Here Comes the MIB

Oh, the wedding dress. Two months before my wedding, after a long and arduous search (which weirdly turned out to be worth it) I still had no idea what I was going to wear to our wedding. I felt, in a word, nuts. But I wasn’t nuts. All those websites I was reading that told me that everyone had at least the dress figured out were totally lying. And also? All that crap I was reading about how the dress had to be bridal to make you look like a bride? Also totally false, as proven by my friend Jamie, who has never regretted rocking a short cotton dress, and who looked every inch the Jamie-bride. So, today we have Katie here to tell us about a dress search with two brides and MIB (yes, you can hum it).

Lately I’ve been casually looking at wedding dresses online, but I’m having trouble getting into the dress shopping spirit. The wedding’s not until September, so there’s no real rush, but the reason I haven’t tried a single dress on is actually this sneaky little lady who lives inside my head. Let me introduce you.

A while ago I was perusing Anthropologie’s website, and I saw an adorable dress and thought, Oh my gosh, I need to get this! Now! It’s casual and short, exactly what I’ve been looking for. It was perfect. At the time I didn’t even know our wedding date yet and we had been considering a winter wedding, so I reminded myself to slow down a bit. Cute or not, short and strapless would be a no-no in January.

Of course, that didn’t stop me from imagining myself in the dress at my wedding. There I was cuttin’ a rug at the reception, shaking it around, having an awesome time. But when I went in reverse—back to the moment of walking down the aisle, something went terribly wrong. I came face to face with… My Inner Bride. I call her MIB for short. She’s a treat.

Her problem with me in this adorable dress?

I look too normal. I’m not… wait for it… glowing. That’s right. I’m not glowing. According to MIB, when I walk down the aisle on my wedding day, jaws should drop. Everyone watching me should think to themselves, “Oh. My. God. How have I failed to notice all of these years that Katie is the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth?”

And when my fiancée Navah sees me, she should be overcome—o.ver.come.—breathless with her own brilliance, thinking to herself, “Wow! This is the best decision of my life. I’m marrying someone who looks exactly like Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, and Halle Berry all rolled into one. Impossible! And yet, here she is!”

I have tried to reason with MIB, to explain to her that I look exactly 0% like any of those people. I mean, I have hair and eyes and boobs, but that’s about as close as it gets. And no wedding dress is going to change that. What’s more, I’m pretty sure if Navah were running this little celebrity wedding-day fantasy, it would involve me tripping as I walk down the aisle, catching myself as I make a witty and self-deprecating remark, and Navah thinking, “Wow, this is the best decision of my life. I’m marrying someone exactly like Tina Fey.”

But MIB doesn’t care about any of that. She’s completely consumed by whichever wedding myth it is that says The Bride is supposed to look more beautiful than she’s ever looked in her life, more beautiful, in fact, than anyone else has ever looked in the history of the world. You know that scene from Love Actually where Kiera Knightley’s character watches the video that her husband’s best-friend-who-actually-loves-her made of their wedding? And she looks sort of disgustingly ethereal and shimmery the whole time? And perhaps she’s wearing feathers?

That’s what MIB’s looking for.

The whole thing reminds me of when I went to pick up my high school senior pictures from the photographer. I remember driving over there and being all fluttery. I had never had professional photographs taken before—at least not as a semi-adult and not of just me—and I was so excited to get them back. I waited to look at the proofs until I got back into my car, and then I sat and slowly opened the cover to reveal…me. All the pictures just looked like me. It was a huge disappointment. I was sure that when I opened that cover, I’d see a super model staring back at me. So perhaps MIB is just plain old-fashioned vanity run amuck.

The ridiculous thing is that I’m not The Bride here. I’m A Bride. There’s another one—my intended, the person I’m super excited to be marrying. I’ve always been bothered by the Focus On The Bride—like maybe the groom wishes everyone at the wedding would come over and tell him that he’s never looked better instead of making jokes about how ridiculous it is that he ever got someone as great as the bride to marry him. That’s something we don’t have to worry about at our wedding, so you’d think that maybe I could do away with the whole be-the-most-beautiful-person-in-the-room/ever business. You’d think. But that vanity is a sneaky little lady.

