On Saturday, I went, for the very first time in my 38 years of life, to try on wedding dresses.
It was so.much.fun.
I was very nervous going in. Is that strange? I don’t know. But that’s how I felt. Nervous, intimidated by the magnitude of the event and all those white gowns. Browsing racks of elaborate frocks is distinctly different to browsing for shorts at Target, y’know?
In the same way that being in a church makes me itchy to say fuck, I knew the inside of a bridal shop would expose my lack of refinement. In an environment so pristine, so white, I am a human smudge waiting to happen.
So along with two girlfriends, I walked into a bridal shop for the very first time. And though I am really getting married, sizable deposits paid getting married, I felt like an imposter. Girlfriends begged me to go wedding dress browsing when I first became engaged (around 9 years ago), but Bren and I hadn’t set a date and had no intention of setting one any time soon so I was petrified the staff would sniff me out as the tyre kicking fraud I was.
But this time, I do have a date set. I do need a dress. I do belong in this stark, white wonderland. So I shook off my fears and proceeded to choose approximately 237 dresses to try on. It was exhilarating! So many styles, so much bling and layers and layers of dreamy fabric. Have I dreamt of being a bride? Sure I have. But mostly I spent my 20’s obsessing over the perfect gown for the Oscars, not my wedding.
True to form, I referred to my cuca within 5 minutes of being in the store. Because saying the word vagina is like a nervous tic for me. Vagina. Vagina. Stop it.
Initially, I wasn’t sure where to start and that’s where the sales assistant, Karen, was worth her weight in gold. She recommended trying on at least one dress from each of the main silhouettes. Had she not said that, I would have been sure that most of those styles would look hideous on me. For example, the ball gown because I am far too short to pull off thirty layers of satin and tulle, and the sheath because I don’t have the body for it.
The very first dress I tried on was a ball gown – it was a sparkly Cinderella dream of a frock but so monstrously huge that stepping into the mountains of fabric terrified me. It was a 36 degree day outside and though the salon was air-conditioned, I could feel sweat pooling in the creases under my bum cheeks. Please don’t get bum cheek sweat on the beautiful dresses, I thought to myself. The sample was several sizes too big so the dress was literally wearing me. With three huge bulldog clips along my spine to fit the dress to my body, I stepped out of the curtains to reveal the very first dress to my friends – and to myself. I was sure I would look like a little girl playing dress-ups in her mum’s clothes. And in this first dress, I sort of did. It was so big on me, in every way. I liked how small the huge skirt made my waist look but frankly, Bren’s an ass man and this dress hid mine completely. Also, the dress weighed more than me which I suspect might get uncomfortable at some point.
The second dress was lace with a fitted bodice that flared from the thighs and seeing myself in it gave me that first moment of realising I was going to be a bride. A bride! I am not the princess in a horse-drawn chariot kind of a girl but this felt lovely. One of my friends got a little tear in her eye.
“I’m thinking about Bren seeing me as a bride,” I said, all overcome. Something about a beautiful ivory dress will make a girl sentimental.
I won’t run you through every gown I tried on. There were a lot. And at the end of two hours, I had narrowed it down to two dresses which I tried on again. They were both very different and neither of them were anything like what I’d been imagining in my head. Of all the dresses, there were only two or three that were just completely awful on me which surprised me. I was certain most things would look unflattering on my body. Coming away from this day, I understand just how mangled my self-image is. My body is not perfect, no, but seeing it in these beautifully made gowns, I realised it wasn’t so bad.
When I got home that night, the overthinking began. I’ve had this general idea about the kind of bride I want to be, but now I’ve tried on all these dresses and the endless choices have confused me. I think I want to be this kind of bride, but if I wore another dress, I could be that kind of bride. But then would that fit with the overall vibe of the day I’ve been picturing? If I wear that dress, does that mean the dress I’ve ordered for Harlow is now too different?
I was up until midnight trawling through wedding magazines and looking online. When I woke up in the morning, I turned the computer on and started again. I was in a frenzy.
You only get to be a bride once (in theory). How the hell do you choose ONE dress?
Maybe it’s because I haven’t found THE dress yet. Or maybe it’s because some of my favourite dresses are WAY above my budget and I’m worried that my dream dress is just that, a dream.
I’ve had a couple of days to process it all and I’m back to being mostly Zen about the whole thing. If I love a dress and it’s in my budget, then that’s a win. I should forget about all the other dresses I won’t be wearing and enjoy the one I will be.
All this dress angst has made me yearn for my lost acting career more than ever. Because actresses get to wear stunning gowns ALL THE TIME. I’m sure they still having wedding dress crises, but at least the blow is softened by knowing there’ll be another chance to wear a pretty frock just around the corner.
Maybe Bren and I can get remarried in ten years. I’ll be 48 though. Does that mean I have to wear a pantsuit?
Tell me about your wedding dress. Was it easy to find or did you have a post-trying on mental break like me?