The Dress! This is what you’ve dream of—We can all say that we’ve envisioned walking down the aisle to our prince charming or at least pictured a wedding gown you could see yourself wearing on that Big Day. It’s most likely one of the first things you’ll can’t wait to get started on, “Finding the Dress” once you’re engaged. I mean come’on! Everyone is asking and everyone is totally down to being a part of the Bridal Entourage. The first two weeks of being engaged I can remember just thinking, “I’m getting married!” and “I get to go dress shopping”. I’d randomly start crying envisioning myself walking down the aisle & my dad “giving me away” to my fiancé and well up when he’d refer to me to his friends/family as his ‘fiancé’. I’m an emotional person so you can only imagine how the ultimate dress search went.
Ever since I can remember I’ve watched “Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress”, “My Fair Wedding”, “Four Weddings” and dreamed of the excitement, the emotions, and dazzle of the gowns. But what I found, was that the experience was so different from what I imaged and what has been portrayed on these TV shows. For starters- You have to know that I’m an average sized women 5’3” 148 lbs of solid muscles (thick girl w/ quads & shoulders), my planning team is located in San Rafael, California & I currently resided in Bakersfield, California, I have a $4,000 budget, & I’m looking for a slightly conservative dress. So the total nightmare and worst case scenarios came true. I didn’t fit into dresses, my mom wasn’t crying and asking for tissues, I felt large and in charge (low self-esteem), and I definitely didn’t feel like I was on cloud 9 from the moment I walked in the door. I had a total different experience from what I imaged myself having. I write this to tell you my experience. I am very well aware that everyone has different experiences. If you end up with a scenario like mine- don’t worry, there is a sunny side of every situation (name that musical!).
What I did First: I scheduled 2 appointments about three weeks out- It was perfect. I got the times I requested for and even a confirmation e-mail from one of the two stores. The night before we (my mom & I) were to go dress shopping I started getting worried that maybe I didn’t make my appointments, or had wrong times. But I did. Phew.
My Wedding Dress Extravaganza: Part 1
Note: this is called Wedding Dress Extravaganza: Part 1 because I still have one more shop to visit on October 15th.
The morning of dress shopping my mom and I sat down and had that awkward conversation about budget. Thankfully my dad helped break ice a few days before we went shopping (even though I did want to be the person that brought it up—he beat me to it) offering to help pay for our wedding. You should know, I am the first to get married in our family of four (I have 1 older brother!). Our family has been to boat loads of wedding but in respect, no one talks about the cost of weddings or really starts to question cost until you’re the one throwing the party. So my family has never had that idea of “this is what a __________ (wedding, dress, photography, food, entertainment, open bar, etc.…) costs”. From the moment I got engaged, their curiosity peaked and people were offering their advice and resources. But still, no one wants to that ‘nosey’ person asking prices. So before getting the courage to ask my friends what their dresses costs, I had the idea that I was going to spend no more than $1,000.00. How did I come up with that number? I have no clue. I quickly found out that I could indeed do it but I might be shutting doors to dresses I may really want to consider. After doing a little more research on my own and looking in Bridal Guide & Martha Stewart Weddings magazines I came up with a budget of about $2,300.00 which ended up being a gracious $4,000.00 including tax, shoes, & alterations from my parents. I was given the gift by my biological mother that she would purchase my veil—one less thing I need to purchase. Thank you Michelle!!! <3. I found that for where I was shopping at the time (Bakersfield, California) my budget was HUGE and a nice surprise when I found out that my top 2 dress were both in combined under my $4,000.00 budget-meaning I could actually get two dresses!