The truth is, I can’t remember a wedding I’ve ever been to where the bride didn’t look stunningly gorgeous. Not a one. There’s just something about the day—the energy, the excitement, perhaps the nerves. Everyone is kind of glowing. Tears running down their faces, huge smiles, panicked grins. No matter the dress, they shine.

So hopefully I can keep talking her down and MIB will take some time off. I’ll finally try something on, and I’ll end up in a dress that’s comfortable and makes me feel good. I’ll get funky on the dance floor. When I walk down the aisle, I’ll be thinking about how fabulous my lady is and maybe about how not to trip on anything. Or at least coming up with a witty line for when I do. If I’m lucky, perhaps I’ll even glow.

Photo by: calin + bisous photo

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  • A long time ago, I realized that wedding gowns make me feel… ridiculous. Which has nothing to do with whether or not they look gorgeous. So in my search for the wedding dress, I didn’t even consider trying on real wedding gowns. And then I found my short, non-bridal, sassy dress in a mall. And it made me feel giddy.

    Yet, once in a while, my own version of the MIB comes out of her woman cave in my brain and questions whether or not I will look “bridal” enough. But it’s like you and Meg said – the dress does not make the bride, and anything the bride wears will be bridal enough, just because she is wearing it. My MIB has been mostly quiet these days. I hope you make peace with yours, too.

    • Laura

      “A long time ago, I realized that wedding gowns make me feel… ridiculous.”

      YES. I went dress shopping this weekend, and man…those gowns took over me. They were Too. Much. Dress. Everyone with me said I looked beautiful, and all I could see in the mirror was an uncomfortable girl playing dress up.

      And then I found a vintage dress at a consignment shop, and all was happy again. I don’t need a $1000 trumpet gown to feel like a bride. I want to feel like me.

      • Denzi

        While I did eventually end up with a very BRIDE-y dress, whenever I tried on dresses, my mother would ask, “Do you feel like it’s a pretty dress or a pretty you?” And so many dresses are BIG PRETTY DRESS that don’t really make a pretty you, because the attention is on the dress instead of how it makes you look and feel.

        • Jennifer Lyn

          Your mom is a smart lady!

          • Wes

            You were definitely the most beautiful woman at that wedding, Jennifer!

    • Can’t Exactly this enough Anna! Bride dress shopping (I was the MOB) made us feel like we were working on something for a halloween party! Ridiculous is not the feeling you want when you are making a solemn vow to be with someone forever — you do want to feel REAL, so keep looking for a garment that makes you feel like the real you. Amen

      • Allie

        It may be wrong of me, but I always kind of laugh at the big poofy dresses that won’t allow the bride within 5 feet of anyone else, including the groom. I’ve never been at a wedding where one was worn, but I just can’t picture how the kiss part works…

        • Yea, did anyone else notice a new search term on David’s Bridal…. “skirt drama”. Apparently it’s a dress trend. Don’t know how you kiss your new spouse with all that skirt drama going on.

  • “I mean, I have hair and eyes and boobs, but that’s about as close as it gets.”

    Bahahahaha. Hilarious.

    You should introduce MIB to my friend WIC. I think they’d get on really well. Then maybe she’ll leave you in peace :)

  • This. Is. Awesome. And good for you! (You’re TOTALLY going to rock whatever dress you choose- whether it’s big and poofy or short and simple or anything in between- and it’s going to be wonderful.)

  • I *love* your term MIB. I call mine my should-monster and I fought with it a LOT about how I should look at the wedding (and a lot of other shoulds, too!).

    For me, at least, naming what the source of the anxiety is helps to overcome it. Hopefully it works for you too!

    • Oh, the should-monster. That’s good. I have that one all over the place – about so much more than wedding planning. I’m totally going to steal that name.

      • I have (too) many should monsters in my life. And I should get rid of them all.

  • Joy creates beauty, not the other way around. And Katie? It sounds like you’ve got joy in spades.

    • That’s a lovely way to see it.

  • Oh, man, do I know that bitch (MIB). She tortured me throughout my dress search. What made it worse is that living in Kenya, there really weren’t too many local options. I never really got to thoroughly look, bought something without trying it on from a picture, and while I did like my dress in the end I never really did say yes to my dress. There was even a crazy moment where I considered buying ANOTHER dress about a week before the wedding because I thought I might prefer it just a bit more than my actual dress. (Luckily a wedding crazed friend of mine said: NO. THAT IS GOING TO FAR… and given the source, I knew it was true.)

