not to get the woulda coulda shouldas–should I have gotten a flowier dress? (mine’s re-embroidered lace), would I be more cooler in something more lightweight? (I’m getting married in July), etc. It’s amazing how much anxiety one white (or not) dress can cause!

    • Stephanie

      I hear you! You are not alone!

  • Kaitlyn142

    Dress shopping is the bane of my current existence. Seriously. I went dress shopping this weekend and found a “well, if I don’t find anything I like better this will work” dress. Clothes shopping in general makes me upset, and dress shopping is making me miserable. I would love nothing more than for someone to just pick a dress out for me, but all of my family is terrified of stepping on my toes. Add to this the fact that the dress is going to cost more than I have spent on clothes in the past three years and grr.

  • Anne

    This was such a great post. I have been obsessing about how I will look in my wedding dress and whether it is the right look for me – for months! (wedding 7/30) The story and the comments following all make me realize that I am not alone and that the dress doesn’t have to be perfect… I never even thought about the fact that we put ourselves under so much pressure to look amazing and well… whatever it is will be great. This was the best thing I have read since I got engaged! Thank you!

  • K

    Lauren! Thank you for this post. I was so worried about the dress-shopping experience that I asked a friend of the family to make my dress instead–and now I have exchanged worrying about whether I would fit into anything, and whether I would be able to hold my ground against dress after foofy, shiny, spangly, confectionary-like dress, for worrying about whether our family friend will hate working with me and all my picky non-conventional requests. I don’t think it’s possible to escape the anxiety, but we can strive to meet it with grace, and it seems you are doing beautifully at that. I can’t wait for your graduate post!

  • Same thing happened to me! But my best friend bought my sample designer dress and there was no way I could go back on it. Though I did take another friend to another store to check out “the one” I made love to in my mind almost every day. Turns out she thought it was shit on me, and made me try on on that was almost identical to what I had hanging in my room. She gushes. Ahhh! This crap will make us crazy!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for another fabulous post, Lauren. I really enjoyed the first installment of your dress saga–laughing out loud–and this installment I enjoyed even more. You’re so wise already!

  • Steph & B

    Your dress looks beautiful Lauren! Like everyone has already said, this has been beyond helpful.

    And you’re certainly not the only who was talked into buying a dress that you don’t like. There is no doubt in my mind or uncertainty. I hate my dress. I was talked into a dress that was way too fancy for the wedding as a whole. But I was so wrapped up in the need for a dress that had that “wow factor.” And I kept saying “I don’t want to look like a little girl playing dress up. I want something that will knock his socks off.” So I went for the mermaid style of dresses and stayed away from the shorter tea length vintage style dresses that are more my personality and style. I wanted to go for that whole elegant glamor thing, which is absolutely nothing like my personality at all. I was convinced that a short dress wouldn’t be beautiful enough to get that wow factor thing…a totally wrong and ridiculous notion.

    I get a lot of strange looks when I tell people that I hate my dress. But in retrospect, it is just a dress. And it really doesn’t matter, like you’ve already said.

    Of course if you want something fun and simple, you could always head to a consignment shop for a dancing dress. I found a really cute tea length dress from the fifties for seventy bucks (a bit of splurge but totally worth it). And now that consignment stores are “in,” you shouldn’t have too hard of a time finding a place that sells some really nice dresses.

  • Leigh Ann

    It’s so great to hear stories about this process from people who are having similar experiences. I have hated almost every minute of dress shopping. I went to seven different stores and tried on about 30 dresses. Too “bridal.” Too plain. It isn’t ME. Found a gorgeous dress online and ordered it. Sent a picture to my mom and got back “It looks like lingerie.” Found another dress online and ordered that one (it arrives Friday and I think this may be the one I’m in love with). Of course, I’m still obsessing and doubting every day.

    Point is, I think all of my dress anxiety is wrapped up in my identity anxiety. I’ve decided to stop thinking about whether the dress is SO ME, because that “me” that I’m imagining is a me as others construct me, and changes constantly. I’m going to wear a gorgeous gown that’s probably too much and allow myself to act like I’m a big deal for the day.

  • Stephanie

    Oh Lauren, this story is just what I needed right now. I have a very similar story to yours — I found two dresses that I loved, took a bunch of photos at the bridal shop, and then went home and flipped through the photos for two weeks before finally deciding on one of them because of the rush fee deadline. Four days later I started freaking out that I actually liked the other one better, that it was more me, that it’s shorter train would work better with my garden (actually in the grass, no patio) wedding and contra dancing. So, I showed my fiance the dresses, which of course made me second guess my validity as a good bride (but I showed him photos of the dress on other people, not on me — I kept that surprise at least), but he said he loved the one I had ordered (whew) because it was more like what he had pictured me wearing on our wedding day. I still get anxious about dancing in my huge, heavy dress and anxious that I really loved the other one better, but at least I have my fiance’s support on the one I chose.

    Thanks for sharing your story. By the way, I live right down the hill, towards the Montlake Bridge, from where you’re getting married in Seattle. It’s such a beautiful school!

  • Lori

    Congrats on being satisfied with your dress! I’m getting married this Septemeber and I thought for sure that I was the only one in the world that was told I looked like a model in every dress I tried on, but didn’t feel like any were the “one.” I had deposits on TWO dresses at 2 different bridal salons and both of them were being tweaked, cut, adding embriodering, taking off flowers, etc. I was BEYOND stressed out with the whole thing. UNTIL my fiance told me that if I was having second thoughts then neither were “the one”. So, I went to another bridal salon (for 4 hours) and had an amazing lady that just let me try on anything and everything…that is how I found it. My point is every TV show show’s the happy ending of the tears in finding that perfect dress. They choose between 3 designer gowns where a budget is non existent, and in a half hour they are done. For me? I was crying because I was relieved that it was over and a literal weight was lifted off of me. Anyway, thank you for letting me know I’m NOT the only bride that is finding this whole process to be way different than expected! Congrats again, and I hope we get to see some of that dress! : )

  • Megan

    Also: can we please talk about the icky “Is this dress THE ONE?” I don’t know if this was hokey, but I immediately started thinking about my opinions about marrying THE ONE. And that I really don’t believe in the notion of only one person in the world for me; in fact, coming to terms with that and shrugging off that cultural pressure was part of my process in really embracing my relationship for what it is and how happy it makes me.

