A few weeks after I became engaged, one of my relatives took me aside to give me some bridal insight. “It’s all about the dress,” she said.
In the past few months, I’ve gotten a LOT of advice. Like, “Don’t serve fish.” and “Make a detailed list for your photographer.” and “Make sure you wear the right underwear.” It’s the type of well-intended (but
common sense) advice that I tend to brush away with a polite smile and a nod. The type of advice that, if it were a gift, would end up unused in the back of a closet somewhere, gathering dust because I’d just feel too guilty to throw it away.
Before getting engaged (and even after I got engaged) I had never envisioned myself in a wedding dress. (I’m a t-shirt and jeans kind of gal.) So I pored over bridal magazines and watched hours of David Tutera’s “My Fair Wedding.” I mentally crammed myself into every style of wedding dress imaginable, and nothing felt quite right. I still hadn’t experienced the grand vision of walking down the aisle toward my future husband.
When the big shopping day finally arrived, I was hopeful, but prepared to walk away empty-handed. My weight had “fluctuated” and trying on clothes had recently become an exercise of grueling disappointment. One nagging insecurity kept plaguing me, “What if I’m too fat to feel pretty?”
Oh, how naive I was!
The Magic of the Bridal Gown
I had yet to experience the power of the bridal gown. For those of you who haven’t already experience this magic, you should know that stepping into a wedding dress is like trying on dresses for a coronation ceremony. It doesn’t matter what body type you have: you’re going to look fabulous.
Trying on wedding dresses should be the first order of business for all future brides. In fact, you should shimmy out of your everyday clothes and slip into a wedding dress ASAP. While it could be the air of romance that drapes itself around the entire experience, I have a sneaking suspicion that tulle, chiffon, lace, satin, and expert beading and stitching have something to do with it as well.
Stepping into the first wedding dress of the day was like shouldering my womanhood and embracing my girlhood dreams in a single, magical moment. Unicorns galloped. Birds chirped. Stars Twinkled. The girl who had been standing there only moments before, in a pair of blue jean shorts and a printed summer top, had been replaced by a beautiful, elegant woman.
It was a strapless lace gown with an a-line silhouette. It was beautiful and the price was right, but I immediately knew it wasn’t THE dress.
When you’re single, it’s all about finding THE man, and when you become a bride, it’s about find THE dress. But here’s the real secret, it’s not really about the dress at all. It’s about discovering your own expectations for your wedding day. And for all the planning and flipping through magazines and browsing Pinterest — finding THE dress is the only way to truly know.
What Type of Bride Am I?
It’s not really as simple as taking a “What Type of Bride Are You?” quiz. And it’s also not something that can be simplified down to an overarching type. (Are you a Romantic Bride or a Modern Bride?) Deciding what type of bride you want to be is about understanding who you are as a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a hostess. For some women, there are even more elements involved. For me, stepping into THE dress was a moment of pivotal self-awareness.
Who am I? There are a lot of answers to this question, but essentially, I’m a storyteller. I want my wedding day to be an extremely happy memory that will spark dozens of stories. For the guests, of course, but also for my future husband and me. I want to dedicate an entire day to our relationship, to our memories, our family and friends, and the things that make us happy. I want my wedding day to be a love story in motion.
Love stories are important to me, particularly because they are so fragile, so fleeting, and so susceptible to getting lost in the fray. Life gets busy. The days become hectic. Before you know it, you’ve raised children who never learned how their parents met or how they fell in love. I want a different experience. I want to collect the scenes and moments and memories of our relationship. Then, I want to string them together, like beads on a necklace, for others to see. (I bet you had no idea wedding planning could be so DEEP, huh?)
Standing in front of the mirror, frowning and fussing over trains and embellishments, I held two things in my imagination as I surveyed my reflection:
- My fiance’s reaction as I walked down the aisle
- Twirling in his arms on the dance floor.
In the end, it came down to two dresses.
SORRY IN ADVANCE FOR THE LOW-QUALITY PHOTOS.
The first was an A-line dress with a sweetheart neckline. The fabric was tulle: crisp and white. It was absolutely gorgeous. My mother loved it. It was the group favorite. In so many ways, it was perfect for me, but somehow it just felt too safe.
The second dress — the dress I chose — is a ballgown with a full satin skirt, a lace bodice, and buttons trailing down the back and along the train. In all of my mental conjurings, I had never envisioned myself in anything so dramatic or sophisticated. (I mean, it has a HOOP SKIRT for crying out loud!)
I think all women can understand the power of transforming their reflections. (It’s why we love makeover stories.) In so many ways, planning a wedding has been about my transition from girlhood into womanhood. The dress I chose requires some growing into, a personal transformation from a laid-back country girl into a sophisticated and elegant woman.
Not to mention that a bride in a ballgown MUST learn to ballroom dance,which is one of my long-time dreams. (My future husband has promised me lessons for Valentine’s Day.) You see,I don’t want my life to be just about romance. I want a life full of adventure and personal growth. And dancing. LOTS of dancing.
So is it really all about the dress? Probably not for every bride. But for me, the dress is the only thing big enough (seriously, you gotta see the radius of that hoop skirt) and glamorous enough to hold all of the hopes and dreams I have for my wedding and my marriage.
P.S. Since I’ve been engaged, I’ve made a few Pinterest boards for wedding planning. You can check them out here. I update them incessantly, but right now I’m hoping to stick with the Magnolia themed wedding. The only problem is that Magnolias may not be blooming during my wedding date (April 26).
Also, here is a full photo of my dress.