    HOWEVER…Brian still thought I was the most beautiful creature ever when I walked with my dad down the aisle, and my 6-year old daughter made me cry last week when we were looking at the album (yet again). All I could see was how it came up a bit in the front to reveal my fuchsia toenails in my funny little (super-comfy) platform bridal flip flops. But all my daughter could see was a princess when she said: “Mama, can I wear your dress when I get married? It’s the most beautiful dress in the world!”

    Was it perfection? Not in my mind. But luckily, nobody else is in my mind (thank God for small favors, eh?!), except for that bitch, the MIB. It’s hard to put her in her rightful place…. keep working on it.

  • You WILL glow, no matter what you wear! I got married in a formal church & everyone said I needed to be in a big, traditional, formal dress. So not my style. I followed my heart & wore a simple, sweet gown & I’ve never looked or felt better. Tell MIB to suck it.

  • Amanda

    Oh man, that MIB thing is hard. MIB was telling me I needed some fancy all-lace concoction that was about 1/4 of our budget and an amount that I would never ever feel comfortable spending on an article of clothing. Oh and I had never tried it on. So instead I put on a pair of big girl panties, bought a $250 sample dress off ebay from a store that was going out of business and it was the best decision I ever made. I wasn’t incredibly in love with the dress but at that point I was just happy I wouldn’t be naked. But then. THEN. I got the dress altered. and I got a stupid little slip to poof it out ever so much. And when I put on that stupid dress on the morning of our wedding I felt so fucking beautiful and happy and excited and yes maybe even glow-y. And I loved wearing that stupid dress all damn day. And (in my head) I said, take THAT MIB.

  • mimi

    Maybe a veil or fascinator or hat or fancy hairdo or jewelry or fabulous shoes will help make you feel a little more like a “bride” in whatever dress you choose? The dress itself is just part of the picture. Good luck!

  • I loved this, laughed out loud at the Kiera Knightley description, “…and perhaps she’s wearing feathers?” But that whole ethereal glowy thing (the non-Hollywood kind) is from a few nerves, a good dose of perspiration (or was that just me?) from dancing and lighting, and joy. It comes no matter what you’re wearing. That MIB is a tough cookie but it sounds like you’re getting her in check. Such a good post!

  • For someone who hates being photographed as much as me, MIB is in a perpetual freakout over my hair (not pulled back tightly because it make my head look weird but we’ll be outdoors so it still needs to be tamed), my makeup (I need to look great in pictures but not freaky clown whore up close or I’ll scare the kids) and my dress (the backfat fairy will come and tuck down that one little bit or maybe I can pin my veil to the back of my dress or just never let anyone behind me). And while *I* know that all this is nonsense – the groom reminds me daily – will someone please tell her?!?!?

  • PA

    “And no wedding dress is going to change that.”

    Oh my god, yes – I managed to extricate myself from the, “you’ll want to look your best, and so you’ll spend whatever you need to,” craziness when I realized that no dress will ever make me tall, a size two, or look like anything other than me, just dressed up. I found a dress that looks good on me (really good!), and took that one. End of story. (Well, except for the embellishments my mother and I are making for it.)

    And you’re completely right – it isn’t the dress that makes the bride(s) look jaw-droppingly beautiful, it’s the energy and the love and the intensity of the day.

  • Chris Bergstrom

    I had this conflict with my MIB too, and finally I decided that I would enjoy my wedding day more if I was not trying to be my most beautiful self ever. I know some women/men/people get a lot of joy out of taking steps to look their best, but for me it’s more often a source of stress, especially if I have other things on my plate at the moment. So about a month before the wedding, I had a serious talk with my fiance – I said, “Fiance, I want you to know that I’m going to wear a dress and jewelry and makeup and stuff, but I’m not going to try to be on our wedding day the MOST BEAUTIFUL I EVER AM IN MY WHOLE LIFE, because that would stress me out. Is that cool with you?” And he said, “Of course,” and looked at me a little strangely, because I’m pretty sure it had not occurred to him that this would have been a goal of mine.

