Monday, December 14, 2009

Trends I Don't Want to See

About two years ago, before we had really started talking about marriage, I remember watching Bridezillas (and the TLC/WE/Oxygen nightmare-bride equivalent shows) and feeling both smug and cynical about those screeching monster women.  These days, I'm feeling a lot less smug, because I get it.  Every day I encounter beautiful weddings I wish I could emulate, and every day I force myself to keep focused on the important stuff.  But it's precisely because I'm working so d*mn hard to keep perspective that I understand exactly why women can have bridal meltdowns over chairs.  Or DIY favor projects.  Or perfectly matched ribbon colors.  The precise break-down moment is not important here, it's the insane pressure (family, friends, cultural expectations, budget limits, personal preferences, blogs, etc) that creates a situation in which we're reaching for this "perfect day" nonsense, however much we may try to remind ourselves that our wedding is just one amazing day in a lifetime of amazingness (fingers crossed).

So I get it, I really do.  And I understand the doubts that accompany these decisions, with panic often hitting after we've made a costly decision.  My dress is a perfect example of the oh-no-but-what-if-there's-something-better panic that sneaks into your brain after overdosing on OnceWed and Green Wedding ShoesIf you ladies hadn't kept me sane in my moment of panic, I might have let my silly dress doubts run away with me.  Because, the truth is that I still love vintage style dresses, Wai-Ching dresses, and Monique Lhullier lace dresses, but I don't need to wear them all at my wedding.  But the OTHER truth is that I love my dress too, and that's enough for me.  

Unfortunately, that's not the case for many two dress brides.  Many jump in and buy a dress right away, only to discover that, as wedding plans change, the dress no longer fits the event.  Someone else may buy a dress and then realize that what she wants from a dress has changed as she becomes more confident in defining her own authentic wedding.  Some get new dresses (East Side Bride), some get reception dresses and keep the original for the ceremony (Bowie Bride) and some of us just decide to stop panicking (me.) So instead of being smugly judgmental about two-dress brides, I get it now. 

But you know what's still beyond me?  The idea of a five or six dress bride. I can only pray that the New York Times was running low on story ideas and therefore blew this "new wedding trend" out of proportion to meet a print deadline in their story entitled "When 'The Dress' Turns Into 5 or 6."  Because wtf.  I think I'm pretty open to living by the your-wedding-your-rules credo, but five or six dresses feels absurd by any stretch of the imagination (Or budget. Or patience. Good lord, if I had to go to enough salons to buy six dresses, I'd have a nervous breakdown).  But no, as the New York Times reports, women are dress shopping like never before. 
Josie Daga, the owner of PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com, has labeled the phenomenon multiple-dress syndrome. “A two-dress wedding is old hat,” she said. “Easily 15 to 20 percent of our sellers are two-dress brides. But buying several dresses? This is new."
Mrs. Daga points to dozens of brides who have shared their multiple-dress stories on her site, including a woman who bought seven dresses, and another who bought six.
If this more-than-two-dress bride thing wasn't new before, then trend pieces like this New York Times article help make more culturally acceptable and more likely, because other people are doing it too (woohoo groupthink.)  Also, when people in the wedding dress industry start referring to two dresses as "old hat" we're all in trouble.  Once it becomes normalized, then profit and growth depend on the previously ridiculous three-dress brides. 

But back to these five and six dress brides (um, it pains me to even type that).  There is no way that at least three of those dresses wouldn't have been perfectly fine if the women had taken a day to breathe deeply and step outside the pressure cooker of wedding hell, thereby giving herself time and space to think.  Because I've bought a shirt (or 30) on a whim that languished in my closet until I gave it to Goodwill, but those shirts probably came from H&M and cost $20 apiece.  There is no way in pocketbook hell that I could spend $$$ on multiple wedding dresses to let them languish in my closet.  And dresses are like cars - the moment you drive them off the lot, they lose significant resale value - even if they're a sample and even if you never altered the thing.

