The wedding dress dilemma

Something New


Maybe I'd watched too many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress over the years, because when I went to try on wedding dresses for the first time after getting engaged, the experience was far from what I expected it to be.

Looking back, it was my own fault.

Wedding dress shows are often set in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and even Toronto, so I guess when I stopped in at a tiny bridal store in the area, I shouldn't have had very high expectations when it comes to selection. After all, I'm 5'11 and certainly not a size 4. When you take my size plus the style of gown I wanted into consideration, it pretty much meant I had no hope of finding a dress in such a small boutique.

I know I'm no Skinny Minnie, but I really didn't think that the only size I'd be able to zip up in that little store was a size 18. 18? When I'm a 14 to 16? That was depressing to say the least, no matter how many times bridal consultants have told me wedding dresses tend to fit a couple of sizes too small.

To be perfectly honest, I went alone on purpose for my first experience. I was afraid I'd be embarrassed if I brought a friend, and I also wasn't sure what I wanted or what I'd look good in. I wanted to test the waters on my own.

In the end I only fit into two dresses in that little store, both in rather large sizes and neither of them were remotely close to the style I wanted and I looked ridiculous, so needless to say I left the boutique in tears.

It was far from the experience I hoped to have.

A few weeks later, I did some research and made a trip with a good friend to find a dress, and I lucked out with the first big bridal boutique we walked into. We didn't make an appointment (bad), but there was nobody scheduled for a fitting for an hour and a half (good) and we got in.

Right away I kicked myself for not thinking of going there in the first place. A bigger city means bigger stores with bigger selection, and with my size/height/style in mind, that's the best place to start out.

To boot, my bridal consultant was the same height as me, same dress size and had recently gotten married. She knew exactly what I'd gone through in my first experience so she sympathized with me and was very helpful and knowledgeable about what styles would suit my shape.

Six dresses in (and a few laughs later), I found my wedding dress, and it was a style I wasn't sure would look good on me, but it paid off to be adventurous. I paid my deposit and I walked out of there with a big smile and excitement, a huge contrast to how I walked out of that smaller boutique weeks earlier.

What I learned from my wedding dress experience is not to have expectations of how things should fit. Actually, don't have any expectations at all.

Trying on wedding gowns is complicated if you're not a size 4. They all fit differently according to designer, and often fit smaller than the size you normally wear, so prepare yourself for that and don't beat yourself up about it like I did.

Also, don't expect the dress to look anything like the photos you've seen online or in bridal magazines. The dress I ended up buying was actually one I'd had saved on my computer for months and it looks completely different on me than it does on the scrawny blonde model.

Go into the bridal salon with an open mind and optimistic attitude. If a dress doesn't look good on you, laugh it off and move on to the next one. Dare to try on styles that you wouldn't expect to suit you, or that you'd written off while searching online. You can be pleasantly surprised.

Listen to the consultant. If you shop at a good boutique, the staff should know what they're doing. If they think you should try on a mermaid style gown, try on the mermaid. They've worked in the industry for years while you're only new to the scene. Don't act like you know everything about wedding dresses just because you have a style set in mind. You'll only be disappointed if you limit yourself.

Finally, have fun. It's a stressful enough experience as it is, so don't drag any negative emotions into the fitting room with you.

After all, there's no room for that pessimistic stuff amongst all the lace and crinoline.

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