Lauren’s Wedding Planning: Oh My! Dress

Long time readers will remember my long and involved dress saga (if you don’t, it’s worth a read, because what an epic story it was). So it only seems fitting that we’re coming full circle, and Assistant Editor Lauren is here with the first installment of her dress story. Not to give away too much, but in it she’s naked and sweaty with a bee-keepers mesh hat on. So, you know there is that.

So Kamel and I have been watching Say Yes To The Dress because Oh my god that sh*t is caarraazzy! And I’m totally fascinated with people who think nothing of spending 5k on a dress whereas it takes me six months and a lot of potatoes to save 1/2 that amount. But oh the pretty! And oh I digress.

You guys – I cannot BELIEVE I haven’t told everyone the story of my dress hunting experience! Because isn’t it supposed to be one of those ground breaking wedding planning moments? For some people it is. I’ve seen it on TV. I’ve seen the “oh my gosh this is THE ONE!” face and then the tears and the mother’s tears. So I know it’s not a myth, I know it happens to some people, probably to even some of you. Buying a wedding dress can be a long journey so when you finally make that decision I can see it being an emotional one.

My journey had two stops and the first was in Chicago where my dear friend, Maris, set me up an appointment at a used dress boutique. Because my goal was to find something that didn’t look like prom and was under a thousand. Preferably like six hundred bucks. I was stoked because this place had straight up designer dresses, but were all used so they were greatly reduced. I had never tried on a wedding dress before, I had never even really seen one up close. I had no idea what all of the different shapes meant or how they would look on my body. But I did know that something was amiss when the storefront had a little basket of socks and a sign asking us to remove our shoes before entering. The entire store was white. White carpet, walls, furniture. The saleswomen wore all white. There was a soon-to-be-bride trying on her possible wedding gown on their shiny, white runway in the middle of the store. A full on runway, raised off of the ground about a foot, with a three sided mirror at the end. This decadence had always been what I had imagined for wedding dress shopping. The troupe of girls, the champagne, the sitting room with the glittering chandelier, the runway. The runway? Then why was I suddenly in the midst of a full on run-and-hide panic attack?

First, I was sweating like a mofo because it was mid-June in Chicago and the humidity was upon us, and god knows trying on clothes while sweating is a real treat. Second, I was asked to wash my hands before I was allowed to touch any of the dresses, for fear I would sully them. Then I was shown to the back room, with Maris, where hundreds and hundreds of dresses hung in bags on rows and rows of racks. I was told my appointment would only allow for 6-10 dresses, so pick wisely, and then we were left to our own devices. And the clock was officially ticking. Maris was like a kid in a candy store, and bless her heart because if it wasn’t for her I would have probably apologized to the sweet lady in white and ran to the nearest bar. Maris was grabbing all varieties of dresses going, “Ooo THIS one! THIS ONE! Ooo lace? How do you feel about lace? Embellishment or not to embellishment?” and I would respond “nuumm? Eerr? Fuhhh…” and shrug my shoulders. Finally I was able to croak out, “I’m a little overwhelmed…” as I literally fanned my face trying desperately not to cry and be a total psycho in this fancy store. Maris continued to repeat, “Lauren this is SHOPPING. You know how to do this! Start picking things!”

And we did. The sales lady eventually lugged out 6 lumps of fabric in bags and told me to get undressed and to put on a robe. And then almost immediately told me to take the robe off and try to step into the first dress. No one told me the sales people dress you. No one gave me any headsup this was a lot like when you go and get fitted for bras. And definitely no one told me how much effing fabric a wedding dress is. Once the dress was clipped to me, I teetered out, lugging the 20 lbs of fine cloth with me, and stepped up on the run way platform while Maris oooed and clapped from her seated position. When I looked in the mirror I was… embarrassed! Where had I gone and who was this old lady looking back at me? Suddenly I had aged 10 years and gained 30 lbs. Where was I under all of this? I couldn’t be found. But I swallowed it as the sales lady hammered me with questions I couldn’t answer. “How do you like the fit? What about this detailing? Is the sweet heart low enough? What do you think about the train length?” I played vague and hustled back into the dressing room for the next round, because I didn’t know! I didn’t know how I looked! I have been trying on formal dresses since I was 15. I went to an all girls school and we had at least two formal dances a year and I went to every one of them. I know how this works, and while wedding dress shopping… I was struck dumb.

By this time I was full on sweating. The lights were hot, I was bloated from humidity, and the dress was thick and heavy. The next dress to try on would only work going over my head, so my sales woman politely asked me to put on a face net. Like a bee keeper but with cinching so it stayed under my chin. God forbid I get any of my makeup and/or face grease on these fine specimens. She then asked me to take off my bra and put my arms in a diving position above my head and she would hoist the dress over me and I would aim to shoot through the hole. Dear god, I really did it. When the dress slid over my head, the mass amounts of tulle got sucked up over my hips so the dress wouldn’t fit probably. That brave sales lady, without any hesitation, reached up under the skirt, in my sweaty under pinnings, to try to free the bunching while I directed her from above, face mask now pulled up like a lunch lady’s hair net, my boobs just a side show at this point. It was around this time where she actually asked me if I’d like a glass of water since “I seemed a little warm,” and since her face was literally in my nude, mesh underpanted crotch for a good amount of time, I took pity on her even through my embarrassment.

Another point to make: I could not afford any of the dresses I tried on. The lowest they got was just a bit over a thousand, and with tax and fitting there was no way it was going to happen. But saying that they were too expensive, that the cheapest dresses available were above my price range made me feel like pauper. And like I was wasting the sales woman’s time. Which… I kind of was. Except I wasn’t wasting my time, or Maris’s time for that matter, because I needed to do this, I needed to understand what I didn’t want, what I couldn’t handle and I needed to have that moment of “What the f*ck am I doing?” so I could move past it. I also needed to try on the dresses with descriptions like mermaid, fit and flare, tulip, trumpet, and A-line. Because really, those words mean nothing until the dress is on your body and you suddenly can’t find your waist. I left the appointment without The One, to say the least, and with immense relief, to say the most. I left also realizing that wedding dress shopping is a lot like buying a car, everyone is in for the hard sell. Your entourage wants you to buy one, the sales ladies want you to commit on the spot and I, at least, only knew two things: I couldn’t be naked, and I would not go above a certain number.

This is not where my dress journey ends, but I have future posts to fill, and it’s a full 6 months until my wedding – I can’t give away too much too soon! You have to have something to read for my grad post, after all.

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  • Liz

    Ooooh this sounds so familiar. And hilarious (although only in retrospect!). I went dress shopping right after I got engaged with my best friend and my mom (who happened to be on valium at the time for a shoulder injury, only adding to the hilarity). We went first to The English Department in Portland and had such a lovely experience that it made me think all dress shopping could be sane and normal. THEN we hit up the thousands-of-white-poofy-dresses shop. I swear, I almost ran away when we first walked in. I actually love getting dressed up, I love lace, I love fancy dresses…but I also love being able to go to the bathroom on m own. The only thing that stopped me was my mom saying, “At least you’ll know how to tell people what you don’t like or want.”

    To be fair, the woman who helped me was very sweet, and she did a marvelous job at helping me decide what sorts of shapes and cuts I liked. It was when I suggested that I might have the seamstress remove a train that things started to go awry. “Why would you do that?” she asked. I said, “Ummmm.” She made some comment about the train being six feet of expensive lace and it was almost heretical to remove it. I said “Ummmmm. But what if I don’t actually want a train?” She said, “Ummm. I’ve never had anyone ask that before.” I said, “Hmmmm.”

    Awkward. But I learned so much…and now I have a beautiful dress, bought online. With a teeny tiny train.

    • I still don’t understand why every single “wedding dress” has a train. In this day and age, shouldn’t it be an option you can add on? I know they are still quite popular, but it seems like it would be a good way to add options.

      • katie

        Amen on the train thing – I found THE dress I’d seen in a magazine and there was no hint of a train anywhere (or a bustle). Yes, the view was from the front, but still. That dress was NOT carrying all that extra fabric. And when I tried it on in the store, all the dresses were big and held in with clips – so I chalked the excess length up to how it was a larger trial size and didn’t fully comprehend the bulk of the train til it arrived months later.
        My train ended up being just another cost to make into a bustle, one that unhinged partway through dancing. If I knew what I knew now, I’d have asked the tailor to just cut it off somehow. It’s got to be possible…?

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Depends on how the dress is made. My dress had lace applique around the bottom and my seamstress had to carefully cut the detailing off and move it up 10 inches to do the hem. Dresses without a lot of schmancy stuff at the bottom should be pretty easy to hack off though.

          If you want to totally remove the train of a dress, I recommend carefully inspecting how the dress is made (take pictures or make a sketch if you can) and showing someone with sewing skills before you buy. Also keep in mind that sewing on 6 strategic snaps for a bustle may be a lot less labor than rebuilding the back of the dress so it may be more expensive to have it removed than to bustle.

