Saying Yes to the Dress: Part 2

After weeks of nonstop grading, a much-needed trip to my hometown, wedding cake tasting and flower picking, celebrating my dad’s 60th birthday, and several cuddle sessions with our family cat, Bella, I have finally found time for Saying Yes to the Dress: Part 2.

My sister and I decided to match at my dad’s 60th birthday party. We also decided to practice different poses while taking pictures:

I call the series below Bella with Katherine’s Laptop (and doesn’t help grade):

Now that I’ve overloaded you with pictures, let’s get on to the actual post.

Before dress shopping, I got a few tips from friends and websites on how to best approach the whole process. Most of the tips were simple: set a budget, scout ideas beforehand (while also being open to other choices), take a few favorite people with you to each store, and keep your store visitations to a select few places. 

Well, I did really well with the first three: I set a very clear budget in the beginning and stuck to it, screenshotted dresses on Pinterest and cut some out of magazines, took my mother to every single dress shop (except for one, when my sister tagged along as well), and made initial appointments at three dress shops that I had researched extensively online. I just knew that I was going to find THE dress at one of these first appointments, because that’s what my friends and every single TV/movie featuring wedding dress shopping had told me.

Guess what? I was wrong.

If you read my last blog post, you know that somewhere between the 3rd and 9th bridal store visit, I disappeared into a tulle-induced frenzy where I was determined to try on every single dress that I might REMOTELY like. I was on a crazy dress path and it was going downhill fast. I was waiting for that “ah-ha” moment when I put on the dress and everyone around me starts clapping and crying instantly. I’m not making that part up–I’ve literally read a blog post where a bride said this happened to her. So, in my crazy bridal mind, I was determined to have that same moment because, dammit, why not! I tried and retried dresses, determined to have an ah-ha moment of my own.

But then, something my best friend said to me brought me back to reality: “The TV/movies lie to you. The dress is important, but it doesn’t make the wedding, and definitely doesn’t make the marriage.” (I’m totally paraphrasing because I can’t find the original text).

There is a reason we have best friends, and it’s for times like these. Her simple text reminded me that just because the “ah-ha this is the dress” moment happens all the time in the media doesn’t mean that it has to happen to me. Every person’s dress shopping experience is different, and every PERSON is different.

This is the same rule that applies to the reaction to getting proposed to. Even though I always pictured that I would cry, as that’s what you see in the movies/etc, I instead started in utter shock at the ring. On an unrelated note, I’ve also started to think that men holding women’s purses when they shop is not a real thing, but something started in commercials/TV shows. More on this to come.

After this text, I slowly came back to reality and the rest of the wedding dress shopping experience became a little easier, as outlined in my first post. Here, I want to share a few dress shopping guidelines–as it there weren’t enough already out there–to remind other soon-to-be-brides that it’s okay if the “ah-ha” moment takes some time, or happens in a different way than you expected.

Wordifications’ Endorsed Wedding Dress Shopping Guidelines

1. Plan beforehand. Like I outlined above, going in with an idea of the dress you’re looking for is key. This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s a helpful reminder.

2. Say no and be firm to dresses you are not interested in. You will be offered plenty of dresses that are not your type or are too pricey. Just because that trick works on other customers–oh, you love the dress? oh, it’s $500 over your budget? oh, you want it anyway? perfect!–doesn’t mean it has to work on you. I’m a perennially nice person when it comes to interacting with salespeople, often too timid to really speak my mind, but I said no when necessary.

3. The step above helps trim down your dressing room options, which is key. You don’t want to take a bunch of dresses you don’t actually like back to the dressing room, and waste your time trying them on, when your dream dress is probably somewhere else in the store. Especially in stores that have a strict appointment time limit, say yes to only your favorite picks.

4. At the same time, say yes to different styles–within reason. Like, if you know you will never, ever want to wear a huge ball gown type dress, then mark those off completely. But, if you know you are open to, say, strapless, even though it’s not your first choice, then try on some strapless dresses. You never know, you might find the dress this way. Let’s just say that’s how I found mine–although my dress doesn’t fall into any of the above categories. Like I would give away what the dress looks like on this blog!

