Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Dress

Ok. Look. I've seen plenty of romantic comedies. I know the unattainable, lofty ideas they put in a girl's head, and I'm here to deny my brainwashing that 1) You will have an amazing time trying on dresses and 2) You will 'just know' when you find the right one, and it will be within your budget.

Let's talk about wedding dresses.

After seeing such out-of-budget and idealistic things, I went to try on wedding dresses. Of course, I had to make an appointment to try on dresses at the ultimate bridal shop. Since they put me on a list AND charged a registration fee, I felt this might be the kind of place I shouldn't step foot inside without a little experience under my belt. So my roommate and I went to a chain bridal store to test the waters.

Man. Chain bridal stores are nuts. You share your attendant with 2-3 other brides-to-be. That means a lot of waiting. And a lot of walking around in uncomfortable heels staring into mirrors. Still, it was a good experience. It taught me that dresses like this:

make me look like this in a skirt:

Great lesson. 

After trying several different styles on and learning a little lingo, I felt ready to go to the wedding dress mothership.

It turns out, the wedding dress mothership was quite impressive. There were three stories of glorious dresses. It also turns out they had my dream wedding dress -- in a size negative zero (only one they had) for about two thousand dollars more than I could spend. These things happen. 

So I took a breath and moved on into the land of -other-/-real- possibilities.  I shopped around in the room holding my size with my attendant, and was fairly successful at finding pretty alternatives. 

Well, I got the full sorority experience. I expected to be able to use proper undergarments provided by the shop. Nope. My sorority experience began with the attendant closing the fitting room door, hanging the dresses we had chosen, and saying "Strip." Calmly. As if it were no big deal. As if she were asking my first name. There's something very awkward about that, but I was surrounded by bridal gowns so I had already sort of lost touch with the concept of normal.

With the attendant's help, I tried on 10-15 dresses. (You really do lose count.) I did like one in particular, but I didn't have that moment. You know the one. This one:

People say you'll have that moment. I think it's an urban myth. In my case, I kept gravitating to one dress, even as I tried others on. It wasn't that I 'just knew' it was perfect; it's that I liked it. It was the right style for me. So much for the bridal freakout of certainty. 

Another thing. It was nothing like the lap of luxury displayed on "reality" television. I was secretly and, ok, outlandishly hoping to be offered that glass of champagne. For my nerves, of course. :) I guess they didn't want to remove a stain from $1,000+ dresses. 

Oh, and it's crowded. I had to practically throw elbows at points to get around. If there was a mirror, there was a bride surrounded by fawning onlookers. It turns out, it's a lot of people's day - not just your's. -wink- Also, there is quite possibly no hall big enough for two women wearing wedding dresses to be able to pass each other. It's just not possible. One of you has to make like a squashed fly and hug the wall while holding your breath, hoping all the while that your beadwork doesn't snag on her's. 

Still, trying on wedding dresses is a lot of fun. As much as I complain about how crowded things can get, it is also fun sharing in another bride's joy at finding her dress. Some people actually do have the freakout of certainty. And other people are so excited to see you (a complete stranger in a wedding dress) they fawn over you. So as much as I poke fun, it really is a wonderful time. Until you pay. It's wonderful until you hand over that debit card and feel the money draining from your account...or your mother's account, in my case. That's a little bit of a soul crusher. (To think I was trying to wrap up on a high note. Ooops.)

Sidenote: One thing that is a little stressful is choosing who will go look at dresses with you. Unfortunately, life happens and I wasn't able to have all of the people I wanted with me. My best friend was out of town and Will's Mom is too far away to make it on short notice. I was kind of happy the mothership only allowed four guests per bride. I chose my Mom (the sweet, practical one), my friend Tony (the one with fabulous taste), and two aunts. One of the aunts was so impressed with Tony she almost became his minion. It was fun to watch. If he said he wanted to see me in a certain style, she went scrounging until she found that style in my size and delivered it to me. I guess he had an air of experience about him. I don't know. 

The standout lesson I learned was a tip from my attendant. She told me only to show the dresses I liked to my people. She said that all too often brides are persuaded to choose a dress they originally did not care for. That was great advice. I appreciated that she was focused on my satisfaction and was willing to find ways to turn the conversation if my people and I ever got into a debate about a dress. She was 100% committed to me being happy with the dress, not my posse. I'm not downplaying their role, because each person I took had great points and insights. But if I were talking to someone and suggesting how to make the experience a positive one, that would be my #1 tip. Try on a lot of dresses, but only show those that you like. It's your wedding dress. You don't have to be diplomatic. 

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