          Good hunting!

      • Part of how I knew that my dress was MY dress was that it doesn’t have a train. I was SO excited not to have to worry about having it cut off or something.

      • I think it’s a business thing…. customer paying extra sometimes to add on a train – or – customer buying a dress with a train ($$ extra fabric $$) and then paying to have it hemmed off?

        I know which option a lot of businesses is going pick.

      • Englyn

        I luurve a good train.
        But I still don’t understand why every single wedding dress is strapless.
        And why 0.5% of dresses come in a non white non pastel colour.
        About time we had some more diversity!

  • A-L

    Wow, Lauren, that experience was as crazy as some of those shows on tv! It sounds as though you’ve found your dress, and hopefully the second experience was far more sane. I went to a few bridal shops and thankfully nothing was as insane as what you experienced. Good on you for persevering!

  • Ugh, wedding dress shopping… The worst part for me was when I put on a very expensive mermaid dress that made me look like an actual human-sized Barbie–not in a good way. I could barely get it off! (Similar to those Barbies with the sticky skin from when I was a kid…) Nothing in life really prepares you for wedding dress shopping.

  • Milka

    This is exactly what I’m scared of! I am in the beginning stages of thinking about my dress and I know there must be an alternative to this madness! Can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. Thanks for sharing it!

    • Megs

      Ordered 3 dresses from J Crew (with a 25% off coupon code!!!), tried them on in my living room with mom, bridesmaid, and sister (via Skype), returned 2 to the store and called it a day. Getting naked with a salesperson just wasn’t something I needed to experience.

      • Celia

        Heh, I bought a dress at J Crew that someone had returned, and hadn’t been shipped back yet. I got extremely lucky, not only did I love the style it also fit perfectly. And, it’s a dress that I can get into and out of by myself, really, other than being too long to wear without heals it’s quite comfortable.

  • Wow, it’s just as I imagined, though I never pictured it as sweaty. That would have been my first shock and realization too — and for fear that someone would have commented on my (rarely shaved) armpits!

    (… Then, is is okay that after reading this, I kind of want to make an appointment, even though I already have my wedding dress and it cost $53.17, including S&H? Because you make it sound like such fun, and I’m only joking a little.)

    • I went into a wedding dress store once and tried on dresses because my date (it was a weird date, don’t even ask) didn’t believe me that certain styles would not look good on me.

      I almost scheduled cake tastings with local bakeries because our wedding was in a different town and we didn’t get to do tastings with the bakery we chose, just so we could eat cake.

      • Oh man, I kind of want to do cake testing too. We’re going to do a dessert potluck so there won’t be much (required, necessary) cake tasting in our future. But I might just have to make that happen for myself!

  • Hot, sweaty, dress trying on is rough…what was worse for me was finding “the one” and not breaking into tears and being overwhelmed with the brideness that was happening. Instead I just liked the way I looked (liked it a lot) and found myself thinking “okay, I can totally get married in this.” I wanted to be a sobby mess, but it just didn’t happen for me. I’m hoping that that’s okay, and that I really did pick the right one….I mean, I think I did, but there are so many to choose from…*overwhelmed*.

    Okay. So, yes. I’m assuring myself that I did, indeed, pick the right one and that it will be perfect on my wedding day. Word.

    • Claire

      It’s kind of the same thing as getting engaged or saying your vows – there’s this huge cultural expectation that it has to be an incredibly emotional moment and that the way you must express those moments is with lots of tears and fluttering of hands. The reality is that even though we all know that we process things differently, and that significant does not always equal emotional, or that the emotion may come later or in unexpected ways, we’ve grown up with these expectations thrown at us. So we feel guilty and confused when we don’t have those reactions. As if there were something wrong with US.

      I’m not even ready to start thinking about the dress and all of its associations, because I feel like I’m going to have all kinds of problems finding one. Lauren’s description is exactly what I don’t want. I hate high pressure sales situations and spending lots of money and I’m the most indecisive person I know, so traditional wedding dress shopping and I are not going to be friends.

      • Your entire first paragraph hits the nail on the head. I cannot “Exactly” it enough.

        NONE of those big emotional fancy romantic-comedy moments happened for us. Our engagement was nine years in the making and was effed up by a neurotic, over-emotional mess (ME), our vows were mixed up by our minister, and I first tried on my wedding dress by myself.

        I’ve had so many deeply emotional and significant moments throughout wedding planning and in the first few months of our marriage, but they don’t need to be what society expects or demands them to be.

      • “I hate high pressure sales situations and spending lots of money and I’m the most indecisive person I know”

        High five, couldn’t have said it better myself! Buying a dress is still a ways out for me, but I’m already scheming about how I can avoid those things mentioned above altogether.

        I haven’t read through the comments yet, but I’m wondering what kinds of experiences people have had with buying online. It’s something I’m seriously considering.

        • marbella

          I bought my dress online. My first visit to a dress shop was OK, though I knew I was just trying on and not buying. I liked a couple of dresses and figured out the style I liked, but knew I wouldn’t be paying $1000 for a dress. I then went to David’s Bridal with a list of all the dresses I liked of theirs online. When I tried them on they were such a disappointment after the ‘designer’ dresses I first tried. They were all static-y and the only one I liked was over $800.
          The third shop I went to had the most awful woman working there. She cast one look at me and seemed totally disgusted with me. However, I really liked one of the dresses, but it was around $1k. I liked it so much that I considered buying it anyway, and had the woman been nice I probably would have convinced myself. But she was such a bitch that I went home and found the dress online (not easy, since she would not tell me the name/style and I couldn’t take a picture). That’s when I realised there are places that create replica dresses. Of course I was terrified that what I would end up with would be nothing like the 1k dress and a waste of money, but I did a bunch of research, talked it over with my seamstress, and took the plunge ordering from a company in China. The dress that arrived is gorgeous. It is about 95% the same dress, material is lovely, well made and I am really happy with it. After having 2″ added to the length, a rush order and extra material sent, and ordering in a larger size (16) the dress cost about $350.

    • I had found The One before I even tried on any dresses. Although a couple of other things made me a teary bridal mess, the dress did not. And on our wedding day? I still loved it, and thought it was perfect and can’t picture having gotten married in any other dress.


      YES! I mentioned this exact worry about the lack of an extreme emotional response to one of the *many* sales ladies I dealt with, but she assured me not to worry, it just doesn’t happen sometimes. I found it weird though, as one who LOVED to play dress-up as a kid and even did plays in HS just so she could be dressed in costumes in public.

      When I finally found my dress, it was more of a sigh of happiness/relief than a jump up and down giddy moment. When my invitations came in, however, there was much jumping, go figure.

    • Yep, me too. The sales lady said, “I can tell you like this one the best because you gave off more positive non-verbals.” That’s how excited I was about trying on dresses. And I’ve dreamed of trying on such dresses for so long. I think when it came down to it, I hate the attention of expectant people just STARING at me, waiting to hear what I have to say.

      Thank god my BFF was there, thank GOD we had a few drinks at the bowling alley across the street (I HIGHLY recommend this tactic) and thank god my BFF told me which dresses looked good and why. Otherwise, I don’t think I would have ever made a decision; I’d have just drooled all over the things.

      Best part? Since I’m not having a bridal brigade, my BFF declared that the $1,800 dress we found for $400 was on her. “It’s what I would have paid for a lame bridesmaid dress and shoes,” she said. She’s a brilliant and wonderful woman!

  • Wedding dress shopping is meant to be fun etc.

    In reality it is only marginally more dignified than childbirth.

  • I was literally laughing out loud reading this, the beekeepers mask is just too much. It’s ironic how this preparation for one of the most beautiful days of your life can be so unglamorous. I found the whole ordeal of having the attendants at the gown shops helping me very awkward but of course they’re trying to protect their merchandise. I kept telling them, “I promise my Mom will be very careful”.

    I also imagined “that moment”. The first dress I tried on was so heavy and overwhelmed with beading that when I walked out of the fitting room for the first time my Mom and I just laughed. Special teary moment… gone. Like you, I found my first trip to be an educational on and from that point on I knew what I wanted and it was just a matter of finding it. Thankfully I did and although I didn’t cry, I smiled tremendously with Mom still do thinking back on that moment.

    Looking forward to hearing more details!

  • Ariel

    Sounds familiar. The dress shopping portion of my wedding was one of the low-points. I only had a few days to find mine and ended up making an impulse purchase at David’s Bridal after a recovery lunch of margaritas. My mom wasn’t there (which ended up being a good thing because the dresses she was picking out were a puff-ball nightmare. Who knew the Earth Mother had a secret desire for cupcake dresses?) but two dear friends that always tell me the truth were present and it all ended up fine, as it usually does. It was light and comfortable and well within budget even as the most expensive in the store.
    A great seamstress later and a fabulous fasinator (to those not in UK, that’s a headpiece/hat thing that adds loads of character) bought on sale, also an impulse purchase, and it was done.
    I had moments of regret that maybe I should have spent more time or money, especially as I began to see it on other brides in friends’ photos of weddings on facebook. I got over it (beacuse I had to, really) and in the end it was my dress and unlike any other because of me. It was great. It was what I needed it to be and now it is sitting in a box of tissue in my mom’s attic.

