The big dress acquisition

The Dress

I had a vision.

Though I haven’t gone into wedding planning with too many preconceived notions (whatever my Pinterest board would suggest), I did know what sort of wedding dress I wanted. Watching countless episodes of “Say Yes To the Dress” and simply admiring others’ gowns from afar, I knew which trends I liked — and which made me cringe.

I’m a rather simple lady — with simple tastes. When others asked what sort of look I was going for, I answered the same way: something vintage-inspired, tea-length and fun. Something unique — something with character. I didn’t want anything strapless, gaudy or sparkly. No rhinestones. No mermaids. No long trains. It’s not a slight against anyone who likes those looks, of course; I just knew it wasn’t me. And you’re supposed to feel like yourself on your wedding day, right?


My decision to go dress shopping was a little spur-of-the-moment. I’d spent days pouring over styles from a designer I couldn’t afford, and was generally making myself anxious about the whole experience. I was worried I wouldn’t like the way I looked, would cringe at my reflection. I was worried I’d fall in love with a dress that would take a hammer to my budget — or worse, that I wouldn’t find anything at all.

Dresses don’t always bring out the best in people.

Scared I wouldn’t find what I was looking for at a local chain salon, I’d already contacted designers about custom-making a gown. (Crazy, I know.) But after my sister had success finding her dress a few weeks before, we returned to the same place “just to look.”

And I came home with a dress.

Well, metaphorically — that baby had to be ordered! But after trying on five gowns in varying shapes and styles, I knew the second one was It. That little number had many of the elements I was seeking, though with a few modifications . . . and I’d tell you what they are, but I can’t risk Spencer popping in here! I’m trying to keep the full details under wraps for as long as possible, though I am bursting with them.

What I can divulge? It is vintage-inspired, and it is tea-length. Those were my two biggest requirements. Though I did try on a long dress with gorgeous applique, I really couldn’t picture myself in a gown with a train. And it was heavy. I was tempted for a minute there — really tempted — but I couldn’t commit. The flowing dress just didn’t feel true to my vision.

And I have a vision.

Meg in veil

The wedding itself is taking shape. The hardest part has been combining all of our ideas, thoughts and inspirations into one cohesive plan. After settling on literature/science, the other elements have started falling into place. Spencer’s awesome cousin, Katie, one of my bridesmaids, is a talented artist . . . and she will be designing something so cool for us. We’ve met with other vendors in recent weeks, and will be speaking with our first potential officiant this weekend. It’s exciting and a teensy bit stressful . . . but mostly exciting! And since my wedding coordinator has also become a friend, Jen is helping me stay organized and calm.

Calm is good.

Though the dress was supposed to take months to arrive, I was called to pick it up this week. We ducked into the salon so I could try it on again — and I was relieved to discover I still loved it. It was strange to be there, standing barefoot in this gown — and to feel like “a bride” in the middle of my hometown. Everyone says that moment is one of the moments: the point at which you realize, Hey — I’m getting married.

That was true for me. Putting on a veil, tottering on too-high heels before a floor-length mirror . . . yes, I felt it. Felt that “bride” feeling, however we define it.

But the truth is that I’ve felt that “we’re getting married!” surge of excitement and adrenaline for months — and I feel it every time I look at my guy.

The pretty dress? Just the icing on our (wedding) cake.

P.S. Though I am planning on wearing red heels at the wedding, those heels are not my heels. So, you know, don’t get freaked about the bows.

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.