There is no THE DRESS: get over the fantasy and avoid wedding dress regret

Guest post by DarlesCharwin
This embroidered wedding dress is only $260

My fiancé called me while I stood in the fitting room of David's Bridal Collections, staring at myself in the mirror. “I'm wearing my wedding dress!” I squealed, my inner Glinda-the-Good-Witch-Loving-Three-Year-Old hyperventilating in ecstasy.

It was my first dress shopping trip and I hadn't honestly expected to find anything to my liking. I was, after all, the same person who'd exhausted everyone's patience spending several weekends and tens of hours searching for the perfect prom dress.

“Have you seen her in this yet?” my sales associate asked, pulling aside girl after girl to tell me how special and pretty I looked in the gown. “She's the first person to ever wear this dress. I don't even want to put it on anyone else. It's like it was made for her.” “You look like Katharine Ross in the Graduate,” my mom said, tearing up. “This is it.” I announced. “This is The Dress.”

Three hours later as I sat in the car with the dress, a shocking receipt, and a growing feeling of foreboding, I couldn't remember what I'd liked so much about the dress. After a few more hours of brooding on it, I was fairly sure I hated it. What had I done? Is this wedding dress regret!?

What had happened to tea-length? To diaphanous? Since when had I wanted a cathedral-length veil?! I looked over the pictures again and again — berating myself. Empire waist? I'd wanted something fitted in the waist, not loose. Stripes and lace? Too casual, too trendy. It was obviously too formal while simultaneously too informal. How could I have missed it? Above everything else, it was too goddamn expensive.

Tormenting myself over wedding dress regret

I spent the next day punishing myself by looking at other less expensive dresses that matched my previous expectations — jaunty little things with skinny velvet bow sashes, birdcage veils, and soft layers of tulle. I looked at the picture of myself in the polka dot tea length gown that clearly should have been the dress I chose, if it hadn't felt too much like a dress I would wear to someone else's wedding rather than my own.

“Why don't you just try it on again and see if you still hate it while you're wearing it?” my fiancé asked, attempting to be the voice of reason in the cloud of my growing madness. It sounded like a good idea, but over the next several days, I found myself coming up with excuse after excuse as to why I couldn't try the dress on. “I need my waist cincher. I don't think it will even fit without it.” “I don't have a strapless bra.” “I'm sick and I won't look good anyway, so today's a bad day to try.”

After five days passed and I still hadn't tried on the dress, it became evident that I was afraid to try on the dress again. I was afraid that I would put on the dress and would see it in the harsh light of reality, proving that I had made a massive mistake.

Manipulated by the wedding industrial complex

It wasn't so much the fact that the dress cost nearly quadruple the price of the other dresses I'd looked at that made the possibility of the mistake so scary. It was the idea that I had let myself be manipulated into making that mistake by the Wedding Industrial Complex. I feared that I'd somehow listened to the saleswoman as she told me what a special bohemian snowflake I was and internalized it. I hated the idea that I had fallen prey to Wedding Industrial Complex's marketing schemes, even though I already knew what to expect and was trying so hard to avoid them. I am a critical thinker, goddammit! I am a conscious consumer!

When I finally put on the dress a second time and saw that it still looked beautiful (even without a strapless bra), I realized that my problem doesn't lie with the dress. It lies with the idea of The Dress. The One.

A wedding dress has somehow gone from being the nicest dress you already own, to being the single most important and meaningful piece of clothing you will ever wear. That's a lot of emotional baggage to wrap into one garment!

I had built such an unrealistic emotional connection to the idea of this dress that nothing could possibly live up to the expectations I had created for it. I was perfectly happy with the idea of getting married in the gown I'd bought, but it certainly wasn't My Wedding Dress. You know, THE DRESS

Very pink wedding dress!

My Wedding Dress is the gigantic Glinda-pink, southern belle-skirted concoction of my three-year-old dreams. It's the regency-inspired, empire-waisted, sheath I'd imagined in middle school. It's the tea-length, polka-dotted, vintage, prom dress I'd pictured in college. It's the draped, diaphanous Grecian gown, and romantic mantilla I'd dreamt of wearing in the middle of a forest clearing. It's the striped and pocketed, lace, A-line gown I will actually be wearing on my actual wedding day.