  • Oh, you poor thing! That sounds horrible.
    My friends dragged me to a proper bridal store even though I had already found The One, because they insisted I had to have The Bridal Shop Experience. I also found that the dresses where heavy and not what I wanted. The whole experience was rather, well, bizarre to me. After they got me in three or four dresses with trains and corsets and yards of thick heavy fabric I was ready to race back to the car, and the smaller shop where the dress I wanted had been put aside for me. I can’t say it wasn’t a fun experience, but it was definitely an odd one.

  • Cody

    This post is so funny! I cannot relate, mostly because I’m not good at shopping or trying things on in general, let alone with the added pressure of it being for my wedding dress, so I just went the online route. Luckily, that was a success. Can’t wait to hear the rest of this dress saga!

  • Am I alone in sort of loving the braidal shop experience? I knew that I wouldn’t be buying the creampuff dress, but holy hell it was fun trying them on. And Lauren is totally right that it helps you narrow down your ideas, find the right shape etc.

    I ended up buying one from Once Wed (online) and it was perfect.

    • And Lauren, my dear, you are a WRITER.
      And you bring the funny.

    • I also loved the bridal shop experience! But I can still relate to a lot of what Lauren says! It was a sweaty experience, and nothing fit right, but I think I was just so overcome by “Oh the PRETTY!” that I didn’t care. I actually ended up buying the first dress I tried on at the first store I went to (thanks to it being a heavily discounted sample) and I’ve always wished I could have kept shopping just to try on more pretties.

      • I SO wanted to. But the combination of buying my WEDDING DRESS dundunduuunnn! and the intense scenario made me feel like a fish out of water. I had no idea the kind of pressure I would feel from myself or the day. None!

        • I think I would have too if I had gone to a bridal store like that! I’m still chuckling about the beekeeper. I love the way you tell stories and am so looking forward to the rest of the dress search!

        • Sarah

          I managed to have a good experience with an uppity salon … but there were CIRCUMSTANCES. First, I was only there to try on a specific designer (and, of course, they didn’t have any of the samples yet) … and second, I couldn’t afford anything there (nor would I want to … holycrapexpensive). But that didn’t stop me from enjoying yards and yards of pretty the sales women kept bringing me. They weren’t pushy, and we weren’t pressured (I ended up buying my dress from the place we’d been at just before this salon), so we all just had a good time.

          But there was a “face net” … silly thing!

      • Carmar– Your beautiful dress was the first one you tried on??? Wow. I was told that I had to try on at least ten. Somehow that’s a magical number, apparently. The first shop was horrendous, the second was a consignment shop that rocked, and the third might have been fun if I wasn’t TOTALLY stressing out about how the dress that I loved (sixth one I’d tried on) at the second shop might be getting bought by someone else right that very instant! I could have saved myself a lot of anxiety if I’d been brave enough to buy it when I tried it on, instead of aiming for ten. :)

      • peanut

        I loved the fancy wedding dress shops. I totally had the “ideal” what-you-see-in-cheesy-movies experience, except there was no squealing and only my mom cried (a little). Oh, and my Dad was there. And we were tipsy from lunch and got drunk at dinner. It is seriously the ONLY thing in wedding planning I would like to do again!

        • C

          I also went with the first dress I tried on. Although the salesperson who greeted us when we first came in was quite rude, the lady who helped me try things on was fun and very skilled. I basically said the word Grecian and she picked a wonderful dress – one that I would never have thought I could wear but she understood the power of the corset! It was lovely… I tried on one other dress, which fitted well but was less my style.
          The dress itself was a bit out of my budget, but I found the same dress online in the states (I’m in Australia) for less than half the price.
          This blog has made me more grateful for my experience!

    • meg

      I did end up having a good bridal shop experience. I told one lady that I wasn’t buying that day, and she could dress me up in anything she wanted, any price point, because I just wanted to get ideas. And bless her heart, she was like, “Anything anything? Yayyyy!” And threw me in $10K plus dresses. They were RE-diculous, but it was super super fun, and she was a total doll.

      • I did the same, in Beverly Hills. It was hilarious – feathers, flowers, sequins, insanity. And I was being helped by a very sassy black woman who intentionally chose the most ridiculous dresses in the store and laughed along with us but actually provided some useful tips, too, as it was my first time trying on a thing.

  • I’m 6 months away and I don’t have a dress! I have a plan. I’m part of the 40% and the ATTITUDE I got from some sales ladies! You don’t have time! You must choose now! We will have to rush the order! Gah!

    The first day was bad. It was supposed to be awesome and I was completely overwhelmed and feeling very undeserving.

    Now I know what I want, I just have to work out the details.

  • Amy

    Is it awful that I came away from this story thinking, ‘well, at least nobody insinuated that she needed to lose weight’? Because I swear that has happened to nearly every person I know when they went dress shopping. The bridal dress industry is totally in bed with the weight loss industry.

    • YES.

      This is so true…

      I hadn’t considered myself plus size until I went wedding dress shopping. And then joined Slimming World…

  • Oh man, I love this post! I am not a fan of being touched by strangers…or anyone, really. I knew I wasn’t going to be a fan of dress shopping. Also, I knew what I wanted and I did not want to waste my time being forced to try dresses I didn’t want on. So, my mother and I took to the internet and found a dress for under $300! We didn’t even set out to stay that low-priced, but, I put my measurements in, and the dress came out perfectly. People think I’m NUTS for buying a dress online, and a lot of times people ask me if I missed that “Oh Mommy!” moment…but I had that moment, in my house, with my mom and sister…and that was very ME. Dress shopping isn’t for everyone! Great post :)

    • Glad to read this – I found a dress I love, love, love online, but I’m a little wary of ordering it. I actually ordered another (vintage) dress from etsy that just isn’t quite right, and the second one I’m looking at is in a More Serious price range (still under $300 but that seems like a lot to me!), so I’m hemming and hawing.

  • baahahahaha Lauren you are hilarious. <3

    we watched Say Yes to the Dress all the time during the engagement, I found it endlessly fascinating (slash horrifying). as soon as we got married I lost interest completely. and thank goodness!

    that shopping experience is definitely right out of a movie or something. I only went to one real boutique and I was surprised they let me dress myself (or, made me dress myself, could have used some help actually). it was a nice experience, until they caught on that I had noooo interest/money to buy a dress from them ever, and they stopped telling me designer/style numbers of the ones I liked. the rest of my dress shopping consisted of sample sales, which were hectic and rushed, and then online shopping, which was awesome.

    can't wait for the next installment!

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I actually found Say Yes to the Dress really educational – I picked up a lot of technical wedding dress jargon watching that show and was more prepared for the terror that is a room full of white dresses.

      By the time I started shopping I at least had a baseline of things I could tell a salesperson to keep from having to try on 86 dresses I didn’t want. No strapless, no bling, no mermaid or ballroom skirts, and under my price point (which I lied and told them was about 30% lower than it was so I wouldn’t feel too guilty if they upsold me).

      • You know what I love about that show? The pretty. AND the awesome sales ladies who are just trying to do their job and be sensitive amidst the crazy moms and demanding brides. It did give me a heads up on etiquette at a bridal shop – BUT it’s so way different once you’re there.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          I didn’t end up going to any big fancy bridal shops, but the place I did go I felt good about being able to use more technical language than “makes it look like my hips and waist aren’t the same size and also really shows off my boobs… but *classy*”

        • Yeah, I have to admit to watching Say Yes to the Dress sometimes. My mom and I watch it together whenever I visit with her and I have to admit it’s been an unexpectedly good way to jumpstart our conversations about what she wants and expects for my wedding versus what I want and expect. She always promises me she will do her best not to be like some of those craaaazy mothers on the show.

  • I was laughing and cringing with remembered anxiety all at the same time! I had almost the exact same experience, though the lady didn’t dress me and I was in a tiny dressing room by myself left to my own devices. I had 2 girlfriends with me and we were all kind of awkward because everyone almost instantly knew I wasn’t a wedding gown kind of gal. The dress I did find was right next door at one of my favorite local shops, and it practically sang as she zipped me up (beekeeper’s net included. That thing is nuts!).

    The weird part for me was, after I’d found my no big whoop knee-length feathered dress (and it was still at the store b/c it was on layaway), when my stepmom visited she made this big deal that we needed to go to the shop and she and my sisters would all sit around and ooh and ahh while I tried it on for them. I couldn’t imagine going through all that again and then being on display! I had to politely decline and just show it to them through the dress bag.

  • I am SO glad someone has written about the pressure of finding a dress! They’re so much more expensive than any other item of clothing you’ll ever buy (even if you get a really good deal) and everyone wants you to have “the moment” when you find “the one.” I like Lauren’s attitude–just keep your own priorities in mind and don’t settle for something just because everyone wants you to buy it.

