Weddings are made up of so many things – rings, and vows, and family tiffs, and cake, and food, and terrible dance moves, and planning, and tears, and perfect photos, and flowers, and confusing table decorations, and panic, and questioning. But, at least if the movies / the media / the magazines are to be believed, all of this fades in importance in comparison to THE DRESS.
According to every movie I’ve ever watched (and there’s a lot – I watched Bride Wars on repeat to get me through writing my honours thesis), the search for the dress is a magical time where you waltz into a dress store, and, overcome by the white and the tulle and the sparkle, the lace and the beading and the soft gentle smell of calm bride, you casually point to a random dress, try it on with the assistance of experts who tell you how beautiful you are, only to walk down the runway and onto the block, surrounded by mirrors, while your friends subtley blink back tears and tell you what a stunning bride you are. And boom, decision made. You find THE DRESS, and then go about your merry way being a perfect bride.
Well, that’s a big fat lie. I went for my first foray into finding the dress and it sucked. In fact, it was worse than looking for venues. When I finally escaped from the whole nightmare and got home, I’m not ashamed to say that I sobbed into my fiance’s arms for over an hour (okay I am a little ashamed about that, but it happened, and I can’t change it – it doesn’t even include the drive home where I sobbed by myself. Tragic).
The day started off perfectly. We’d had our engagement party the day before, and I was still flying high on the joyful emotion of that day. I was so excited I woke up at 5.30 that morning. I’d made an appointment at one store, and found another that was open on a Sunday, who hadn’t emailed me back, but I assumed was fine. When it was a more humane hour, I picked up my friend to go meet my maid of honour for breakfast and for a debrief, full of excitement and wedding discussion and life planning. It hit 10 and we left to collect my mum, and it was a real girls adventure to the first store (the one with no booking). I was starting to feel a bit nervous, but we had discussed at length the pros and cons of various styles and it all seemed okay.
We arrived, and the store assistant, sitting there doing nothing, informed me that they had a free slot at 12.30 to try dresses on. Since the only appointment I had for the day was at 12.30, that didn’t quite work for us, so we just browsed. Everything was overwhelmingly wrong: tacky material, weird necklines, no train, weird lace. I felt my hopes start to drop, and thankfully we bailed quickly and got ourselves juices and discussed options for an hour until our next appointment. When we walked into the store, I felt myself give up. The store was full of the worst of the worst in wedding gowns. Everything screamed horrible. I felt like I was having a very bridezilla nightmare where I could not bring myself out of the funk of hating every single thing I hung on my poor body (which was suffering a lot of hatred at the time). I stood on that little wooden block, surrounded by mirrors, and wanted to cry. There was definitely no say yes to the dress moments, and I was dying to get home and put the whole experience out of my head.
The world of weddings is dictated by insanely highly expectations thanks to Pinterest, the millions of wedding blogs, and the social expectation of a perfect, slim, calm bride walking down the aisle having effortlessly pulled together a chic look with the trust fund with limitless zeros that funds every brand name candle making up the complex table settings. This first dress experience sent me crashing back to earth again – realising that in fact, weddings happen in the real world. They happen to women with real bodies, and real jobs, real fiances and families, real budgets and real life emotions.
Since that first occasion, I did go on another search – and had one of those magical moments where tears prick the back of your eyes when you stand in the gown. It was so special, and a moment I’ve looked back on through weeks when work sucked and I panicked about the photographer selection. But the dress is one of millions of decisions you make in planning your wedding, and planning your life, and I’ve learned it’s important to constantly remind yourself to go easy on your dreams and hopes and expectations. Just getting to waltz in to a dress store, with your most special family or friends in tow, to mess around with what you’ll wear to celebrate your marriage, is special. The dress..well…if you can guarantee one thing in life, you can be certain that your dress will be out of fashion in a few years anyway.