That Time I Bought A Wedding Dress And Learned To Love Myself, Maybe

I bought a wedding dress today. It’s flattering as hell, fits like a glove and was so ridiculously low-priced that I had to check the urge to ask the sales consultant if it was on discount because someone had been violently murdered while wearing it. When I tried it on, my friend applauded and started taking hundreds of pictures on her phone. My mother cried. The girl in the dressing room next to me nodded enthusiastically and her mother put a hand to her breast and sighed with longing. Everyone agreed—it was The Dress. And because of all that and because of the price (the price, it cannot be said enough, was insanely low), I plunked down the debit card and snatched up the dress. So why did I find myself, twenty minutes later, sighing glumly into my small cup of conciliatory fro-yo?

Even though I am embarrassed to admit it, I’ve had certain expectations of how I would look at my wedding. These were only compounded when I met my fiancé—I started to imagine the look on his face as I walked down the aisle. I wanted to knock his socks off. I wanted him to be speechless. I wanted to look totally different than how he sees me all the time. Not, like, bleached-blonde and biker tattoos level of different, but stunningly lovely, instead of practical and cute. My dress would be soft and romantic, vintage-style (I’m not so carried away that I for one moment entertained the notion that my giant boobs would fit into an actual vintage dress). I’d have flowers in my hair and I’d look, for once in my life, graceful and delicate and pretty, an ethereal woodland goddess floating in to marry my one true love.

Okay, okay, you can stop laughing. I know, it’s all a little Disney-inspired and frankly nauseating. But I really did want that feeling of stunning my fiancé, not to mention the crowd of gathered friends and family. “Erin looks so . . . lovely,” they’d whisper to each other. “I never knew she could be so beautiful.”

And I thought I’d found that dress tonight. The perfect dress, a concoction of lace and organza—layered and beribboned and festooned, yet still simple and manageable. I was going to have to add some sort of sleeve, but that’s easy enough. It was a little heavy and it didn’t really do my figure any favors, but it certainly didn’t make me look bad. It was pretty and soft and everything I wanted. The price tag was reasonable, if not fantastic, and while wearing it, I was going to be that ethereal woodland goddess, damn it. Maybe not a floating one so much as a shuffling one (it really was heavy), but, hell, beauty is pain, right?

I sighed over the dress; I stroked it longingly; I thought about naming it Cassandra and consulting it as if it could talk back. This was the dress, the dress I wanted. The dress that would show everyone not who I was, but who I could be.

And then I tried on another dress, one tucked into the seemingly endless rack outside the dressing room. Its neckline was totally flattering to my “fall-back-career,” as I call my chest, and the wide-set straps (straps! Actual straps!) made my neck look slender. The lightweight chiffon and organza floated down to the floor and my waist—well! It made me look like I actually have a waist! In fact, as I was watching myself in the mirror, I said aloud, “You know what this dress needs? Pockets!” And while miming myself putting my hands in my pockets . . . there they were. The dress had mother-effin’ pockets, y’all.

Everyone flipped their collective shit over the sight of me in this dress. They loved it. And I did too—if that dress had been a sundress or cocktail dress and fit that well and was that cute and had pockets (they really cannot be oversold) and was that damn cheap, not only would I have immediately bought it, but I would have just as immediately emailed every single one of my friends and have them separately concoct an event that I could wear that dress to. It’s a good-looking dress, is what I’m saying.

But I just didn’t feel that wonderful, transcendent moment that I thought I was supposed to feel. Was this really the dress? Was it really this easy? Was it really so cheap that I could buy it without sweating the budget even a little? I wasn’t even looking to buy a dress yet—the wedding’s over a year away. I just wanted to try some on so that I could get an idea of what kind of silhouette and neckline worked on me! I haven’t even had one emotional breakdown about how I’ll never be able to afford my dream dress and briefly dabble with selling plasma for extra cash! I was being robbed my experience! I didn’t want to buy a dress yet! And I especially didn’t want to buy a dress that, damn it, looked so damn good on me already that I didn’t even need to lose those 20 pounds I’ve totally convinced myself I’m going to lose, just as soon as I finish this last glass of champagne. How dare this fucking dress validate me as a person? That’s not how wedding dress shopping is supposed to work!

And, besides, it’s not how I was supposed to look! It’s not old-fashioned; it doesn’t have lace and ribbons and frippery. No ethereal woodland goddess would be caught dead in this dress. It’s lovely, a little bit plain, unexpectedly whimsical, and it’s—that dreaded word that any girl with freckles hates hearing—cute. It’s a cute dress. But it isn’t overtly romantic, and it isn’t going to blow people away. No one is going to whisper at the ceremony, “Oh my goodness! Did you ever expect Erin to look like that?” Nah. They’re going to come up to me during the reception and say, “I love your dress; it looks so perfect on you!” Because that’s the kind of person I am—a little bit plain, unexpectedly whimsical, and, f*cking hell, cute.

But maybe I should embrace who I actually am. Maybe I should just try to look like a slightly-more-dressed-up version of me on my wedding day. Maybe, instead of worrying about stunning my fiancé on the day of the wedding, I should instead focus on being the me that he loves so much. And maybe instead of shocking my friends and family with a heretofore-undiscovered romantic side, I should remember that who I really am is worthy of being celebrated too. And, hell, if nothing else, they’ll be shocked by how much money I saved, right?

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  • Sarah

    Thanks for this post! It truly reminds me of my dress shopping experience, when I was torn between a very trendy designer dress and the dress I ended up buying, which is softer, timeless and awash with vintage lace (also, it doesn’t even have a zipper! I just pull it on over my head. True peeing by myself material). When I started to regret my choice, I said to my mom that maybe I should have gotten the first dress, because maybe my wedding was going to be my only chance to look like a style maven who had just stepped out of the pages of Vogue instead of the simple kind of girl I am. “But why would you want to be anything you’re not on your wedding day?” she asked. That settled it.

    • One More Sara

      Moms are seriously so wise.

    • meg

      Also, PS, your wedding isn’t the only chance you have to look like you stepped out of the pages of Vogue, if you don’t want it to be. That’s a weird wedding industry fueled myth trying to sell you All The Things. If you decide you want to make excuses for yourself to look awesome, you TOTALLY will. I’ve had many days since my wedding where I looked better already (book events, speaking, whatever) because I decided to heck with it, and got myself *did*. I think I’ll do it for my baby shower too. And it’s WAY lower stress that way, because it doesn’t *mean* anything. Take that wedding industry!

      • Class of 1980

        I once heard someone lament that they’d never wear such a fancy dress as their wedding dress ever again. It made me sad.

        I can’t tell you how many women I’ve thought got even better looking after their wedding was long over. Lack of extreme stress probably helps. ;)

        Meg, going by your pictures, I thought you got prettier too. I’ve seen this happen so often that there’s got to be something to it. I love it.

      • My mom recently told me, while we were shopping for her mother of the bride dress, that she felt the most glamorous and beautiful in the dress she wore for her 25th anniversary party.
        So those dressed-up fabulous moments can happen even in your mid 50s. No need to stop on your wedding day.

        • Class of 1980

          “So those dressed-up fabulous moments can happen even in your mid 50s.”

          God, I HOPE so. ;)

      • ferrous

        Thanks for this insight. I’ve been stuck in this mindset (IT’S THE DAY I MUST LOOK GLAMAZING), but didn’t realize it until the moment I read this… In fact, this week I started a product that really improves my skin, but I haven’t been using it daily, to “save it” for something special. This is dumb. I need to use that shit all the time. Huh.

