(Picture credit: Southern Cotton Photography, Sharon Palmer)
The Dress . . . Sigh . . . For some girls they begin dreaming about “the dress” at a very early age. I imagine some obtain images from Disney movies and television that evoke princesses, lots of beautiful white flowing material and maybe even a little tiara. I would venture to say based on watching my God Daughters play that maybe they even play dress up and use their imagination to become those same princesses they see on TV.
Alas, I have NEVER been one of ‘those’ girls. In fact, and I’m rather proud to say this, I have NEVER looked at anything wedding related until the man I chose to marry asked me that fateful question.
“Let’s make this last forever, whaddya think?”
[Pay attention to how I worded that – I am a first time bride at 45 because I CHOSE the man I wanted to spend my life with & didn’t just say ‘yes’ to the first guy to ask me. But neither do I recommend waiting THIS long!]
The dress is an integral part of the process and especially the day. For me I just wanted an ’emotional’ reaction to it. Something akin to how I felt when I found my car, or my house. In the same token because I had never looked at a wedding dress before I had some pretty naive notions on expense. I laid down the law in regard to budget with my Mother and insisted I would find ‘the dress’ for no more than $500! [It’s ok – you can go ahead and laugh – they all did.]
The average cost of a wedding dress in the United States, according to theknot.com’s 2013 survey of 13,000 brides, was $1,281.00! [In all honesty I just looked up that statistic while writing this, and expected it to be MUCH higher, so I’m pleasantly surprised to see that it is NOT!]
Our first foray into the dress shopping experience for us started with David’s Bridal. We found our franchise here in Huntsville, AL to be . . . more on par with the likes of TJ Maxx. Too much product, and too few associates to help. In addition we were there to spend money and no one greeted us at the door and only ONE associate spoke to us, and I think she did only because I was in the back of the store trying on Veils and got that vibe from her like she thought I was about to steal one. 😦 Needless to say I am NOT a big fan of David’s Bridal – however, they serve a purpose and that is to provide Brides looking for a wonderful dress at a strict budget. [But let me tell you this – don’t fret, those dresses can be found elsewhere for just as cheap! Shhh!]
Our next stop was Modern Brides in Huntsville, where we had a wonderful experience that ended with me somewhat sticker shocked and a little overwhelmed by cost. [I had intended to buy my own dress and at this rate I wouldn’t be able to do THAT because every dress we saw was no less than $1200.]
Our BEST experience took place at a little boutique in Madison called Madison Town & Country, where a young lady by the name of Savannah took such good care of us that it overshadowed any negative impressions the owner of the store gave both my mother and myself. Savannah was eager to please and listened intently. Here are the benefits of buying from Madison Town & Country; 1) dress storage, 2) free alterations, and 3) dress cleaning and press before event. So, I had come to grips with the fact that the dresses were A LOT more than my $500 adamant budget, and that there was no way I would be able to pay for my dress myself! I was a little dejected. We had a STRICT and very small budget.
However, my mother (budget control) was in HOG HEAVEN! She didn’t bat an eye at $1200, $1500, and so forth, so I sucked it up. Madison Town & Country
I immediately realized that the designers who most flattered my awful PEAR shape were Maggie Sottero, Casablanca and Allure. And something else I discovered about myself in this whole process is that I’m REALLY a freaking girly-girl. I mean get me around some damn taffeta, organza, satin and lace and I will gravitate to the BIGGEST, girliest dress in the STORE! (When did THAT happen? I mean my last boyfriend used to tell me all the time that I was so great because I was like THE perfect combo of girly gf and goofy bad ass best friend a guy could have! Thank you asshole for at least THAT compliment. LOL.)
After narrowing it down to the Casablanca 1827 ($955) and the ‘Ellarae‘ by Maggie Sottero ($1400), I gave it a week and we made another appointment to try them on again and decide. Mom had an opinion, but wouldn’t share. I had an opinion and since she was paying, preferred to lean whichever way she thought best. I stared at the pictures of myself for a week. By this time it had been three weeks since we started to look at dresses and my dilemna was, that they were all beautiful in their own way and would make any Bride look beautiful, but I had no emotional attachment at all. NONE. I thought the ‘Ellarae’ was stunning and I looked great in it, but no emotion.