    So I wore what I wore, I did my own makeup in 10 minutes because we were running late, and when I look back at the pictures, I think I look beautiful. Perhaps I might have been more beautiful at other times before my wedding (and I’m not ruling out looking even better in the future – who knows), but I never looked happier than in my wedding pictures.

    • That is AWESOME! Made me smile :)

      • Seraphine

        Chris–exactly this! I made the same decision. I have shorter hair, and I got it cut quite short about a week before the wedding, so I wouldn’t have to worry about having it done. I wore my glasses rather than contacts because I pretty much wear my glasses all the time. And I did my make-up myself right before the ceremony in about 10-15 minutes. I don’t look the most beautiful I’ve ever looked in my wedding pictures, but I look happy, which I totally was. And it was much less stressful this way.

  • RachelC

    bahahahaha. That whole beginning part – “Everyone watching me should think to themselves, ‘Oh. My. God. How have I failed to notice all of these years that Katie is the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth?'” and the expectation of our fiance(e)s thinking “Wow! This is the best decision of my life. I’m marrying someone who looks exactly like Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, and Halle Berry all rolled into one. Impossible! And yet, here she is!” — As incredibly absurd as it sounds that is EXACTLY what I was feeling like in the beginning before I found APW. Thank God this website helped me understand that my fiance is marrying me and that I wanted my friends to recognize me and that it was just a dress for cripe’s sake — but man oh man. I remember MIB well. To be honest…I still sort of wanted that even as I walked down the aisle after getting a much more practical dress lol.

    • Oh no Rachel! Say it ain’t so!
      Though it wouldn’t surprise me I’d I had those thoughts on the day, I’m still hoping I won’t.
      Thanks for assuring me that I’m not alone in my crazy land!

    • YES THIS:

      “Everyone watching me should think to themselves, ‘Oh. My. God. How have I failed to notice all of these years that Katie is the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth?’”

      So well articulated and so funny. Brava!

      Also how fucking ridiculous – where is this shit coming from? I blame Disney.

  • Lana post. Everyone has one, and hates her at the same time. I never really thought to give her a name though, but she has one now!

    Actually, I met MIB once, and it when I was dress shopping. There she was in the mirror wearing stilettos, a couture trumpet fit dress…and MY face! I had never look so thin (and somehow curvy) before. I had never looked so sleek and glamourous. Never in my life had I ever looked so…serious. MIB glanced at me with a look that said, “Don’t call me Lana. Call me Bride. With a capitol ‘B’.”
    Yeah, I’ll call you something with a capitol “B” alright.

    I’d rather look like myself. A spunky, happy, fun, pretty version of myself, for sure, but still like me. Like the woman my fiance asked to marry him, and my friends and family know and love (comfy shoes and all).
    Besides, I think I’m way cooler than MIB.

  • My inner bride made me look at wedding dresses online for like 6 months before I even set foot in the store! She convinced me I needed a fancy, lacy, gorgeous dress so that’s what I set out to look for when I finally started shopping. Except then the fancy, lacy, gorgeous dresses all looked terrible and felt terrible on me, so I thought I hated wedding dress shopping and worried I would never find anything.

    But then I decided to be like “screw you, MIB!” and tried on bridesmaid dresses instead and found a million that looked and felt great! I found an awesome dress that I’ll be totally comfortable in and is nothing like what MIB thought I wanted.

    Same with our engagement photos too – for some reason MIB thought they would elevate us to magazine quality and I would be overwhelmed with emotion when I first saw them at the amazingness of the photography, wondering “who are these people?”. I kind of feel terrible for not instantly loving them, because after I shoved MIB out of my head I did eventually get very emotional because they ARE amazing and I love them more every time I look at them.

    Expectations are weird to instantly get over when you build them up over such a long time. I kind of imagine the same thing will happen with the wedding itself – I’ll love it more as a memory than in the moment (although I know I will love the day itself too).

  • This post is too fabulous. So much excellent insight wrapped up in not so many words!

    You are one funny lady. I can’t think of a more perfect example of ‘The Bride’ than that scene from Love Actually–which always makes me want to vomit a little.

    The thing about Tina Fey? Priceless.