        • Oh, god, the “saving it for something special” decease. I’m SO bad about that – to the point the products often have turned before I use them. Gah. I’m working at it.

      • Alexandra

        My sister occasionally had fancy dress up parties in college just because she wants an excuse to get glammed up. I personally think it’s a great idea, since it’s really nice to just have a reason to wear a gorgeous outfit some days. In the same thinking that you don’t need a special occasion to have a party, you don’t really need a special occasion to look like you stepped out of the pages of Vogue.

  • Deciding on a dress has been one thing that’s been truly easy for me, and I had very similar apprehensions. Shouldn’t it have been some sort of big fraught affair? Shouldn’t I have fallen absolutely in love with the dress the moment I put it on?

    In the end, I’m glad it’s been a straightforward decision, even if it wasn’t what I was planning or what I expected.

    • Ambi

      Sooo . . . confession time . . . I don’t have a ring yet, but I already have my dress. I saw it on a bride on a wedding blog and fell in love. I clicked on the link, found it online at a major chain department store, discovered that it isn’t technically a wedding dress at all and it was amazingly affordable. Then I saw that they were begining to sell out of certain sizes, so I panicked. I told my boyfriend. He told me to buy the dress. I did, it fits (and has a lot of flexibility for alterations if they are eventually needed), and I haven’t looked back since. I watched a morning news segment a while ago about crazy women who plan their weddings and buy their wedding dresses long before they ever get engaged, but you know what? I don’t feel one bit crazy. This was my dress, and I would have been crazy not to snatch it up when I had the chance. And I feel even better now, because Erin’s description of how her dress made her feel really hits home with me, so I know I picked the right one. My mom knows, and she’s not she’s not sad about missing out on the dress shopping experience, so all is good.

      • Jashshea

        Go shopping w/your Mom for her dress instead! My mom was happy to be at my appt, but she wouldn’t have been heartbroken to miss it.

        • Marina

          Ditto this! Shopping with my mom for HER dress was a great bonding experience and much less emotionally fraught than shopping for my dress would have been. Plus I got to spend a little time celebrating HER and how awesome SHE looks.

        • Diane

          I got my dress with my matron of honor but I’m flying home in a few weeks mainly to shop with my mom for her dress. She’s going to come down here at some point and we’re going to go together to the store where I got the dress so she can see it on and help me choose a veil. I think this is a perfect balance for me and my mom seems to be happy with it too.

      • Ambi

        I should have put “crazy women” in quotes because that is how the news segment portrayed them – obviously that’s not my opinion, since I’m one of them!

      • Class of 1980

        Ambi, it’s one less thing you have to worry about. How could anything ever be wrong with that? ;)

      • Cat

        I will one up you here, not yet engaged, no dress… But wedding SHOES bought and packed away! It mostly makes me laugh at myself. WHO AM I???

        • Ambi

          Oooh, if I had a beautiful pair of shoes packed away, I doubt I’d have the self control to leave them there instead of pulling them out and wearing them all the time! By the way, I haven’t decided yet, but I think I’m probably going to end up wearing a pair of simple ballet flats that I already own and wear to the office several times a week – they’re comfy and cute and will look good with my dress. But who knows, I may fall in love with wedding shoes at some point, so I’ll keep my options open. :)

      • I know a few ladies who did the same thing – and they could not have been happier with their dress.

        Even better, you discussed the purchase with your significant other. You’re not hiding some dress behind his back, he knows you have your dress and you love it and if I remember rightly you’re about to get engaged. So totally rock out on buying that dress! (I can’t wait to see your one-day grad post with pictures of you in the dress and with your man!)


        Me too! No ring (but past talk of engagement/general wedding plans). I was browsing on eBay for pretty dresses (in general, not wedding-y), and found one that’s gorgeous. It was £25 including shipping (!), and is one size too big (but gives me room to alter a few things about the dress anyway), and even if (for some bizarre reason) I don’t end up engaged/married, I want to rock this dress out at parties/dances/fancy dinners/whatever occasions for which it would work (it’s not white, so not really wedding-y).

        I haven’t told the BF that I bought it, not because I’m trying to hide it from him, but more because I’m not sure if he would get that I view it as a kickass dress to wear long-term and ideally the first wearing would be our wedding; rather than “hey, so I bought a dress, you’d better propose now!”.

        I probably have a couple of months worth of tweaking to do on the dress, so I’m cool with waiting (even if I’d also be happy about a proposal tomorrow).

      • Hannah

        Holy crap this is so the same as my story! Except that I was, technically, engaged, it’s just that our wedding was two years off yet. But yeah, saw dress (technically not wedding, but long and white), loved dress, dress sold out in my size, panicked, found dress on another site with ONE left in my size, talked with fiance, and he said DO IT you idiot. So it’s in a box in my closet. I tried it on and I love it, and it could easily be altered if my shape changes a bit in the coming months. Also, it was cheap enough that if I don’t like it anymore come spring 2014, I can just get another one.

  • Katie

    This was EXACTLY what i needed to read this morning. Thank you thank you. My dress shopping experience was nearly the same – pocket comment, price, and all! – and with 2 months to go, I too need to remind myself that who I am deserves celebration much more than who I think I should be on the wedding day. Amazing.

    • Yes! Mine was too!!!

      There were no tears, my Mom who was shopping with me had decided that the PREVIOUS dress was my dress and was totally in shock when I found the right one, and up to the moment I was questioning whether the whole thing should have been more dramatic.

      But honestly, I just looked like a prettier version of myself, and that was totally ok.

  • Brefiks

    Yikes! Don’t call it Cassandra! No one took her communications seriously. But I am sure your dress will communicate that you are a beautiful bride so that everyone believes : )

    I too was very swayed by the woodland nymph aesthetic, and had to try on millions of dresses before recalling that I am 5’4″ and curvy, and empire waists make me look like a caryatid.

    • meg

      Cassandra is PERFECT for a wedding. That’s exactly how I felt when I was getting married, 90% of the time (sadly) ;)

      • Brefiks

        God, that’s a good point.

    • MDBethann

      Thank you for the ancient Greek references. It’s working stuff like that into general conversations that make me love APW!!

    • Yeah, as it turns out? We short, curvy people cannot be woodland nymphs. Which if you ask me is ridiculous, because we curvy short people hide so much better behind giant woodland mushrooms!

  • Jessica

    Thanks so much for this post! I am postponing dress-shopping in order to go with my mom over my Christmas break, but that hasn’t kept me from Pinterest and some online browsing. I will definitely come back to this post before I go shopping, just to remind myself of what’s important when looking for a dress!

  • Taylor

    “How dare this fucking dress validate me as a person? That’s not how wedding dress shopping is supposed to work!”

    I love this! And can we just say a collective “eff you” to how wedding dress shopping is *supposed* to work? What other item of clothing are we expected to go on months worth of reconnaissance missions before we can actually know what we like and what looks good on our bodies? I mean, we can go to the mall and buy jeans or a bra (arguably harder to find a proper fit with these things) in an hour and no one will bat an eye

    I mean, when I went to buy a dress, I knew that I like simple dresses with a band at the natural waist and an a line skirt. Found a simple, floaty one I loved and made my waist look fab and looked like an amalgamation of all the dresses on my pinterest board.

