Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Dress

I've been holding off on writing this post for a while. Not because I've been waiting for some giant reveal with the dress (you've noticed I haven't shown any dress photos, right?) but because there aren't really any dress photos to show. And it hurts. I have very few regrets about my wedding, but the lack of dress photos is at the top of my list. 

Our wedding day was clear but unexpectedly chilly for early April.  However, we felt lucky. It had been raining on and off for weeks beforehand. So what if it was cold? We didn't have to get married indoors and could have the outdoor wedding we'd been dreaming about.  Although I tried to brave the pre-aisle waiting period without my wrap, I (very sensibly) decided that being warm and present for our ceremony was more important than achieving magnificent dress photos while I shivered and silently prayed for the rabbi to hurry up. 

And so, I walked down the aisle in a green cashmere wrap I'd bought for the reception. I bought it to complement my pink shoes and because I'll wear a green scarf more often than ivory.  I bought it because I tried 20 different shrugs and scarfs that all felt wrong.  I bought it because weeks before the wedding, I was exhausted with the accessory search and this one seemed good enough. I did not buy it with the ceremony in mind. I did not expect that I would be wearing it in nearly every wedding photo.

The scarf and wind conspired against me, with the scarf taking tangled flight as I began walking back down the aisle.

It's not like I had a "gasp! wow!" dress. I didn't. I had a simple, elegant dress that still had some intriguing detailing of its own. I had a dress that allowed me to wear bold pink shoes, a green scarf, and a modern necklace that I loved. I had a dress that fit like it was made for me. It was simple and stunning. And I wish I had a single photo that captured that.

During the indoor ketubah signing photos, I'm standing with my hands across my stomach. During family portraits, I'm holding my bouquet in front of the dress. During my post-yichud portraits with Jason, I braved the cold for about three minutes without my shawl. And in those three  shawl-less minutes, Kelly and Holly got a few great pictures of me and Jason, But three minutes isn't a long enough time to ensure you'll get great dress shots. And we didn't. We got some great couple pictures and a few full-length dress shots that don't really do it justice. At all.

You see hints of the detailing, fit, and movement, but the dress never got accurately captured in these few photos and angles (and, um, bad posture). And these are the best "dress" photos we have. However, can we take a moment to discuss how amazing Jason looks in his Theory suit?! (He's owned that suit for two years. No need for a new wedding suit when you already have a tailored stunner.)

Yes, this is silly. Instead of the dress photos I wanted, I got the wedding I wanted. Instead of compliments about my dress (which no one could see under the wrap), I got gasps and compliments about how pretty I looked overall, including about my outfit, hair and makeup, and my bouquet. And since I focused on buying an amazing outfit instead of an amazing dress, this should have been enough. But it wasn't. It isn't. I'm weirdly emotional about this dress and what it represented. I wish people had appreciated a dress I put so much effort into finding. I wish I could show off my dress in photos for some after-the-fact validation. I wish I had photos to show my future children.

I loved my dress. After a dress saga that included buying and selling a designer dress and then buying, trying on, prancing around in, and returning way too many dresses to count, I fell in love with a simple department store dress that felt 100% right for me. And even though the wedding isn't about the dress at all, and even though I love my wedding and photos more than I can say, I'm still sad.

From even these few photos, it's clear that the dress was secondary to anything that was truly important about our wedding day experience. When I see these photos, I care about the moments, not the obscured view of the dress. And yet.

I've had friends recommend a trash the dress shoot to make up for the lack of dress photos (or "rock the dress shoot" as Kelly calls them). To me, these shoots always seemed silly. A wedding isn't a photoshoot and the converse is also true: a photoshoot can't make up for a wedding. Our wedding photos are special because they capture the story and raw emotion of the day. To me, a trash the dress photoshoot misses the point because it's lacking that story, emotion, or any connection to my wedding, aside from the garment. I wouldn't bother framing those photos or putting them in an album.

