Alex hit me up with this fabulous request:
A few days ago, I bought my wedding dress! Yay! And I had a particularly awesome experience. From paying attention to not only wedding blogs that I trust but also to you regarding clothes and bodies and how they can be best friends, I knew what I wanted, and I got it, because I knew what to look for and how to find it. Although I am now done with this fun and exciting experience, I’m still curious to see what – if anything – you have to say on the topic of wedding dresses. I know it’s a whole can of worms to open, and it’s very different from day-to-day clothing, but if you have insights, I’m sure they’re fascinating and could really help someone!
So, naturally, I wanna show you this:
I don’t have tons of photos that show my dress in full or in detail, but I love this photo a whole bunch, and it gives you the general idea.* Our wedding was at the end of August, but I still wanted my arms covered. And honestly? I just lucked out. I found this dress at a little local boutique that stocked three or four wedding-appropriate dresses at any given time. Bought it off the rack for $150. It was the only place I looked. The dress itself has a sheer overlay with applique flowers in the same sheer material across the bodice and down the skirt, and a solid tank dress underneath. It was perfect.
As for giving advice on wedding dress buying, I will do that. But before I dig into my own opinions, here’s the most important advice I can give: Get the dress you want and love and can afford. That is all. It may take some doing to find it – especially given that “afford” clause – but it will be worth it. Wedding dresses are among the most emotionally significant garments worn by humans, and no matter what I or your mom or your best friend may say, YOU should adore your dress. And feel luminous in it. So make that priority one.
Got it? OK then, here are my tips:
Strapless dresses are HARD
In addition to being a married person who once had a wedding, I used to assist Husband Mike in photographing weddings. So I’ve been to many, and been behind the scenes of nearly all of them. And the main dress-related wisdom I can impart is this: Strapless dresses can be gorgeous and elegant, but no matter how you’re shaped they will slide down on your figure and you will spend a lot of time yanking them back up again. If looking great in your photos is top priority, strapless can work. If you want to run around and dance and twirl your ring bearers and flower girls, you might want something with straps or sleeves instead.
Wedding dresses are pretty and tough to resist
Sounds obvious, right? But consider again that this is one of the most emotional garments you will ever own and wear. So when you’re confronted by a room full of utterly gorgeous gowns and flooded with the emotions surrounding your upcoming wedding, you may become overwhelmed. I have had several friends buy wedding dresses that they couldn’t really afford because they went, they saw The Pretty, and they just couldn’t resist. If money is no object, then look everywhere. If you’re on a budget, I would highly recommend staying away from the fancy bridal ateliers that you can’t afford. Because if you go in, you’ll see what’s there and you might end up charging a super spendy dress when something at a lower price point could’ve been just as lovely. Don’t let yourself be tempted and you’ll be less likely to overspend.
There are options beyond bridal shops
As I said, my dress was $150 at a local clothing boutique. I know lots of women who bought their dresses on Etsy and eBay for less than $50. The bridal industry is an “all that the traffic will bear” industry, and everything in it is expensive. But if a brand new dress isn’t a priority for you, explore some alternatives. You may decide to pay $10 for a thrifted dress and then contract with a seamstress to have it rebuilt and still pay less than you would for a new dress. And yours will still be custom and exactly what you want.
Think about your day
Weddings can be formal, raucous, both, and neither. If you have any idea what your wedding day will look like, try to take that into consideration when you’re looking at dresses. If the only dancing you’ll be doing will be with your parter and/or parents on a ballroom floor in a slow and stately manor, you’ll probably be just fine in something a little more structured and constricting. If you know there will be a 2-hour Hora after the the ceremony under the Chuppah – which can totally happen, as it did at one of my best friends’ weddings – you might want something a wee bit more flexible. When we think about wedding dresses, we think about looks and photos, which makes sense and may just trump overall comfort. But I know brides who have regretted their dress decisions during the later hours of their weddings when things have moved from smiles and clasped hands to yelling and the Chicken Dance.
Consider your culture
Most brides have at least one relative who will express OPINIONS about dresses and wedding day adornment. This person may be someone to whom it is very important that you wear the traditional saree or lehenga, that you wear the gown she wore or that your mother wore, that you wear a mantilla even if you don’t want to. I really do believe that you should get the dress you want and love and can afford, but I also know that culture and tradition figure strongly into many weddings and ignoring them completely can have consequences. We planned our wedding without making any compromises and although we met some resistance during the process, all was forgiven in the end. But I know plenty of couples who still get snarky comments about what they did or didn’t do at their ceremonies decades later. Your wedding is likely to be meaningful for your family members, and if wearing something that reflects your culture or heritage can be done in a way that works for you both, consider doing so.
And I’ll quite happily stop there. But not before reiterating that the absolute most important thing is that you love your dress. Feel free to ignore everything I just said if you love your dress and feel amazing in it. That’s what matters most.
Oh, one more quick note: There are hundreds of wedding blogs out there, thousands of wedding inspiration Pinterest boards, and books and TV shows and more and more. I never tuned in to any of it while planning my own wedding and don’t pay it much mind now. Many women find great ideas and inspiration in these resources, and gain energy and excitment from them. Others feel overwhelmed and pressured and miserable. Before you immerse yourself in the world of wedding media, consider how much exposure you want and how it may affect you. Just sayin’.
So! Marrieds: How did you find your dress? Was it spendy? A family heirloom? Engaged folks: What criteria are you using as you search? Does culture play in? Singletons: Do you dream of a specific dress or have a plan for finding one when the time comes? Anyone at all have advice for finding the perfect wedding dress?
*Our ceremony was parents, sibs, and grandparents only. We asked our parents and grandparents to each do a reading of their choice. Here, you see my dad reciting the lyrics to “Zip-a-dee-do-dah.” Because he’s a twerp like that.
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