Let Me Tell You a Secret

There’s something about wedding dress shopping you should know...

My mother, grandmother and best friend drove a combined eight hours to help me shop for wedding dresses last week. As I walked into the first shop, I adorned myself in half a dozen gowns. Finally, I put one on, and as soon as the attendant pulled it back to zip, I gasped. “Oh, wow, ” I whispered. My mother, having heard, started handing out tissues to the rest of the troupe, preparing to be wowed. I walked out and looked at myself, breathless. I looked just as I’d imagined. It was as though I’d stepped into a dress from my secret Pinterest board.

Spoiler alert: That’s not the dress I bought.

Tempted as I was to slam the credit card on the table right then and ring it up, I knew that one shop and six dresses were not enough to be sure I’d found The One. After making an appointment to come back the next day, we headed out to our other appointments. One shop offered nothing of interest to me, but when we got to Timeless Bride – the vintage shop I’d been anticipating all along – I expected greatness, excitement. I tried on another handful of dresses, some that were pretty fabulous, some that I didn’t care for. Finally, I put one on and took to the pedestal.

“Oh, that’s pretty. I like that, ” I said, looking at myself in the mirror. “Okay, next dress.”

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But I couldn’t bring myself to step down. I kept shifting, looking at myself from different angles. My gal pals kept staring, too, entranced a bit not just by the dress, but by me in the dress. After a moment, my mom pointed out how the waistline detail celebrated my curves. Then my friend noticed how the almost platinum hue of the dress brightened my fair complexion. When I turned around to look at the buttons going up the back, my grandmother sighed at the lovely detail, how the lace and buttons came together to remind her of her own dress. I took note of how the dress’s scoop neck shape elongated my neck, how the fabric flattered and shimmered in just the right way. When Naomi pulled my hair into a messy side bun and slipped in the cloth hair comb, we were all done for.

I had to return to both boutiques the next day to see both dresses again. When I tried on that first dress for the second time, I hesitated, suddenly not sure which to choose. How could I decide between such beautiful dresses, both of which highlighted different perspectives of myself? Panicking on the stand, I looked to my mother, who stepped up and showed me the photos she’d taken of me in the shimmery dress at Timeless, and immediately I knew. I knew that the dress in the photo would be the dress I’d wear down the aisle.

Reality shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” highlight these intense, dramatic moments full of tears and giggly celebration, where brides see themselves in the dress and just have that realization that they’re standing in their wedding gown. “When so-and-so cried, I knew I’d found the one, ” many a bride has proclaimed on the show. So when I had that breathless moment with the first dress, I assumed that that would be the dress I’d get.

But in the end, your dress says something about you, and you have to choose what you want to portray on your wedding day. For me, Dress No. 1 portrayed the softness of myself, the traditional side of marriage, matching closely to the picture in my head of cascading white and effervescent weightlessness. Dress No. 2 represented me as the crazy, exciting, unpredictable person I usually am from day to day. I decided I wanted an adventurous dress over a safe one. I wanted to look unprecedented, unfettered by worry or convention, while still looking the part of a bride. And, as I walked out of the door with this one-of-a-kind dress (yep: this dress couldn’t be ordered or duplicated – it was all mine) I knew that I would be a bride set apart. And what woman doesn’t want that?

When you start your dress shopping adventure, remember these few things:

  1. You may have that “aha!” moment, and that may be the dress you buy. But maybe not. Stay open-minded and definitely shop around first, even if you end up with the first gown you tried on.
  2. Tears are not a requirement when choosing The Dress. Feeling comfortable and confident while wearing it is.
  3. Really think on not only what styles and shapes you like, but what you want to portray on your wedding day. Are you going for a soft, feminine look, or something spunkier? Retro or super modern? Fairytale or edgy? When you can’t decide between a few options, going back to how you want to be seen and thought of will help you out a ton.
  4. If you believe you’ve found the dress, sleep on it and try it back on the next day.
  5. When my mom sent photos of one dress to my father, he passed it around to all their friends, who then proceeded to text and phone in their opinions. Keep the selection committee small and contained. Once you’ve made your pick, then share it. Until then, mum’s the word.
  6. Relish the experience – you only do this once, and for how nervous I was starting out, I had a ton of fun.

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