  • Liz

    um, yes. this is EXACTLY my dress-shopping experience.

    only hilarious.

    because when i look back on mine, i do little laughing. and more sweating.

  • My only experience with a “proper” bridal salon lasted about 5 minutes and ended with me storming out completely confused, depressed, and pissed off. I always thought I was the “traditional” “conservative” kind of bride but the deeper I get into wedding planning, the more I realize about how artificial tradition is these days and the less I want to adhere to it. And the bridal salons always try to make you feel like a “pauper”. You can never be good enough in their eyes. Because if you were, then they wouldn’t be able to convince you that all you need to make up for your shortcomings is a $5,000 dress that you never wanted, can’t afford, and can’t move in.

  • That just sounds rough. I mean, who lets people into a room full of bagged dresses without any guidance and a, “have fun!” They should be trained to see the fear in the eyes of people walking into the store! They should know better!

    I love me some Say Yes to the Dress. Although I think it solidified my non-wanting of that bridal salon experience. All of the places we went were small, and NO ONE came into the room to dress me. I’ve been putting on clothes for more than 20 years at this point, I think I’m alright; if I need you, I’ll call you, mmmkay thanks.

    The experience does not have to be like this, people!! I promise!

  • Katie

    I had anticipated the wedding dress shopping experience with excitement but it definitely did not live up to my expectations. I am a woman who loves clothes and I have an appreciation for nice things (but not the money for them). I found my dress shopping experience frustrating and exhausting. People thought I was making a big deal out of something small- just pick one! I went to 9 bridal shops. It was hellish, although I tried to enjoy it. The saleswomen had no concern for my privacy and put the pressure on big time. Who knew you need to order the dress seven months to a year in advance?! I eventually picked one that is beautiful and then I searched it online and bought it used from Kijiji in my size for a third of the cost. I still have doubts remembering the other three dresses that I had loved but I’m thinking it will be fine come the big day in three months.

  • YES to the awkwardness of being naked in a small cubicle with a complete stranger trying to contort your body into an array of heavy dresses!!

    I was mostly rather underwhelmed by my dress shopping experience. I am super girly and love wearing and buying dresses so I just thought the whole experience would be super magical and delightful.

    But it was just very normal. Just trying on some dresses, getting opinions from my mum and sister, wishing we all spoke another random language so we could discuss without the salewoman listening it… I found a dress I liked in the third shop we visited and I felt beautiful and happy but no birds singing and tears. Just the normal excitement of funding an awesome peice of clothing you know you will look hot in.

    Which actually I am ok with. In the final shop the other woman being served at the same time was almost having a complete emotional breakdown and her mother was only making it worse. So my sweet sister is getting involved making nice and encouraging comments to try and stem the tears and hypeventilating coming from the other cubicle. At some point she asked, when is your wedding? And it was over two years away! I wanted to tell her, forget it. Go home, relax and come back in another year without your mum to annoy you. It’s so not worth this level of hurting. In comparison, “normal” was fine for me.

  • Aly

    Oh Lauren, I live in Chicago and went to this exact same store (I’m sure its the same- no other stores have that much white) as my first dress buying experience, a mere week after getting engaged. And it was freaky. I mean seriously, no shoes? What, am I going to kick the dresses on the rack? Clearly I would have taken them off to try to dresses on, so I’m not sure what the deal was there. And the all white everything was seriously just weird. I didn’t have the sweaty experience though, as I was there in late fall and was freezing in my underthings as the saleslady put dresses on me. It was ridiculous.

    As for the rest of my dress shopping experience, it mostly wasn’t so bad because I knew I wanted a short dress (after trying on some long ones just to make myself sure I hated them). I tended to get one of two reactions to that: the “oh, yes, short dresses are so in style right now, is it an outdoor wedding? Let me show you what we have” or “we don’t have anything like that, only formal dresses (um, excuse me, why can’t short be formal?).” It made the process much easier actually because there were much fewer dresses that I was even willing to try on. And I found a great one in a tiny shop that doesn’t look fancy on the outside but had the most helpful people ever within. Which made me happy :)

    • YAY! I’m so excited someone else knows where I’m talking about! I’m sure they mean well, and I’m sure other brides found that experience… special… but wow. Wow unnecessary. Also, the feeling as though you’re incred dirty and must be cleansed is unnecessary.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I’ve had some bad experiences as a bridesmaid in Chicago dress shops. Did you know there’s only one shade of blue? If the bride wants “bright blue” the salesgirl will spend 20 minutes convincing her that overpriced “navy” is actually quite bright. It’ll look brighter next to the black tuxes. What do you mean they’re wearing suits? No, these are really formal, you’ll want tuxes. Summer afternoon wedding – well, this is really more of an evening look. And your guests will be more comfortable in the evening when it’s cool anyway.

        Cut to sobbing bride who nearly changed her entire vision of the wedding from “bright and laid-back” to “dark and formal” because she’d been convinced no other blue existed.

        • Maris and I had a hell of a time shopping for her bridesmaid dress in Chicago too!! It was insanity. We call ahead for the style numbers of the dresses we wanted to see only to be told they don’t carry those when we arrive. And then we were once again abandoned in a back room, insisting to the on again off again sales woman that we HAD called ahead and confirmed. It was bizarro.

        • JUST JENCIL

          Wow! Had the opposite here. Wanted a dark sapphire blue that wasn’t ‘navy-almost black’ nor really bright blue, which was impossible to find! Plus since I’m having an upcoming spring wedding in the afternoon, did you know that dark and formal isn’t a spring feel and blue is really more of a late summer/fall color?

          I’m having my bridesmaids wear a beautiful dark purple now, but am blowing minds that the groomsmen will not be matching.

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            The “seasonal” color schemes can be super frustrating. If you’re wearing “spring” colors in fall or shopping in the wrong window for your spring-colored spring wedding it can be impossible to find the colors you want.

            Since I only had one bridesmaid we skipped the entire bridal industry and just shopped the department stores up and down Michigan Ave. (best wedding-related day of my whole engagement). We found a dress we loved and then found it again in two other stores with better sales :) So we got a deal. But also if I’d needed 4 of them in all different sizes I think we’d have been able to hook that up too.

    • Haley

      I went to this store too! Although I actually kind of loved it… I mean, it was nice to know that second-hand didn’t mean that the dresses would be dirty. And how many times have you tried on a shirt at a department store only to see that someone who tried it on before you got lipstick on it? So the mask thing didn’t bother me all that much, although I love the image that a “bee-keeper mask” brings to mind. :)

      Also, most places let me put dresses on myself. (maybe this was a lucky fluke?) The only problem for me was that I was shopping by myself, and so I don’t think bridal stores really took me seriously. I prefer to shop by myself, since I know what I like (plus I had just moved to Chicago, far from friends and family), but the associates just seemed confused. I sure am glad the stress of finding the perfect dress for the perfect price is long gone for me now!

  • Ohhh I feel kind of bad for laughing at your predicament, but your storytelling made me chuckle pretty hard. I bought my dress from a website for ~$150 and it miraculously fit with no need for any alterations, just a hem. I didn’t step foot in a dress shop. I’m pretty glad I didn’t…

  • Mel

    One thing that surprised me about dress shopping was how each shop had a completely different method. My first shop, they seated me with a picture book and I put a post-it note at each dress I wanted to try on. Others, I ran around to hangers and touched the actual dresses, carrying them myself. Still others, an employee followed me and grabbed them all for me. At some, an employee dressed me. At others, the employee left me alone to get dressed. At some, you can take pictures; at others, no pictures.

    This is the first I’ve heard of the hair net on the face thing or socks and washing hands though – woah.

  • Lauren, you crack me up! I’m laughing to myself and getting weird looks from all my fellow bus riders Haha.

    Also, this makes me wonder where in Chicago you were?! All those precautions to keep everything pristine would be enough to make me sweat! Yikes!

  • Cassandra

    I cannot stop laughing. Bee-keeper hat!

    If nothing else, I’ve learned that I probably ought not to go wedding dress shopping when it’s hot out…

  • anonymous

    Lauren, I feel your pain completely. I had a similar experience (no beehive or runway, though) at a little place called D*vid’s Br*dal. There were inane questions about “my dream dress” — a concept I had never actually considered, other than not wanting strapless (an audacity in and of itself) — there was a panic attack, there was hyperventilating, there were tears. And there was a dear friend who not-so-politely told the saleswoman to take it down a notch–and that made it story-worthy in the end.

    Thankfully, this negative experience helped me to gain the language to share exactly what I wanted (or more specifically, did.not.want) with the saleswoman in the next store. I’d like to suggest to everyone out there that if you, like me, actually do not care about the dress, go ahead and tell the person who is helping you. Be specific about what you absolutely know you want or don’t want, and consider telling her that beyond that, it doesn’t matter and you’ll try on anything. That’s what I did, and I walked out of the store with a $100 dress — and happy. Really, really happy.

