Dresses and budgets and bookings

Dress shopping

The dress shopping has begun.

For my sister, anyway! I don’t know what my exact hang-up is, but I’m nervous about heading into a salon. Perhaps because I generally hate trying on clothes and only do it under duress (like if I’m shopping far from home with no option to return ill-fitting items). I also feel like the dress is such a big decision that I’d rather handle 2,456 of the vendor bookings and other little things before I wrap my head around making that huge choice.

Plus, I’m having a hard time finding styles I like. Though I haven’t been picky about too many things, the one aspect of the wedding I have visualized from the start was Spencer in a gray tux with a red tie and yours truly in a tea-length, lacy vintage-inspired dress. With red shoes. And red lipstick. And a birdcage veil.

It’s my requirement. My vision. The one thing that could possibly shove me into Bridezilla territory.

And my local options? Well, they’re limited. A popular chain store is the only place within a reasonable distance with prices I can actually afford, so I’ve been funneling my energy into perusing their inventory and not even considering dresses available elsewhere. But I don’t want strapless, don’t want a billowy ballgown. I detest rhinestones and sparkles, and I am — for all intents and purposes — a pretty simple lady.

I want something classic, elegant and unique. With lace. That’s tea-length.

Of course, I could show you photos from our big day in November where I am frolicking in a bedazzled ballgown, covered in glitter and wearing a tiara . . . because I’ve watched enough bridal reality shows to know that you just don’t know until you actually try these dresses on. I could slip into some satin confection and think, Hot darn, this is the one! It’s unlikely, you know, but I won’t stubbornly rule it out.

But as a bride on a budget (who isn’t?), I have to be careful — and thrifty — with my choice. I want what I want, of course, but I’ll decide I want something else if we’re stretching well into the four-figure area.

As anyone who has been subjected to wedding planning for five minutes can tell you, costs can quickly spiral out of control. Our initial budget was laughably tiny as soon as I began doing some research; I’ve never done so much math in my life. Every calculation was sending me closer and closer to a panic attack, but those initial days of anxiety — and uncertainty — have faded.

We have:

• booked the venue
• booked the caterer
• booked the photographer
• booked the videographer
• booked the DJ
• booked the pianist for the ceremony
• sent save-the-dates

So what’s next?

Oh . . . everything.


All kidding aside, I think we’re doing well! It’s only February — and though the fall will be here in the drop of a leaf, I’m not feeling as crazed as I did a month ago. With my sister on track for her September nuptials, I’m tracing her footsteps to keep track of everything we need to decide — and when.

The baker is next. And Spence and I are totally saving our Weight Watchers points for that.

So yes: my sister and the wedding dress shopping. After a few hours and a half dozen styles, we had a winner! Though it was emotional being there as she transformed into “a bride,” I didn’t freak out as much as I expected. Partially because my family was there and I didn’t want to set off a chain reaction . . . but mostly because, as the months progress, I’m feeling more and more at peace with the fact that we’re both taking this huge step together.

My sister is my best friend. Though it’s sometimes hard for me to articulate, I feel a sense of both tremendous excitement and impending loss at the prospect of both of us tying the knot just five weeks apart.

But excitement usually wins out. And every day, I choose joy. And I know that, no matter what, my family will always be my family — just with two bonus gentlemen!

Plus, Spencer — my soul mate; my handsome, thoughtful guy — is working on the shelving for our combined shoe closet/workshop/clothes storage space as I type. No rhinestones necessary.

33 thoughts on “Dresses and budgets and bookings

  1. And I’m officially a slacker, I still haven’t ordered my save-the-dates.

    I feel like you just kicked my butt into wedding gear this morning. I’ve been on a tiny break but I think it’s time to kick it back into high gear.

    Let me tell you, dress shopping is HARD. I have a decent array of salons within an hour’s drive and I really only found two I like. Thankfully, my pick REALLY worked out for me.


    • Glad to hear you found a winner, Sarah! The dress is part of the experience I’m really looking forward to — but am definitely nervous about. I found a Maggie Sottero dress yesterday that I love, but I’m afraid it’s out of my price range. Hmm . . .


  2. I think weddings were simpler in the dark ages when we got married – at least, our wedding was simpler. I know you’re going to find the perfect wedding dress and look beautiful in it.


    • Thank you, Kathy! Weddings definitely have gotten complicated . . . though I agree with others when they add, “Well, as complicated as you make it.” I know we’ll have a beautiful day no matter what!


    • Thanks — and I sure hope so! 🙂 Just like “you just know” with the right significant other, I’m hoping I’ll “just know” with the dress. I have a feeling that will be so!


  3. I absolutely recommend just going in with an open mind and trying on dresses, even if you aren’t sure if you will like them. Try on all types just to see how they fit on you. I KNEW that I wanted a form fitting dress. I didn’t want any puff and I didn’t want strapless. I tried on every dress I THOUGHT I would like and ended up getting exactly what I didn’t think I wanted: strapless and a little fuller skirt. I see you in some lace and capped sleeves. Eeek I am so excited to see what you choose!