It is all of those things and none of them because it isn't real.

My Wedding Dress is just a fantasy.

THE ONE is just a dream.

And that's OK!

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Comments on There is no THE DRESS: get over the fantasy and avoid wedding dress regret

  1. I agree that for most of us there isn’t one perfect dress to fit everything that we’ve ever wanted. You nicely point out that we change over time. This article made me feel so much better that I wasn’t the only one with this experience. I felt crazy because I tried on my dress on two different days before I purchased it, but still had these feelings before I went to my fitting. It worked out in the end.

  2. This is spot-on for me! I had also imagined a specific type of dress, went to 5 different dress shops trying on all sorts of things, but never really feeling like “this is the one!” or wanting to cry or whatever like I felt I should. At the 6th store, I struggled to settle on the dress I eventually ended up purchasing because I wasn’t feeling that overwhelming “OMG THIS IS THE ONE!!!” moment that I had expected and had been told to expect by reality TV, the WIC, everyone… I tried it on again and remember thinking, I do really like this dress, and I do feel pretty in it. And that was what sealed it for me. Now that it’s ordered I don’t have a choice, but I still find myself seeing things online and wondering “what if that would have looked better!” or “wow this one is way cheaper”, or beating myself up over the thought that it’s “not offbeat enough” because it has trendy elements (I am sure that is a sore spot for lots of us OBBs!!). But deep down, I am positive I will be happy with it and look awesome and trend-be-damned, I feel pretty when I sparkle!!!

    I feel like everyone bride needs to hear this. As long as you like how you feel in it, there doesn’t need to be tears or bells or fireworks to tell you that! 🙂

    Also, your dress has pockets?? So jealous. Love dress pockets.

  3. Thank you, I really needed this today! I just tried on a wedding dress for the first time and I was freaking out over the whole “it must be the most amazing, perfect, high quality, dream dress you could ever possibly imagine” thing. I want something comfy that feels like me, but I don’t want to spend a ton of money and I don’t feel like it needs to be some amazing perfect gown that somehow perfectly represents me or fulfills all my dreams. So thank you ever so much for that reminder that my fantasy dresses are just fantasies and that is absolutely ok!

  4. Oh, I feel you! My dress was the third one I tried on at David’s Bridal on my second shopping trip (first one was to an awful salon where the lady didn’t listen to me at all and just put me in dresses I hated). It wasn’t what I had imagined either, but it’s a lovely dress that makes ME feel pretty and I could afford and those things were most important to me. I cried when I saw myself, but not because it was the dress I’d been dreaming of forever. Rather, I cried because I felt so pretty and bridal and all the things I worried about not feeling as a plus-sized bride. And now I’m really excited to marry the man I love in a pretty gown!

    • “Rather, I cried because I felt so pretty and bridal and all the things I worried about not feeling as a plus-sized bride. And now I’m really excited to marry the man I love in a pretty gown!”

      The post itself was just brilliant, but this really hit home with me! My mum and friend were gaping at me as I shed a tear upon seeing myself in my dress, because no one would have imagined it in a million years – but I don’t think I’d ever looked in the mirror and felt attractive before, and even I had to admit that this dress looked stunning. I haven’t spent my life dreaming about my wedding dress, it didn’t seem like a particularly important part of the wedding to me – I was planning on something tea-length and casual with sleeves, most of me hidden away because I didn’t think I’d ever feel pretty. I actually ended up with the exact opposite! I’m still having doubts about it, a) because it was much more expensive than I wanted it to be, but my mum had saved up for ages and was really excited to be able to treat me to it, and b) because of the whole ‘Dream Dress’ mentality leading me to think I needed to be wearing the most incredible dress I’d ever seen, instead of something I feel pretty in and I know my partner’s going to be blown away by (I think he still thinks it’s a tea-dress).