Store # 1. I had this idea (again, lots of ideas & expectations) that I was going to waltz into the store and I was going to be on cloud nine, I imaged all the dresses were going to fit with ease & loose (I mean, I’ve been hitting my cardio goal for the last two weeks- why shouldn’t they?), my mom was going to cry, and I was going to find ‘the dress’ right off the bat. Boy was I wrong. My appointment was a 10:00am but of course, I didn’t want to be there early and look too eager nor did want to be late. So I got there 3 minutes until 10am and sat in the car for another 5 minutes. My mom and I got out of the car and were excited to ‘waltz’ inside to find out that the door was lock. I tried to open it, then thought? Well maybe I didn’t pull hard enough and gave it a big tug just to find out that the door was indeed locked. Now I feel like the eager bride I was trying to avoid. We waited for about 5 more minutes before the door opened and were greeted by our Bridal Consultant for the morning. She was wonderful. She congratulated me, she had me fill out a form that included my budget, style, wedding date and then we hit the dresses. I was taken back to a private room closed off by curtains that had racks and racks of dresses all organized by dress style. I quickly learned the different styles: Fit & Flare, Mermaid, Ball Gown, A-Line, Imported (Italian & French designers). I was over whelmed by the dresses they had at the stores- I was a little speechless and at one point had to pick my jaw up from off the floor. The Consultant told me to start pulling dresses and since it was my first time trying on dress we’d try on several silhouettes and start eliminating from there to find ‘my style’. So we did just that.
So the moment came when I got to put on that first dress- I was expecting to get this rush of emotion, maybe some tears, maybe some overwhelming joyous feeling…but I stepped in and she pulled it up and it didn’t fit. I got it on, but it didn’t zipper. If you are anything like me, when something doesn’t zip and they only have one size available it kind of brings you down and those self-conscious feelings can trump those joyous ones you were expecting. This feeling started from dress 1! I walked out to show my mom, and she kind of just stared. She said I looked beautiful (thanks mom!) but I was expecting she would be crying, I’d need to run over and comfort her, offer her a tissue. I mean her baby girl is in a white wedding dress! I did none of that- she had no tears, and definitely didn’t need any sort of comforting. Again, expectations set by the world of reality television. The consultant was wonderful. I was super comfortable with her- she made me laugh, she gave me a lot of advice, she even picked me up off the pedestal because the dress was too tight that I moved I thought I might rip the dress! I tried on about 13 dresses in different styles: A-line, fit & flare, mermaid, lace, satin, long sleeves, open back, tee length, corset backs, and off the shoulders. You name it, I tried it. The consultant asked if I wanted to tie the look together with a veil and I said ‘no’ (I also thought it would make me cry- I wasn’t in the mood to cry yet). I wasn’t feeling any of it. I gave the consultant a run for her money as she said she never had a bride try on so many dresses and still not know what she wanted. I wasn’t falling in love with anything. I thought some were beautiful and very elegant but not ‘the one’. I was starting to question, if that feeling was actually all that is cracked up to be. Will I have that feeling? Will I know? Do I settle? Do I go with one that I think just looks nice? I started having the feeling that I need to make something work and have some sort of happiness in these dresses I’m putting on. The dresses that I found I liked, I had something changed and altered to each one. One dress had too much tulle & overlay, another one I didn’t like the straps and the neckline, and the last one was too reveling in my chest and I didn’t like the color (gold vs. ivory). Did I want a dress I had to completely change? The appointment came to an end. She made note of the three dresses I liked. I felt content at the end with a sprinkle of feeling defeated. I didn’t find the dress but I learned that I liked fit & flare and A-line styles of dresses. So was it the best trip? No. Did it point me in the right direction? Yes. Mom & I took a break and had lunch. I did open up about my feelings of defeated—the dresses didn’t fit, I felt fat, she wasn’t showing any emotion or excitement. I’m glad I got that off my chest and that I was open with her because Moms know best she gave me the comfort and reassurance I needed. Store # 1 done.