    But then my mom said “But you’re supposed to try on different styles! to see what you LIKE!” and all of a sudden I was standing in a series of blinged out body hugging satin gowns, and got confused as hell. “I’m not supposed to have a clue what I like or what looks good on me with these things right? Maybe this is supposed to be what looks good on me and I just don’t get it yet.”

    But then I remembered a mantra I picked up from participating in Project 333, a minimalist clothing challenge (google it, it is awesome) “Dress for who you are, not who you think you should be”

    so I walked out with the floaty organza dress.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Exactly! and thank you.

      I wish there was some way to appropriately thank the bridal salon I went to and my mother and sister for not making me go through the ritual of “trying on different styles to see what you like, because what you think you’ll like may not actually look good on you.” Instead, everything I tried on was as close as the store could come to the description I gave them of what I wanted, which was the same description I would have given them at age 12.

      I don’t do that with any other clothes any more. I buy almost all my clothes online. I can tell from a picture or the piece on the hanger whether I like it or it will look good on me. That is, whether I think it looks good on me, which is all that matters. Why would those skills and habits not transfer to my wedding dress?

      Also, you know what? For better or worse, my tastes haven’t changed from age 12. Not in my favorite colors, not in my home furnishings, not in my normal clothes, not for my wedding dress. That might surprise the Wedding Industry, but it shouldn’t surprise me.

      • KEA1

        A thank-you note, and maybe referrals whenever you have the opportunity, will probably be much appreciated! ;)

  • Megan (from Nova Scotia)

    POCKETS!!!! yeah, actually, that is what sold me on the dress that I bought.

    I would like to add a well written, and thought provoking comment about this posting, but I know when I’m outgunned ;) I think you really nailed how I felt about dress shopping.

  • Hell yes to dresses with pockets!

    • MDBethann

      There were some bridesmaid dresses with pockets at David’s Bridal that my sis-in-law LOVED.

  • PA

    From the wanting-to-be-delicate-and-ethereal-instead-of-practical-and-cute to the boobs-won’t-fit-in-vintage-or-maybe-anything-ever, this post is a perfect summation of my wedding dress experience.

    More experience heads than mine offered the advice, “choose the dress that represents your relationship,” which seemed useless at the time, but much more understandable in hindsight, when I ended up with a pretty, simple, comfortable wedding gown instead of a heavy, uncomfortable, bedazzled one. This post makes me think that maybe I chose a dress that represents ME, too, not just our relationship – perhaps not style maven, not high fashion, not perfect-from-every-angle, not delicately pretty…but simple and well-made, comfortable, and maybe sometimes a bit elegant (just a bit).

    Thank you for sharing! I hope you do a wedding post so we can all see this lovely dress!

    • HH

      “choose the dress that represents your relationship”


      • Interestingly, I tried on the big poofy tulle dress while dress shopping and after admiring myself in the mirror I said “This feels like a fairy princess dress” then turned around one more time and said, “I can’t wear this at our wedding.” I don’t know if I seemed more wistful than I actually was because the sales lady (very kindly but sort of awkwardly) said, “Do you feel like you can’t be a fairy princess?”

        Um. No, actually. I’m getting married outdoors in the middle of the desert and fairy princess is not part of OUR script.

        (I did end up with a dress that is perhaps a bit “much” for our setting but it more simple and sleek…much more my style.)

        • I seriously debated a dress that made me look like a sparkly barbie ballet princess, complete with several dozen layers of crinoline.

          Until my sister saw it, and burst in to hysterical laughter, because as fun as it was, there could not have existed a dress that less represented who I was, what our relationship was, or the kind of wedding we were having.

          It was a fun dream, but I am so glad it wasn’t what I went with, in the end.

        • It’s your wedding. If you’re happy with it, and feel good in it, I don’t think any dress is too “much” for any setting. Who’s to say what’s appropriate for your wedding attire?

          Or, at least, that’s what I’m telling myself to feel ok about my plan to wear a princess dress that was given to me if my fiance and I say screw it and just go to the courthouse with our moms.

          • KEA1

            As long as the dress fits into the room at the courthouse, wear it. %)

          • See, if you like the dress and it’s what you want then it’s all okay. The “fairy princess” dress I tried on was more like the dress than 10 year old Beth would have picked…ages before I met Forrest.

  • Sadie Anne

    I needed this too and appreciate it greatly. I paid for mine yesterday, and skipped the second trip looking for something better.

    I loved it when I put it on, but I loved almost every dress I tried on. There were others more like what I had in mind. It’s not a dress that makes me feel like a million bucks. It makes me feel like significantly fewer bucks – the most practical dollar amount that I can feel from a dress. I wasn’t interested in the perfect dress – just occasion-perfect. The way people were acting though, you’d think it just let them see me whichever way they most wanted to see me. So I kept looking. thinking “I could rock a dress you never thought of and really be different!” But thanks to APW I coukd mitigate that feeling with “It’s all been done, Sadie Anne!”

    And frankly, a dress that needs no alterations, costs half the budget, is by my favorite designer (shallow, maybe, but that’s my favorite thing about it), has straps, is one of a kind in my state, makes my fiance reconsider his views on dresses, and was confirmed by a sign from my late mom (discounts are her sign, y’all) is a dress I’ll wear. Like finding pockets when you wish for them, the real question was: Ooh can I wear this cool story and tell it?

    • Laura

      “It’s not a dress that makes me feel like a million bucks. It makes me feel like significantly fewer bucks – the most practical dollar amount that I can feel from a dress.” YES! Amen sister!

      My dress experience was the same way – one visit to the bridal shop and bought my dress that day! I liked my dress a lot, but didn’t have an “a ha!” moment, that everyone was expecting I’d have. But the price tag was so reasonable and the dress was great! How could I pass it up?!

      Even my fiance accused me of “settling” so I could “check it off my list” because I bought a dress the first trip to the bridal shop. Even HE is convinced it takes months and months of shopping before finding “the one.” Insanity I tell ya!

      Was it perfect? No. Was it what I “had in mind” (not that I ever truly spent time thinking about it)? Absolutely not. But it was great, and it was inexpensive (well, comparatively anyway), and I felt good in it. and that’s what matters! Glad I’m not alone here!

      • KB

        A-FREAKING-MEN! I have now tried on what feels like a zillion dresses (it’s probably more like 25) and have found 3 that would be nice to wear on my wedding day. No “aha!” moment, no tears, no “OMG, It’s The One Dress to Unite Them All.” It’s just not in my personality to believe that there is some magical dress out there that will spark a halo and singing birds once it’s zipped up. And while I feel like it’s good to be practical, it’s also making it very hard to actually CHOOSE a dress because I find myself saying “Sure, I like it, I could see myself wearing it” to three totally different styles that all in fact “look like me.”

        • Laura

          KB, I truly believe that if you like something enough (note: not settling) and the price is within your budget (or whatever your priorities are – those were mine), you’ll go for it! Even the bridal consultant where I bought my dress said that most women expect to have that ‘a ha!’ moment, but very few do. For me it was a combination of price, feeling good (enough) in it, and not wanting to keep looking. I also went to a bridal outlet, so I was able to try the dress on in MY size and purchase it more or less of the rack, which sealed the deal for me.

          The dress was much heavier than I would have liked, had a train (Which I will promptly chop off) and has a lot more “bling” (as my mom calls it) than I would have pictured myself with, but all of the other factors that were important to me (felt good in it, good price point, bought it “off the rack”) worked out – so I went for it. No magic – just keeping your APW hat on and picking something that works for you. Not the elusive “perfect” but something that works for you! Good luck and happy shopping!