Moment I first saw myself as a bride, in my dress, with my hair and makeup. How can you recreate that emotion in a trash the dress shoot? You can't. Also, check out that bustline detailing...

However, the emotions about wedding dresses are surprisingly strong. After all, it's the dress I got married in. I felt more beautiful and special on that day and in that dress than I've ever felt in my life.  And so, I might  have considered a trash the dress shoot, except for one thing: I accidentally trashed my dress as I left the wedding.  Yes, you read that correctly. My dress is trashed. Destroyed. Ruined beyond repair. 

In the post-wedding glow and excitement, we (I? A friend? who knows) shut the door of the getaway car on my dress. I didn't notice until, during the drive, the dress managed to wrap around the rear car wheel. It ripped and got covered in wheel crud and grease in the mile long distance between the venue and our hotel. Although the grease stains are limited to the bottom of the dress, the pressure of the tire rotation tore my dress along the entirety of the chiffon detailing.  Therefore, I can't even shorten the dress and make it a chic knee-length dress like I'd been hoping to do. At least the dry cleaner managed to get out the worst stains, even if he yelled at me (making me cry all over again. Which I also did on our wedding night, and again when we got back from the honeymoon and I saw how extensive the damage was.)

Suffice it to say, I have some very messy, complicated hurts and regrets associated with my wedding dress. Which, in the grand scheme of wedding things, is pretty lucky. I have no major regrets about the wedding itself, so I suppose I can sacrifice a wisp of fabric to the wedding gods. And frankly, I have no regrets at all about my choice of dresses. In fact, after all this ridiculousness, I am especially grateful that I only spent $265, including alterations, on my dress. I bought it off the rack at Nordstrom and it competed with any of the designer dresses I tried on along the way (and I tried on a lot).  The bottom line is that: I felt beautiful in my dress (and that sort of confidence is the most illuminating beauty of all), it was too cold to wear my dress without a shrug or get any associated photos, and my dress got destroyed. So thank goodness I didn't spend $10,000 on a dress.  Or even $1,0000. Because for me, it turns out that my wedding dress was even less important than I'd hoped for or expected.


  1. This is a really interesting post. It has just confirmed my own dress decision, which was to buy a dress that made me feel confident and beautiful and not one that was designer and "wow".

    I'm sorry for your destroyed dress. But your memory of it will only get rosier.

  2. I felt this post, only my issue is not my dress, it's my photos. I didn't like my photog that much as a person, but I thought he had the technical ability to get the good shots I wanted. Problem is, I was so stiff around him, that yes, he got some technically good shots, but they lack emotion.

    And then there are the shots that I really wanted that he half-assed. They are not technically good shots AND they lack emotion. It was the last half hour of his time with me, and he was done. Then, there's the lack of close up photos of just my husband and me - we have exactly one of those. There's nothing I can do about it now.

    I had also thought about a "rock the dress" photo shoot (on the beach, since it started raining and we had to nix that plan day of), but our wedding was magical, and there's nothing else that can recreate that. It's not the same.

    Would I have rather had a magical wedding or magical photos? That's not even a question. However, I'm still sad when I see my photos, or when I look at magnificent photos from other weddings.

    Time has made it better, but I may always be a little sad about that. I decided to let myself off the hook about being sad - the photos aren't what I wanted, I'm allowed to be sad about that, just like I'm allowed to be glad that our food and cake were delicious.

  3. @IRMcK - I am so sorry about your photographer and photography. I can only imagine it would feel crushing. There are a few photos I very much regret not taking (especially certain important portraits and people) but that was my fault and not the photographer's. So I can only imagine how it must feel for ALL your photos. And yes, I have allowed myself to be sad about those. They can't be recaptured. It's worth mourning a bit even as we remember to fully celebrate the real importance of what happened on the wedding day.

