Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Feeling Like A Bride

As I looked at myself in the mirror, wearing my wedding dress and the necklace I'd fallen in love with, it hit me: I finally felt like a bride. I had that "moment" that so many women talk about when they find "the dress" but that had entirely eluded me. When I finally put on the dress I love with this long necklace composed of interlinked silver circle hoops and sparse grey and white pearls, I could suddenly see myself as a bride. I felt beautiful. I felt elegant.

And I felt entirely sick to my stomach as I ripped off my wedding attire and ran into the shower for a good cry.

I never really pictured myself as the marrying kind. So when I fell in love with Jason, it was hard to come to terms with wanting a wedding, let alone wanting a larger wedding that could accommodate our guest list and other needs. But I came to terms with it. And he came to terms with something that's a far cry from the sort of weddings he's been accustomed to. And just like this relationship, we've built something stronger, together. But as proud as I am of what we're building, I'm also exhausted by the compromises. And although we've come to the right decisions and compromises, that hasn't made our negotiations or choices any easier along the way.

Despite all these compromises, there's been one aspect of the wedding that's been gloriously, selfishly mine: my wedding day attire, accessories, hair, and makeup. As this event swirls around me, I've held onto my style choices as a ballast. I defiantly announced to Jason, "I'm wearing my nose ring!" tamping down the cold knot in my stomach when thinking about all his family members and my co-workers who have never seen my (now) weekend accessory. "I'm not wearing a veil!" I snapped at a dress saleslady and our rabbi, as I held fast to the hairflower hippie dream. I've looked at the excessive prices for professional hair and makeup and decided that I just don't effing care: I'm paying for it with my hard earned money because I want to and I can. 

Every decision I've made about my attire has taken on a feeling of monumental importance. I bought one dress and then sold it. I ordered five more dresses from department stores. And then I bought three necklaces - three! - in the same confused and overwrought pattern that's defined everything about my wedding attire so far. And until I stood in the shower, crying about necklaces and wondering what the hell had happened to me, I couldn't figure out why I care so d*mn much about my wedding appearance and clothes when I'm generally pretty run-of-the mill in my everyday style.

This wedding is mine, but it's also not-mine in so many important ways. I'm giving so much time and money into needs that were defined by everyone else, that defining my appearance has become so much more. It's not just a dress: it's a statement that I'm still here under the weight of all this tradition and expectation and compromise. It's not just a necklace: it's an announcement that this is MINE, damnit. MY WEDDING. MY LIFE. I'm not just a bride. It's ME here, in this bride costume. It's like somehow, I need my attire to scream for me. Because I wasn't supposed to be here. This wasn't supposed to be my life. If I got married at all, it was supposed to be barefoot in a backyard and I'm still a little dazed that I ended up here. Most days I'm happy-dazed, but it's confusing, nonetheless. And the only thing I can clutch at as MINE MINE MINE is ownership over my body and how I decorate it.

That's a whole lot of pressure to put on one-day attire. That pressure led me to fret over whether to buy a white dress or a colored dress. I got emotionally twisted after buying a gorgeous Nicole Miller "I'm different, seeee" dress, but realizing it wasn't right. I bought a number of other non-traditional dresses and struggled with realizing I'd fallen in love with an elegantly simple dress that didn't "say" much at all. I mollified myself by searching for an "I'm different, seeee" statement necklace. And while I liked the statement necklace I bought, I really fell in love with an elegant, modern, understated, and classic piece of jewelery. Which is the opposite of what I thought I wanted from my wedding attire.

That's how I found myself crying over a necklace. All along, I've just been trying to claim a part of this wedding for myself, which I thought meant some sort of bold color or statement attire. Instead, I'm finding myself drawn to understated elegance. It's radical in a different way than I had expected: I felt gorgeous when I saw myself in the mirror. But seeing my reflection was a shock, because I'm scarred by too many schoolyard taunts and cruel adult rejections to feel entirely comfortable in my body. And yet, I am stunning in my wedding attire, and I finally knew it as I stared at my reflection. Allowing myself to experience and revel in that is an entirely radical approach to my wedding, more so than any "I'm different, seeee" dress or jewelery I might have picked. I'm wearing a simple dress and simple accessories, and that turns out to be enough. And even if that simple dress and simple necklace are more traditionally bridal than I had anticipated wearing, it turns out to be just right.


