To me, my wedding dress is easily the most emotional and personal thing I’ll purchase for my wedding, even more so than my engagement ring. There's really nothing like knowing your future husband and 200 other people will all be staring at you and judging what you're wearing to put the pressure on finding the "right" dress!
I spent most of May on the hunt for the one, visiting five boutiques in L.A. with my mom, dad, and sister in tow. Now that I’ve finally “said yes to the dress”, I sincerely did not imagine that it would have gone the way it did. Of all my married friends, one bought the first dress that she tried on (which she spotted in a magazine), another got a custom dress and promised “everything will look good on you” (lol, not true), and another said yes to the dress THREE TIMES before landing on the dress she finally wore at her wedding. I really didn’t know how it was going to go for me, but I was pretty sure that it was going to be a heck of a lot of fun (spoiler alert: it kind of was, and kind of wasn’t!).
Of all the things I was expecting might happen, having my mom—who I have an excellent relationship with—hate almost everything I tried on was nowhere on my radar. Sure, she’s one of the most opinionated people I know, but she generally accepts my sense of style and has even cried happy tears over a few random things I’ve worn over the years (including a pretty questionable grey jeweled shift dress with puff sleeves from the BCBG outlet in central MN). I knew she would be critical and honest, and I went in expecting that she would definitely tell me a hard yes or no on each dress. However, out of approximately 30 dresses I tried on, my mom liked maybe four of them, and even that’s being generous. When she finally found a few she liked, it was more of a simple nod of approval rather than the shrieking enthusiasm or streaming tears I was looking for. When we finally reached the end of the process, my mom said that the dress she had been imagining for me “must just not exist this season.” It honestly surprised me, and I was truly just sad that we weren't 100% on the same page on such an important decision.
I know it’s not necessarily “traditional” to invite your dad to your wedding dress appointments or show your fiancé photos of yourself in the dresses afterwards, but I did both. Interestingly enough, my dad and my fiancé Alfie were the ones who actually saved me from my misery and led me towards the right dress (men: don’t count them out!). After three boutiques and straight no's from mom (and some extreme enthusiasm from my sister, which was very confusing), we ended up at Grace Loves Lace. GLL is an online boutique that I had been stalking for years, which only has five showrooms in the world; one of which just happens to be a 10 minute drive from where I live. I tried on five dresses in total, and we all gravitated towards Dress #1; even mom. It was the kind of dress I always thought I would end-up with, and the dress I went to Grace Loves Lace to try on: skinny straps, fitted, lace, and a mostly “sheath” silhouette with a stunning train. We left the boutique thinking I would come back and buy it when I felt ready to pull the trigger (I paid for my dress myself, so finding the right dress at the right price was definitely weighing on my mind as well).
During every appointment, my dad took photos of me in each dress. It may seem like such a simple thing, but it truly made all the difference. Dresses I thought I loved in person ended up looking so different in photos, including the dress I thought was going to be the winner. When I tried on Dress #5 at GLL (which was the very last dress I tried on of all 30, and was a last-minute addition chosen for me by the stylist, Hayley), my dad immediately declared he loved it; as did I. I was shocked to even like it because I had seen the dress online, and didn’t really think anything of it. It was unusual, went with my fiesta wedding theme, and was the more “fun” version of Dress #1 that we all thought we loved so much. Mom, however, was less than enthusiastic about it (it’s a bit of a risk, I’ll admit), and my sister thought it made me look a little flat-chested (fair). Because of these less-than-stellar reactions, I took it off almost immediately to jump back into Dress #1, but not before dad snapped a picture.
Over the next two weeks I pored over the photos, going back and forth between a killer, more minimalist dress with a serious side slit that I fell in love with at the first boutique (that everyone but my mom loved) and all the dresses I tried on at Grace Loves Lace. I kept coming back to the photo of Dress #5 from GLL; the slightly weirder dress that went with our fiesta theme, but looked significantly better in photos than Dress #1. Sitting at brunch one day with Alfie, I finally caved and decided to show him Dress #5. “I’m only going to show you this dress for exactly two seconds, and all I need you to say is ‘yes’ or ‘no’," I told him, and he nodded. I flashed my phone at him with a picture of myself in Dress #5, and he immediately said a very firm “yes." I had been thinking about this dress for weeks–could I buy a dress my mom doesn’t love, should I go with a “risky” non-traditional dress that some people probably will hate, and would I regret it if I didn’t buy the other, more minimalist dress that was significantly more expensive? His “yes” was the validation I needed, and I was pretty sure I had finally found the right dress.
A week later, I went back to Grace Loves Lace with both my parents and my best friend, and tried on both Dress #1 and Dress #5 again. Admittedly, I still loved Dress #1 in-person, but felt like Dress #5 was the better choice when I put it on. To my surprise, even my mom had changed her tune and said this dress was the right choice (not her favorite dress of the bunch, but the best choice for me). And, I finally decided that saving around $1,500 was probably a good call... All in all, this story does have a happy ending, but wasn’t quite the happy-tears fairytale I thought it would be.
My best advice for anyone who’s currently dress shopping or may be in the future? Take pictures, be strict with your budget, don’t rule out the men in your life, and trust that you’ll find the right dress eventually–even if it takes a bit of a journey to get there.
How does my wedding dress experience compare to yours? Let me know in the comments!