        • MDBethann

          For me, I was down to 2. And I asked myself which dress could I see myself wearing down the isle. The one was form fitting and showed off my figure beautifully, but I felt like it was something I would wear on the red carpet, not in a wedding. The other one had a full skirt and a fitted bodice and I felt (even without a veil) like it was something I would wear in a wedding. And none of the other dresses I tried on made me feel like that. I wouldn’t say it was an “a ha” moment, because it wasn’t what I pictured for myself (I was so going with A-line lace going into the process and not ballgown) but it worked and I felt so beautiful – and like me – on my wedding day in it. Good luck figuring out which one works best for you!!

          • KB

            I think I’ll be happy in whichever one I try on. There’s only one dress that I ever felt like “I MUST TRY ON” (Allure #8770, if anybody’s got a lead…just sayin’…), but it’s an old style and not on any of the pre-owned sites or in any shops near me, and I couldn’t find anything that approximated the dress in the ways that I like it. I was seriously driving myself crazy over it and, considering that I think a lot of other dresses would do just as well, I’d probably put it on and say the same thing “This looks pretty!” and that’s it. So I think I made my peace with it – especially since, of the three in the running, I think the dress I AM going to end up going with it super sexy and sparkly with a whole layer of glitter-fabric underneath the lace. I wonder if my friends will think it’s tacky – but then I think, I don’t really care because, hey, a sparkly dress makes me happy :-)

          • Remy

            @KB —

   closes in 3 days and change. Worth it to cut it down in alterations?

            There’s also this one, but it looks kinda shady.

      • Lisa B.

        I’m still more than a year out from my wedding date. A few months ago, before we had really even started planning, my sister sent me an email to The Limited, because they were having a sale on wedding dresses. The fiance and I looked over the dresses together, and figured out which one I would like the best.

        It came in the mail a couple weeks later, and I had my ladies (sisters, mom(&in-law) and a couple friends come over to see it, and it fit perfectly, and I love it.

        There was no aha! moment, and nobody cried (that I saw), but it’s a nice dress, that I look nice in, and it was cheap!

        Yay for us for having the balls to do what works for us, I say.

  • Amber

    Great post! Just like every part of wedding planning, the dress shopping comes with some serious expectations. I watched way too many episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” before I went shopping and also suffered from the need to be stunning on the big day. I struggled to find a dress that was flattering but also felt like me. What I thought I wanted looked terrible on, or the most flattering cuts made me feel like just a generic bride. In the end I found a dress I adore and think brings out the best parts of me (and was soooo cheap), but it was after I went back to buy a different one. Even after I got it, I waffled every other day about whether it was going to work out. Not only are we pressured to find a dress that shows us off, but it must go with our wedding theme and colors and vibe. Ack! It’s all ridiculous, really. And coupled with our own romantic notions of ourselves, we totally over think it.

    • KB

      I totally had this problem – I fell in love with this one Demetrios gown that was all satin-y and super sexy. Then I tried it on and I looked like the Pillsbury dough boy with a bejeweled middle :-p Back to the drawing board…

  • I felt very similar things when I was choosing between the two lovely dresses I found. One was stunning, the kind of stunning that would elicit the “oh my goodness” reaction from the crowd. But I couldn’t feel right about it…and the other one was ME. I was so afraid that it was “pretty,” or, yes, “cute” rather than “gorgeous!” and “so elegant!” but I felt better, in my gut, when I put it on. It shows my neck and collarbone, which the fiance will appreciate. It is simple, which is what I said I wanted all along — in fact, in regard to our appearance and that of our attendants on our wedding day, our mantra had always been that we would look like ourselves, just a little fancier, similar to the conclusion noted above. So, sure, my dress doesn’t have a train, and I might not totally blow everyone away, but I will look like myself, just a bit fancier, and it will feel honest, which matters. And now, just over a week before our wedding, I’m absolutely sure I made the right decision. Funny how that works. Hope you find yourself feeling the same, too, Erin — thanks for your great post.

    • “…and it will feel honest, which matters.”

      This is a really interesting point. I think about anything can go, as far as wedding outfits go, as long as the person wearing it feels comfortable in what they are wearing. And I think this idea of feeling honest sums that up really well.

  • Jashshea

    Had a stylistically opposite, but equally self affirming dress experience. I wanted to be a woodland creature SO MUCH – lace and sheath and light and airy were my WORDS. I did two large group bridal trips and two smaller trips (one just me!) – Everyone was allowed to pull dresses and I’d try on anything.

    The last trip with the Moms (mine and his) and some friends was supposed to be the dog and pony show – I’d try on whatever they pulled, but I was buying the lace one. I tried on probably 20? 25? dresses that morning. I kept wavering between the lace one and the big, heavy, satin FLOWERY one. I told the consultant all the things I hated about the Flowery one (cut off that train, take off the giant flower from my shoulder, blah blah blah) and all the things I loved about the lace one. The flowery one was just dead sexy and the lace one was so practical and comfortable.

    Obviously, I got the flowery one. I look fantastic in it, though there’s no room for pockets. And it’ll be perfect as soon as I cut off that god forsaken 900 foot train.

  • Kat

    thank you!

    I did the exact sort of reconnaissance dress shopping trip with a good friend a few weeks ago, cuz you know you’re supposed to try on a million and one dresses and go to several shops and it will be a several month ordeal right?, well wrong.

    First dress I put on: BAM! I loved it… tried on 8 more… they all sucked or were just alright… put that first dress on again: BAM! Tears. Yup that’s the dress. Then came the awful guilt of “but I wasn’t supposed to find it now! I was supposed to get it with my Mom and sister here!”

    I dug deep into my big girl feelings and words “This is just a dress, I wouldn’t need them here to help validate my jean shopping or shoe shopping so why does this have to be any different! I also wouldn’t go to 5 or 10 other jean stores to compare jeans if there was a pair of jeans I loved and felt good in at the first store, this isn’t ANY different.”

    Bought the dress, brought it home that day… there it sits in my closet until October 2013. Also, it fits perfectly, no alterations necessary… can’t get any more perfect dress than that.

    • Halle

      “dug deep into my big girl feelings and words”
      Thank you! Long rehearsal/welcome party discussion session with the in-laws-to-be last night, and I really needed the reminder this morning that we are adults and we know what we want; more importantly we know what is important to us and why. Thank you for reminding me, even when it’s hard, I know what I’m feeling and how to stand up for myself, and us.

      And congrats on the dress! I bought mine a year early, couldn’t stand the thought of possibly losing out on a dress that made me so happy.

  • Martha

    This is an amazing story, so so similar to the way I feel about my dress. I absolutely love my dress, but it is nothing like I imagined it would be. It is cute, a tad modern, and lovely in its simplicity. I had entered dress shopping thinking I would find the perfect slim, lace dress – but they looked terrible! I have so few curves that there was nothing to fill out such dresses. So the cinched waist, ballgown is for me! Additionally, the lacey concoctions I had imagined made me feel so stuffy and, I don’t know – old? The simple taffeta gown WITH POCKETS and a fancy belt made me feel like myself – and that is what a wedding dress should do. Make you a better, fancier version of yourself. My fiance proposed while I was wearing gym clothes – clearly he loves me just the way I am.

