As someone who has only seen episodes of Say Yes to the Dress in the time it takes for the channel to load and me to flip to the next channel, I was completely unprepared for wedding dress hunting. I was a “good” bride/friend and invited my mom and two besties to Charleston for the process. I made appointments at 3 different bridal shops (Bridals by Jodi, DeBorah’s Bridal, and David’s Bridal) for the weekend they came to town. Charleston has no shortage of bridal shops, but I knew I wanted to stick to my budget, despite mom saying it didn’t matter how much the dress was since she was paying. I knew that would be impossible looking for dresses downtown.
I am pretty much the anti-bride. I don’t really do “girly.”
I knew going into this process that it would be a test for me. Remaining calm and collected in an uncomfortable, unfamiliar situation is difficult for me. Also, a stranger was probably going to see my tatas and I’m not overly modest (military boot camp really helps you overcome body shyness) but still, I like my private parts private when I have the choice.
I also have this issue where I get extremely disappointed very easily.
Meaning, if I get my hopes up about something and it doesn’t happen, I will be crushed. I decided I would go into dress shopping completely objective. I wanted a dress that was functional (I needed to be able to walk and move naturally and spread my legs a little [for dancing, duhh]), but still flattering. Pockets would be a mind-blowing positive. I quickly learned that I was drawn to full-pattern, lace overlays. I knew that an empire waist/A-line dress looked best on me (I went to four proms in high school and it actually came in handy … who would have thought?). I knew that regular waists make me look frumpy and I needed to avoid those.
Over three dress appointments, I probably tried on over 80 dresses.
EIGHTY. I went home empty handed. I had a favorite dress at each place I went to — one of which I quickly eliminated after it was several hundred dollars over budget. I’m nothing if not practical, and one option was eliminated. I may have gone home empty handed, but I had learned some valuable lessons. Your experience at a place will color your opinion. I was so overwhelmed and disappointed at my David’s Bridal appointment that I didn’t like anything I tried on. I kinda liked one dress, but it had a weird waist issue (on me) that I wasn’t sure I could deal with and it was a little over-budget. The dress I liked at Bridals by Jodi was in budget, but I wasn’t sure if I was sold on it. What if I found something better?
With each dress I put on, my entourage was extremely encouraging.
Each dress was beautiful and I looked soooo good in it!! I finally pointed out that these dresses cost at least $800+ and if it didn’t look amazing and make me look gorgeous, it was overpriced and wouldn’t be coming home with me. I needed real critique I felt like a real jerk telling my people that their compliments weren’t really helpful, but I needed productive feedback, I needed to pick ONE dress.
The butt rouching on this dress was fabulous, but I wasn’t sold on an open back.
The night after my final appointment I was scrolling through the photos that had been taken of me in different dresses.
I had seen myself in the mirror with every dress on, but I hadn’t actually seen myself. Every time I stood in front of the mirror, I was critiquing everything:
Are my boobs hanging out? How does my butt look? Does this dress make me look pregnant?
Body image is a real struggle over here in Megansville.
Is this dress comfortable? Can I move around? Will this be too hot/cold for November 1st? Does it have pockets? What will Timo think of me in this dress? What do I think of me in this dress?
I decided to look up the dress I’d liked from David’s Bridal on their site and happened to notice that it was on sale for $500 from $1150. It instantly became my #1. I could deal with the weird waist issue with a sash for that price. The next day, with only one of my besties in tow, I headed back to try on the dress with a sash to make sure I was OK with the waist (Mom and the other bestie had left town the day before).
I said yes to the dress.
Little did I know that I’d have to ring a bell and make a wish, but if I had known my wish would have been, “Let me be able to order this dress.” I learned when I went to check out that the dress was no longer in production and they could sell me the floor model, but that was my only option. The savings weren’t worth that. The dress I had tried on was picked and torn to bits. Despite being told they would “fix” the dress, I knew there was no way they could make the dress perfect again and I said, “Nope,” and we left.
I was at my most photogenic while trying on wedding dresses. This is The Almost Dress.
I took a split second to be frustrated and then we headed back to Bridals by Jodi to try on my other #1. I tried on my #1 and several other dresses the attendant recommended but in the end my #1 is what I ended up going with. It wasn’t the PERFECT dress, but I know that to get a PERFECT dress, I’d have to find someone who can make a dress from scratch and I just don’t have the energy or money for that. I was pleased with how I looked and felt in the dress and it was $850 (under-budget). #win
My key takeaways from the entire process:
- If possible, do NOT go dress shopping on a holiday or weekend. That is when every other bride is also out shopping. Stores will be slammed and attendants will be harried. It’s no one’s idea of a good time.
- You do NOT have to spent a lot of money for a gorgeous dress. Don’t fall prey to the wedding “industry” and the “have to haves”.
- It’s not like it is on TV. Even if they try to give your entourage signs, it’s definitely not like on TV. Someone will always be pissed off or disgruntled. Wait, maybe it is exactly like on TV.
- When trying on dresses that are too big, pillows stuffed down the back of the dress to pull it taut are the shiznit. Hardware clips are not as magical as pillows.
- Most stores do NOT give you free champagne. You can bring your own.
- Do not have expectations of stores to help you. David’s Bridal only pulls the dresses for you and you have to fend for yourself getting in/out of them. Their dressing rooms are TINY and there are no mirrors in the room so everyone sees you before you are able to see yourself. Some places give you a room with a door to change in, some places you get an area with a curtain as a door. Each place is different. #themoreyouknow
- What looks good on someone else may not look as good on you, no matter how bad you want it to.
- When you say the “Kate Middleton” dress, your “Kate” may not be the same as someone else’s “Kate.”
- The type of dress you think you like isn’t necessarily the type of dress you actually like.
But most importantly, and what no one told me:
Some people don’t have a magical moment of finding THE DRESS.
Sometimes, you find a dress that is just fine and you buy it and you slowly get excited while you wait four months for it to eventually come in and then continue to wait as it get altered and then you worry about where you’re going to hide it until the wedding day so your fiance’ doesn’t find it.
Pillows make the best stuffing!
Have you gone dress shopping yet? What are you looking forward to? What do you dread the most?