This past Saturday was the official one-year mark until my wedding (or, as my dad dubbed it, our negative-one-year anniversary). And by some fitting romantic coincidence, it happened to be the day I was able to schedule my appointment with Blush Bridal Boutique to choose my wedding dress.
My sister discovered Blush, and the two of us went for a let’s-try-on-dresses-to-see-if-they’re-crap-before-I-invite-my-mom visit several months ago. It was the third bridal salon in my search for The Dress, during which I had already encountered a few maybes, one maybe-leaning-towards-yes that I was trying to top, and about 10 these-make-me-look-fat-and/or-like-a-1980s-prostitue (several of the dresses that fit into that last category were from Alfred Angelo’s Disney Princess collection, which turned out to be a lot more appealing online and in my head than it did on my body).
My first appointment at Blush was also my first experience walking into a bridal salon, and every single dress they put on me being spectacular. The shop is small, with room only for two brides at a time, so Joanna and I were able to get to know my consultant (Jenny), and she was able to pull dresses that, although they all looked sort of lackluster on the hangers to me, made me feel like the Academy-Award-winning actress I will someday be when I had them on.
I left my first appointment at Blush with two very strong, but very different contenders. Because I’d loved so many dresses, I was on an omg-shopping-pretty-dresses-I’m-a-princess overload, and I needed to come down a bit before making a decision on the most important dress of my entire life (and also my attempt to make up for the huge tulle pink bedazzled halter dress I chose to wear to my senior prom).
I know brides talk about having that ah-ha moment, when they put on The Dress, and know immediately that it’s The One, and everybody cries and angels descend from the heavens to strum their harps and sprinkle you with glitter. But, although I tend to be an emotional mess after emotional situations have passed, during situations that call for real emotions, I tend to be more analytical and stoic (i.e. when I had to see Jonathan off for his deployment last month and I didn’t cry or panic or emote at all, and everybody was so impressed by how mature I was, until I got in the car the next morning to drive home at which point I spent the next 12 hours listening to country music and sobbing into my jumbo-size bag of Twizzlers).
All that considered, I never expected to have that ah-ha wedding dress moment. But I did. It was just my sister and me in the little shop, on a regular Saturday afternoon, and I put on the final dress of the day, and it felt like when you get home from work on a Friday night after the longest week of your life, and you take off your bra, and you just think THIS. FEELS. GREAT.
But, analytically, there were reasons why it wasn’t the perfect dress for me. And although I loved it, I was struggling with the shape, and wondering if it was really the most flattering for me. So Joanna and I left the shop, with a promise for a follow-up appointment.
In the next few months, I spent hours every week looking through the pictures of dresses on my phone, and trying to decide. I showed the photos to my bridesmaids. To my family. To my yoga instructor. And even to Jonathan, who it turns out really dislikes beading, which is something we have in common, and it distresses me that we agree on something related to fashion. But while I debated, I had other aspects of my wedding to plan. I had to think about colors, and decorations, and invitations, and a LOT about what I’m going to do with my hair, and while this was going on, I was subconsciously planning all the other elements of my wedding around that one dress. When I realized I’d picked out a wedding cake with a design that matched the decorative belt I’d tried on with that final dress, that was my true ah-ha moment.
So I booked my let’s-do-this appointment with Blush, and invited pretty much everybody I know except for my yoga instructor, because she just moved to China and I didn’t want her there all jet-lagged. The final count was both my parents; my sister; Jonathan’s mom, sister (my bridesmaid), and niece (my flower girl); and two of my bridesmaids, Jacki and Lindsay.
We all went into this appointment knowing that there was a dress I’d decided on, which, note to all future brides, was a very good idea. I was open to opinions, of course, but warning everybody ahead of time that I had a strong preference was a good way to prevent arguments and egos. I’m lucky in that every person in my entourage cares for me immensely, and didn’t want to make me cry in front of all the other people in my entourage.
I know I mentioned earlier that I shared a picture of my dress with Jonathan already, which proves that I’m okay with breaking tradition and mild superstitions. It does not, however, mean that I’m going to put a picture of myself in my wedding dress on the internet a year before my actual wedding. I’m not that brave. Instead, as a nod to my infatuation with Blush, I’d like to share a few of my favorites that I was forced to say no to, but when I get all those Oscars and am rich enough to have vow renewals every year, you can bet I’ll be back.
I guess this is where I should explain that my venue is booked, and the booked venue is a barn. A beautiful, beautiful barn, and I can’t wait to get married there, but I also know that showing up at the barn in a heavily pearl-beaded, form-fitting dress that made me all sweaty just standing in it would make the day pretty difficult for me. I know that beauty is pain and all that, but you also have to remember that there is a fourth dress, and it is actually The Dress, and you’ll have to wait a year to find out exactly how much pink is on it.
Although the day breezed by quickly, by the time I’d tried on every veil in the store and surprisingly sided with my mom on a very traditional cathedral-length option, I was exhausted. Wearing gowns that cost collectively more money than you have in the world really takes it out of you. After the ceremonious saying “yes” to the dress, and the round of applause from my entourage, I was ready for a glass of wine and a nap. (As it turns out, there is a wine and beer store next to Blush that happened to be doing a free wine tasting as we walked by, and my mom proved that I’m her daughter by insisting we all do the tasting and then buying a bottle of moscato.)
About an hour after I fell unceremoniously asleep on my couch, I woke up to a phone call from a strange number I didn’t recognize. When I picked up to static, a loud screeching hum, and a time-delayed response after my groggy “hello?”, it took me only several sleepy seconds to realize I was receiving my first Afghanistan phone call from Jonathan, and hearing his voice (however distorted by the static) for the first time in a month. Happy negative-one-year anniversary to us. My gift to him was not wasting our phone time telling him about the camouflage belt Joanna found at Blush, which we were told has an entire matching camouflage suit for the groom.
Planning a wedding without Jonathan has been…overwhelming. Despite my being a total control freak, I’m also indecisive to a fault; which of course Jonathan also is, so sometimes the “where should we go for dinner” conversation takes longer than the actual dinner, and involves a lot of screaming. Making what seems like hundreds of decisions without the person I rely on most to help me make decisions (or at least to scream about decisions with until I’m exhausted and just choose something) is trying, at best. And, as I’m sure every person who’s ever planned a wedding can tell you, not everything is working out as smoothly as TLC reality shows have led me to believe it could. When the quote from my first-choice caterer came back more than double our budget for catering last week, I emailed Jonathan in the kind of depression that can only be caused by finding out you’ll have to cut the custom s’mores bar from your reception dinner.
A few days later, he emailed me back. “The caterer thing is a little annoying,” he wrote, “but we will find a way (and by we I mostly mean you) to make it work.”
When Jonathan and I first started dating, I must have repeated to him a hundred times that I wasn’t emotionally capable of dating a soldier. And whether it was ignorance, guesswork, or faith, he never seemed to believe me. Then a year passed, and he had proven me wrong. On my worst days, Jonathan is generally of the opinion that I can accomplish (or at least tolerate and survive through) much more than I believe I can. Not because he thinks I’m exceptionally smart or exceptionally cunning (he’s seen me try to subtract large numbers in my head, so any notions about a genius IQ are off the table), but because he thinks I’m at least twice as strong as I think I am. Which, in turn, has made me twice as strong.
By the time I finished reading his email, I remembered that you can bulk-order chocolate-covered graham crackers through a candy store I found online, and that everything will be okay.