Brace yourself kiddies, this is a double-header and it’s a long one.
I have always admittedly been one of those girls who daydreamed about her wedding day before I could even tie my shoes. I grew up in the middle of the Disney Princess phenomenon when every girl thought Prince Charming actually existed and that he’d sweep you off your feet on a magic carpet ride. Luckily, I grew out of that fairly quickly and Disney Princess movies were replaced with episodes of Say Yes to the Dress. For as long as I can remember, I’d watch every episode, curled up on my couch and dreamed about the day I’d finally be able to try on a wedding dress for the very first time.
In my fantasy, I’d come out of the dressing room and my mom, sister and closest friends would be sitting on a grand, white couch, sipping champagne as I made my way to the pedestal in the center of the room. They would all start crying and telling me how beautiful I looked. I’d turn around, catch a glance of myself in the mirror and with complete joy and excitement, jump eagerly up and down as I shouted “I’m saying yes to the dress!”
And that, my friends, is why fantasies are called fantasies. Thanks, TLC.
This past Saturday, I woke up at the crack of dawn, shaved my legs for the first time in a week and made the three hour drive to Pennsylvania to go wedding dress and bridesmaid dress shopping with my bridal party. My sister, the maid of honor, had made us two appointments that day and reservations for dinner afterwards to celebrate what we hoped would be a successful shopping trip. Oh, and did I mention there was a big blizzard in the Northeast this weekend? Yeah, only us. Luckily, the snow didn’t keep us away from a day full of tacky dresses, tulle and in the end, perfect and fantastical moments.
Unfortunately, in the area I was looking, there were a total of three bridal stores and of the three, one didn’t carry anything bigger than a size 10 (seriously?), so our choices were pretty limited. We drove up to the first stop of the day – Bridaltown. When I say this place is stuck in a really, really bad 1980s movie, I’m not kidding — baby pink exterior, floral floor to ceiling wallpaper and stained magenta carpet, you name it. After being told they didn’t have a reservation in the system for us (liars, you called me thirty minutes ago to confirm), they took us to where they kept the bridesmaid dresses – a sad looking rack full of sad looking dresses. Dresses that were ill-fitting, poorly made and not to mention exorbitantly priced.
We decided the place sucked way too much to spend another minute there so we wrapped up our appointment.
Our next and last stop of the day was David’s Bridal in Plymouth Meeting. Before we could even walk into the store, Jess yanked the door a little too hard and her French manicured nail completely rips off and flies into the air. Alex and my mom are talking about doing shots out of the back of a car. I realize I have the Motley Crew as my bridal party (and quite frankly, couldn’t be happier about it, total dysfunction and all.)
The difference between Bridaltown and David’s Bridal is like describing the difference between heaven and hell. Gone are the pink walls and stained carpet with sad looking dresses and bitchy sales people. Instead there is a warm and welcoming hostess greeting me at the door, congratulating me on my upcoming wedding and to our left and right, rows upon rows of beautiful dresses. It’s finally starting to look a bit more like my TLC-inspired fantasy.
The girls run off and each take a row to pick out dresses for themselves as I greet my consultant, Lisa, who’s wearing combat boots, fishnets and is a complete and total angel. She asks me what I want and that’s when I realized – I had no clue. I had planned every other aspect of the wedding down to a drop of glitter and here I am, clueless as to how I want to look on my big day. I had two pictures of dresses I thought I’d like, told her my price point and said above all else – I want something that will make me look good.
She pulls the two dresses I showed her off the rack and a third, out-of-the-box choice – something she thought I’d look good in. As I get crammed into a corseted bra, put on a slip and get laced into my first dress, it finally hits me – this is my moment. The one I had been waiting for and had dreamed about for so long. I step out of the dressing room waiting to see the reaction of my mom’s face, my bridal party, everyone… and when I go out, nobody is there. HA. My mom is in the bathroom peeing and my bridesmaids didn’t even realize I was trying on dresses. It’s alright though, because the first dress was kind of a bust. Once everyone saw me in it they gave it an 8. Moving on.
I go back in to try on the second dress – Lisa’s choice and before I can even look at myself in the mirror, my bridal party is oohing and aahing and my mom is crying. It’s hit her that her firstborn is getting married in a few months. Cue the tissues. The dress was beautiful – covered in ivory lace, intricate beading and form-fitted.
I try on the third dress, what I thought was going to be “the one” and it turns out it looked absolutely atrocious. My sister said I looked like a tent and the fabric felt like a cheap down comforter.
I put everyone’s favorite dress back on. But despite everyone loving it, I couldn’t see myself walking down the aisle in it. I didn’t like the way my body looked. I was uncomfortable. And before I knew it I was a few seconds away from a total bridal breakdown. My bridal party, the amazing group that they are, calmed me down by fanning me, telling me I looked beautiful and agreeing to let me have a break as they tried on their bridesmaid dresses.
As I sat in the chair, back in my jeans and cardigan, convinced I wouldn’t be leaving with a wedding dress, I took a deep breath and waited for them to come out of the dressing room. The first round of dresses didn’t produce any winners, although Jess thought it was a good idea to booty pop in her bubble dress. Like I said – Motley Crew.
They go back in and come back out with the second round of dresses and one by one, each of them looks absolutely stunning as they stand in front of me. Four girls with four very different body shapes and yet this one dress looks beautiful on all of them. It was a bridesmaid miracle. Okay, I thought. Things are looking up. Maybe I’ll find a dress afterall.
I tell Lisa a few more basic ideas for what I’m looking for in a wedding dress. She pauses, nods her head and comes back with three more. I try the first one on and before its even laced up all the way, before I can even see myself – I knew.
I walked out onto the floor and stood in front of the mirror. I was beaming. Glowing, even, as I have been told. It wasn’t anything I had ever expected to fall in love with. But I was – I was completely, head-over-heels in love with this dress and I didn’t want to take it off. I felt beautiful for the first time that day.
I tried on the other two dresses she pulled as a courtesy (and because you only get to try on wedding dresses once in your life, so I figured I should have fun with it), but none of them came close to the first dress. My bridal party was eerily silent (a tactic I later learned to get me to admit to loving my dress instead of seeking their approval), but they told me to come back out in my favorite dress.
So I did. I put on the beautiful, white gown again and walked out to look at myself one last time before turning to my bridal party, holding back my tears and yelling “this is my dress!”
Lisa brought over the bell, a David’s Bridal tradition. She placed it in my hand, told me to close my eyes and make a wish for my wedding day. I let the moment sink in. That I was standing in the dress I would be wearing when I’d become Mike’s wife. That I was surrounded by people who all genuinely love me. That I had never felt more beautiful. I made a wish, opened my eyes and rang the hell out of that bell, so loudly that the entire store stopped to clap and congratulate me.
It was better than any fantasy I could have ever had. It was imperfectly perfect in every way.
We wrapped up the day by grabbing dinner and drinks at California Pizza Kitchen – complimentary “wedding” pie included.
I spent the next day staring at my wedding dress, picturing myself walking down the aisle to the man I love, with the women I love standing right beside me.