I have never been one to follow the status quo. I have chosen what one could deem an “alternative route” in my education, my career, and virtually every other aspect of my life. Wedding planning has been no different. Long before I ever began planning my wedding, I rejected the notion that I had to essentially go into debt just to get married. I thought it was absurd that I was expected to spend the equivalent to a down payment on a house on a dress that I would wear for only a few hours of my life. I don’t look down on any bride that spends a few thousand on her dress, but for me, it just wasn’t important.
Drawing on my experience in the fashion industry, I know many of those dresses to be made out of extremely cheap material and if I’m going to shell out some serious dough, I want it to be because the product I’m buying is actually worth the dollar amount. That’s just not the case with many bridal gowns.
What was important for me was feeling confident and beautiful, and since my closet already had plenty of dresses that made me feel beautiful and most of them cost less than $30, in my mind, all I had to do was find a dress I loved and felt great in, and that happened to be white.
I began my search at Free People, and instantly found 2 winners:
The one on the left sold out before I could grab my wallet (if any of you know where I can find this dress in a small, I’ll give you the best virtual hug you’ve ever received). I was hesitant to purchase the one on the right because after reading a few reviews, it appeared the dress was pinned quite intricately on the model and I would have to do some serious tailoring to make it fit like it did on the model. I was so in love with the lace and crochet detail I decided I was up for the challenge. Unfortunately, once it arrived and I put it on, the back was perfection but the neckline hit below my bust. As in, my chest was fully exposed and my poor tailor would have to completely tear the dress apart and put it back together again, which would likely exceed what I paid for the dress in the first place. I gave up my dream of that dress and packed it back in its packaging to send it on its merry way back to the boutique.
My search continued and I remained hopeful. I knew my dream dress was out there. I scoured Tradesy and similar sites in hopes that the perfect dress would pop up. I kept seeing a beautiful lace gown from David’s Bridal in my size that was only $200, which is about what I was aiming for. It was more traditional than I planned on, but it was so darn gorgeous I kept going back to it.
Before I purchased it, I decided to stop in to the nearest David’s Bridal (roughly 3 hours away) while I was in another town stocking up for wedding crafts. I told them I only wanted to try on ONE dress, and I would be quickly in and out. How naïve of me. I arrive, walk in to the store and am greeted by a whole table of saleswomen smiling like maniacs. Instantly, I am asked about my ring and find myself surrounded by women in black pantsuits with far too much bronzer on fawning over my ring, sounding overly rehearsed. I suddenly become aware of the fact that I have made a huge mistake.
For the record, my engagement ring is extremely simple, a little gold band with a flower shape and a couple of small diamonds. It’s probably worth less than $100 and is certainly not typical. It was originally the promise ring my fiancé’s dad gave to his mom when they were younger. It was held on to patiently by my fiancé until he found the right woman and that story means more to me than any amount of karats.
I wait (for what feels like a very uncomfortable eternity) while they gather special undergarments for me, which I didn’t need or want since I came prepared with a nude strapless bra already, but the saleswoman didn’t want to hear that. She also didn’t care about my bra size and proceeded to bring me a strapless bra that was 2 sizes too big, promising me it would fit, which it didn’t, and this dragged things on even longer. I stood there waiting amongst the sea of tulle and rhinestones wanting nothing more than to run away. The only exit within my sight was blocked by a bride in a ball gown having her picture taken and I was certainly not about to interrupt what for her was likely a magical moment.
The saleswoman finally gets me the right size bra, which I am only wearing to appease her, and I go into the fitting room and get my first look at the reason I’m there. I instantly realize all the pictures I saw online didn’t have nearly enough detail. It’s covered in sequins (a minimal amount, but still) and has boning in the chest that makes my breasts look twice their size, which looks pretty ridiculous on my frame. I call upon my acting training while interacting with the saleswoman and allow her to try various over-the-top sashes on me.
Every employee waiting for their next appointment is sitting around watching and lazily complimenting me. No one sounds genuine. I understand that this is what many brides want. They want to sparkle and feel like a princess, have all their female friends and family around, sip champagne and hear how gorgeous they are. David’s Bridal is the place to go if that is the experience you are looking for. I wanted to tear the dress off and run out of there naked in search of the nearest beer.
I think a part of me wanted to know that, yes, an inexpensive simple dress is what I wanted, and not just want I could afford. My fiancé and I continued on with our wedding errands, I felt silly for even going through with the whole ordeal, and held steadfast to the idea that I would find the perfect dress for me and I wasn’t going to spend a whole paycheck or more on it.
Lo and behold, after months of searching every online boutique I knew of for the perfect white maxi dress, THE ONE appeared. With a little patience (it was out of stock) and a 10% discount (it was my first purchase with the store), my dream dress came to my door for less than $100 and it is H-E-A-V-E-N to wear.
Ladies, don’t accept the status quo if it doesn’t feel right to you. At the end of the day, you just want something you feel comfortable and beautiful in as you look into the eyes of the person you love and profess your devotion to them.