Can we stop saying things like "I SAID YES TO THE DRESS!!!!1 *bride emoji* *heart eyes emoji* #engaged?"* Maybe it's the predictability of it all or the perfunctory vibe that it gives off but it's all very cringe-worthy to me. I promise I'm not some curmudgeonly dark figure wishing ill upon those who have found happiness in the form of wedding dresses-- the phrase "I said yes to the dress!" itself just makes me ill, probably because it was was popularized by the TV show and every episode I've ever watched has been excruciatingly painful. The very mention of it conjures up images of those girls fake-crying (complete with eye-fanning and mascara running down their faces) until their dads grudgingly write a check for their $20,000.00 wedding dresses while smarmy, attention-crazed stage moms menacingly cackle off-screen. Not exactly the kind of thing one should like to be associated with.
Small little rant aside, I went dress shopping this past weekend. In stark contrast to the "whimsical with a dash of angst" experience that's portrayed on TV, it was a somewhat awkward, very emotional, and overall hilarious outing.
Despite what every other blogger may lead you to believe, the truth is, wedding planning is not an "all cupcakes-and-roses" experience and searching for "the dress" is no exception. Hear me out: Trying on clothes is annoying enough without having an extra set of hands poking and prodding you while trying to force delicate fabric over your enormous booty. There are bound to be duds and when you try them on, you'll witness angles of your pale, lumpy body that you've never seen before. If you're like me, your breasts will spilleth over and your arse will stretch zippers and buttons to their limit. You'll realize how pale you are and how much whiter your teeth could be and then when you stop focusing on your various imperfections, you'll realize how itchy the fabric is. This continues until IT happens. Yes. It. It's perfect. You ask, "can I see what it looks like with a veil?" The attendant slips the comb into your hair, you turn around, and are immediate struck with reality. You look like a bride. You're getting married. You turn to your mom and she's crying. You both cry and hug and when you let go, you look in the mirror again and are greeted by a face covered in mascara streaks and snot. Lovely.
I tried on dresses at two separate places on Saturday. The first was an amazing experience that I couldn't wait to share with you guys. The second was an awful experience that, of course, I couldn't wait to share with you guys even more than the first. (This is the internet. Tragedy sells.) Once again, for those of you who, like me, have no idea what to expect, here are my experiences and observations:
THE GOOD: Despite being in the wedding industry for almost five years, I hadn't the slightest clue where to begin searching for a dress. My only lead was this placed called Lovely Bride in Old City. It's a few blocks away from my work and every time I walk by, I'm captivated by its aesthetically-pleasing storefront. (To all of you non-locals out there, Lovely is in a few other cities as well.) From the moment the owner opened the door and welcomed our little group into the elegantly decorated space to the moment we left, I really did feel like a bride. My attendant seemed genuinely interested in my wants, my needs, and my budget. We were taken into a very private room where the dresses that I chose to try on were fitted on me from behind a curtain. After every dress, my attendant asked what I liked and what I didn't like. It took a few dresses to start getting comfortable but I can assure you that it was so much fun the entire time. When I got to a dress that was pretty much my dream dress, I pulled back the curtain and everybody oohed and ahhed. We decided to see what it would look like with a belt and I made the mistake of asking to see it with a veil. (You know, to get the whole picture, right?) Like I said a few paragraphs back, you really need to brace yourself for this moment. I turned around, caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and immediately had to cover my eyes because there were tears streaming down my face. I looked at my mom and we both lost it. The rest of the girls were teary-eyed as well, even my normally stoic little sister. It was such a vulnerable, powerful moment. I was genuinely sad when I had gone through all of the dresses because I felt like a princess and I didn't want to stop. Luckily, I was also very hungry and the promise of Mexican omelets and Prosecco were a humongous consolation.
