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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Nelson

Being a Bride 101: Life is Short...Buy the Dress

Updated: Jun 3, 2019

My current back and forth thoughts on wedding dresses, and my own.

One of my favorite things as a wedding photographer is getting to see all the different styles of dresses each bride wears. They are always unique to the bride, to their day and always gorgeous. Watching as they see themselves for the first time, on their wedding day, in their dress and the smile that always shines through, is photo worthy every time.

Now, as a current bride, I must say that I have yet to find a part of wedding planning that isn't stressful, including wedding dress shopping. Let me walk you through my experience with finding "the one" and I don't mean my fiancé 😆

Unlike most brides, to my knowledge, I got engaged and then a month later was picking out my wedding dress. That is pretty darn fast according to my wedding planning book. Typically you pick your dress about 8 months out from the wedding. When I went shopping, we didn't even have a date set...

Anyways, the main reason that I wanted to go dress shopping was that my sister was going to be in town. She lives in New York and it was a no brainer that she had to be there when I picked my dress. So off to Davids Bridal we went. To really shine a light on my experience, I should mention a tiny fact. The day before my dress appointment we got tattoos together. I was less nervous about getting my first ever tattoo than I was about picking out my dress. I'm talking seriously not nervous at all about putting something onto my body that is permanent, and I was shaking, couldn't eat before, sweating my makeup off nervous walking into Davids Bridal. Maybe that's normal, but it seemed like an over reaction for sure.

My experience with dress shopping

So moving onto the actual experience of dress shopping. I went into the appointment with my bridal party and my mom for a total of about 7 people. It seems like a lot, but I trusted everyone to be kind and thoughtful with their opinions and I wasn't wrong. I also went in with 4 dresses that I knew I wanted to try on and then asked my entourage to pick out dresses for me. Long story short, I ended up in one of my picks, crying happy tears in front of the mirror. I was sort of surprised that I had that sought after reaction when it comes to dress shopping, but never the less, I did get that "oh my gosh! This is my dress" feeling. Not everyone has that reaction and that is totally ok! Overall, the act of finding my dress was a really wonderful experience even if I totally freaked out in the beginning.

However, about a month after it came in, I went to try it on and let me tell you, dress regret is a real thing.

Before I get into that, I want to talk about everything you should definitely know before you make the choice to buy your dress. The most important is understanding the return or exchange policy of the store where you purchase said wedding dress. I did not get clear on this, and man, it sucks when you have dress regret and you can't do anything about it.

According to Davids Bridal, for any bride who may want to shop there, all sales are final. There is a very small margin of assistance once it has been picked up and out of the store. My loose understanding is that you have a week to pick it up when it gets shipped to the store, and then maybe two weeks from then to have a change of heart. According to their website, a dress unaltered, with all tags, never worn or washed, can be exchanged or returned. However, they do not mention a time line. So when I was suddenly faced with intense wedding dress regret about 3 months from purchasing it, there was little to no chance of exchange or return. And before you say, "well you waited 3 months," none of what I mention above was ever mentioned to me after I purchased my dress. When I picked up my dress I asked when to start alterations and they said 2 months before the wedding is the typical timeline. So here I am thinking I have all the time in the world because it will remain unaltered for so long. When I went to try on MY dress, not the store one that has become stretched out, is when I was smacked in the face with dress regret.

Without mentioning much, I don't want the fiancé to get too good of a description of my dress, when I tried it on, certain aspects that fit perfect in the store, no longer fit. It was too small and I wasn't taking full breaths and felt like a seem would pop if I leaned just slightly forward. And then there were random places where it was too big and made my shape look all sorts of weird. Needless to say, I was suddenly standing in a dress that I really didn't like. I wont say hated, because I still love aspects of it.

Read the fine print

Suddenly faced with a dress so different, my first reaction was to call Davids Bridal and get into alterations as quick as possible. I will say, they did put my mind at ease and worked with my fit concerns. But when I got back to my house, I was hit again with dress regret. Whiplash, am I right? I went on their site and started looking at more dresses in different styles because I was convinced that my dress was no longer my dress. I felt like I had rushed into a style too much in my comfort zone and that I should have tried on more dramatic dresses. In an attempt to talk myself out of my dress regret, I went back to the photos that were taken from my first appointment and compared them to the new alterations photos. I will say this, the difference between lighting makes all the difference in the world. As a photographer I know this, but as a bride, I can only see myself standing in a fluorescent lite room surrounded by 180 degree mirrors. Under those conditions, anyone will look pretty different and probably not their best.

Suffering with dress regret

So, dress regret. What can be done about this? As of right now, I am still feeling some elements of dress regret so my advice is a little limited. However, my first words of wisdom are, stop looking at other dresses! Go back to that appointment when you picked your dress and relive those emotions, or the feelings you had when you picked your dress. For me, I was so happy and over the moon that I had found what felt like my perfect wedding dress, the I was brought to tears. So I forced myself to remember that feeling and realize that part of the reason I don't currently like my dress, is that it doesn't fit right. Once I get the alterations made, it will fit correctly.

Now, having said that, if your dress truly isn't the one, like you can feel it deep within you that it's not right, then stand up for those feelings. Call the store where you bought it and speak with someone who can help. Mention to them how you are feeling and be honest with them about your frustration and disappointment. Hopefully they are able to help because it's not just a dress. It is your wedding dress, and it has to feel right to you or it will always feel wrong and potentially could have an effect on your wedding day. You don't want something like your wedding dress to be the reason you are uncomfortable on your wedding day.

Whether you are about to go wedding dress shopping, or have already picked one out and might be feeling some dress regret, know that I am right there with you! I am going to consciously remind myself, that lighting has played a factor in my recent feelings towards my dress as well as it not fitting properly. And at the end of the day, I still feel like it is my dress and I will love it come my wedding day!

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