  • I bought my wedding dress on a whim, off a bargain rack at a department store, over a year before our wedding. I wasn’t even looking yet! And it was TOTALLY not the style I had thought I would eventually look for! But I figured it was SO cheap that if I found another dress I liked later, it wouldn’t be a big deal at all that I had bought the first one. I did actually eventually buy a second dress, but ended up wearing the first one. It was perfect, even if it wasn’t what I had pictured myself in originally, and even if I found it by accident. It was perfect, and it sounds like yours will be too.

  • Mary

    OMG…YES! Yay for big-boobed brides. It’s nice to hear someone else’s experience shopping for dresses when your assets just DO NOT fit into most of the normal dress styles.

  • I went for the whole Grand Shopping Experience — six stores, a party of thousands, twenty-seven dresses. It was a ridiculous expedition. A week or two later, we ended up (me, my grandmother, my MoH, and her two month old daughter) at the strangest, cheesiest-looking shop, where I found a dress that looked, well, a lot like an extremely fancy, lighter-colored version of the stuff that I keep in my closet (and by lighter-colored, I mean eye-searingly bright colors on a white background instead of black). It was a dress that made me look like *me*.

    As for The Look? The blow-his-socks-off stunned expression when he first sees you all done up? It’s your wedding day, and we build it up to be such an amazing thing (which, don’t get me wrong, it totally is, although I still wouldn’t call it the Best Day Of My Life). When Ben first saw me, I don’t think he even saw the dress, and I still got that Look. Hell, I was *there* when he bought his suit and he still looked so much more… well, there’s really no words without getting my poor pulse racing.

    I’m a firm believer that we look our best when we feel good about ourselves. If your dress makes you feel good, you’ll be stunning.

    • Remy

      Good to know! My sweetie is maintaining the tradition of not seeing me in the dress (although she knows which one it is) until the wedding day, and sometimes I feel a little nervous that it just won’t be all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, it’s just a dress. I don’t want her to be disappointed for having waited.

    • We also were both there when we bought our outfits, and seeing each other dressed in our outfits on the wedding day was still really special and felt different. Kinda like opening night feels different than the dress rehearsal of a play….

  • Anon

    Such a good post – I really wish I read this while planning my wedding. These days, I only read the reclaiming wife/business posts as I get a little twitchy reading about wedding planning…. wedding planning ptsd? But this was so good.

    I never thought the wedding dress stuff would be so emotional… but it really was for me. Even after the wedding. My dress ended up being too big on me due to a last minute unexpected and unintentional weight loss and it still upsets me. I remember the $$ spent and feel bad about it. I look at photos and wish I would have chosen better and had better alterations and and and – WHY DO I CARE SO MUCH? Then I get mad at myself for caring so much. There is so much goddamn pressure to look a certain way on your wedding day and I cannot believe I am STILL letting that BS bother me. I looked like me – skinny, in a fancy dress and with great makeup. Not transformed into a wedding magazine model.

    Anyway, this post made me feel better. As did this crazy rant. :)

  • Pixie_moxie

    Lady you can write! I love your voice. Everything you said about wanting to watch him be wowed was exactly what I wanted and worried about, silly worrying about such things. It took flying out to have my mom and her best friend fit my dress that made me accept that my dress was me, and I felt like me, the comfortable short and spunky me in a pretty dress, there was only one way he could see me, as me, giddy to be walking down the aisle to meet him. If I managed to knock his socks off then bonus. I felt elegant and spunky and hopefully those watching would feel that coming off of me. If not, well heck I can’t control what people are thinking! thanks again for your post!

  • GREAT writing. And content. Oh just yay.

    I would never have picked my dress out of a lineup. Nor do I even, technically, like it in the way I like most clothes I have. But I love it. My aunt and friend collaborated to make it from the $3 Hobby Lobby pattern I found on clearance and my sister conspired to have the word “Yes!” embroidered into the inside of the skirt. It is not, nor will it ever be, a dress I would pick out. But damn if I don’t love it because it so embodies the community of our wedding, and the process of things being what they are and not what they should be in an ideal world.

  • Thanks so much for this post! I pretty much live in dresses, so I have a fairly good sense of what I like and what is flattering on me. I’m petite and a little curvy and tend towards sweet little vintage tea length styles so I always figured some variation on that would work for my wedding.

    And yet.

    As I started my search I was instantly besieged by advertising and acquaintances whispering little doubts and “shoulds” and “this is your ONE CHANCE”s in my ear and I started to think that maybe I DO need to take this opportunity to deck myself out like a sparkly white Christmas tree and wow them all with my luminous splendiferousness by wearing a gown that takes up half the room!

    This post helped me take a deep breath and calm right back down and remember that there’s really only one person I want to wow, and he’s wowed already.

    • Another Meg

      “This post helped me take a deep breath and calm right back down and remember that there’s really only one person I want to wow, and he’s wowed already.”
      H to the Y.

  • Hahaha, that is exactly, & I mean exactly, the same experience I had. First shop I went to (& only because the future mother-in-law suggested it), at 60% off. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to buy my dress that way or that day but…I did. No regrets!

  • Megan

    Thank you sooo much for this post today. I’m about a week away from my wedding and have been experiencing wedding dress dilemmas. I bought a dress that I loved at the time and then have loved when I’ve tried it on at home. I then showed it off to some friends who felt it didn’t flatter me and have since been having doubts about the dress. Even before showing my friends the dress I had become obsessed with this notion of “stunning my fiance.” So, your words, “Maybe, instead of worrying about stunning my fiancé on the day of the wedding, I should instead focus on being the me that he loves so much,” could not have been a better reminder to me. My fiance would probably be happy to marry me while I was wearing a paper bag. He won’t be so happy to marry me if I’m moping around or grumpy as our wedding approaches. I need to stop critiquing every curve of my body or the fact that the dress maybe doesn’t “show my waist” and work on being present and enjoying the time leading up to our wedding. Oh, and I need to stop asking friends for opinions on the dress because if I feel good in it, that is really what matters.

    • If you really are unsure and you really want your fiancé to like how you look, you could ask your fiancé’s opinion beforehand? I hadn’t planned on that but my husband actually saw me in what ended up being my dress, and I found his opinion super reassuring when trying to make a final decision between two options. I trusted his opinion more than anyone else’s and felt super confident knowing that he felt I looked great in the dress I chose.

      Anyhow, whatever you decide, I am sure it will all turn out okay! I hope you enjoy your wedding!

  • Stacy

    I bought a dress on a whim two years ago on Etsy, more than a year before I even met my now-fiance. It’s been sitting in a box for all that time. Now that we’re engaged and wedding stuff is *real* instead of a fantasy in my head, I pulled it out and tried it on again for the first time since it arrived.

    And it looks *weird* on me. It looked so beautiful in the pictures, with its mermaid shape and laciness that you don’t often see in vintage wedding gowns. I can usually rock that shape, but there’s just something off about this dress. I think it’s the way it’s constructed, with horizontal seams (which they “cleverly” covered up with a belt in the pictures) instead of vertical princess seams. One of my dear friends argued with me after only seeing the pictures, but when I tried it on for her she made the same face I did and said, “Ew . . . that just looks . . . weird on you.” And she referred to the same parts of the dress I thought looked weird without me even telling her what I thought was wrong with it.