  1. I think it's SO SO natural that the dresses you initially believe to be "you" turn out to be not quite right, and that you gravitate to something totally different in the end.

    I had, in some ways, the opposite experience of you with regards to the dress. I have always known that I was going to get married in a sari. No question in my mind, and I sure as hell knew it wasn't going to be white.

    So it was a little bit of a shock to me when I realized that my fiance had NOT assumed his whole life that his bride would be wearing a green sari. Shocking, no? ;)

    And while he was perfectly amenable to the sari, he needed a little bit of help. We perceive beauty through a process of acculturation. So for us, that meant he had to get used to what I wear ... no seeing the bride for the first time on our wedding day for us.

    So because the statement (well it didn't exactly feel like a statement, but you know what I mean) of wearing a sari was important to me, I then had to turn around and compromise, let my guy see what I was wearing, and let him offer his thoughts.

    And while I thought I would find it a little upsetting or sad, in the end, it turned out fine and right for us.

  2. Love this. Some brides are so busy falling over themselves to be "different", that they end up losing what they actually want - and often being really frickin' bitchy to other brides in the process.

    We're all essentially the same - we eat sleep and poop; we want to be loved and to feel good. I'm glad that you've found what works for you.

  3. I loved reading this, because I often have that "I'm getting married? ME?" feeling. And because I love when people feel beautiful.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I think I may be struggling with the blue dress because it feels so "I'm different, seeee," which was what I wanted at first, except that I'm not feeling so rebellious against weddings anymore. Turns out, I am ridiculously thrilled to be marrying my guy and I'm sad that I'm not going to look particularly bridal.

  5. Becca,

    You continue to rock my world. Full stop.

  6. "me in a bride costume." That's how I fear I'm going to feel when I shop for dresses in another two weeks.
    I'm sure ALL brides feel this way at some point. We're all strong independent women until something seemingly small seems to knock us down for reasons we can't explain. Thank goodness you have the gift to thoughtfully articulate what many of us still can't yet.

  7. i was never into marriage or weddings or any of that...but somehow being with isaiah made me want to RUN to the altar...

    i understand the dilemma...but the important thing is when you're with someone who loves the independent you, they don't expect the marriage to be the death of you - you know?

    anyway, i'm sure your wedding attire is completely lovely and you will look like a rockstar bride.

  8. Becca, this made me cry. You are awesome--unafraid to share--and, yes, beautiful! Yesterday's passionate denunciation of the rhetoric of hate and today's reflections on balancing and reconciling your own dreams and expectations with those of important "others" show your amazing personal, intellectual and writing skills.
    Thank you for sharing.

  9. eff yes i love this post! :)

    also yay! i wore my nose ring and went sans veil too! i can't wait to see you in your full attire m'lady! xo

  10. classic is classy for a reason. i think so many brides are focused on being "different" and being "unique" when doing less "being" tends to bring people the most peace.

  11. Oh my goodness, you read my mind some days. I also thought my wedding attire would be radically out there and totally "me." Definitely a statement necklace I thought. Something really contemporary, maybe a little avant garde for a dress. But no, somehow, even though I'm not wearing a "traditional" wedding dress, mine is going to end up being a lot more classic than I expected. Which leads me to much more understated jewelry too. Who knew?

  12. Oh, absolutely. Thankyou so much for this post. I am also worried about finding a dress with the "I'm different, see!" factor, but what you have said makes every bit of perfect sense.

    What is it with dress posts today!?

  13. I didn't buy more than one dress, but I tried on over a hundred. It was exhausting.
    Sometimes I look at myself in my traditional veil and wonder what happened to my little punk-rock self from high school. Was I TOO traditional? Was I not enough of ME? Did people expect funky a Louise-par for the course? I gave them everything but funky and I loved it all. I did. I wanted everything pretty and understated, not wild with color or some blatant "theme."
    I was never able to picture myself as a bride, which I think is why I had a difficult time finding a dress. But after I met the guy, got engaged, ordered the dress and found our ceremony venue - it suddenly hit me. While I was driving. I could finally see myself at the end of the aisle. THe waterworks started and I had to pull over and have my own private freak out.
    It happens to the best of us, doll. Fear not - you will be uniquely you regardless of what's on your body.

  14. you say things that i think, only with eloquence.

    i am DYING to see how you look!

  15. Totally off topic, but regarding your decor angst.

    Look at these - amazing and ON SALE.



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