The story of how I got my wedding dress is a story of redemption. I apologize in advance to any male readers that may happen upon this post. I’m not sure how interesting or relatable you’ll find this. If, however, you are engaged to/related to/friends with a female who is wedding dress shopping right now or potentially will be at some point in the future, I hope my story will help you understand how best to support her. 🙂 First, here are the facts leading up to the drama.
1) I got engaged in May 2011.
2) Bryan and I were leaving for the entire month of July to visit his family in Costa Rica.
3) My mom is a teacher, so she has summers free.
4) Knowing that my mom wanted to get a lot of the wedding planning done before school started back up in August, I felt pressure to make a lot of decisions before we left on our trip.
5) We were told that the wedding dress “sets the tone” for all of the decor, etc.
6) My sister was leaving town for most of the week and a half that I would be home.
As you can already tell, this had the makings of a stressful situation right from the start. Every bride has a few key elements of the wedding day that are most important to her. For me, it was the photgraphy and the dress. I’m not a high maintenance girl, and I don’t own a lot of expensive clothes. I don’t even wear much jewelry. Although I am very feminine, my taste is pretty basic. But when it came to my wedding dress, I wanted to feel my most beautiful. My girlhood imaginings resurfaced as I dreamed about my wedding day.
I went to a small boutique, a medium sized store and a large chain. At the small boutique, my mom and sister were most impressed by a simple satin gown. It was fitted and had a bit of snowflake-like crystal embellishment–perfect for a winter wedding.
It seemed like a dress that Bryan would like (although to some extent they are all just white dresses to him). It was a really good price. I like simple, right? I thought to myself. This was the first store we’d visited, so I paid the fee to put the dress on hold for a week, and we continued on without my sister who left to visit friends in Oregon.
I thought I had watched enough episodes of Say Yes to the Dress to avoid rookie mistakes like taking too many people with you, trying on too many dresses, etc. However, by the third store in less than a week the pressure was mounting, and I was almost at my breaking point. I was overwhelmed, and I didn’t have my sister there to speak encouraging words and offer valuable insights. My mom has never related much to my frilly side, and she wore her mother’s dress when she married my dad. So, she didn’t have her own dress shopping memories to pull from here. Please don’t hear me saying that she wasn’t supportive. My amazing mom was so excited when I got engaged and threw us an unforgettable engagement party. This picture from that night says it all, doesn’t it? She did a great job designing the centerpieces and helping me stay organized. Buying a fancy dress is just not really her thing, and I love that about her. That day, however, I felt desperate. I’d had such high expectations for the whole experience, and what I was feeling was not delight. All I felt was an overpowering desire to have this done.
The guest list and gift registry were looming, and the pressure of picking a dress so that we could have a “tone” for everything else had finally become more than I could handle. Those who know me well will tell you, I am not a details person. As much as I liked the idea of planning a wedding initially, I had no idea how many big and small decisions I would have to make until I was in the midst of it all. As the eldest child, I am used to being the guinea pig. I prefer “trailblazer”, actually. I was the first of my generation to get married in my family. No siblings or cousins paved the way for me, so we had no guidebook. Needless to say, there were some chaotic moments.
At the end of the week, we went back to the little boutique. It was my favorite of the shops we’d been to, but as for the dress…I was confused. When I put it on I didn’t like it from every angle. My mom was distracted by my grandma, aunt and cousin, so I wasn’t getting any feedback. I stood there thinking about walking down the aisle with all those people looking at me and about how you are supposed to be your most radiant on your wedding day. All eyes are on the bride. Suddenly, my heart was racing and my chest tightened up. I was having trouble breathing. I abruptly cut off that train of thought and bolted to action. Kara, you are an adult. You will not have a meltdown. (I have conversations with myself in my head sometimes. That’s normal, right?) Get it together, and get this done! I looked at my mom one last time, but clearly this decision was up to me.
I descended quickly from the pedestal, changed back into my regular clothes and marched to the front of the store to write a check before I could think more about it or consult with anyone. I came back to find my family looking confused, and I explained what I had done. I felt briefly relieved and then unsettled. A sinking feeling of dread rose up inside me as we drove the hour back to my parents’ house. When we got home, I sat with my dad on the couch and cried. He was very supportive, though he understood nothing of my girlish woes.