5 Things I was Surprised to Learn About Wedding Dress Shopping

In the past 6 months or so, I have been to 10 different bridal boutiques to try on wedding dresses. I've had a blast seeing what's out there and spending quality time with my friends and family, but I've been feeling like the experience is less "Say Yes to the Dress" and more like "Say Maybe to 100 Dresses." I can't quite figure out why I'm having so much trouble finding the one. Could it be that the emotional/borderline transcendental "this is THE dress" moments that I see on TV are mismanaging my expectations? Am I not capable of loving an article of non-black clothing? Or, have I just not found the right dress yet? For this week's Be There in 5 Thoughts, I thought I'd share my analysis on what's holding me back from finding this process to be as magical as I'd anticipated. 

If only Elizabeth James could be a real store.  Image Credit: Fanpop

If only Elizabeth James could be a real store. Image Credit: Fanpop

1. I am supposed to find my dream dress in a category of dresses I would never otherwise shop in.

The Snow Queen in Chronicles of Narnia.  Photo Credit: Bustle

The Snow Queen in Chronicles of Narnia. Photo Credit: Bustle

Well, to start. I am very, very fair. I don't wear white on my morning Starbucks run, much less to celebrate highly-photographed life moments. The same goes with general ivory, cream, blush, etc. - they just don't work on me. When I tried on my first wedding dress, I hoped I'd find out that I've been secretly harboring the ability to pull off white taffeta my whole life, but sadly, all I saw was Tilda Swinton's character in the Chronicles of Narnia. "Where does the dress end and my neck start?" I asked. Don't worry, says the fitting attendant, just imagine you'll be tan. Ah yes, my imagination, which leads me to my next point.


2. I have to spend thousands of dollars on a non-returnable dress IMAGINING it fits me.

Sure I can imagine how I'd look with a spray tan or my signature light sunburn, but I can't imagine ordering a very expensive dress that I have not seen actually fit me in real life. The samples at some places are very small, and even if I like the silhouette of the dress, all is lost when I come out of the dressing room and it is half zipped, adorned with clamps and somehow giving me Renaissance-age cleavage. My imagination has failed me many, many times from an outfit's initial conception to its real life execution, and I don't feel like one of the most important days of my life is the best time to roll the dice. Which begs the question-

3. why don't they understand the best marketing is to make you feel great?

This is perhaps my biggest point of confusion; why wouldn't an industry that's so obsessed with making it all about "YOUR day" do everything possible to make you feel like everything looks great on you? Maybe I'm going to the wrong places, but the only sample options at my past few appointments have been a 6 or 8, which somehow translates to actually being a normal 2 or 4.  I get it, it's difficult to provide personalized experiences to the masses, and many dresses are handmade, but these places need to invest in more diversified sample sizes. Regardless of what size you are, it's very hard to fall in love with a dress that is ill-fitting. And it's a little uncomfortable to be half nude in a dressing room while you could be debatably listening to your attendant zip up your dress or a Maria Sharapova tennis match. You can have all the champagne, small bites and velvet sofas in the world, but if you aren't focusing on improving the customer's experience with your core product, it's a real missed opportunity. 

4. I just want a mirror in my dressing room, is that too much to ask?

For some people, coming out into a retail store and having total strangers shower you with compliments is what wedding dreams are made of; like the montage in the Parent Trap where Hallie and the model goof around with top hats and veils to the tune of "Never Let You Go." For those of us who are a little more shy, this situation is kind of terrifying. I recently did a try-on at a department store, and the private rooms were taken, so I had to come out to the contemporary section amongst all the shoppers to even be able to see the dress myself. These dresses were not good; I mean visible-Spanx-halfway-up-the-illusion-back not good, and I was dying having to walk by strangers telling me I was a beautiful bride. It's not their fault, they are smart to assume any dress could be my dream dress and to act accordingly. But I just want a mirror in the dressing room so I can be a little more selective about the public fashion show (not to mention spare innocent passerby's of my shapewear).

5. I feel guilty when I'm not acting 'bridal' enough.

Need to do some work on my wedding Pinterest boards. 

Need to do some work on my wedding Pinterest boards. 

I am beyond excited for my wedding, but something about being spoken to like I'm a blushing bride obsessed with my wedding details bothers me. Most places ask for a link to your Pinterest board when you make the appointment, and unless they want to see a bunch of rug photos, I don't have much to send them. They are noticeably distraught. I just want to tell these salespeople that what's fun for some people isn't for others, and that's ok. Fun for some is meticulous involvement in the details; fun for me is having someone else handle the details while I just get to show up. I'm trying to skew less Bride-Zilla and more Bride-Woodland-Creature; you know, pesky but pleasant, hopping in to help tie a bow or two when I'm needed. So no, I don't have my colors, I don't know how I'm wearing my hair, I don't have a system in place yet for trans-Atlantic transport of my dress. My big plans are to eat, drink, dance and be in the same place as everyone I love, so can't I just try on dresses without having to explain everything in elaborate detail? Otherwise, I'm just going to make up that my wedding theme is "grown sexy" and if you get the reference, we'll get along just fine. 

Photo credit: ABC's The Bachelor

Photo credit: ABC's The Bachelor