  • Zen

    I don’t have a MIB, which is great, but exasperatingly EVERYONE ELSE IN MY LIFE does. I’m not personally bothered about looking like a bride on the day I get married — I’d be just as married if I were doing in a tracksuit, so whevs. As long as I feel like me and feel a bit fancy, I’ll be happy. But everyone else is like, “But you can’t have a short dress! Don’t you want a train? You have to have a veil!” and it’s just like, god, guys! Keep your MIB to yourself!

    • Yes. Yes. Yes.

    • I actually had a neighbor tell me, when I informed her that I didn’t want any sort of train on my dress, that I had to pay attention to the back of the dress because, get this, I am going to have my back turned to most of the church for a large portion of the ceremony and I need to give people something to look at. How about they look at me getting married?

  • Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m not really a…pomp and circumstance kind of girl. It worried me because I just kept thinking, “If I don’t want a huge fancy ball gown and tons of fancy flowers and tons of guests and tiny wedding favors…maybe I’m not cut out for this whole wedding thing…”

    Or maybe I just need to do what I want instead of what MIB tells me I SHOULD want!!

  • I so appreciate hearing your struggle. But I gotta say, if you want to rock it short and strapless in January, GO FOR IT! I got married on New Year’s Eve and wore a pink sequin mini at the reception. I’m so glad it was short so I could bust a move, and even though it was (almost) January, it was hot on the dance floor! I think you could rock a short dress in January. Just maybe also wear an adorable/fashionable coat when outside. :)

  • This is such a funny post but I also think it gets to the heart of all the problems with the WIC and escalating wedding madness: the fact that deep down as women we want to be seen as beautiful in some extraordinary way, and we’ve been told that that means not being simply ourselves. I for one feel guilty for even admitting that I share these feelings, because it sounds so shallow, but then I’m sure the guilt is also just another part of the problem and the picture.

    Why would be be surprised about this though – we’ve been taught since we were little that women are valued for their appearance first and foremost. That shit is hard to unlearn.

    Great post!

  • One of the wittiest, most honest posts I’ve read in awhile. You had me laugh, nod in agreement and tear up all in the span of 10 minutes. No matter what you wear, I’m sure Navah will be “o.ver.come.”

  • wow, this MIB lady lives inside my head too. similarly stubborn to your MIB, she recently tried to convince me that it was worth $(insert unacceptable price here) to get my hair and makeup done just so I could look sparkly and shiny and not like normal me. Because apparently MIB does not think normal me is quite good enough to get married. It was nice to put a name on this feeling, i think i have the upper hand now. Thanks for your hilarious and insightful post! so so much!

  • Beth

    Thank you, Katie, thank you, thank you! My own MIB had taken up residence in my head and was creating some nasty worry, not only about how I looked but about the reactions of others. APW once again created a safe space for us to laugh together and ground ourselves in what matters!

  • Suzanna

    I LOVED this! So well put. Hilarious and true.

    Also, am I the only one who saw “MIB” and thought Men In Black? And then started singing the Will Smith song to myself?

    • Barbra

      I’m still singing it, even this far down the comments!

  • NB

    I want to “Exactly” this post times a million. Thanks for giving voice to my own battle with the MIB, in a beautiful and hilarious way.

    If it helps you to know this during your own adventures with her, my MIB was responsible for more than one hysterical crying jag at a gas station, post wedding-dress shopping (also invited to the party was her close friend and sidekick, Wedding Guilt Girl). I spent some not-proud moments weeping, hiccuping, and mourning for my own lack of Take My Breath Away-ness (TM). MIB was (and probably still is, honestly) a little disappointed to find that I had not transformed into Charlize Theron’s more charming kid sister overnight, with the addition of a white dress and veil.

    Months later, I can look at my wedding pictures and realize that the most breathtaking thing about them isn’t the way my hair floats in ethereal locks around my statuesque face (HA.HA.HA.), it’s that I look…happy. Like, out-of-my-mind-happy. And married. And while I didn’t think that was going to be enough for me, when I was scowling at a giant pile of tulle pre-wedding, now: holy shiz, APW. I was really, really, really happy. Etheral and A-Listy is all well and good, but they actually don’t allow that much exuberant YAY onto the red carpet. So. There’s that. Also the cake.