Store #2. Food comma is what I was in before we hit Store #2. Mind you, I was still down a little from Store #1. I still had that thought of what am I doing? Am I going to have that feeling? Will this be a replay of Store # 1 with nothing that fits? We moseyed on in (no waltzing this round). We were greeted by another Bridal Consultant who got us going straight off the bat. She asked if I had any styles I liked and I told her I went browsing this morning and liked A-Line & Fit & Flare. She took us to the back and started pulling dresses and asked if we wanted to browse ourselves. We did. This store also had the one dress I saw in a magazine and have had on my mind since I bought my first Bridal Guide. I even looked on-line to find which location had it. She pulled it- it was gorgeous. I started to get a little excited again about trying on dresses. She brought back 7 dresses and we just started down the line ending with ‘my pick’. The nice thing at this store was that all the dresses but 1 fit- I could get them on and for the most part they all zipped. It was just a great feeling and totally changed my experience and my attitude about trying on dresses. The dresses range in such a variety of sizes. For the most part the sample dresses range from size 6-16 what I found. I was comfortable in 10 but I could zip a 8. So dress after dress—and for the most part I really loved these dresses. One after the next until we got to my Justin Alexander dress. It was gorgeous. I waltzed out and felt amazing. She put a beautiful sash around my waist to add the bling and give me a little shape. She put my hair up and asked to stick a veil in- I couldn’t resist this time and said ‘yes’ and the dress came to life (they totally do that in ‘Say ‘Yes’ to the Dress’. I did have ‘that moment’.). She asked if it was a 10. Shockingly I said ‘no’. I said 8.5 because I felt self-conscious about my stomach area. The consultant pulled a few more dresses to help address my concern. She even had me go back with her to peruse a little more. She brought out another dress- completely different from the JA gown—this one was almost roman- fit & flare. Gorgeous low back, showing off my curves, and made me feel so ‘adult’ and proud of the work I’ve put in at the gym. That wasn’t the dress either but the dress after that one was even better. It wasn’t a spandex material like the last one but everything that I dreamed of. The women at this store were so attentive. I started off with one consultant and by the end of the appointment the owners were out on floor helping me, laying the veil perfectly on the floor for my mom to take photos. This was the experience I was ‘dreaming’ of. I didn’t want to take off the dresses. They asked if either the JA gowns were a ten and I said ‘no’ only because I knew I had my Extravaganza Part 2 in October. Again, we spent another 2 hours in this store. And I had that experience I was ‘expecting. It’s been 3 days since I’ve been dress shopping and I have a feeling I have found my gown.
Store # 3. Three stores in 1 day is a lot. I wish we didn’t step foot in the last store—I was on cloud 9 already. I was happy with my findings and I honestly couldn’t think anything would top those two dresses. We went to a very well know bridal store and walked their dress selection before my appointment. With the budget that was set I really had the world in my hands as far as price & dresses goes. I tried on a few dresses- none that I loved, none that I really cared much to stay in more than a quick glance for my mom. After 3 dresses we said thank you and went on our merry way.
All & all it was an experience. One that I will never forget. I am the Queen of setting unrealistic expectations out for myself and then becoming disappointed when something isn’t what I expected. But this was learning experience. One that ended in a ‘positive’ thank goodness! I still didn’t get the tears of joys from mom but I think they’re coming.
My Advice for you:
- Set your budget
- Nothing is more awkward than having that money conversation in front of a sales person. Do it in private.
- Schedule 1-2 appointments for a day of dress shopping. We did three stores!
- One at 10am, one at 2pm, and a third at 4:30pm. By 4:30pm we were exhausted. Plan on spending about 90 to 120 minutes at each store.
- Call ahead & make an appointment
- If you’re going out to try on dresses make sure you have your personal time slot. This not only helps with the stores services but you get the individualized attention you deserve in finding your dress.
- Bring a select group of people
- Most likely, you’ll make a few trips to the store before purchasing. The first round- you are literally trying on tons od dresses to find “your style”. Consider bringing the Bridal Entourage to the 2nd trip if your teetering between a few styles of dresses. Even with just my mom- there was always talk in the stores from sales consultants and other brides & their mothers/entourage.
- Get ‘done’ up
- Spend some extra time on your hair and make-up. Almost like “Day Date” make up Vs. “Work” make-up. It will help you see the full ‘LOOK’.
- Wear comfy and easily changeable clothes.
- In other words, don’t wear your super tight jeans and a blouse that after being taken off a few times loses it’s ‘look’. I chose to wear a skirt, sweater, and cute sandals. I still felt beautiful and dressed up, but I could easily strip down quickly to get that gorgeous gown on.
- Bring a hair tie- you’ll want to play with your hair
- I had this idea in my head that I’d wear my hair down but when I put the veil I had to have my hair up from that point on. It felt just so romantic and classy.
- Try on all the styles before committing to one or even two
- You never know! I had an idea of this beautiful romantic gown that I quickly found out wasn’t for me. Now, I’m stuck between two gorgeous gowns but 100% opposite from each other.
- Don’t say NO to the veil
- It will give you that ‘bride’ look and sometimes be that ‘it’ factor you need to make a decision.