Again, it's a your-wedding, your-priority situation, but my uninformed guess is that most of these women can't afford all these dresses. Some certainly can, such as this woman who bought four dresses for about $10,000 total.
“My husband paid for the first two, I paid for the third, and my mother paid for the fourth,” she said. “Everyone contributed to the madness.”
Madness indeed.  But it sounds like, even if she fell into the Perfect Day frenzy, she (and her family) were able to afford it.  Unfortunately, I have a sneaking suspicion many women fall into that frenzy and put thoughts of budgets aside, like another two-dress bride mentioned in the article. 
“My husband and I will be paying this wedding off for years and years to come,” said Mrs. Schneider, a hospital social worker. “I felt guilty about it, but at the same time, I wanted to feel beautiful on my wedding day.”
Reading these stories doesn't make me angry and doesn't incite my scorn.  Instead, it just makes me a little bit sad .  I've talked before about how I'm wresting with my own conflicts about this obsession with Bridal Prettiness (TM)* and my panic about the dress I bought.  None of us are immune.  But the worst part is how this panicking entirely misses the point and, even worse drives us to make stupid decisions that we have to literally pay for over the next several years.  Yeah, we all want to look stunning, but we'll look stunning regardless of whether we wear the first or the fifth dress we buy.  We'll look stunning if it's a department store dress, a David's Bridal dress, or a handmade couture dress.  We'll look stunning whether we spent $80 on an ebay J Crew dress or $8000 on a Monique Lhullier.  We'll look stunning because we're filled with joy about the wedding, not because of our beautiful dress and perfect hair/makeup/skin/teeth.  Yes, let's admit we all want a beautiful dress and to feel gorgeous on our wedding day, but let's stop elevating it to panic-worthy episodes and credit card regrets.  And let's stop panicking once we've already made a dress decision that felt completely right at the time.  Let's trust ourselves for a minute, stand back, and take a deep breath, and let go of the insidious wedding crazy.  Because the truth is that we'll look stunning and stunned both, simply because the moment is so huge that we're not going to care one whit about lace details when we're actually walking down that aisle.
 

*Bridal Pretty is a whole other beast than regular pretty. It's practically a package deal (in its look and its product list)

16 comments:

  1. "Bridal pretty." I love it. You're completely right, it's a whole different ballgame than regular pretty.

    Like you, I just feel kind of sad at the thought of people spending themselves into oblivion trying to find The Perfect Dress. Honestly, if I'd had the means, I might have become a two-dress bride -- I definitely felt a few twinges of "should I really have gone with strapless/trumpet skirt/no ruching/no buttons on the back?" There are so many lovely dresses out there that unless you experience the fabled "this is THE DRESS" moment, you're bound to see several that you really like, which makes it easy to second-guess yourself. And no actual bride I know has experienced the "this is THE DRESS" moment.

    So I completely agree about dialing down the pressure on ourselves to look "perfect" on our wedding day. The truth is, there is no single perfect wedding dress for most of us! But if the one you have is one you like and one that makes you feel pretty, you're going to be fine.

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  2. I think stepping back from the wedding blogs/website and taking a deep relaxing breath speaks volumes for a brides sanity.

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  3. As a one-dress bride, I also think going through five or six gowns is completely outrageous. I can understand having two gowns if a bride truly changes her mind or wants to switch into another dress for the reception, but anything more than that seems totally unnecessary, no matter how big a budget someone may have.

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  4. Oh bless you, I've been having doubts about the dress I bought, so I really need this!

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  5. When do you have time to change? I mean, really? My wedding went by so freakin' fast, I barely had time to pee, much less change into another dress. I think if you want to dance your booty off and want a short, fun dress for the reception, OK. For me, I was good with one and I cut a rug in it and ripped out the bustle.

    In Asia they wear a bunch of dresses, but those dresses are RENTED and everyone does it and it's the custom there. To BUY that many dresses just seems so excessive in a time where excess is just SO passe. :)

    Thanks so much for posting. Love this.

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  6. Amen, I just saw a re-cap post on wedding bee the other day that had multiple dress changes during the reception. I think its also important for these brides to realize that spending time with their guests is more valuable to the guests than seeing different dresses every hour. Ridiculous.