    So, after thinking I had it all figured out, now I’m looking for a different dress. But now the decision feels HUGE to me. Like once I choose the dress, that’s IT. That’s the dress until forever. This post makes me think that maybe I’m putting way too much weight on it. I, too, keep thinking that I want to knock my fiance’s socks off by looking so amazing, but his socks are really easy to knock off. He’s just going to be beside himself with joy that he gets to marry me that day. I probably need to chill it out.

    • Jashshea

      And, remember, there’s only going to be one dress/gown at your wedding. There won’t be other people wearing the ones you wished you’d bought (although that’s a super idea for a themed wedding).

  • Erin

    Ohmygosh, we could be the same person (with the same post). Not only am I an Erin, too (holla!), but my dress has pockets and is also–*sigh*–cute. And, sad but true, it looks like me. I won’t be an elegant bride, I won’t be a sleek bride–I’ll probs trip down the aisle and ugly cry during my vows, but I’ll be me, cute and all.

  • April

    AWESOME! Funny, smart and true. I soooo wish I’d had this to read before my dress shopping experience. I’d have just paid the stupid amount of $$$ for the couture gown that made me look frickin’ fabulous. Nope. Instead…. I bought a dress I thought I liked, then panicked, decided not to wear it, and two months before the wedding, grabbed something off-the-rack at David’s Bridal. Which worked, but wasn’t my dream. Whatev. I’ve plenty more parties to attend in my life and buy fancy dresses for, right!?

    As for the dress knocking the socks off your intended, well… my husband didn’t say a word about the dress. Which I still think is hilarious. It was the *veil* that was his undoing. There’s a picture of me with my veil blowing in the breeze he keeps in his office. When I pointed out to him he never said anything the dress, he said, “Well, you looked stunning. But the veil was beyond. I mean, really – you looked like royalty”. Yep. That’ll do. ;-)

  • Cleo

    Erin, are you me in the future?

    I’m pre-engaged, but a LOT of my friends are engaged right now, so wedding dresses have been a huge discussion topic among us girls when we get together, so I’ve been thinking about my dress frequently, and this:

    “I’d have flowers in my hair and I’d look, for once in my life, graceful and delicate and pretty, an ethereal woodland goddess floating in to marry my one true love.”

    is EXACTLY how I’d like to look, but in reality, I’m 5’3″ with a tiny waist and big hips, and have never floated anywhere in my life (on land).

    Thank you for this post. I know I’ll reference it when my wedding planning goes from theoretical to real…because while I’m not a woodland goddess at all, I am quirky and cute and look great in 50s style dresses with swinging skirts. It’s weird and unfortunate that we need a reminder that being ourselves is okay, but I’m grateful for yours.

    • KB

      “But in reality, I’m 5’3″ with a tiny waist and big hips, and have never floated anywhere in my life (on land).”

      This cracked me up because I, too, am short with big hips and, while I would like to float down the aisle, the truth is that it’ll probably be more like an amble.

      • Cleo

        Haha! Yes! Exactly!

        I amble as well, and when there’s music, I bop my head in time to it. I imagine in my journey up the aisle, I’ll look like a less like a fairy princess and more like John Travolta in the opening of Saturday Night Fever (with a tad less rhythm).

      • Ambi

        I’m not really sure about “floating” (until today, it wasn’t a word I’d ever even thought of when thinking of brides), but I can tell you that my cousin was recently married, and she is on the short side with larger hips, and she looked AMAZING on her wedding day. It is hard to describe, but something about the fact that she had womanly curves made her look even more beautiful – she wasn’t a lithe fairy princess, she was a beautiful, sexy, grown woman getting married. I can hardly describe it, but try this: imagine Marilyn Monroe as a bride – you would never dream of trying to hide her curves and make her seem like she had a prepubescent boy’s body when her hips were so freaking beautiful! That’s how I felt about my cousin, and luckily, I think she felt the same. It would have been such a shame if she’d tried to fit into some other ideal.

  • A dress that makes you feel pretty, like yourself, makes your rack look good, and that looks wonderful on you now, just as you are – that is the definition of the perfect wedding dress. I had the exact same experience and I assure you that everyone will still say, “Oh look how lovely she is!” and your fiance will most certainly be stunned (hint: super happy wedding glow beats Vogue dress in the beauty Olympics every time).

  • honeycakehorse

    Oh *how* I needed this story! Thank you so, SO much, Erin!

  • Kelly

    You should absolutely be yourself on your wedding day! I got so many comments about how perfect my dress was for me which made me grin almost more than the ‘you’re such a beautiful bride’ comments. And my husband’s one request (which actually was more directed towards make-up, but I kept in mind for my whole dress and such) was that I look like myself when I walked down the aisle.

  • Linnea

    I have been struggling with my dress in the opposite way. The dress is romantic and beautiful, but I don’t feel that it really represents me that much at all. I think that I was so shocked by all the positive reactions (my mother, the shop owner, the other shoppers) that I figured it was the right dress. Months later I’m having small panic attacks that I am not being true to myself with this dress. I would much rather be me when I get married, rather than an elegant, refined, romantic version of myself.

    When I’ve expressed these concerns and my own discomfort of “dressing up as someone else” to my mother and my friends, they say “but the dress looks beautiful on you” or “but it is you”. The problem is that I don’t feel like me, and I should, because I am the one getting married. I’ve had alterations made to the dress just to ease my mind. Now I’m more comfortable with it. But I would much rather have the struggle of the dress representing me too much, than not at all.

  • Remy

    I didn’t have the usual wedding dress narrative, either, and I’m kinda glad. I’ve never set foot in a bridal shop, although I’m sure I could find a few around here… but I did once go prom dress shopping at such a place with my mom, and it was just an awful experience for someone who doesn’t like her body much and doesn’t care about clothes anyway. The lack of a private dressing room and then the display of the results to all and sundry was a major drawback.

    So I bought my dress online (after maybe a week of browsing) and had a moment of “Will it actually fit?” when it arrived… just like I do with any clothing I buy online. It actually fits really well, and it took 15 minutes of hand-sewing to make the straps do what I wanted them to. Et voila. I have a dress — the first one I settled on and technically the first one I tried on. It has all the things I wanted in a wedding dress (except it does not magically make me into a C cup, and perhaps that was just slightly unrealistic). But it’s just a dress. I got SO much more OMGWEDDINGBRIDALSQUEEEEEE over my AWESOME PETTICOAT. Which I will probably wear around the house after the wedding, just because.

  • Oooh, I like this! I ended up buying my wedding dress because 1) I had a feeling my fiance would really like it (he did) and 2) I still felt like *myself* in it. Done and done. Then I had moments of doubt throughout the rest of wedding planning, particularly because I hadn’t followed the accepted “dress your shape” advice (us petite gals with, ahem, “athletic” shoulders and slim hips aren’t supposed to wear fit-and-flare, y’know), and I hadn’t had a lightning-strike this-is-my-dress moment. Was that supposed to happen? What if I was missing my ONE CHANCE to make my waist look itsy-bitsy in a giant tulle confection? (Nevermind that when I tried on those giant tulle confections, I nearly had a panic attack in the bridal shop and couldn’t get out of them fast enough!)

    Anyway, after all that doubt, I totally fell in love with my dress on my wedding day because, duh, it’s the dress I got married in.

  • Kristi

    “Maybe, instead of worrying about stunning my fiancé on the day of the wedding, I should instead focus on being the me that he loves so much. And maybe instead of shocking my friends and family with a heretofore-undiscovered romantic side, I should remember that who I really am is worthy of being celebrated too. And, hell, if nothing else, they’ll be shocked by how much money I saved, right?”