THE BAD: After we finished lunch, we headed to another wedding dress spot in Center City. (Local brides, if you want to know which place this is, you can send me an email and I'll let you know.) The first store set the bar pretty high but this place would have been a dud even without the dreamlike Lovely Bride preceding it. Terrible lighting. Awful music blaring through tin can speakers. The scent of stale pizza. Nowhere to sit down or set our bags. No full-length mirrors. Hideous frilly and bedazzled dresses. After offering us mushroom pizza and wine, (winning combination for sure) the shop owner whisked me over to the window where the ugliest, gaudiest skirt I have ever seen was removed from the mannequin and waiting for me. Without asking me what I wanted, this woman had me figured out and seemed entirely confident in her choice. We all pretended to be enthralled with it but exchanged knowing glances as soon as she turned around. "How about this one?" she asked while holding up a champagne-colored lace shift dress with heavy beading around the neckline. "I think it might be too much bling for me--" I started before she interrupted me with "try it on anyway!" In the incredibly claustrophobic room for trying on the dresses, an oddly wordless and very uncomfortable attendant helped me to try on the dresses. Although the website had said that the sample sizes were 10-12, these dresses would not fit over my 6-8 frame. (Not exactly the most accommodating for a diverse array of brides-to-be.) No matter how many times I told the girl, "I don't think it will fit." she insisted on trying to force the dresses on to me. It was awkward and to be honest, a little embarrassing. At one point she said, "I would try to zip it up but I don't want you to break the zipper." (RIGHT?) Despite the dresses not fitting and the shop not being equipped to clip them on to me somehow, the ladies still insisted on me modeling them for my entourage. It only took about fifteen minutes for my self-esteem to reach all-time-lows and for my displeasure to become palpable enough for the girls to take me seriously when I said "I don't want to try on any more." As my group exited the store, we could barely wait for the door to close behind us before erupting into laughter. At least we got a good story out of it, no?
Throughout the day, I made a few mental notes of what went right, what I would do over, and little reminders for next time:
1. Know your body. If you go into it knowing your body and knowing what works best and flatters you, this will save you from a lot of "I'm so fat!" which can be a huge discouragement and distraction. I wasted the first ten minutes or so feeling uncomfortable with my body because that's just natural for me. Remember too that a dress that is going to be professionally altered to your body will look a thousand times better than a sample that is clipped, pinned, or draped on to you.
2. Know what you want but be open to something different. I can't talk too much about my dress on here because B may be lurking (hi B!) but let's just say that I'm really glad that I tried on some dresses that were different from my "vision." While there were some absolute non-negotiables, (WHY OH WHY are strapless dresses still a thing?) I liked comparing and contrasting different silhouettes and fabrics. I originally bought a lace top online that I planned on wearing with a skirt. I'm still leaning in that direction but I'm glad to know what else is out there.
3. Listen to your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable, leaving your appointment early is completely acceptable. While there are a lot of honest saleswomen (and men) out there, remember that they do work on commission and if they're giving bad vibes, they may just be seeing you as a bundle of dollar signs instead of a blissful bride. There are red flags to look out for, such as if they are uninterested in your desires or price range, play on emotion to justify spending that is beyond your budget, or general "creepiness."
4. Show a little love for your entourage. They're taking time to join you. I made these cute little wedding-themed gifts. I wrote personal notes for each of the ladies who joined me and attached them to fancy Icelandic chocolate. If you're stuck, chocolate is always a great option and there are different kinds for different people! It doesn't have to be huge or expensive, just a kind little "thank you."
5. You don't HAVE to make a decision that day. Some brides know as soon as they put on a dress that it's "the one." I didn't have that moment and I felt kind of bad that I didn't. Was I being too picky? Or were those other brides being impulsive? The answer is neither. Everybody is just different. I will say however, I feel like in weddings, there's this attitude of "well it happens once in a lifetime so I need to do it right!" There's nothing wrong with waltzing into a bridal shop, trying on one dress and then ordering it but you do have to remember that most wedding dresses are a significant amount of money. Sleep on it, shop around, see what else you find.
Above all else, make sure that your dress makes you feel like you. Just because it looks good doesn't make it "your" dress. Unless of course "your" dress is these $450 sequin shorts-- in that case, you may want to rethink a few things.