My emotions (in gif form, of course) about halfway through the whole dress shopping process: 

5. Don’t put your hopes on one store. Let me repeat. DON’T PUT YOUR HOPES ON ONE STORE. This was the big dress shopping mistake I made and it ultimately lead to my wedding dress-shopping-frenzy. I was so disappointed that I hadn’t found the dress at this specific store that SO many people had vouched for, that I spun out into a wedding panic.

Which store, you ask? Well, about 2 1/2 hours away from my hometown in TN is Low’s Bridal & Formal, which so happens to house the largest bridal selection in the mid-south. Sounds perfect, right? My mom and I heard about the store and, after asking for opinions on FB on whether or not a visit to the store was worth it and getting a resounding yes from many people who got their dress there, I made an appointment. After such praiseworthy FB comments, I was positive that I was going to find THE DRESS here. Like, steroid-induced confidence positive. And I did find many lovely dresses at this store, ultimately whittling it down to two favorites. Yet, while I was looking for the “THIS IS THE ONE!” moment, I instead spun off in a totally different direction: stressed, anxious, and confused. Sure, I had found some lovely dresses, but none of them were THE dress. Instead of feeling excited that I had found good options, I was stressed about the whole process and upset at the blind confidence I had placed in the store after hearing such rave reviews about it. I had planned on walking out with a dress purchased, and I instead walked out (well, rather, hobbled-I was still in the boot from my fracture!) confused, angry, and a little bitter, which is SO not the emotion you want to get from wedding dress shopping.

The visit to Low’s slowed down the whole process a bit instead of speeding it up, as I had hoped. Even though many, many people raved about the store, I finally accepted that their positive reviews didn’t mean jack if I wasn’t finding the dress I wanted, even in a store that looked like it was straight out of “Say Yes to the Dress.”

Ultimately, going to 12 different stores paid off–I found THE dress, and I’ll be going to try MY DRESS on in a week and a half. However, if I had known some of the above reminders going in to the whole process, especially the fifth one, the process would have been a little easier. I finally had to remind myself: There are thousands of dress shops with millions of dresses (not really sure on that math) and NO WAY to try on every single one. I had to put aside my inner perfectionist and, once I did, I was able to calm down long enough to say yes to the perfect dress.

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Saying Yes to the Dress: Part 1

GUYS. It has been a hot minute since I posted on this ol’ blog—55 days, to be exact. A lot has happened in those days: spring break, sending out our SAVE THE DATES, grading upon endless grading, day trips to DC with my mom,  a short hospitalization for a blood clot in my leg, an anxiety attack from said blood clot in my leg, physical therapy visits, weekend trips to New York (Soho shopping, yes please!), finishing Amy Poehler’s book, finishing Mindy Kaling’s book, watching “How I Met Your Mother” two times through, ordering HBO just to get HBOGo to watch “Veep,” starting “The Mindy Project,” job interviews, wedding planning, the list goes on…

But today, I want to write about the most exciting event of the last 47 days: FINDING MY WEDDING DRESS!

The journey to finally saying yes to the dress was a long one. My first official bridal store visit was on March 3 (Birthday Bride!), and I finally ordered THE DRESS almost a month later on April 2. During this time, my mom and I visited 12 bridal shops in 4 states, tried on countless dresses, developed a genuine distaste for excessive netting, and reached a near breaking point. Somewhere during the experience, after my third bridal store visit and before my ninth or tenth, I disappeared into a tulle-induced frenzy where I was DETERMINED to find the perfect dress. I had found a lovely dress at the 2nd store visit, but somehow convinced myself that I needed to be sure that a more perfect dress didn’t exist somewhere else. In this journey to satiate my inner voice, I tried on many dresses that were not my style at all, squeezed into size 8s and drowned in size 14s, and became more and more frustrated with the whole process. I was positive that I would find the dress while home for Spring Break and, when I didn’t, I returned home to Maryland disappointed that I would have to do the rest of the shopping by myself.

