I did something yesterday that I never imagined myself doing. I set foot in a bridal shop AS a bride.
It’s not that I never imagined myself getting married; I had always hoped that one day I would. It’s that I never imagined being a stereotypical bride—someone that brings an entourage with her to a bridal shop, sifts through thousands of dresses, makes everyone wait for hours as she slips into and out of gowns, and then hems and haws over which one is the most perfect.
Thankfully, I was anything but stereotypical. Sorta. For the record, I only took my mother. I only tried on five dresses. And, I never really hemmed or hawed.
I was mostly overwhelmed by the sea of dresses and wide-eyed brides milling about pulling dresses of the racks by the armful. Lil—the woman charged with helping me select something wonderful—told me to look around and find some designs that I liked to try on. Internally, I thought THERE ARE 1,000 DRESSES HERE LADY! Outwardly, I smiled and said, sure thing.
Because of my fast-approaching nuptials, half the store was out of my league. It turns out most designers require eight months or more to stitch a gown together. That’s ridiculous, I told Mom. If a gown needs eight months to stitch together, it has way TOO much material involved. Perhaps the half of the store left for me to navigate would involve gowns with far less pomp and circumstance.
Not so. The “faster-assembly” side was filled with equal amounts of pouf and fluff and beading. Loads of beading. I found two dresses that I thought maybe I could entertain. Two out of the narrowed-down 500. And they didn’t get very far as Lil quickly pointed out they were far better suited for a beach/destination wedding. Shoot.
Ever the pro, Lil went into action, asking me if I’d at least try on something I considered to not be overly attractive on the hanger, just to see if I liked the cut of the dress once it was on. I felt my left eyebrow about to soar, but I clamped it down. I’m here, so sure, why not?
I suppressed the urge to say, NO WAY, when presented with a bustier and a slip WITH tulle out the bottom. I squeezed my left eye shut to make sure my eyebrow stayed down.
“You do know that I’m over six feet tall and don’t want to look like I’m swaddled in material, right?” I asked Lil.
“You might surprise yourself,” said Lil. “Just give it a try.”
Her first suggested dress came down over my head, and I looked into the mirror.
“Oh no,” I said.
“What’s the matter?” asked Lil.
“I’m not supposed to like it,” I replied, pondering how I’d spent almost 28 years saying I’d never wear a “wedding” wedding dress if I ever married and how I could possibly now be standing in a fitting room IN a bridal gown. Where did I go wrong?
Lil laughed and said, “Well, now you know you have plenty of options. I think you should go show Mom.”
Thus began the parade of dresses for everyone in the shop to see. Because it wouldn’t be normal to be able to try on a gown for only Mom and me to see. No. Everyone in the shop got to be a part of the experience. The tiny little woman to my right, trying to hold up a 50 lb. gown full of beading and ruffles—her entourage oohing and ahhing. The red-headed woman to my left, circling about in a white and black gown, her family members shooting reels of film to document the experience. The raven-haired lady two podiums down in head-to-toe fluffiness, her grandmother inspecting every inch of the gown. And then there was me.
“Mom, what do you think?” I asked. Turning a bit of a circle, trying not to notice that everyone and her mother was watching. And whispering.
“That’s nice,” said Mom, feeling the material.
“Um, is that your entire response?” I asked, wondering if mothers are supposed to provide more of a response while knowing that my mother probably learned very early on to closely watch her words with me.
“Well, you look beautiful,” she said. Lil came up behind me with a veil.
“I’m not really a veil sort of person,” I said almost losing complete control of my left eyebrow.
“You aren’t really a gown sort of person either,” Lil said. Touché. I leaned backwards so that she could slip the veil on.
“Well THIS is new,” I said, looking at myself in the mirror not minding the veil all that much. “I look like a total bride.” I sighed inwardly. Fiancé is going to laugh his head off once he gets a report on my bridal store behavior.
“Let me do you one better,” said Lil. She left and came back with a cathedral length veil. One that was longer than the train on my dress.
“Whoa, long,” I said. But, of course, I loved it. LOVED IT. I’m ridiculous, I sighed.
“This is far more wedding-esque than I anticipated, Mom,” I said. “Far more.”
As Lil had picked out a few more dresses for me to try on, I strode back into the dressing room, wondering how I’d remotely went from an “I’m eloping” bride to an “I’m having a wedding” bride to an “I’m having a wedding and I’m wearing a wedding dress WITH A VEIL” bride. I liked dress #3 quite a bit and fell in love with dress #5. It wasn’t even all the way on when I said, I LOVE IT.
Did I just say I LOVE IT? I wondered to myself. In regard to a wedding dress? I love a wedding dress?! I may never live this down.
“It suits you perfectly,” said Lil. And, even with its “immodest” strapless neckline, Mom agreed.
In the end, I ordered a dress and a veil, marveled at the whole wedding industry, lamented that I had been sucked into it and smiled when my mom thanked me for allowing her to be a part of the whole process. That was worth all of it.
And, after all, I’m only getting married once to the man I love. Why not have a little pomp and circumstance? Just a little bit. A very little bit.