    Also, one thing I've learned is that - while I love my photos from Kelly, I also LOVE the photos I got from friends and family on facebook (even if they aren't always as flattering). They tell a different story of the day. They may not be perfectly composed or lit, but they have an energy and they document something raw and real. If you haven't tracked those down, DO IT. And then make an album with those photos that capture the heart of the day. I know one of APW's sponsors (a la carte albums) can make albums with a combo of pro and friend photos, and she'll photoshop friends' photos so they look more polished and album-worthy.

  4. I'm sorry you didn't get the dress shots you wanted. :( And I'm *very* sorry your dress was destroyed. With the knowledge that you had a beautiful wedding and that you have a few beautiful pictures of you in the dress (even though you can't see the details), hopefully that disappointment will fade over time.

    I'm still a little disappointed that we didn't spend more time taking better family photos or more traditional portraits. I didn't think they were that important at the time for some crazy reason, but now I wish I had a great picture of me and my husband that echos our old family wedding portraits a little better. That's not really something a trash/rock the dress shoot can do, and now I've sold my dress anyway. But I don't really think about it much anymore. We'll just have to take more family portraits in the future. :)

  5. I can't pretend to know what it's like to go through the saga of getting a wedding dress - after all, it took me no more than an hour at the Men's Wearhouse to find myself a suit I liked. And plus my fiancée was there with me, a funny sort of double standard, because I won't see her in her dress until the day of the wedding. But I wanted her there with me, partly because I don't trust my own style choices, and partly because I always want here there with me.

    But anyway, you say you didn't have a "gasp! wow!" dress, and I suppose that may be true in a sense. But by all appearances your dress was a simple, elegant, and truly beautiful piece of clothing that you loved. And that's certainly worth a gasp and a wow.

    As a final note, one of the things I've always appreciated about your blog and your perspective on weddings is that you really do respect the validity of how people feel, especially yourself as a bride. Your feelings about your dress are your own, and they are completely valid no matter what they are or what people say. You have conflicting and messy feelings surrounding your dress - but you know that, and you own it, and accept it. That's not easy to do.

  6. You look so beautiful in that last pic! And the light in the one where Jason is kissing your cheek is to die for, Kelly did a great job.

    The wrap is fab, and a beautiful colour, but I do understand your disappointment that it obscured your gown. I'm not sure I'm with you on not taking pictures with the dress and J's suit on after the wedding - have fun swirling it around in the woods with filtered backlight on your anniversary, or some day with spring blossom on the trees perhaps, bring back memories of your day and I presume you guys will still be quite fond of one another :D, so plenty of emotion there.

    Catherine xo

  7. That last pic almost makes up for the lack of "perfect dress" photos, so sweet & the bodice looks like a dream!

    But yeah, damn. So many things I wish I had shots of. & the dress being ruined!! Nooooooo!!!

    (Horror/Humor story - Sean's sister apparently had the plumbing at the hotel back up on her at the wedding, spraying her and her wedding dress with other people's feces. At least that didn't happen to you.)

  8. @Tamera - Thank you for the "oh cr*p" perspective on ways to ruin a wedding dress. Because, OH CR*P THAT IS SO MUCH WORSE.

  9. Oh, I'm so sorry about the destroyed dress and about missing out on satisfying dress photos. ::hugs::

    But selfishly, I love these pictures and I'm so glad you shared them. And I'm completely swooning over your necklace!

  10. there might not be a ton of them, but the ones you have are just...beautiful, becca. you look so ravishing, i can't believe how pretty your dress and hair and makeup rocked your wedding, lady.

  11. Thank you everyone. Really and truly. I know *exactly* how lucky we are with the photos we have. And your compliments on The Pretty (makeup, hair, necklace, glimpses of the dress) feel really nice. So thank you.

  12. Becca you look truly stunning.

    You need to mourn the lack of the beautiful dress photos, but don't ever forget what it felt like when you first saw yourself. I'm sure that memory will last a lifetime.


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