At one point, a reader pointed out that APW was really about growing up (seriously, check out that term searched on the site), which yes. Weddings kick you in the ass and make you grow. So this week is about Life Stages, from wedding planning, to getting married, to separations, to growing old together. First up, Heather on choosing her wedding dress, and how that can matter in planning (but not in the way that’s marketed to us by force).
I didn’t really believe in the moment that some people talk about having. I didn’t believe that when I put on a dress, it would suddenly, magically become clear that this was the dress that I should wear to get married in.
Getting engaged years after most of my friends have gotten married probably has something to do with that. Being part of a financially independent couple who is paying for the entirety of their absolutely enormous (to us, three hundred people is huge) wedding has made planning a wedding that is honest, practical, and simple of the utmost importance to both of us.
I set what I thought was a reasonable budget that would include dress, shoes, bra, alterations, and accessories. I went to a big chain store with my mom and we powered through about twenty-five dresses in an hour and a half by ourselves (consultants—who needs ‘em?). None of the dresses were great. None felt magical. The one I thought looked best, in fact? Extraordinarily itchy. Blegh. Also—trying these things on makes my feet ache—even barefoot or wearing comfy TOMS. Why did no one tell me this would happen?
Eight months later, as I was visiting home without my fiancé, mom suggested we pop over to this little bridal store that she’d heard great things about. Since I hadn’t even thought about trying on dresses since that first escapade, we went. I tried on about ten or twelve dresses, found one that was totally different from what I thought I’d wear, and thought, “maybe.”
I went back two weeks later with my sister, my mom, my aunt and cousin in tow. Yep—I was that girl…the one with the entourage. It was pretty awesome, actually—we had a great time laughing and trying on all different kinds of dresses until, four hours and perhaps forty dresses later, we all were hangry and I still had not decided on a dress. And again, my feet were killing me.
Oh, the drama! This process was exhausting. They were all so expensive. I wasn’t comfortable spending so much on a dress that I’d only wear once, yet knew that sentimental me would want to keep for always. All these people I dearly love were voting for this one lacy number that was beautiful. But it still didn’t seem like it was worth the money and I didn’t really feel excited about it. Besides, when my sister asked me to rate my two top dresses one to ten, ten being “the best dress you’ve ever put on in your life,” I rated them both as a seven point five. I mean—I thought that was good! It’s a high standard! But, the consensus of my loving entourage was that I “needed a ten.” So that trip was over.
At least I knew what I wanted, right? White, chiffon, sweetheart neckline, lightweight—almost ethereal—fitting for our simple in-the-park-ceremony and champagne brunch reception. I should be able to find something that fit the bill on the cheap, off a rack at Macy’s, no? I didn’t need a “moment.” I didn’t need to spend tons of money. I didn’t need a “ten.” I needed something that looked nice, fit well, and was comfortable. Practical. Period.
The day after the epic four-hour dress marathon, my mom and sister and I went to yet another bridal store. I tried on ten more dresses, and while I was in one and my sister was on the opposite side of the store, she pointed out a dress on a mannequin that was not white, not chiffon, and super poufy. We both kind of loved it, and were excited by the sequins (I mean, sequins!) so she wrestled it off the mannequin and I put it on.
And I had a moment.
I had a moment that was so raw that I instantly started ugly crying and for a minute, all I could say was “oh.” It was so defining for me—perhaps the most defining moment I’ve had since we got engaged. I felt amazing (despite the ugly crying). This dress was a return to my princess-loving youth, a dress that screamed frivolity and playful and not practical. The moment was so strong and so honest, that when I could speak again, I said, “You guys, I’m getting MARRIED!” and then immediately followed that up with, “I think I’m getting married in THIS DRESS!”
See, after a year of focusing on everyone else and how to make our wedding not an imposition for them, I had forgotten to ask myself what I truly wanted. In that “moment,” I realized that I can be true to what I like, be true to who I am, and still throw a wedding that people will probably enjoy. I hadn’t realized how much I was avoiding the focus on myself until I had that moment (still unpacking that—perhaps a future post?). In fact, even after we filled out the paperwork and ordered the dress, I was still wondering if people might scoff at my really girly princess dress. Really. I thought that.
I was insecure about my choice because I felt selfish for putting the focus on myself, and I also felt selfish because I was so excited about a damn dress. It wasn’t until later that day, when I was still smiling like a goof and marveling that I chose a dress so different from my plan, and my mom said something along the lines of “if you weren’t still excited about the dress, I’d be concerned. You should be excited! This is an exciting time!” that I started to think that maybe it was okay. This one time, for our wedding, I can wear anything I want and people can’t (and won’t—right? Hopefully?) say anything but nice things. I don’t know who I’m worried about—all of our three hundred people are genuinely good, loving, and kind people. I’m the one doing all this questioning: is this an okay choice? Will I be judged for being frivolous when I’ve tried so hard to establish myself in the eyes of my family and community as responsible and—yes—practical?
Who cares? It’s our wedding!
I’m allowed to want this giant, poufy, tulle-with-sequins princess dress for our very simple, not-many-frills wedding. I can be the frills. I’m allowed to want that dress, and I’m allowed to wear that dress, and dance with my (eek!) new husband in it. I should do all of that. Because it’s okay for there to be pieces of our wedding that aren’t incredibly practical. Sometimes we need to have a reminder that we are loved exactly as we are—not who we want people to think we are—even if that reminder is a big poufy dress (complete with sneakers) in a park.
When my fiancé and I see each other that morning, and he sees the Glinda-style dress I’m wearing, he’s going to laugh a little, and then be so glad that I got a dress that was just so me. He’ll tell me I look beautiful. And then we’ll get married. Which is really the only part that matters, anyway.
Photo by: Corinne Krogh