      Life’s too short to worry so much about any one dress. Especially when you’re wearing it to marry the love of your life.

  5. As a second-time bride, I never felt I needed to find “TEH PURFEK DREZZ”, even though I ended up not really liking the one I had the first time around (my mother’s dressmaking talents kept me from completely hating it). Maybe it’s age, second-nuptials, or having such a Zen-minded fiance to keep me grounded, but I never felt I should get “something to make up for the last one”. I just wanted something with sleeves that still looked beachy. I found it by accident when I was half-drunk during a downtown festival, and I still like the dress a lot.

    I guess since my wedding dress fantasies when I was younger always changed every few years, I never had my heart set on any particular style for when the time came, and I had absolutely none after my divorce. Probably a good thing – my first wedding dress idea at age six was my grandmother’s 1950’s pink diaphanous nightgown and robe set. I would have looked like Glinda the Good Witch getting ready for bed.

  6. Thank you. I have 3 weddings before my own this year, one of which has a princess gown with a drop waist and the rest fitted mermaid. I went for my dream princess gown, high waist, long and sweet but enough to make me feel like a woman/bride and not a child. I can look sexy and day of the week (At least I tell myself that everyday lol) BUT for some reason since I bought my dress a few weeks ago I feel like I should have gotten something fitted and ‘sexy’ since that term seems thrown around so much and I am 23 which apparently means I need to wear something ‘fun and to show my age/waist while i am young’ ….

    Thank you for this. Confirmed for me that I have chosen a dress because I loved it and I feel good it in.
    You have secured my bridal salons purchase lol

    I can now stop looking at pictures of in on the internet and wandering if it was the right choice.

    • Wow.. I have been searching the internet thinking I’m the only one to feel this……
      I have the opposite experience to you Emma. I couldn’t find the ‘dress’ I loved and couldn’t trust having it made and putting everything into a dress I may end up not liking.. I love the idea of a big skirt and remember thinking when else will I wear a big gown??
      I then went to a bridal boutique and was told I looked better in a form fitting, tighter dress that shows my body more.. I went ahead and bought the dress- so expensive there was no option to buy another and I am now 2 months away from the big day thinking should I have gone with the big beautiful gown..
      I keep seeing wedding gown photos all over my social media like it is stalking me!!
      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this unreal expectation of perfect. When everyone asks me about my dress I say- it’s hard because you have to choose ‘one style’ even if you have different sides to your personality and like different things (How I try to explain it) – they just look at me with a puzzled face haha. I’ve even had to start waist training as I’m self conscious in the style or may be letting the pressure get to me!
      Lots of love ladies – thanks for letting me get it off my chest

  7. Thank you for this! I was engaged previously and bought a dress for that engagement before breaking it off. It was a long dress that had off the shoulder straps. It was a pretty dress but it just wasn’t me and every time I looked at it I felt like I should have taken more time finding THE dress.

    It’s four years later. I’m now engaged again and getting married this month. For my dress I decided to stick with the one I had originally bought but alter it. It’s now a short tea length dress with a kelly green petticoat and I love it. However, I keep thinking about how I should have the traditional long princess like dress, long veil, how maybe I should look again for THE ONE (even with 3 weeks left). But after reading this I think my mind has settled. I love the dress, it may not be perfect but it suits me just fine.

  8. This brings a breath of fresh air to me 🙂 I was so caught up in fine small details and such of the dress that I’d begun to forget everything else that was important.

    Plus, my partner in crime has always said he’d marry me in a potato sack if it came down to that because for him, he’s marrying his lady, not the dress shes in.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this, I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I have never thought about ‘the dress’ and now I’m really meant to care. A lot. There is a huge amount of pressure put on one outfit, it is difficult to put it all in perspective and be happy with what you decide on.

    In Hong Kong (currently based) there is a custom/trend of hiring a photographer before the wedding, hiring 3+ dresses (traditional Chinese and Western white) and suits for for the groom and spending a day taking pictures around the territory.

    The thought of choosing one is daunting

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