    AMEN to THIS!

    I had the same exact thoughts a few days ago. I actually purchased a dress from J Crew over a month ago because I had always dreamt of wearing it. It was so ME. AND it was on sale plus an additional 30% off. I ended up paying only $315 total, so I went for it! STEAL!

    Then I went to J Crew last weekend with my FMIL and my two closest friends….just to have “the experience” of trying some dresses on and see if I liked any of the other styles better. I’m glad I went because it was SO much fun! Besides the gown that I already purchased, there was one other that I thought would knock my FH’s SOCKS OFF. But it cost $2,400 and it was nothing like what I pictured I would be wearing on my wedding day. It was beautiful but it certainly wasn’t me. Plus, I would have to take out a personal loan to pay for it.

    I mulled it over and over for a few days and just found that I kept going back to the original dress that I loved so very much. It’s much better to feel like the most gorgeous version of your true self, than a reincarnated version of yourself. Think of how much more comfortable you will feel and when you’re are comfortable and confident, the beauty shines through! Congrats on finding the right dress for you. You will be stunning. And HELL YES, we are ALL worth celebrating. :)

    • Cleo

      “It’s much better to feel like the most gorgeous version of your true self, than a reincarnated version of yourself. Think of how much more comfortable you will feel and when you’re are comfortable and confident, the beauty shines through!”


      especially to the part about being comfortable.

  • “Maybe, instead of worrying about stunning my fiancé on the day of the wedding, I should instead focus on being the me that he loves so much.”

    Thank you for this! My dress is a David’s Bridal bridesmaid’s dress, in champagne because it looks good on me and because David’s Bridal doesn’t want us to buy cheap dresses. And it looks fabulous on me. But it’s hard to let go of the image of floating down the aisle in a flowy white gown, watching the look on the beloved’s face as he sees me looking like a pretty pretty princess. The fact is, he thinks I look great in a t-shirt and sweats, he doesn’t care if I put on a pretty dress, and he’s certainly not going to love me *more* because I’m wearing something that cost more than we can afford. The trick is trying to separate out the fantasies from the dress, I think. It’s just fabric, it’s not magic.

  • Airplane Girl

    I love your last paragraph. We always talk about being ourselves, wearing or doing what is “us” because people that are real are way better than people that are fake. I will remember these words when I look for my dress – “focus on being the me he loves so much.”

    Thanks for writing!

  • Diane

    It’s funny, I think you had the experience that I always figured would be me — find something that looks great even if it’s not “ooh and aaah” inspiring, perhaps with pockets, maybe some vintage-y lace, at a great price, and maybe shell out for excellent alterations so it fits perfectly. HA! Best laid practical plans. I usually am a pretty practical lady, or at least that’s how I’m perceived by family (as in at our joint graduation party, my cousin who was about to start clerking for a judge got a lovely string of pearls from the whole family while I, about to start residency, got an alarm clock). I went on an initial dress foray with my mom, who is amazing but also cut from very practical cloth, and found myself feeling like I had to please my practical side above all. But then I went shopping with my MOH who has amazing (but expensive) taste and we found this long sheath with French lace over double charmeuse (no, these were not terms that I knew 8 months ago) and a short but stunning lace train that was on sale thanks to a trunk show that day and I got to meet the designer…it felt meant to be. They made it to my measurements so alterations will be quite minimal. It’s not a practical price but it’s one I can manage and it feels oddly freeing to not be practical on this one issue. Most of all when I went to try my actual dress on for the first time a few weeks ago, the reflection in the mirror looked like the very best of me and THAT is worth it.

  • Aly

    This was so well written and really sums up the confusing cultural narrative we face when trying on wedding dresses. When I went shopping, I knew I wanted a short dress. The wedding and reception were all outside and I did not want to drag a long dress and train through grass. At the insistance of the consultant at one shop, I tried on a few long dresses “just to see” (also, she kept telling me to buy a long dress and just cut it off to knee length. WTF). I tried on one amazing lace vintage-y dress, that looked just absolutely stunning on me and almost convinced me to change my mind….until I thought about how heavy it would be, and how dirty it would get, and how much it just wasn’t what I wanted. So I passed, and eventually found the perfect dress. But I do still think about that dress!

  • Adi

    Meg? Pretty please promise that her wedding will be featured?? I love my freckles and all makeup artists want to cover them up so not only am I dying to see this dress, but FRECKLES! Soul-sistah.

  • Louise

    I totally know this story! I had all these ideas about my dress– lace, vintagy, and… Made by me. Yes, I wanted to knit and sew a lacy dress for my wedding. Then I got engaged and went to try on dresses to get an idea of the silhouette I wanted. And to find a Plan B which I promised everyone I knew I would do, so as not to lose my mind over the crafting. Then my Plan B dress was discontinued, so I had to decide immediately if I wanted it. It is SO me and i look beautiful in it, i know this… but, it’s plain, simple and not vintage looking at all. But…I look so pretty and it fit perfectly… So I bought it and it felt SO good to be done that I decided to be done. No more hand crafted dress for me. Hand crafted everything else, but not the dress. ah well. And, it turns out, it’s just not as important to me as I thought, or as everyone assumes. It’s a dress. It was cheap, I feel beautiful everytime i try it on and it was an easy shopping experience…about the only one I’ve experienced in the course of wedding planning!

    Thanks for the post and congrats on being DONE with your dress shopping! That is priceless!

  • You ladies! Are awesome! Thank you so much for the kind words about my non-crisis of conscience! I knew that APWers would know how I felt, even as my mom was like, “cheer up, chucklehead!”

    Here’s what I didn’t add because I grew up WASPy enough not to talk about money, but eff it, it’s too good not to share: the dress was NINETY dollars. Marked down from 980 dollars because it was discontinued and that was the last one they had in stock anywhere and the sales lady was like, “no one wants this dress!” which I don’t think she’s supposed to say to people and also, it probably hurt the poor dress’s feelings.

    So now I’m trying to convince myself that just because I saved 800 dollars doesn’t mean I get to spend that 800 dollars on shoes.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Oh! shoes!

      No one but me will like my wedding shoes. My future husband doesn’t like them. I don’t think Mom will like them. But I like them, and they were less than $20, and no one will see them anyway.

    • Remy

      I am impressed by how much money you saved. :)

    • Ambi

      Dude, you need to shout that kind of victory from the rooftops! You got your wedding dress for $90!!!! That is AWESOME! Yeah, I’m with you about feeling weird about talking about money, but this is too amazing not to share! Wow. Great job!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    As I mentioned above, I could have told you what I wanted for a wedding dress at age 12. When I got engaged, I did the usual thing with a trip to a salon with my mother and sister. The salon really was very nice. I tried on about 5 dresses, all of which were, I’m sure, as close as they had to what I described. No one pressured me to try on something strapless or in another shape. But, I really wanted what I’d been picturing since I was a little girl, and they just didn’t have that.

    After that independent store, we went to David’s Bridal where, very much to their credit, no one (not the very busy staff, not my sister, not my mother) pressured me to try on anything, and I liked precisely nothing.

    We did end that day frustrated, Mom and I. It seemed like nothing close to what I wanted actually existed. I got a recommendation to try ebay and preownedweddingdresses, and I checked them weekly for a few months. I actually bought a dress off of ebay. We had it shipped to Mom’s work, and I tried it on there. Me, Mom, and Dad faked smiles, but her office manager started crying. But, the dress had a spot my dry cleaner couldn’t be certain she could remove, so back it went to the seller.