  • Oh, heavens. What a mess, Lauren!!

    My dress shopping experience was hugely painless. I found the dress I wanted online, went to a tiny, local boutique and tried it on by myself. I loved it, so I made another appointment and hauled my mom in to see the dress, and we oohed and ahhed. It was also way under our budget. I was probably 80% sure that was The Dress, but wanted to Make Sure. So my mom and I did a day of wedding dress shopping; we had a morning appointment at J Crew (where I was left to myself in the dressing room, thank goodness, and did find a couple gorgeous but overpriced runners up), and an afternoon walk-in at David’s Bridal (where I was trussed into a longline bra and massive petticoat, and I found what I did NOT want). We both kept comparing everything to that First Dress, so we knew it was it.

    No tears, no Big Moment. The first time I saw myself in it, my mom wasn’t even there. I was standing by myself, staring at my reflection in the upstairs back room of a boutique, while a saleslady rearranged hangars (I’m not even joking).

    Everyone has a different story, from those who have an Epic Tale, like Meg, to those who ordered theirs online and it took one try to get it right. We don’t need to imbue this piece of clothing with this much power. It is a dress, probably a beautiful dress, but it doesn’t need to be a problem.

  • Katy

    Lauren, you had me laughing out loud with this post. I know exactly the store you’re talking about – it’s actually where I bought my dress – and, though I will say my wonderful salesperson Katie was totally no pressure and incredibly helpful, I totally understand how overwhelming the experience is. The whole set-up is intended for someone who is… not me. Though I love my dress, it was a totally sensible, practical decision on my part: yes, this looks like me; I like the fit; it generally “goes” with the feel of our wedding. I could not handle the runway or the little white socks or the big mirrors or everyone sitting on a couch watching you, and thus finding “the dress” turned into something more like awkwardly standing in it on an all-white runway while everyone else cried.

    (As a side note, though this was the first dress I tried on, I didn’t buy it on the spot. I actually spent a full three days casually shopping at other bridal salons and came back to get it once I was really sure that it was what I wanted. But, you’re right, that kind of “thrown into the deep end” experience really helps with future shopping expeditions. Good luck!)

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    I ended up buying the first gown I tried on (serendipitous!) but after 3 tours as MoH I have seen a lot of bridal shops and I really enjoyed the process in the store where I got mine. (Is it wrong to plug a bridal shop? Village Bridal in Nashville was great and had a lot of perks like a free second steaming).

    The (kind of mean) saleswoman did two things that I’m super grateful for. One, she refused to let me look at the full price gowns. She looked me over once and said “You are the size of samples. You look at sale rack.” Pretty much every sample/discontinued gown was close to my size and marked down at least 40%.

    Second, she told me how to shop. As a veteran shopper I didn’t think I needed this advice, but I’m glad I took it. She told me to look at every dress on the rack and pick three to try on. No more, no less. Usually I’d try on everything that met my most basic requirements, but she forced me to be choosier. Once I was being picky I only really liked 2 gowns, but she picked a third for me. She made me try on my favorite first (which was uh-maze-ing), then the other two and then the first again. I didn’t feel totally overwhelmed with choices, but I didn’t feel like I was missing something better either.

    I highly recommend this method to anyone unsure how to start out in their wedding dress search. If you hate all three, you’ve learned what to avoid in the next batch.

  • Oh, and a quick note on David’s Bridal, since there is so much back-and-forth about them:

    While I didn’t find My Dress there, they were hugely helpful. They have every style and size you can think of, so you can see what works and does not (fluff? a-line? lace? strapless?). I could try on that lace sheath, the high-neck with pockets, and that huge ballroom meringue explosion before realizing that yes, the off-the-shoulder a-line was much more my style.

    However, as much as I appreciate David’s Bridal, DO NOT FILL OUT ANY PAPERWORK. Refuse. If you need to, put down a fake name, and no phone or mail information. I got spammed to hell because they sold my information, and it clogged up my voicemail, email, and postal inboxes. Unless you really want phone calls about “special offers”, politely refuse to give them that information. If you intend to purchase, THEN you can give them your personal information.

    • Sarah

      One of the smartest things I did during the entirety of our planning was create a different email account SPECIFICALLY FOR VENDORS and refused to give my phone number.

      Which meant every time my info was sold, it was to a throwaway account that I could ignore after the wedding.

      BOY did it keep me sane. Seriously. So worth the extra 5 minutes it took to create.

      • GREAT idea. I was still caught off guard at David’s Bridal, so I gave them WAY too much information. Spam email, spam catalogs & mailings (what a waste of paper!), spam PHONE CALLS. Ugh. Great idea with the email.

      • Alyssa

        Me too. Make a separate email address and have everything sent there. It’s so much easier than trying to shift through work/personal emails to find some caterer’s quote.

    • meg

      Agreed. I had a totally fine time at David’s Bridal, and in some ways I find them kind of APW-esq… like… the dress for cheaper with no nonsense. And then in other ways….

      BUT NEVER GIVE THEM YOUR INFO. Dear lord. It will never end.

  • This is hysterical. I had like five days to buy my clothes, my husband-elect’s clothes, as well as clothes for a number of family members and friends in India. So, when my mom, sister, aunt, fiance, and I went to the store to get my lengha, it was basically, go, go, go. I found my wedding lengha in a couple hours, and boom, we moved on.

    The trip was stressful, but I had no time to second guess or search for “the one.” I like my lengha, I LOVE my sari, and I can wear both again.


    Can’t wait for your other stories Lauren. Whenever you write, I’m so happy that there is someone like me out there going through similar experiences at the same time!

    My dress shopping went about 3 months and had both fun moments and ones that I would like to forget. Many places I lucked out and got really awesome sales young-women who actually listened to what I wanted and were super chill, but there were definitely some bee-keeper outfit ones, lol. My mom, MIL and different friends came with me to different ones, but I ended up finding my dress at The Bridal Garden in NYC which is a non-profit that sells used/sample wedding dresses (super awesome place, I suggest if you’re nearby and looking for more of a do-it-yourself shopping experience) with my maid of honor. I put a deposit and took my mom before I bought it, but I think she was a bit let down that she wasn’t there when I found it (we live in north Jersey, but I have to pull teeth to get her to go into the city). I loved it, but never had the emotional outburst that I think she was expecting, so when I brought her to see it, I got a lot of ‘Are you sure? Sure, you’re sure? But there’s so many other ones that you look good in too! This one is a bit plain, but if you’re happy then I’m happy.’ She eventually came around and really is happy that I’m happy, but it took a lot of convincing and sequential doubt on my part that I wasn’t happy enough ( I’ve since realized its only a silly, but lovely, dress and its fine to really like it, but not be madly in love with it, it is only important that I’m madly in love with my boy)

    I did however, finally get dress peace/zen, when I went to get an estimate for my fitting (I had to find my own place since I bought the dress as-is) by myself (I must mention this was my first alone experience after being 7 months into wedding planning too). Being alone, I finally felt at one with the universe in my dress, so I HIGHLY recommend that brides try to get a moment by themselves in their dress before the big day (or even the big purchase if possible) if they are having a hard time finding that ah-ha dress moment.

    • Amy

      I’m so glad someone mentioned how much they liked the Bridal Garden in NY! I donated my designer dress to them after my wedding and it makes me very happy to think that someone else is getting a good deal on a dress and NYC schools are being helped!


        Hmm… I wonder if I got your dress Amy, that would be hysterical! It wouldn’t have been an Elizabeth Fillmore, would it?

        • Amy

          Ha, no, mine was an Amsale modified ball gown style. Elizabeth Fillmore had some gorgeous dresses though – I’m sure yours is beautiful!

    • ka

      Thanks for the Bridal Garden recommendation! This place is on my list, and I’m so glad to hear someone had a good experience there, as I just love the idea behind it.


        No problem! Just be prepared to do searching in a tight place, do some heavy lifting yourself and touch lots of plastic bags that shock you a lot. But the cause and discount was worth it though! If you have a can-do attitude and ask for help nicely when needed, the ladies were more than happy to help, especially if you can go on a weekday when they are less busy.

      • elyse

        i loved the bridal garden! its the only place i went, and it is a bit hit or miss. however, definitely a hit for me. i went with just my mom, was there about 2 hours, and scored a melissa sweet dress that needed almost no alterations, for under $500 (full disclosure, it was on their super clearance rack). the no-frills service was just what i wanted. happy to give people more on my experience there, if interested (not sure the extent to which we can do that here. . . )

      • ka

        Oh awesome, I certainly don’t mind digging or hauling dresses—in fact, that sounds like heaven! I’m definitely more of a scavenger when it comes to shopping, and I think that might be partly why I’m less than enthusiastic about the traditional shopping process! But I’m actually excited now!