    I felt the same way, not surprisingly, about the dress process. I felt totally overwhelmed by the selection, similar as to how I feel when shopping for toothpaste (“Whitening or no? Baking soda? Extra-sensitive? OHMYGOD its capitalism run amok!”), tried on a bunch of stuff, and the 3rd dress I tried on was “The One”, or at least as close as I’d come to feeling it. It was $1200, and I thought “I have to get this off NOW” because I liked it so much, but there was not a chance in hell that I’d be buying it.

    My second day of shopping, I put on a $350 dress that had just gone “out of style” (it went out of style in Oct 2010 and I was shopping in Dec 2010) and I thought, “damn, I look GOOD”, and said “Huh. I like this dress.” And the saleslady said, “But is it THE dress?” And I said, literally:

    “Lady, I don’t BELIEVE in the dress”.

    It felt really good.

    • Lauren F

      I don’t believe in the concept of “the one” either, for people or for dresses! I love my dress, but I tried on lots of dresses that I could have been happy with. I saw lots of dresses online that I was never able to try on and that I could very well have been happy with. And I love my fiance, but if his family hadn’t decided to move to Texas when he was in middle school, would I never have found someone else to marry and spent my entire life waiting for him? Hopefully not!

    • K

      Yes. Just–yes. I “exactly!”d your post before I finished reading about toothpaste!

  • pixie_moxie

    Thank you for your post Lauren!
    I have been having dress doubts. I wish I wasn’t. We bought my guy’s suit this weekend and I pulled up the picture of it hanging on a hanger on my mother’ closet door to show the salesman how well the suit T was buying would look with it. And it will! T teased me about how he is the only one that hasn’t seen my dress yet. This is a request he made, not wanting to see the dress and I have wavered back and forth between just showing him or letting it be a surprise.

    One of my biggest fears is he will not tell me I am beautiful. I think I am sitting in a very similar emotional position as you. My mother and her best friend helped me alter the dress on a whirlwind trip to my folks’, I have no pictures of me in the dress it was so crazy busy and down to the wire before putting me back on a plane. While these memories and experiences are important and I wouldn’t trade them, it was the energy and emotion and fun that was tangible watching him try on suits this weekend thinking “this is what he will be wearing when we get married in 5 weeks, isn’t he so handsome!”, that I am missing with my dress.

    Thank you for sharing and helping put it into perspective. All the friends that have seen the dress and accessories tell me that it is “so me” and it is. I have to stop looking at other dresses wondering if the big white dress would have been better. It wouldn’t and come June I will wear my dress with pride knowing that it suits me, I have memories building it with my mom and there will be some romantic mystery left on the day for my guy to see me when we celebrate the best part, our marriage.

    • Jo

      You will be beautiful, not (only) because of the dress, but because of your love and joy. He will see that, have no fear!!

  • Jo

    Damn, that was eloquent. :) And I’m happy for you that you had that great moment with Kamel over the dress. In so many ways, I feel like wedding planning is just that – things to have moments around that remind you what is real. Moments that you have with the most important people in your life. And hopefully, moments that make tears of joy spring from your eyeballs. Ok, totally have the chills from your story. Whoo!

    Also, let me share that the night before (!) our wedding, I suddenly had the feeling that wearing the fancy, long, white dress (that I generally was loving) was not ME. And I had this whole thing about shouldn’t we just come and be totally ourselves on this day when we’re making this incredible solemn commitment?? Was I pretending to be someone I’m not!?

    Then I realized, that by wearing this crazy dress it totally marked the occasion as special, not just an everyday occasion, but an occasion where we make a huge, joyful statement and step in our relationships in front of all our favorite people… and suddenly I was so glad I had a “goofy,” semi-formal gown to wear to do that. So it would be clear that day – our wedding day – was never confused with any other day.

    So I loved that you said that your wedding day will be about wearing goofy stuff and telling everyone how much you love each other. That’s it, lady. You got it.

  • Jenny

    I just came back from day 2 of dress shopping and headed straight to APW – I needed a little does of sanity after all the madness! I re-read this post, and even though I’ve read it before it still made me tear up (in a good way). My experience has been very different, but it still helps to hear that others have the same types of nerves and doubts about this whole dress extravaganza. While I had three great dresses to choose from, I just kept coming back to what other people were saying looked best, or what I thought I’d wanted. In the end I went with my gut and picked the one I know I can have fun in, which for me was the most important criteria afterall! It just felt like a relief to call back the dress shop where I didn’t choose the dresses from and tell them I’d bought the one I couldn’t get out of my mind…Thanks again, APW!

  • Becky

    I know I’m posting long after this thread went cold, but I wanted to say how beautiful this post is.. I’m a British woman living in Kampala, Uganda for a year and am marrying my partner in June. Have my first appointment with the tailor this afternoon (recommended by a friend) and am very nervous.. mainly because I don’t have my mum and best friends to call upon for advice and a second opinion! Plus all I know at this stage is that I don’t want a traditional dress..
    Anyway, sure it’ll all be fine.. and took great comfort from the sentiment expressed in this post. I’ve bookmarked the page and shall return to it every time I need to be reminded of what really matters.