Hitched 2.0: I Didn’t Love Dress Shopping As Much As I Expected

I’m obsessed with my wedding dress. Last weekend, I went to try it on for the first time since ordering it, and loved the whole experience. I was relieved my dress was as pretty as I remembered it, and that I still liked the silhouette. I started to get excited about planning my hairstyle, and picking out accessories. It was all a reminder of how quickly my wedding is approaching, and I can’t wait. Everything about my appointment at the dress shop last weekend was fun, exciting, and what I would expect a wedding-dress related appointment to be.

But that wasn’t quite the experience I had when I was actually shopping for my dress. I didn’t have many expectations going into dress shopping; just that I would get to try on some pretty gorgeous gowns and hopefully find one I love. The anticipation was somewhat thrilling, but other than that, I went into it pretty even keel. I’ve seen “Say Yes To The Dress” plenty of times, but understood it was unlikely my experience would mirror those depicted on the show.

I didn’t bring many people with me to shop; just my mom, sister, aunt and occasionally one or two others. Every appointment began with me telling the consultant some styles I liked, showing her Pinterest photos, and trying to explain what I wanted without sounding like a complete idiot because I didn’t know the difference between chiffon and tulle. I did all of this while everyone else watched and listened. I was then ushered into a changing room while everyone else settled into plush, white chairs set up in a half-moon shape around the three-way mirror, waiting.

From there, it was a repeat cycle of me getting helped into a dress by the consultant, then walking out while the others watched my every step toward the pedestal, looking for any sign of an opinion on my face. I liked most of the dresses I tried on—honestly, wedding dresses are so much more flattering than regular clothes, it’s insane—and disliked a few. But my reactions weren’t extreme in either direction. Even when I tried on ones I loved, not much happened. I smiled, stared at myself in the mirror, said what I liked about it, and hoped everyone else agreed. When I found my dress—the one I’m obsessed with—everyone stared at me expectantly, as if I was going to completely break down into a mess of joyous tears or scream with delight. But I didn’t. There were no tears, there was no, ‘Oh my GOD, I’m a briiiiiiiiiiiiide!’ moment, and there wasn’t any jumping up and down, clapping and cheering. And because of that, I kind of felt like I was doing something wrong.

Was I supposed to have a more emotional response to dress shopping—to finding my dress? I mean, I don’t cry when I find the perfect pair of jeans that fit my waist, suck in my thighs and make my ass look nice and tight—and I’m pretty sure that’s more elusive than a pretty wedding dress. While I get that the big white  — or black! — gown holds more significance than a pair of skinny jeans, and that it’s another tangible step toward the aisle and a life with my future husband, I couldn’t muster up the reaction I felt was expected of me. It just didn’t feel natural. And honestly, I’m not sure it’s natural for many people. Rather, I think so many people have seen “Say Yes To The Dress,” and they just expect that entire, dramatic scene that happens in every episode to unfold in real life, too. The bride is standing front-and-center, looking at herself lovingly in the mirror. Her family and friends are sitting down, looking lovingly at the bride. And the consultant stands slightly stage left, waiting to ask the big question: “Are you … saying yes … to … this dress?!” After a considerable pause, with everyone’s eyes on her, the bride says, through tears, “YES!”  

While it makes for good TV, everything about that seems (and as I stood in the bridal salon, it felt) unnatural. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy trying on beautiful dresses, and spending quality time with my family. It doesn’t mean that I wasn’t excited to embrace this tradition and take this nuptial rite-of-passage. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’m not beyond thrilled about my upcoming wedding. But it’s just a dress. I can hardly wait to walk down that aisle and marry my best friend. I think I’ll just save my tears for that moment instead.

Hitched, our weekly column about getting married, is back! This time around, we’ll be walking down the aisle (well, in spirit) with writer Emma Sarran, who will be sharing her thoughts on long engagements, the institution of matrimony and that godforsaken wedding industrial complex every Thursday. Follow her on Twitter!