Saying Yes to the Dress


I’ve become one of those brides.

Let me back up a bit and explain.

I’ve never been the type of girl that dreamed of her wedding, planning out each and every detail, from the time she was five years old. I was more the type that looked forward to it…you know, if it ever happened. I didn’t know where I wanted it to happen, what kind of flowers I would carry, or what the dress would look like. I had my own life to live and if I found someone, great—if not, I had a standing agreement with a best friend to tie the knot at 40. There was only one time, almost ten years ago, when I was young and certain that he was the one and started to do some of that serious envisioning, but none of those details have held up over the years. I imagine if you put me in the kind of dress I had been picturing at sixteen today, I’d die at the ridiculousness of it.

When I met Chris almost four years ago, I knew right away that he was going to be my husband. We both knew. It was one of those unavoidable things in life where it was immediately clear that it couldn’t happen any other way. Like when you walk into your favorite restaurant, knowing what you’re going to order, because it’s what you always order. You could try something new. Sometimes you even look over the menu, trying to pick anything else because it seems so silly that you never do. But the universe won’t let you. That menu item has chosen you.

Apologies for the food analogy; I haven’t had breakfast yet.

So, we knew. But back then the only thing I was picturing about that day was us and the things we would say to each other. None of the details mattered. I just wanted to marry this man.

Two and a half years later, after a lot of waiting and far too many of those misinterpreted moments where something seems off and you think Could this be it? and then it’s not and you use every bit of your strength to hide your disappointment and the fact that you now feel completely lame for being such a female stereotype, I started doing some secret searching. I found dresses that I loved, and one that I even thought might be it. Of course, it’s a very different thing to see a dress on the internets than it is to see it in person, on your body—especially when your body is dissimilar to the waif-thin Spanish model that was wearing it when you first fell in love.

After we got engaged, that was my very first dress-shopping experience: crushing disappointment. I tried on a dozen heavily-constructed gowns, in European sample sizes, and nothing looked good. I didn’t know any different, though. I just assumed that all wedding dresses were built a certain way and that they didn’t look good on my body. I left determined to starve myself for the next 11 months. (Heh, yeah right.)

Shell-shocked, I waited several months, up until the point where it was imperative that I get my butt in gear, to look at dresses again. I had no idea what I wanted. I made appointments at a few stores, and, being in New York, it seemed I should at least stop by Kleinfeld’s.

Those of you who watch Say Yes to the Dress know what this store is all about. They have more gowns than anywhere else in the world, and if they don’t have it, they can get it or have it made. I didn’t know what to expect when I made the appointment. I’d only seen one episode of the show and it was one where some spoiled girl who looked all of seventeen had a custom dress made that she wound up hating when it came in. So she tried on another over-the-top gown and spent an eternity arguing with her father, who was going to give in to whatever she wanted anyway, about having it altered. I felt like I was watching Veruca Salt ten years after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only now she had a Long Island accent.

“I want an Oompa-Loompa, Daddy! I want one now! And a Pnina Tornai. And a cup of cuawffee.”

I arrived for my appointment and, aside from the sheer scale of the place, it was a totally sane experience. My consultant was super helpful and brought me a bunch of dresses that looked and felt great on me. I found one that I loved, and, when I discovered that I couldn’t get it out of my mind when trying on other dresses, I went back and ordered it.

Yay, happy ending! Right?

Months later, the dress comes in. I schedule my first fitting. I go, after now having seen every episode of Say Yes multiple times and seeing really great dresses that I never knew existed before, slightly worried that I might compare my dress and be disappointed. I see it. I love it. I put it on. I love it more. They pin it so they can take it in. I love that even more.

Courtney takes some photos. I load them onto my computer when I get home.

I hate the dress.

I panic.

I love the dress in person. I love it on me. I feel like myself in it and I can picture it in the venue on that day, but I hate how it photographs.

And I became one of those brides.

I called Kleinfeld’s, determined that I was going to have to get another dress. This just wasn’t going to work. I was not going to look back at my wedding photographs and, despite how great I felt in it on the day, hate my dress. The customer service rep had never encountered this before. She spoke to a manager, called me back. My only options were to alter my dress to make it wearable or lose the money I’d spent on it and buy a sample off the rack. I knew all of that when I first called, but being confronted with those options suddenly had me realizing that my selection would be severely limited. I probably wouldn’t even be able to find a sample gown that I loved anyway. She suggested I speak to the manager of alterations.

I spent the next hour having one long, drawn-out panic attack. What am I supposed to do? We can’t get married. I won’t get married in a dress that I hate. I sobbed uncontrollably and sat frozen on the couch, clutching at myself like a maniac.

One of those brides.

Then I looked at the photos again. The thing I didn’t like about the dress was that it had no shape. I noticed the fabric pinned at the sides and decided to Photoshop it out to get a better idea of what it would look like altered. Then I dropped the neckline a smidge. Sigh. Better.

The clone tool is my savior. Amen.

By the time the manager of alterations called, all I had to do was ask her about the neckline and explain that I wanted to make sure it was shapely. She assured me we could do all of that and I felt better. And ridiculous.

And then I realized I maybe I should have said yes to Say Yes to the Dress. They automatically ask you when you schedule your first appointment if you’d be interested in the show. Then, I received an e-mail from their casting lady the week before my first fitting asking me once more. I considered it momentarily, but decided I was too sane for the show. I wouldn’t make for interesting TV. Ain’t no wedding dress drama here!

So, for now, I’m happy with my dress. And I may have turned into one of those brides, but I’m self-aware and that makes it better. At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself after my next wedding-related meltdown.

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