  • Meg

    May I just comment, Washington State brides, that you should all go to Pearls and Lace (get over the name…I did), in Burien and save yourself the stress of all the uptight bridal stores. These lovely people let my 9 year old sister drag about 30 dresses across their store, didn’t try to dress me, and recommended a fantastic seamstress who I am now using for all my alterations. And my dress was way under $1000 (though they have more expensive ones too if that’s your bag). They are definitely APW friendly people.

    I found dress shopping to be a terrible, terrible experience until I found this place. Then it was actually FUN. Amazing…

    • ah! I know this store. I almost went bridal shopping in the Seattle area but then DID end up buying my dress in SF. Cool!!

  • El

    This story (and so many others being shared here) makes me think of the post about mourning the choices that we give up when we make another. Let me explain: I already have the dress I’ll get married in–a sweet white sundress that I already own. But I’ve imagined at some point going with my mom to try on a boatload of dresses that I’ll never buy–the pounds of fabric, the beading, the trains, the detail. In part, I’ve thought it’ll be great to come away from that feeling relieved. (“Phew! That was fun, but now I get to save my pennies and move about freely in the dress I have.”) but when I’m honest with myself, it may be also a bit about mourning the fairy tale perfect princess wedding dress I’ll never have (sorry, 6-year old version of El) and the big dress-buying-with-mom cultural experience that isn’t going to be a part of my planning experience. That, and it’ll be a nice excuse for brunch with my mom.

    Has anyone else done this? How’d it go?

    • Amy

      Personally, I had to have a come to jesus moment with myself about my relationship with my mother. The last time I voluntarily went shopping with her for a big purchase was my sweet 16 dress. We nearly killed each other and that was the end of shopping for big occasions with her.
      But magically I thought she’d be awesome and supportive and great for the wedding dress shopping. Even after she suggested renting a dress. Yeah, no. So, I did the majority of my dress shopping with my awesome ‘maids and sent my mom pictures. I brought her to one place with me, and after it ended badly I decided to stick to the original plan of buying a dress myself and showing it to her afterward. Was it the magical teary supportive love-fest I really badly wanted? No, but I was ok with the fact that my love and support and tears came from my maids.
      My mom liked the dress enough when she saw it, and that was fine too. It was something that’s come up on this site many times – weddings don’t magically change family dynamics.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      I found my dress with my bestie when we popped into a bridal shop on a whim when we were on vacation. Usually my mom and I are good at shopping together and she was really excited to do the whole production with me, but I found the perfect dress in that first store (for half what I budgeted) and mom was 500 miles away. I called her and we talked about me buying it, I texted her a pic and she saw it when she came to visit me a month later.

      She was disappointed to miss the opportunity, but as a consolation we went shopping together for her dress and my new outfits to wear to the rehearsal and shower. That was really fun and *much* lower pressure than the big wedding dress purchase. We went to a few bridal stores intending to try things on for fun, but we ended up just looking at the veils and other accessories and mocking the crazier stuff.

      Mom made peace with missing out and accompanied me to my (endless) fittings as my poor seamstress tried to figure out how to remove the bottom third of my way too long dress.

    • tupelohoney

      My little sister ended up being left out and it broke my heart. I did not think at all that I would buy a dress the first time I tried dresses on, about 1 year before the wedding. So when my sister ended up having to work the first day I went shopping (with my mom and grandma), I told her “Don’t worry, we’ll for sure go again”. BUT, then I tried on a dress that I fell in love with and it was “off the rack”… the only one in the store. So, I bought it. I really didn’t think my sister would be upset, but she was nearly in tears when my mom told her that I picked a dress. I was crushed. We then made a huge event of picking a dress for her, which was wonderful, but still, I’ll always feel sad that she missed out on that experience, which I now see was so important to her.

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  • I just had a similiar experience at David’s Bridal on a Saturday (HELL on earth). Thank you for writing this post, it made me laugh about something that has only ever made me feel anxious.

  • Ah dress stories. Thanks for sharing your Luaren… I can barely imagine putting on dresses in June in Chicago. You’re amazing.

    I remember walking into a bridal store a year before my wedding and not trying on a single dress because none would fit me. And then, walking in two weeks before my wedding needing a dress and crying because, amazingly, I still hasn’t lost 100 pounds and 16 dress sizes (weird, right?). I ended up at David’s Bridal and bought a lovely gown that gave me the aha dress moment. It was magical. And, I had only heard horror stories about DB but our local one was amazing and the saleswoman was amazing.

    Anyhow, I’m excited to hear how your saga continues!

  • Theresa

    You totally just described what my dress shopping was like. EXACTLY. I went with 4 BM’s and my mother, and we only went to one place because I wanted to buy a dress from Brides Against Breast Cancer, under $500. I was trying on dresses, and it was weird for so many friends to see me in my bra and panties, and I didn’t look/feel like ME, and I hated it. I felt awkward, lumpy, short, pasty-pale, and …strange. I ended up finding my dress there, but I was in such an awkward daze I didn’t really even look at it longer than to realize it fit me. It was a horrible experience. I looked beautiful in that dress, but I don’t know if it would have been the one I would have chosen if I had spent more time shopping.

  • Bee-keeping mask? Really???

    Ugh. I guess though, thats the difference between trying on dresses that are samples, and then ones that are for sale? Still, in my mind – not too excusable.

    I tired on a bunch of gowns, knowing I wasn’t buying, and didn’t have the emotional welling up until they plunked a veil on my head to see how it’d look. Then I went from, ok I look alright in this dress to OMG I AM GETTING MARRIED. Weird how a tiny piece of transparent fabric will do that to you.

    • I noticed after trying on dresses at a couple places that there seems to be an art to The Veil Moment, which seems to be prompted by salespeople. At the first (nice, friendly) place, I tried on a couple of dresses and found one that was an actual possibility. Then all of a sudden…plunk. I was suddenly looking at myself in a 3 sided mirror with a veil on my head. Cue the tears for my mom and me. Within an instant, the saleslady was handing us kleenex box. The next place, the saleslady also plunked a veil after I had put on a promising dress. Only they didn’t have kleenexes and we didn’t cry this time.

      Our experience at the first store was actually nice and we really liked the person assisting us. The other stores after that were always compared to the first superior store and the best dress we had found there. Unexpectedly, I ended up getting a thrift store dress that I stumbled on while trying on thrift store wedding dresses for kicks, but I did enjoy the dress trying-on experience at the first shop. And we did go back there again to try on the top contender there to be sure that I really did like the thrift store dress better. And I did. Even if they had been the same price. But they were not. :)

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        My saleswoman handed me something (a veil? a catalog? can’t recall) and had me walk the length of the store up to the mirror. I swear they designed the entire place to make that walk feel like a walk down the aisle. The dress was just a white dress until that walk and then it was a Wedding Dress. It’s a freaking genius sales technique.

        • Wow. None of the places I went to had an aisle-like procession to the mirror. Haha. Now that you brought it up, I am surprised more places don’t do this!

      • Sarah

        It’s funny … the veil moment was one of frustration for me.

        Maaaaaaaaaaybe it had something to do with the fact the sales girl kept putting it on the very TOP of my head, and bringing ALL the tulle over my shoulders (seriously, I couldn’t even see the neckline of the dresses I was trying on). No matter how many times I adjusted it, she always came back to “fix it proper.” (Gotta admit, the saying was kind of cute.)

        I seriously looked like a little girl playing dress up. Even in the dress that ended up being “the one” … go figure!

    • N

      The veil had that effect on me too! I watch Say Yes to the Dress, so I knew that the veil meant that they could see I liked the dress and were going in for the hard sell, but d*mn, now I know why they do that! I was never planning to wear a veil and still am not, but I had that reaction nonetheless. Perplexing.

  • Just a tip for anyone who hasn’t found THE DRESS yet… or A DRESS (because just like everything else about the wedding day, it doesn’t have to–and probably shouldn’t–be the be-all end-all of everything wonderful, because then what do you do afterward, knowing that all has been and ended? I’d much rather get way excited about THE DRESS I magically find in a thrift store that’s some amazing vintage designer number that is not in any way shape or form a wedding dress but something that I can wear over and over and over… but I digress)…

    The advice: J. Crew wedding boutique. I went to the one in NYC, and my helper was the most chill person in the world. I got the following questions: “What’s your favorite dress from our website, or your favorite style of dress if you haven’t looked?” “What’s your size?” (and god love them, their dress sizes match street sizes) “What’s your budget?” And she just went and grabbed everything that was within my budget that they had. All but one were actually in my size–there was only one clip-this-fabric-over-here moment (though I did love it because my god have I watched me some Say Yes To The Dress myself and it was the closest I got to a one-thousand-puffy-dress-boutique moment)–and they’re simple enough to put on by my damn self. I did feel pretty damn waited on, because while I was wearing one she’d sneak into the dressing room and switch out the one I just took off for the next one. But there were absolutely no bee bonnets. And they even had shoes to wear so I could see it with heels on. No hard sells. I ended up with a dress just over half of what I thought I’d pay (and less than half of the budget I told the woman, $1000).