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  7. @Thirty-something bride and @Jenn: I hadn't even thought about the time issues associated with dress changes. Sheesh.

    Also, if I ever write a book of quotes about REAL wedding zen, I'm totally using the line "My wedding went by so freakin' fast, I barely had time to pee, much less change into another dress." -TSB

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  8. Isn't there enough things to worry about that changing wedding dresses?! And I totally get that in some cultures changing dresses is the status quo but thats a little different! And if you can't pick 1-2 dresses so need 5-6, which one do you wear first? I think I have a headache just thinking about it all!
    I am having some doubts about my dress at the moment, but thats because as the alterations are taking place, I don't think it fits me as well as it did when the ladies were clamping it in all the right places. I have another fitting tomorrow so we shall see how it all goes.

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  9. @everyone - I should clarify that I think the article referred to people who buy five or six dresses while searching for "the one" and not necessarily to five or six dress changes. Though, at the two-dress bride spectrum, the dress-change option seems to be increasingly common.

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  10. I totally got you about why they're buying that many dresses. It's silliness. I am a two dress bride in that I bought a second CHEAPER dress to change into just before the dancing gets full blown but that was because my gown is *huge* and there's no way I could dance in it much less stay in it for 12 hours straight! It weighs a ton...but I loved it when I bought it. I have had some second thoughts about it but that is because (as mentioned) there are so many options, mags, shows, blogs, etc out there that of course you're going to find many dresses you love! Wouldn't it be nice if we could wear wedding dresses to work? Just not gonna happen...so one choice it has to be. Even when I was having doubts about my gown I never once thought to go buy a new one...and to make myself feel better, I went to the designer's site and found their 'real brides' section showing pics of actual normal brides wearing their gowns. When I saw about 4 or 5 real women in my gown from their weddings this past year, I fell in love with it all over again. So it's really a matter of giving yourself time and space to think and breathe and not just react when you have second thoughts. Great post!

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  11. I learned my lesson after the first impulse wedding dress buy. Granted it was $100 on sale but I won't rush into that decision again. I sold that dress and am now waiting until the last possible moment to buy another dress. The only other option would be to stop looking at wedding porn and we all know that ain't going to happen.

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  12. I can totally see someone buying 5 or 6 dresses because, well, I know someone who did *ssshhhhhh!* but all were returned to the department store. You're right, bridal pretty gets its own category of pressure and we've been conditioned to daydream from a young age that everyone will stand up and gasp when we walk down that aisle at a very slow pace. We need to be drop-dead gorgeous but also look innocently beautiful like a Disney princess so that everyone can bask in our Cinderella good looks.

    I'm proud to be a one dress bride. :)

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  13. I heartily, heartily agree! When I had my shop (and when I had my own wedding) I encountered buyers remorse more times than I can count. Or even pre-buyers remorse. Women driving themselves mad trying to find the perfect dress, shopping endlessly to find it. Not because they hadn't yet found one that was exactly right, but because they were not listening to themselves. Getting distracted and waylaid by all the images and opinions around them, and not listening to their own instincts. I never in my 6 years encountered a 3+ dress bride. An occasional woman with 1 dress on the hunt for a replacement (and believe it or not I encouraged them to stick to their original dress instead of finding another), but never more. I am horrified and sad to hear that it has come to this for some - multiple dresses as "old hat".

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  14. I really thought I was losing it the first time I watched Bridezilla and totally felt sorry for the bride. Too funny.

    When would you have time to change into five dresses? How long are these weddings?

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  15. I needed this reminder- it's SO easy to get caught up in the 'bridal pretty' TM (hah).

    When I read 'multiple dress' bride, I feel disheartened on the state of our culture that places SO MUCH emphasis on the 'bride' to be physically beautiful.

    I really truly believe that if we lived in a culture that didn't sexualize women and placed value on women's experiences and selves as opposed to physical outward appearances, this issue would gradually disappear.

    I LOVE my dress, but I saw another one the other day.... and have decided to AVOID the bridal store until my dress comes in. I don't look at dresses online anymore either.

    because Andrew will love me if I wore a burlap sack :)

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