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While normally quite decisive, I found it difficult to make decisions at almost every step of wedding planning. The fact is, you (ideally) only get married once, so each decision about the event carries more weight than asking yourself what should I cook for dinner tonight?—since you're likely going to be cooking dinner tomorrow, too. Should my flowers be all white, bold, or pastel? Fish or steak? Both? Inside or outside? #somanydecisions
And finding the perfect wedding dress was, for me, the hardest part of the whole affair—my personal version of the NeverEnding Story.
About a year before my actual wedding date, I started dress shopping by going to a boutique in Boston (where I grew up) with my mom, where I tried on at least 20 dresses of varying styles. I left feeling very overwhelmed. They were all so pretty—and so different. I was wowed by the lace, so traditional and beautiful and classic. That felt like the old-soul side of me. I was also entranced by the more modern looks, materials like organza and silk. They felt so chic and clean.
This dress became my identity. Who am I? What kind of dress do I see myself in? What kind of dress would my soon-to-be husband picture me in?
What I realized, after trying on a few two-piece dresses (bodice and skirt), was that like me, my dress should be a mix of old and new. A bit throwback, but also modern and current. Maybe even something with a mix of materials, which had proven difficult to find in one dress before. So I hopped back on the shopping wagon with my mom and sister and made a few more appointments.
After a long visit to Saks, where I tried on another dozen-plus dresses, I found one I loved (minus some rhinestones on a cap sleeve). But we kept looking around just in case. At the next boutique, the dresses were a little too formal and fluffy for my taste; and at yet another, they were bohemian and even "shabby-chic"—also not for me. The dress I'd liked from Saks was made by Christos (now part of Amsale), so my mom and I planned a follow-up visit to go directly to the Amsale salon—and I found it!
It's a dress that I still love: a mermaid shape, mostly fine netting that's airy and flowy, with a detailed lace bodice. Strapless, of course, because who wants sleeves at the end of June. It was called "the Aura" and I felt like we were a match made in wedding-dress heaven.
So what did I learn? As much as I love the boho style in life, it was not my wedding style. Keeping an open mind was a perspective that helped me really enjoy the process and find the dress that was most authentically me. Here are some more tips for finding the right dress that I hope help you!
- Don't convince yourself you'll ever wear your dress, or a piece of your dress, again. This day is special—so let the practical side of your brain take a break. If you end up wearing it again, that's a bonus, but just try to find something you'll feel your best in on your big day!
- Start your search by going to a shop with a lot of variety, to get a feel for what you like.
- Alterations are awesome. Hate the sleeves? Remove 'em! Want a little more texture or some waist definition? Add a belt! Want to cover a back zipper? Add a strip of buttons!
- Don't ignore the details or the back! Especially during the ceremony, your back is very much on display.
- Most bridal shops require appointments and weekends can book up early, so call as far ahead as you can.
- Bring someone! A friend, a mom, a sister, an aunt, a cousin. Opinions do help, and it's just more fun.
All photos by Stripling Photography.
Wedding dress shopping: dream day or worst nightmare? Tell us in the comments!