    • Lace and cap sleeves — yes, please! 🙂 Thanks for the reminder, Kari — I’m trying hard to stay open-minded and will go into the experience a little less stubborn than I felt when writing this post! Life can be surprising.


    • Thank you, Andi! I hope you still feel that way come November, haha. I know I’ve been Wedding Central over here . . . it’s my new part-time job. Or full-time job, heh.


  4. Oh…that vision is so perfect. I hope you find a way to make it a reality. Maybe come to NYC and vintage dress shop : ) (Which is just a ploy for me to share a cupcake or ice cream with you)


    • Vintage dress shopping in New York sounds like an absolute fantasy come true, Melissa — and if you toss cupcakes in there, I will be all over it. We’re going to meet the next time I’m in the city, absolutely no question!


    • Too true, Leah — and those emotions might be part of what’s keeping me hung up on the whole process. I’m sure I will find The One, though, and will be super happy when that happens!


  5. I was reading the first few lines from each of your blogs before picking one to start on, and I got the most horrible case of the giggles. After I read the line about being nervous about the salon trip, I saw the book cover below for The Pretty One.

    Good luck on your wedding dress shopping! It does seem like an overwhelming task!


    • I’m all about the lace, Allison — like, I can’t even emotionally process that I would have a dress without some. Or lots. It’s a necessity!


  6. You are so far ahead of the game, my goodness. Good for you! Like you and Spencer, my husband and I were very cost-conscious about our wedding. Also like you, I am a simple woman and knew what I wanted in my wedding dress – and what I didn’t want. I found the perfect-for-me dress at Alfred Angelo. It was technically a bridesmaid dress but I ordered it in white. No one ever guessed that it was a BM dress. People only knew if I told them. Bonus, it was only $200 as compared to the near $1,000 bridal gowns. Perhaps that can be an option for you as well. Good luck finding your perfect dress. I promise you, it is out there!


    • Good thinking with the bridesmaid dress, Sheery — that’s definitely something to consider. I’ve heard good things about Alfred Angelo! Going to keep my mind open and see how things go.


  7. I can see that dress now! I wonder if you could look in a vintage shop or something? You need something very unique. And you are going to find it and rock that tea length. (But what do I know? I eloped to Vegas and bought my dress as White House/Black Market.)


    • Oooh, vintage shops. I’m positively drooling over the mention of vintage dress shops . . . and that’s where I feel like I might find my tea-length gown. Hmm . . .


  8. I didn’t try on too many dresses. But I did buy my dress on ebay and was really happy with it. You might also want to look at Macy’s/Dillard’s/Nordstroms too.


  9. don’t know if you’d want to go this route, but etsy has LOTS of wedding dresses that you can get custom made for a lot less than what you’d pay in a salon. here’s one!


    and here’s another:


    and another!


    and this shop has custom made dresses under $1000:

    it would be scary not getting to try it on, but you could take it to a local tailor to once you got it to ensure the perfect fit. go and try on the princess-y dresses, too, of course—-you never know what you might want. but there’s always other options!!!!!

    just had to pipe in 🙂


    • Ooh, you’re very right, Carrie — and God knows I buy everything else off Etsy! I loooooove these, especially this one. Oh man. Thanks for the tips — and giving me lots of precious eye candy this afternoon!


  10. You don’t HAVE to buy an actual wedding gown so keep your options open. Mine was actually a bridesmaid’s dress, as soon as I saw it…even though it wasn’t a white dress, I knew that it was the one. Maybe you’ll even find something in the prom section…as long as you can get the colors you want, who cares where you get it!


    • Excellent idea about thinking outside of the “bridal” box — there are so many gorgeous dresses out there, and I could simply order in white! Yay!


  11. So exciting! I agree the costs can quickly spiral. It helped me to figure out my priorities with the wedding. A big one for me was having a great photographer so I could enjoy every detail for years to come. So I was willing to put a lot of my budget towards that and then make some cuts in other places. Good luck and let me know if you need any tips!


  12. I know what you mean about the mixture of joy and sadness. I went dress shopping with one of my best girlhood friends, and it was so surreal. It’s awesome that you get to share this time with your sister, though!


  13. I totally know what you mean about the dress. I haven’t officially begun shopping for it either and our wedding is in September. I keep telling myself I have plenty of time though we’re quickly approaching the 6-month countdown. And I have no idea what I want, though I know what I DON’T want – basically everything you described (rhinestones, princess poofiness, sleeveless ball gowns, etc.). You’ve also done way more planning in general that we have but I’m giving myself a pass since we just got engaged last month. 🙂

    Have you looked at Ruche for dresses? I haven’t browsed their site in a while but I remember they had some really pretty tea length wedding dresses.


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