    I also did not tear up and yell ‘THIS IS THE ONE’ or any such thing. I’d kind of been hoping for that moment, but thinking back on it that’s just not very me anyway. Seriously, when I got haircuts as a kid I’d have to tell them a thousand times that I liked it because I just wasn’t very emotive. Oh, except the time I got a cut that was kind of like Monica on Friends’ Dudley Moore disaster (anyone remember that episode?). Basically a shaggy mess. And then I was visibly upset, but still not all that much.

  • We had fun at ours. Partially because we went on a slow day so I think the saleswomen were just happy to have something to do. My sisters and I picked things out and then talked about why we liked it or didn’t. The saleswomen didn’t pressure me. One got me to try on a beaded dress, even though I said I didn’t like beads. It was beautiful. I’m glad she convinced me, even though I didn’t buy it, or any of them. That being said, it was hard to get over one that I couldn’t afford but loved. I did, but it broke me up a little until I confronted myself about it. Still! Trying on expensive and unfamiliar dresses can be fun when you have NO expectations.

    I think the key to doing it well is:
    1. Go in knowing you’re just trying to figure out what looks good on you. I think saleswomen should understand this. Some do.
    2. What you do and don’t want to lug around with you.
    3. Have people who support you in rule 1.
    4. Remember that you don’t have to buy any of these dresses (or fit into them!)

    The second time we went it was hard for my mom to understand how the dresses would look when they actually fit. I think years of her critiquing the off the rack clothes I try on and how they fit was a hard habit to break. But since my sisters had done it with me before they were able to back me up and support what I said.

  • OMG, Lauren… While this story is really funny (REALLY), I can totally feel the frustration! Sounds like you learned a lot that day, which is important, but what a nightmare experience! I’m so sorry. From the comments, it sounds like you found your dress? Congrats, and thank goodness that chore is complete. I know, wedding dress shopping is made out to be this amazing, life changing, bonding experience… but I think we’ve been spoon fed that experience to the point where we expect nothing less, but really, it only happens to a handful of brides. Mine didn’t go that way, and it sounds like a lot of other bride’s didn’t, either! I did the David’s Bridal thing… and while I did NOT have a personal or stress free experience, I did walk out with a fantastic dress for $240. Worth it, in my mind. And I’m not sure there is such a thing as a “perfect dress”. Maybe I just didn’t have the patience or desire to kill myself finding it. I found one that was GREAT, that looked good on me, was comfortable and affordable, and I thought, “done”. Anyway! Can’t wait to see pics of your wedding and your dress :-) I hope the rest of your planning goes smoothly! Good luck!

  • ka

    “Lauren this is SHOPPING. You know how to do this! Start picking things!”

    This is so me. It’s ridiculous how wedding dresses make me forget how to shop. Even online, it’s like they all look the same and suddenly I have lost all touch to my own style. And wow, I thought I had a bad first bridal shop experience (even though I went to a little indie boutique in the hopes of avoiding the nonsense)—I can soo relate to feeling overwhelmed and embarrassed—and there was no hand-washing or beekeeper’s nets! What a horrible place… and a hilarious story. Can’t wait to hear the rest of it!

  • I feel oddly embarrassed and proud to admit that I bought my dream dress on I fell in love with this local designer but knew that they were more then a little out of my price range. One bored Sunday afternoon I looked to see what hideous monstrosities were available on Cragslist, and low and behold my dream dress for $500 no less. I e-mailed, assuming some other lucky bride had already snatched it up, nope it was hanging in her closet and yes of course she would hold it until the next weekend when I could make the trip to Seattle to try it on. (Seriously?! That never happens with Craigslist sellers) A weekend in Seattle and $500 dollars later my dream dress is hanging in my closet waiting for me to take it to get slight alterations. I’ve had it for about a year now and occasionally I look in magazines and online to see if there is something I like better, nope. While there were no tears and my Mom wasn’t with me, in fact my future-wife and my brother were, it is my perfect dress. So, moral of this story, sometimes your dress finds you and it is wonderful, no tears needed. Oh, and check Craigslist!

  • Shotgun Shirley

    This is why I did all my shopping online (from places with return policies). To be fair though, I had recently participated in my sister’s DB visit, so I figured I’d gotten some perspective on the whole thing. Liz’s mom is right though – it is really important to know what you *don’t* want as much as what you do want. Without that knowledge, I don’t think the online thing would have worked for me.

    (I was also a little worried about salesladies asking if I was going to lose my pooch for the wedding… and then I’d have the fun of explaining that no, it’s only getting bigger in fact.)

  • Laura

    Wow. I’ve been reading APW for about 6 months now and this is my first time commenting because LORDY that is the most ridiculous salon experience I’ve ever heard of! I would have been absolutely mortified in that position. But, I agree Lauren that it is so crucial to know what you don’t want, and perhaps sometimes that can be even more helpful than anything else.

  • This: “because I needed to do this, I needed to understand what I didn’t want, what I couldn’t handle and I needed to have that moment of “What the f*ck am I doing?” so I could move past it.”

    That is wisdom right there.

    I had a “moment” with my dress. When I put it on after I finished sewing it and realized it was the dress I was going to get married in, I got all chocked up and misty eyed. And it was just me standing in my bathroom all alone looking in a mirror. And the only photo of me in it was taken later that week with the timer on my camera standing in my living room. The dress I’m wearing in all the wedding photos I also love and it’s special, but it wasn’t the dress I was married in. My “moment” with that dress when I put it on was more of a “oooh! pretty!” moment. Still a moment though.

    • I copied the same quote. It helps your sanity to do something totally insane and know that it isn’t you.

      I did bridesmaid shopping at David’s Bridal. Wedding dress shopping at a boutique (when I knew that my friend was making my dress. Like you I just needed ideas about what I didn’t want.) And a colleague of mine told me that I should go to Bloomingdale’s, not to register there, but to pretend to so that I could hear their ridiculous suggestions and see their mouths drop when I tell them that I do not need sliver napkin rings.

      It’s a self preservation thing. Welcome!

  • Dana

    The day of my appointment right as I was leaving to try on dresses, I got my period. I was way too excited to cancel though so I just wore two pairs of underwear, a tampon, and a panty-liner. I was so nervous about bleeding on the samples, yikes, or that the salesperson was going to think I was totally insane with my two pairs of underwear. Luckily, there were no major mishaps but I was so freaked out about everything that when I found the dress I loved I was so emotionally exhausted I just stared at myself in shock. The woman helping me thought I hated the dress so she was really surprised when I told her I wanted it and even tried to talk me out of getting it right then. She said she didn’t think I thought it was my “dream dress”. It was not at all what I was expecting the experience to be and I was so disappointed with my initial reaction.

    But now I have the dress at home and can try it on whenever I want and dance around in glee in it. So I guess I’m pretty satisfied at the moment.

    • clampers

      hahhhaha love this

  • Oh Lauren, <3.

    I'm laughing and sweating and cringing.

    You're fab.

  • clampers

    I think I am going to go with a skirt/top combo. This is what I told my friend: The only time I wear dresses is on Halloween as part of a costume. Do I really want to feel like I’m wearing a costume when I get married? No. I want to feel regular. Like regular old me.

    I don’t even wear skirts that often but I have one that I wear in the summer that fits me great and looks super cute. So I’m thinking of buying a top I found on Etsy and then asking my clothing-designer friend to replicate my favorite skirt in off-white or whatever.

    This post is hilarious and made me really appreciate the fact that me and my spouse-elect (love that term) are having a super casual wedding.

    Lauren is so witty! Can’t wait to read more.

  • Oh my god! What an experience. Can you believe that I didn’t even try a single wedding dress on? I didn’t even step foot into a wedding gown shop. I knew on day 1 that I wanted a short dress. So those traditional gowns were not an option. Just like you I had set a budget of about 500-600$. I was looking forward to the dress shopping thing, but I found the dress on the Web before I got the chance to arrange a shopping date with my girlfriends. A 60’s inspired very short lace dress with sleeves by a local emergent designer. Only 242$. I ordered it, tried it on at home, traded it for a smaller one and more than one year before my wedding day, I had my dress in the closet. But I was afraid my very-short-lace-wedding-dress would be a little warm (it has 2 linings) for dancing and decided to buy a BCBG short bubble dress for the party (on sale for $112). And another BCBG one for the-day-after brunch (On sale at $80). 3 dresses that I amazingly love and that are from cool brands (Indie designer is cool to me) for less than $600. It totally feels like a splurge! Bottom line : Scan the Web! Try on at home. No embarrassment – and GREAT DEALS. Good luck!

  • Kassy

    I was engaged when I was 21 (didn’t end up getting married then, thank God), and wedding dress shopping was soooooo fun! I went with my best friend, then with my mom, then with my future mother-in-law. I just couldn’t get enough of it. The pretty! The princess-y! I was in heaven.

    Well, now that I’m a less princess-y, considerably stouter, and tattooed 30-year-old bride, I found the wedding dress shopping experience horrifying.