    Then the little old ladies at church recommended this shop that takes orders for custom dresses. By this time, I had found a near-perfect dress on ebay, but it was too much too big to alter. There were several weeks of trying to make another date to go there with Mom. Finally, she said to go alone. So, I took in the pictures, got measured, and put down a deposit. The total will be half what I had budgeted for, and the process took 20 minutes. I told Mom after that I wish I had gone in months earlier, when the independent salon and David’s didn’t have anything close, and just saved myself the worrying and wondering.

  • Adi

    I have no idea how I look in my wedding dress. I ordered it based on how my mom looked in it. We are not even remotely te same shape, but that’s what happens when you’re a size twenty and all the size twenty dresses are everything you never wanted in a dress (asymmetrical ruching, WHY?) and your mom looks so pretty you want to cry.

    Oh well.

  • Yup. Great post. I had the whole “bridal salon family there everyone squeeing OMG the first dress you tried on IS THE ONE” experience. Bought the dress, didn’t think about it again until 2 months out. Went back, tried it on, and hated it – it felt like what a bridal consultant would put me in and then pin back with clips to make it look right, rather than an actual garment I could wear all day and night. I cried a little in the room, let the saleswomen put me into long, heavy dresses with trains, and then panicked like an animal and burst out of the salon with one shoe on. I went directly to a department store where I bought a dress off the rack that day that had everything I had originally wanted – sleeves, minimal beading, a tiny train. It was altered a month later and ready for the wedding. I look at the pictures and think I look really pretty, but still wonder what I might have looked like in other styles – but I need to cut that shit out. I agree with a poster above who said she has wedding dress PTSD!

    As for the first dress – my mother (a nurse) sold it to another nurse who works on her floor, and that women looks absolutely amazing in it – so comfortable and happy.

  • Joanna

    What a brilliant post! And yes, I can absolutely tell she’s a writer. =)

    I had a similar experience with my dress. I was dead certain I wanted a tea-length gown. I was dead against a floor-length, stereotypical wedding gown. The salesladies kept handing me both: “Here are some more tea-length… and here’s a full-length I know you’ll love!” Rolling my eyes, I tried them all none. None of them excited me, and I didn’t think I should be paying $600 for a tea-length dress my mom could make (which she then offered to do, and I heartily considered).

    Then, one day, I gathered my mom and sister together and we headed over to a small, family-owned bridal boutique near my hometown. I didn’t even feel excited anymore, and was convinced I would never have that “A-HA!” moment people talk about. Once again, tea-length after tea-length yielded no results. The saleslady handed me a dress that I literally laughed at. But hey, I’ll try anything once, so I surrounded myself in what I endearingly call the “mullet dress”: the hemline is short in the front and long in the back. Layers of tulle made me feel like I was wearing a cloud. But as my sister quickly laced up the back and I glanced into the mirror, I realized that dress had been made for me. It was nothing at all what I thought I wanted, but it fit me perfectly: it was a perfect balance of rock star, princess bride and sweet innocence.

  • Senorita

    I actually had totally the opposite experience. I am the thirteen-year-old that Meg has suspected of bedazzling all things wedding attire, so I always pictured myself in a big, white, poofy, and oh-so-sparkly number (although the word ethereal never entered my vocab, that seemed way to subtle). Then I read all the websites who said anything other than a sheath was strictly forbidden on my not-quite-5’2 size zero frame. Oh and since I’m rockin’ a too-busy-to-consume-food-between-studying frame, I had better show up in a mermaid/trumpt/fit n’ flare or other appropriately body-exposing number. And I certainly couldn’t forget that this was my wedding, it was time to show the world just how grown up I was now (b/c apparently med students making commitments to another human being for all eternity doesn’t count).

    So, after a few episodes of Say Yes To the Dress to help put the constructive back in my mom’s criticism (worked like a charm y’all, do it!) I headed to the salon with her and and my FMIL in tow. When I saw the ridiculous sparkles ricocheting off a dress sticking out from the rack, I couldn’t help asking to try it on, and then I couldn’t help trying it on first, and then I couldn’t help tearing up when I thought of my fiance seeing me in that dress for the first time. It wasn’t like anything I had ever seen before, with a vinelike pattern that legit looked like I had walked out of some fairytale (the cool new girl-power ones, not the old soulless ones). I taught the sales lady what ethereal meant, and suddenly my rustic wedding took on a whole new enchanted meaning. The idea of tying my soul to my best friend’s is nothing short of magical to me. So why can’t I look magical too?

  • Did I pass out, write this post, and wake up with no recollection of having written it? Am I Ginny Weasley?

    What I’m saying is, this post is so spot on. Right down to the “fall back career” (my mother told me I might have to buy bras made for dancers. When I said I thought dancers had SMALL boobs, she said: “….Not THAT kind of dancer.”)

  • Rebekah

    I bought my dress 2 years ago on Craigslist for $40. I bought it for parts because it was silk, but it turned out to fit me perfectly. I am going to hem it and fix the neckline, add a belt or sash and smile like crazy when I use it in 2 years. I love this post and the fact that you found a dress you love in a way that worked for you. May you be blessed! (Also, Meg, I know it’s hardly plausible anymore, but I do miss the traveling dresses)

  • This is exactly how I wanted to feel and how I felt about my dress. I wanted to be the most beautiful I’d ever been. When I put on my dress, though, I felt comfortable, I felt like me, and the price was right. The latter trumped the former, and . . . well, I think I’m okay with that. (I hope so, years later!!)

  • Kaleena

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! This was my exact dress shopping experience a month ago! Thank you for articulating it so perfectly and helping me realize my own emotions about the experience. I am sure we will both look rocking our dresses!

  • Hillori

    The greatest compliment I got on my wedding dress last week (yay!!!) was from the site coordinator:

    “That is the most practical dress I’ve ever seen for a garden wedding.”

    Thank you, I thought so, too.

    The teared-up-because-you’re-so-beautiful-and-marrying-me from my husband was pretty good, too. :-)

  • Katie

    I loved this post!!! This is EXACTLY how I felt about my wedding dress buying experience!

  • Emily

    You made the right call. When I bought my dress (also on my first shopping trip over a year before the wedding), I was torn between the dress that made me cry, and the one that made Mom cry. To the point where the consultant stood next to me in the mirror and held each dress up to me, again and again. The Mom dress was the big ball gown I had always wanted, with crystals at the neckline and a huge swishy skirt. The other was much simpler and had no ornate details at all. The difference was the one Mom loved felt more like me in a costume, where the ones loved felt like me. I chose the dress I loved. The best compliment I received on my wedding day was from a friend who said, “The one word to describe you right now is ‘classic.'” And with or without bells and whistles, my groom watched me walk down the aisle with big tears in his eyes, and whispered “You look so beautiful” as soon as I was next to him. I bet your groom will have a similar reaction!

  • Very interesting…

  • Colleen

    I’m a little late to the game.
    Thank you for prompting me to imagine my wedding day.
    For real. With this body, with this life, with this budget.
    This post affirms for me that I *do* want to look like
    (the very best, most polished and radiant)
    me on my wedding day.
    And me is very similar to the author:
    Cute, big boobs, practical

    So, Erin, don’t hold out the goods…
    who what where is this mythical (affordable) dress with straps. and pockets.