    Plus, I’d bet money that Navah would say you take her breath away all the time. And hey! Now you get to do it for keeps!

  • I had the same feeling as your senoir pictures as I did with my engagement photos. We went to our meeting with the photographer and I was expecting to see me as a model. But the 20lbs I put on in the past couple years, chipped tooth on my right side, and squinty eyes were still there.

    I desperately searched for the picture where I looked the skinniest and you could only see the left side of my smile. My fiance picked his favourite, the one where we look the happiest and we are smiling at each other. It’s now my favourite too regardless of my imperfections.

    As the planning continues, I know I will have to continually sush “MIB”, but she definitely needs sushing. Thank you for this post!

  • Heather

    So insightful! I just got married, and MIB was there during a lot of the planning, despite not even being invited to the wedding. Fighting the good fight day by day paid off, though, even when I couldn’t banish her completely.

    Thanks for the hilarious post. It was so cathartic and delightful!

  • Seraphine

    I wanted to say I appreciate this post. While I stated above that I took a practical, relatively stress-free approach to my appearance on my wedding day, recently I went through a period where I looked back at my wedding pictures and wondered if I should have tried to look the most beautiful I’ve ever looked in my life. But posts like this bring me back, so thanks!

  • Aims

    There are so many amazing posts on APW, but this one really speaks to me today. It takes a whole lotta pressure off. I would be completely happy getting married in jeans and a t-shirt. I probably won’t because FH loves to get dressed up and loves when I join him in that: it’s his day too, after all. I always knew I didn’t want a huge crazy, expensive dress, but this really cuts to the core. Not just the dress, but I don’t need my make up done or my hair really fancy or any of that. It would be weird if I did do/have those things because I never do. So why would I on this particular day? I wouldn’t feel myself and I certainly don’t want someone pretending to be a fancy version of me showing up at my wedding and taking my place.

  • <3 <3 <3 <3

  • Leah

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post!! I am newly (sorta) engaged, and stuck half-way between being ecstatic at the thought of our wonderful wedding, and *freaking out* about how to reconcile the vision I have of being the Perfect Bride, and the reality that I’m not- as you so wonderfully put it- “someone who looks exactly like Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, and Halle Berry all rolled into one”. I have been reading APW for about a month now and it has already changed my perspective and helped me to calm the f*** down, but this post really hit home. I read it at work this morning (shh, don’t tell my boss) and I just had to drop everything and read it… and read it again.

    Every time I point to a poofy/sparkly/fashion forward wedding dress and ask my fiancee what he thinks, he goes “ehh. I can’t even see you wearing that”. And it reminds me that those dresses aren’t ME. If it wasn’t a wedding dress and it wasn’t in a bridal magazine, I would never even *consider* wearing it. So why on earth would I wear it on the one day I want to me the most- well- me! Right now, my favorite dress I’ve ever seen is a vintage 50’s wedding dress on Etsy. And the only thing stopping me from buying it this very second is the fact that I haven’t even gone dress shopping yet, and don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to go wedding dress shopping! So I guess I don’t have MIB quite wrestled down yet… but I’m still working on it. Thank you again for the refreshing perspective- I think I’ll go read it again.

  • Susie

    I’m taking a break from work madness and decided to come here for some sanity and this is the best post I’ve read in ages. Love! My MIB and so many other people tried to convince me that I wouldn’t be a BRIDE without the bridal dress. I on the other hand just felt like I was a little girl playing dress up and looked nothing like the real Susan. But then as I was standing in the changing room in a simple scarlet bridesmaid dress, my best friend said “no, forget the big pouffy white one, this one makes you look like YOU.” Which sold it to me.

  • I, too, had a good ol’ LOL at these MIB sentiments: wanting everyone to realize that, on my wedding day, I was “the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth” . . . for himself to realize that he was “marrying someone who looks exactly like Kate Winslet, Natalie Portman, and Halle Berry all rolled into one. Impossible! And yet, here she is!”

    It was kind of annoying because what I liked most about my dress was that I didn’t feel like the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth while wearing it; I felt like myself. And while I prefer that feeling, I definitely did struggle with the fact that I feel as if I looked better on Saturday nights out than I did on my wedding day, which was photographed to no end. Stupid unrealistic expectations. I think I’m over it though. *phew*