    First of all, there was no need for it. I already had a very talented friend lined up to sew me my perfect dress. But my mom and aunt wanted to have that special experience of taking me to the bridal shop, so I consented.

    Oh, it was special, all right. They had a total of five–yes, FIVE–dresses in my size. I hated them all. There was one that had kind of pretty cap sleeves and the kind of neckline that I wanted, so I tried it on.

    And let me just say this, I love my tattoos. I love showing off my ink. That’s why I got it. But in that situation. In that DRESS. I felt like the tattooed lady at a circus sideshow. So we left the store with me practically in tears, feeling like a fat freak.

    Then I looked at all my inspiration pics of the dress that is being custom made for me, and I felt like the confident, curvy lady with awesome body art again. Whew!

  • TA

    Thank you for writing about the stressfulness of buying a dress. This couldn’t be more relevant to me right now. I had a “dress” moment, or so I thought, and now I’m driving myself crazy. I bought my dress over the weekend and after a lot of thought finally decided on a beautifully detailed tea length one and now I am having second thoughts because I keep hearing everyone’s advice in my head. My grandmother’s, my mother’s, my step-mother’s, my father’s, my future mother in-law’s…all of their comments are swarming. I never realized how important my dress would be to everyone else. They all have different ideas of what they thought I would wear. My dad thought I’d be in a free flowing “hippie” number, my grandma wanted lace and glitz. My mom wants form fitting and my step mom thinks that since I’ve been with my FH for over 7 years I shouldn’t wear a real wedding dress at all. Now that I’ve decided on the one that I LOVE, I can’t stop feeling like someone is going to be critical of my selection.

    How do I stop my mind from going crazy? I know it’s my decision, and normally I’m a very confident decision maker. Why am I second guessing myself so much? Ugh. I never thought my dress choice would be so stressful.

    • Vmed

      They might be critical. But I’d suggest you not open up the dress for criticism. I presented the dress I’d found and bought with…. hesitation, and my family reflected that uncertainty. I am now back at square one. On the other hand, if you present it with confidence, they have to accept it. Here’s why:

      They all obviously have different ideas, and to take elements from everyone’s ideas would not make a superhybrid of dress, it would make a mess- and then no one would be happy. The most important thing is that you feel good in your dress, cause you’re wearing it.

      The person who should be happy about the dress is the person who will be in the dress.

      I really hope you feel better about it, because feeling self conscious just isn’t fun.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        Second this. I bought my dress with just one friend there for support and the people who gave the best reactions were ones who I’d already told about my favorite parts, but hadn’t actually described the whole dress to. So I said “Its not strapless – my numero uno requirement and it has all this *gorgeous* lace which I lovelovelove. I also really love the color – it’s white, but not white-white or ivory – the lady in the store called it ‘candlelight’. How romantic is that?!”

        Basically they had no idea what the dress looked like but they had three things to focus on that they knew I loved. If it it was way off from their expectations they kept it to themselves.

      • TA

        Thank you for this advice. It seems so simple, but I actually hadn’t thought of this before. If I exude confidence, they’ll HAVE to love the dress…and when they do, I will love it EVEN MORE (if that’s possible) in turn. I’m going to use this advice for other aspects of this process too.

        I have to admit, I thought I was going to be “above” all the stress of wedding planning. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted….a Rustic/Chic/Backyard wedding… I just really didn’t know how much everyone else was going to care about the littlest details of our wedding. We just need to keep the whole thing in perspective.

        I LOVE APW! I love that I can bring an issue here and someone out there will help me without even knowing me personally. It really makes this planning process a lot easier when you have a neutral party to share with and bounce ideas off of. So thanks.

  • Lauren

    Aaaahhh! I totally went to that store with my mom the very first day I tried on dresses – and while I agree with the other commenter above that the saleslady was very low-pressure and helpful, I remember seeing the basket of socks and the runway in bright white and nearly telling my mom we should’ve stayed at the place we had lunch and had another glass of wine :)

  • april

    I’m laughing – but not AT you – just at the way you described the dress experience which is both horrific and humorous all at once.

    Dress shopping was my LEAST fave thing and that was funny because I freakin’ love clothes. Wedding clothes? Not so much.

    My criteria for “The Dress” was finding something that:
    * supported my stupidly large boobs;
    * didn’t impale me with that boning and structure crap that designers stuff into formal gowns;
    * was made from material I could sit, dance, walk and move in with ease;
    * didn’t cost a million dollars;
    * was age appropriate, and
    * allowed me to use the loo without assistance (i.e. friends holding up yards of fabric)

    I succeeded… well, *just*. But the search was hell-ish.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your dress search!

  • Laura

    My first dress shopping experience will be this weekend.

    The wedding is less than 4 months away, and our pre-marital counselor seems more concerned than me.

    However, as a person who regularly produces theatre and live performance, I’m not concerned. If I can put a show on its’ feet in 6 weeks, I can certainly find a “costume” and make a wedding happen with my partner’s assistance. Right? Besides: no long dresses, no white dresses. Lace would be nice.

  • I had the exact same first experience. Sweat, freakouts, nudity, boobs for all.

    Another funny thing that happened was that I got left alone by the sales lady so she could take a call. I froze looking at myself in front of the mirror for an age, and two young girls looking for prom dresses came in and commented that “they liked the dress on the mannequin”. They jumped out of their skins when the “mannequin” turned around and said hello to them. Haha! First and only time I will ever be mistaken for a mannequin I think!

  • Long time lurker, first time poster.

    I went to a proper wedding bridal shop on the spur of the moment and I tried a dress on. I burst into tears and not the good kind. I kinda freaked out and then got her to get the dress off of me and pretty much ran out of the shop (with my dr martens still unlaced).

    Why was I crying? Because it all felt so NOT ME, I am NOT THIS PERSON and I don’t want to be. I live in my docs and jeans and I felt like I had to at least try the proper dress thing.
    So then I found a really lovely summer dress which is blue/silver and fits and looks great . Perfect, I will have that, sorted.


    Every time we walk past a bridal shop (there is one near by) he looks in to the window with a wisftul sigh. (I told him no white dress). And so I need to compromise and have an ivory one (he is the one so much more into the whole wedding thing than I am), but my mum is making it for me and it won’t weight a ridiculous weight.

    Still, only have 6 months to go, hopefully it will all get sorted!

  • eli

    Dear God where has this blog been all my life??i

  • AKP

    “I didn’t know how I looked! ….I know how this works, and while wedding dress shopping… I was struck dumb.”

    I can totally relate! When I went through this, I called it “wedding blankness.” I checked out lots of magazines before I even attempted a bridal shop, and I have had lots of shopping experience in my life (probably too much), but I felt totally disconnected from the idea of a long white “gown.” I had no feelings or opinions about any of them. I mean, you’re supposed to feel like yourself on your wedding day, right? And when was the last time I wore a white gown???

    When I went to my first bridal shop, I had a bad case of wedding blankness. They all seemed the same to me – neither lace or satin nor tulle made me feel a thing. Until my mom found a totally unexpected dress with a big hand painted purple flower draped across the front. That was the first dress I tried on because it was the only one that felt exciting to me, and that turned out to me my wedding dress.

    At the risk of sounding completely cheesy, this one dress made me feel like a “bride.” Not like a stereotypical magazine bride, but like myself as a bride. I don’t think it was an “ah-ha” moment, as much as an “oh yeah” moment – as in, oh yeah, this feeling is totally unfamiliar because it’s supposed to be because I’ve never been a bride before. But before I found that dress, I had not identified at all with the idea of being a “bride,” but with it on, I felt like I could do that bride thing, and feel good about it! So thank you for sharing your post, and if you have wedding blankness, don’t fret. It’s better to have an open mind to start with anyway :)

  • Tonia

    Hahaha I’m dying laughing. I experienced THE EXACT same thing, except with a Bulgarian named Olga as ‘the saleslady’, and my mama as Maris. Oh and in Austin, TX in May. But everything else, the same. I didn’t realize until you put it in those words what was happening to me, but now that I look back… I. CANNOT. STOP. LAUGHING. Poor Olga. The sweat and the questions and the lack of undergarments…..oh man….

    How ridiculous that I thought that was normal. Well, you will be happy to know that I snapped out of it. I got my dress for $100 at a vintage consignment store.

  • Jo

    I must be the only bride that hasn’t had to use the bathroom between leaving the dressing area and the end of the night when I took it off. :) Not that the dress I chose couldn’t have handled it, but HOW did I avoid that!? Guess I didn’t drink very much!

  • Alexandra

    Oh, man, intense! Great writing. I’m glad I won’t be dress-shopping in extreme heat! I’m *thinking* that I’m planning to have something made, and that the Shopping Trip will be to verify silhouettes and styles–but you never know. I’ll be doing that in the next couple months. Meep! Hah. (I’m hoping to have fun trying on randomness for the heck of it….here’s hoping!)