The one after The One: My first stab at wedding dress shopping

Well, I crossed another threshold of the wedding process last weekend. With my mom by my side, I went on my first wedding dress shopping event. I say “event” because I think that’s kind of what some people assume it should be. In a way, I agree; but on the other hand, I just wanted to have fun. Our wedding is more than a year away. If I didn’t find “the one” on Saturday, I wasn’t going to be worried.

A group of confused looking women matched us step for step to the door of David’s Bridal, then milled around the door in that awkward way people do when you don’t know if you got to the door first or they did or if you’re supposed to walk in before them or hold the door open for them or what. It’s a social catastrophe. The group seemed confused enough that my mom and I slipped in ahead of them.

Inside, women everywhere. Tight quarters. Narrow aisles constricted by multi-layered gowns. After a quick check-in at a table in front, I met my stylist for the appointment, Jami.

Jami rattled off some questions about what styles I was interested in. I gave her a broad idea, revealing that this was only my first appointment and that I haven’t tried on dresses for a big event since my senior prom. Jami was attentive and helpful, and I could tell she felt sorry for having to move quickly; this time of year is, after all, “Bride Christmas,” she said.

Right as I began to browse the dresses and pick out a few to try on, the same women who lagged around the door had multiplied and were coming our way with their stylist. The bride in the group had brought not one, not two, not even five people with her, but NINE. As bad luck would have it, she ended up in the dressing room right next to me. A small dressing room area made smaller by other brides and their entourages became even smaller when this girl and her entire village crammed in.*

Vintage styles I was just certain I would swoon over made me look dowdy. Cuts that I thought would flatter my hourglass figure hung on me like a Hefty bag. Then, there was a dress in a style I told Jami I probably wouldn’t like, but, since I assured her I was open to trying anything, she grabbed it for me. Seeing the expression on my mom’s face and mine, Jami suggested I step up on the stage at the front of the dressing room area to see the dress from several angles. When coupled with a veil, my eyes began to sting with tears. (I found out later that my mom teared up too, but we both choked it back because no one else in the room was crying.)

Other girls mounted the stage and soon thereafter rang a bell, because – yes, I’m gonna say it – every time a bell rings…a bride gets her dress. I didn’t leave David’s Bridal that day with a bulging garment bag over my arm. I did, however, leave with a plethora of photos to review and keep in mind as I continue my search.

Did I find “the one” on Saturday? I don’t know. Maybe. I went to another store on Tuesday evening and tried on some beautiful dresses there, too. It’s really too soon to tell.

I can’t help but draw parallels between dress hunting and – for lack of a better term – husband hunting. You may find it amusing that I even gave some of the dresses names inspired by my real-life crushes and boyfriends (not their real names) to describe my opinion of the dresses:

  • George – Looked good on the rack, even kind of fun, a notion amplified by the excitement of the newness of the experience. I put it on and the first glance was kind of impressive, but the longer it was on, the more I realized it just wasn’t me.
  • Justin – Simple, comfortable, reserved. I felt like I could have been satisfied enough with the dress, but ultimately, it wasn’t what I needed, and I think I would have liked it less the longer I wore it.
  • Arthur – Totally different from anything else I tried on. It was fun just to have it on and twirl a little, but it wasn’t suitable long-term for a wedding.
  • Saul – This one looked gorgeous, even elegant on the rack. But when I tried it on, it weighed me down, dampened my personality and looked uglier the longer I wore it.

Some dresses look great on the rack or great on someone else, but when it’s thrown on me, something’s just not right. Then there’s one that molds almost perfectly to my body. It’s gentle in all the right places, but just a little snug in others. I stand still in it, I walk in it, I turn in it, all to test the strength of the relationship between the dress and me. In a way, I do my part to make the dress look good, and the dress does its part to make me look good. Will it last?

Just like trying on several dresses, dating was fun, and I got to see and experience things I liked and things I didn’t like. The more time I spent with Cory, the more opportunities I had to stretch in different ways and see how we fit together. Instead of walking, standing and turning, we met each other’s parents, took long drives together and thrust ourselves into settings or events that one of us may not have liked, all to test the strength of the relationship. Would it last?

But there was eventually no denying that we made each other look good. Not in a superficial, three-mirror view way, but in the Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets “You make me want to be a better man” way. I didn’t know from the first time I met Cory that he was going to be The One. Some couples do, but I didn’t. At some indiscernible point, I knew he was, and I was just waiting for that signal from him that he knew I was.

Maybe that’s what will happen with the dress. If it is, I feel the same way I felt about a husband: when it’s right, and when it’s time for me to know, I’ll know.

*To all the brides or hopeful brides-to-be, when you try on wedding dresses, please consider not bringing a bunch of people. Chances are, your appointment is not going to be like Say Yes To The Dress. You won’t be the only patron there, and there probably won’t be dozens of cushioned chairs for your mom, future mother-in-law, six cousins, 17 bridesmaids and the Kappa Kappa Kappa class of 2012. You’ll have as many opinions as there are people in your group, which will make you self-conscious. For another thing, the rest of us brides want to enjoy our wedding dress shopping experience too. It puts a damper on things when our modest group can’t take a photo of us or properly see how we look in the dress when your giant group is sprawling like molasses, all talking at once, removing jackets and nearly smacking our mothers in the face, etc. If you bring a big group, make some of them wait out in the store and take turns coming back to see your dresses. PSA over.


6 Replies to “The one after The One: My first stab at wedding dress shopping”

  1. I’m sure you looked beautiful in each and every gown. You’ll know the right one. Glad you and your mom are enjoying this time ! Makes it even more special! I still love the way you looked in that black prom dress! I’m sure you’ll be even more beautiful in your wedding dress.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. On Say Yes To The Dress they actually say over and over again not to bring a large group because brides get confused from the large number of opinions. And I’ve seen episodes where it goes HORRIBLY. So I can only imagine. I actually only did a couple of shopping moments (Then again I was engaged in July and married in September, and I was 18. I didn’t have much of a budget either). I found my bridesmaids dresses in the perfect colors and sizes at David’s Bridal (I now have my sister’s. It’s a cute red cocktail dress I may one day wear… somewhere?). I couldn’t find something in my price range, the $99 sale were all plus size… or horrible. Also, the one dress I fell in love with was several thousands of dollars and I couldn’t make myself spend that much.

    Then we passed Michelle’s Boutique (or whatever it’s called) on the bypass by Walgreen, with my sister and her best friend. It was in the window. It was perfect. We stopped. It was MY SIZE!!! And she knocked $50 off the price. I love that dress. I still have it. As its a size 4, I shall never wear it again 😛 But it’s a zip up corset that I can have changed to an actual lace up corset with a panel, so whenever I do my vow renewal I may wear it again. I looked up the brand when I got home, and I got a super, super, crazy deal on it by buying it used (not that you can tell).

    Anyways, all that aside, I just knew. It was the ultimate of perfection. Perfectly me. I hope you have that moment, and I hope you love it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was serendipitous! I’m sure you looked beautiful 🙂 I went to another store Tuesday evening and found one there I really liked, so I’ve got my top two now. But I agree with you that there’s no way I could in good conscience (or wisdom) pay thousands of dollars for a dress.


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