It turns out with our wedding coordinator in tow that Mom was leaning toward the Casablanca 1827 because of all the fine beading and blingy detail in it. I had decided that Saturday to choose the ‘Ellarae,’ then much to the concern of the owner at Madison Town & Country my wedding coordinator and mother popped up and said we had another secret appointment somewhere and could they hold the ‘Ellarae’. I was confused and more than aggravated as I had chosen and was ready to be done, but the wedding coordinator looked at me in all seriousness and asked the following, “Did you have an emotional reaction to the dress? [‘Ellarae’?]” I hung my head – I had not.
We headed to a small boutique in (of all places) Moulton, AL called Mary’s Bridal. Upon entering the facility I felt smug, because as far as I was concerned – emotional reaction or NOT, I had found the dress I would wear down the aisle. We were greeted by the owner and her sweet assistant. My coordinator apologized for the late timing and thanked her for staying open for us. Then she and my mother took off and started pulling dresses in what I thought was NOT my size, so I began looking in earnest in ‘my size’.
I felt elated! Not one of the dresses “in my size” were appealing and frankly it convinced me more than ever that I had already found ‘my’ dress.
Let me stop here and address the SIZE issue – be prepared Brides, most designers DO NOT VANITY SIZE at all. Do you know what ‘Vanity Sizing’ is? Well, you can look it up to verify, but basically sometime (I think) in the 70’s as a marketing tool, clothiers decided to start changing the true size of things for American’s – basically it’s a ploy to make us American women feel better about ourselves as we continue to gain weight. So for example a size 12 from the 70’s is now a size 4 I believe and so forth. So, if you currently wear a size 8, say in ‘Lucky’ Brand jeans and you feel smug about that – don’t, your true size is really more like a 16/18. [And yeah, it sucks when you think about it.]
So we are in this little bridal boutique in Moulton, AL and my wedding coordinator and mother have found 6 dresses that they want me to try on in a range of sizes way smaller than I think will fit – all waiting for me in the dressing room. I’m smug. I shrug. It doesn’t matter, I’m good. I’ve already found my dress. So, alone in the dressing room that has NO MIRROR, I look at all six beautiful dresses and I decide right away to try on the SMALLEST one! My reasoning is this; I can clearly discount that one if it doesn’t fit and move on, right?!
And thus began the beginning of my emotional reaction.
I put the dress on over my head and the assistant came in to fasten the back of it. I just smiled. I knew this dress was NOT going to fit at all, end of story. The assistant quickly and efficiently managed to properly close the dress. I was in this thing. Crap, now I had to actually give it due consideration. With no mirror in the room I couldn’t see myself to discount how it looked on me. I pulled up the bodice and the girl suggested I take off my bra. I complied. Frustrated now that this dress that was significantly SMALLER than all of the OTHER dresses – was actually on, secured and fit comfortably, had me . . . discombobulated!
I stepped out of the dressing room and both my mother and the wedding coordinator gasped and started to tear up! WTH?! I still couldn’t see myself, so I stomped, yes STOMPED over to the pedestals and mirrors, stepped up and took a good look.
I was madder than a wet HEN! This dress was absolutely made for me, 100%, no shadow of a doubt, the elusive “my dress”. I was steaming pissed! I turned every which way I could looking for ANY flaw, anything I could find that I could say ‘oh hell no’ – but nothing. NOTHING! I sighed. I twisted, preened, posed, and watched as my mother and wedding coordinator waited silently for me to say something other than curse words.
My shoulders hunched. I was defeated. This was ‘my dress’ and nobody who saw me in that store would or could say otherwise. I finally had my emotional reaction! And it was in true form for me: ANGER!
I’m not going to tell you which dress it is until my wedding day. You will have to wait and see with everyone else, but suffice it to say – and listen up younger Brides – wait for it. As you shouldn’t with your future partner, DO NOT settle on your dress. That doesn’t mean you need to wear a Vera Wang, $12,500 dress. It means find the dress within a REASONABLE budget that becomes YOUR DRESS, that evokes in YOU those feelings that it evokes in others (like your Mom).
So here’s the really, really neat part – my dress had only been tried on one other time and was a one of a kind out of a line from a few years ago. The owner no longer carries that designer so had marked the dress down significantly in hopes to attract for it a new home. I never looked at the price until I took it off, $550 with a one time 15% additional off for buying it THAT Saturday. So all told, we walked out of that store with the most beautiful wedding dress EVER, my dress for a grand total of $478.06! [Did I tell you I always get my way – we made MY BUDGET and NOT the crazy mother-of-the-bride budget, but my ORIGINAL budget!]
As you can see, my dress (for me) was PERFECTION!
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