But then something miraculous happened—I spent a day in the hospital for a fractured leg-induced blood clot, after which my mom flew back to Maryland (after already spending 3 weeks with me during my hobbling stage, because she is the best) to spend another 2 weeks with me while I adjusted to a new medication and lived in an anxiety-induced fear of what was happening in my body (watching this video on repeat helped ease my mind and also laugh). While the circumstances for her return to Maryland were crappy, her second visit in 2015 meant one, very exciting thing: we could finish wedding shopping together!

We made a few more appointments in other bridal shops in Maryland, even though I was starting to get tired of the whole experience, which was kind of frustrating. Its wedding dress shopping; how can it be frustrating? I had gone into the whole experience expecting a Monica Geller moment of finding the perfect dress, complete with a “THIS IS THE ONE!” exclamation, pushing all those around me into tears immediately (ok, that last one is a bit of a stretch), with an immediate sense that this dress was going to “complete me.” But then, I had a moment of realization, plus a real talk with my BFF and countless conversations with my mother, and came to understand that I wasn’t buying a wedding dress in the movies. The ah-ha moment is fabricated, in those situations, and I also realized that I’m not even a “ah-ha” moment kind of gal. I just knew I wanted to find a dress that looked and felt amazing, and I started to push myself to hard in finding this dress.

After a few conversations about this frustration, my mom and I set an April 1 deadline for picking the dress, after our last bridal appointments in March 31. A deadline! As a former journalist and current teacher, I love deadlines, and so I latched on to this quickly. I still liked a dress I had tried on at the second bridal shop, and had tried on countless other times afterward, but I wanted to be sure.

And, despite the lengthy journey, I’m so glad I did. On March 31, we visited our last two shops. The first visit was strange—they didn’t allow you to take photos while trying on the dresses (which I know is standard in many shops, but also kind of lame) and the woman helping me made a comment about how I can “wear the wedding dress again,” to which she asked “Why do you laugh?” when I, of course, laughed at what she said. She was being totally serious and implied that I could always make a short summer dress out of the wedding dress. Acc-a-scuse-me? I’m not turning my wedding dress into craft time.

So while the first visit was a bit disappointing, the second visit was so different. Maybe it was because I knew this was our last bridal store visit, no matter what, or maybe I was just in a good mood, but this last store was lovely! Not only were we the only ones, but the dresses were spread out instead of being crammed together, which made browsing a lot easier. Because there were fewer dresses, and this was our last visit, I ended up trying on a few dresses I would have said “heck no” to at other places. Because of this, I finally had a mini-bridal moment. I tried on a dress that I normally would have turned away, and immediately and instinctively knew that this was the dress. It was very similar to the other favorite dress I had tried on several times, but upped the ante just enough to knock the other dress out of the ballpark. I tried it on twice, twirled it in, sent pictures to my sister who immediately approved, and immediately went for fro-yo afterwards to discuss the decision with my mom.

During the whole process, my mom provided the perfect balance of “this is your decision” and “that dress does/does not look like you.” She never pushed me toward a dress, while also pitching in when she could tell I was unsure about a dress I had tried on. She did intervene when I was in my tulle-induced frenzy to tell me I had gotten away from my original dress goals, which was true, and which was exactly what I needed to hear. But she didn’t hide her excitement when we actually PURCHASED THE DRESS, which was such a surreal moment for me that it took a trip to Old Navy and the mall for the realization to sink in. I had found the dress! I’m so happy that my mom was there to finish the wedding dress journey with me; it would not have been the same without her.

We found the dress at the last shop visited and bought the dress at the first shop visited, which adds a nice touch of symmetry to the whole process. Come back in a few weeks for “Saying Yes to the Dress: Part 2”, presented in list format, of course. But first, grading. And grading. AND GRADING!!!!