The day had finally come: I was going wedding dress shopping! It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when I first started dreaming about it—grade school, high school? I had been looking forward to shopping for my wedding dress long before walking down the aisle became a reality, or even a possibility. And a show like Say Yes to the Dress only made me yearn for it more.
Many parts of the wedding-planning process have not quite lived up to my expectations, in that they’ve not been as fun as I had hoped. So I was nervous heading into this first dress-shopping excursion—but am happy to report that at least my very first day of shopping was a blast.
We began the wedding dress quest at La Bella Moda, a small, unassuming bridal shop in Conshohocken. I brought with me my mom, my twin sister, my best friend, my grandmother, and Pat’s mom—a very large group, I know. Everyone had indeed warned me against it, but I just couldn’t bear telling anyone no who so thoughtfully wanted to be a part of this day. I wanted to share the experience with them, and I do value all of their opinions. But, as I would later learn, the fewer, the better is most definitely the way to go.
When we arrived at La Bella Moda, I was surprised to find that they had such an extensive, beautiful selection of gowns. My consultant began by asking me what kind of gown I imagined myself in. I had paged through many wedding magazines, browsed through dresses online, and spent many hours searching Pinterest, and one thing was clear: I loved lace. Beyond that, I wasn’t set on anything, but I was pretty sure I wanted a dress that was form fitting through the waist and then had some volume on the bottom.
She looked through some of the photos I had brought with me, and then we were off to the racks. As we began looking, I became a bit overwhelmed: They were all gorgeous—where would I start? But she was great at narrowing down the options, and soon I was in the fitting room ready to try on my first gown.
And the very first one I put on was stunning—a fitted lace gown with champagne-colored satin beneath it that really made the lace pop, and tiered lace on the train. When I walked out of the dressing room, Pat’s mom began crying, and everyone’s faces lit up. Off to a great start! It was beautiful and exciting, but it was my very first dress; I was ready to try on more!
I tried on probably 10 more gowns. There were some that I loved certain features, but the whole package wasn’t there. However, there was not a single dress that I was able to quickly dismiss. Designers build gowns to make brides look beautiful and accentuate their figures, so most gowns look really great on, and you’re already trying on dresses you selected because you thought they were so pretty. So for a bride who often has trouble making decisions (me!), the fact that every dress was gorgeous and looked so nice on didn’t exactly help with narrowing down my options.
But I was enjoying the process, which was a really nice turn of events, not anguishing over the decision—yet. I tried on the first gown once more with a veil, and it was beautiful without a doubt. But it didn’t quite give me that feeling, so we moved on to our next appointment.
The Bridal Garden in Marlton had been recommended to me by several brides, and I instantly liked my bridal consultant. I showed her some of the photos of dresses I had seen and liked, and it was clear the light bulbs were going off. I picked a few gowns in the front of the store that I was interested in, but she left to start searching through their entire collection in the back. And I was happy to sit back and trust her.
She returned with quite a diverse array of gowns, and we began. There were a few very pretty ones to begin. My sister and best friend actually took to rolling their eyes, asking in mock-frustration, “Can’t any of them not look good?” But there was still not quite a standout.
I tried on a tulle A-line gown with sheer straps over a corset top that I surprisingly really liked. I felt like a princess. I was pretty shocked to find that I liked it. It had no lace, was not form fitting, but I found it fun and different. But ultimately, I felt cute, which was not quite the look I was going for. I tried on a few more that I wasn’t too crazy about before I tried on one that had everyone oohing and ahhing as soon as the consultant had it clipped.
I looked in the mirror, and it was by far the most beautiful gown I had tried on. It was strapless, fitted to below my hips with lace embroidery. My favorite part was the bottom: asymmetrical layers of silk organza that moved when I moved. It felt like I was drifting on clouds. It felt magical. We added a champagne belt and an exquisite chapel-length veil with floating lace appliqué, and the tears started to flow. Is this my bridal moment?
I felt pretty spectacular, and for the first time, really felt like a bride. I loved it. But when my consultant asked if this was my dress, the anxiety started creeping in. Was I ready to make a decision so quickly?
Fortunately, everyone agreed that I was not, which was a huge relief. I wanted to think it through. I had one concern: the embroidered lace on the dress. It didn’t stand out like the lace on the dress from La Bella Moda, nor did it have the quality of other lace dresses I tried on. But I just absolutely adored the bottom.
As we walked out of the Bridal Garden, I was on a high, thrilled that I may have found my wedding dress. But I was also prepared to try on more gowns to test the waters. In the back of my mind, I wondering “Is there a dress that could top it?”
To be continued!
Did you find your dress on your first shopping trip?