Today's story comes from future bride Liz, who will have the great fortune of employing yours truly as Maid of Honor in her May 2017 wedding! For years she has insisted that no amount of money was too large to achieve the wedding of her dreams. She had a picture of "the" dress and "the" ring on her fridge for nearly 2 years before her fiance proposed (with the correct ring, kudos Ken). So when her fiance finally dropped down on one knee at a restaurant overlooking the gorgeous north Georgia mountains, we all knew she'd be moving quickly. What we didn't expect was 3 days after the proposal she had already tried on her first wedding dress.
She had heard of a prom boutique store in a shopping center one block over from her job, and stopped by on a whim. After picking her favorite of the wedding dresses they had on hand, she texted myself, her other bridesmaid, and her mom, a selfie of her in the dress. The three of us decided she was really going for this, so we checked out our schedules and agreed to go with her on an official wedding dress try on day.
We went to 3 different high end boutiques, including Bridals by Lori, the store featured on Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta (and had our very own celebrity stylist!). She must have tried on 60 to 70 dresses, each one of them missing the mark by just enough to get vetoed. Including, sadly, "the" dress. She had not anticipated that the tiny model wearing the dress in the advertisement had a wildly different body type. She left the last place on the list feeling dejected. We were trying to cheer her up and contemplating finding the nearest bar to help drink away the stress of watching her get more and more upset over the course of 4 hours, when she brought up the prom store she had gone to alone.
We were a little stunned, especially her mom, who thought buying a wedding dress from a prom store would be incredibly tacky. But the bride insisted, so we all trudged along for one more trip. The store had a massive floor plan filled with an assortment of brightly colored dresses that was visually arresting after seeing a sea of white all day. The bridal section was in the back of the store. So far back we wondered if we were standing in their store room. The sales associate recognized Liz and went to grab the dress she had liked best from her last visit.
Now, dear reader, I have been involved in weddings for most of my life. I am NEVER the one to get emotional about any aspect the ceremony (Something about being elbow deep in dishwater shortly after hundreds of weddings makes them lose their charm). But when my best friend left the dressing room I felt a stirring in my heart. She stood on the makeshift stage they had set up, a shadow of the big runways we had seen at the other boutiques, and something about that dress, the happiness she clearly felt wearing it, moved me. I glanced over to her mom, who was a sobbing mess trying to take photos. And her other bridesmaid, a stoic woman whose own wedding had seemed like a competition with all her already married friends that she needed to win; also crying. I finally gave in and started crying myself.
The last part of the story is the most important. At every other boutique we went too, she proudly told the stylist that her budget was $12,000, but it she fell in love with something more expensive she would make it work. She bandied that number around like it was a badge of honor. Her mother reminded her not to brag at least 6 times during the course of the day. So after Liz reluctantly took off the new "the" dress, we stood around the register as a group waiting for check out. I don't know who was more shocked, Liz or her mother, when the total, including tax, came to a whopping $1,572.28. I laughed out loud!
So, Liz managed to save just over 10 grand by letting go of her expectations of what the perfect dress looked like, and what constituted a "real" bridal store that sold "real" wedding dresses. After this experience she started reworking the entire wedding. Gone was the large guest list at the destination wedding with the personalized everything. She was reminded that a wedding isn't a competition with your friends or a chance to show off your wealth, it's a celebration of love with the people you care about and the person you hope to spend the rest of forever with.