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I expected to like wedding dress shopping. I'm not sure why, since I don't consider myself much of a shopper in everyday life. Occasionally I'll get in the mood to shop, but it's typically when I'm eating lunch at my desk and I get an email discount from the Gap. Somehow, though, I expected wedding dress shopping to be different. I was a bride! I was going to find a pretty dress! I would would be as luminescent as the sun!

That's not at all what happened.

Like many brides, I started my search online. I perused Pinterest and repinned a few dresses, keeping in mind my body shape (curvy) and what I like to wear (no bling, lacy and simple). I fully expected to eventually purchase a dress with something covering my shoulders — I don't have arms like Jennifer Anniston, so why would a strapless dress look good on me?

My first dress shopping experience was to one of the wedding mega stores. I went just to browse. I ended up trying on a few dresses on, along the same styles that I had pinned. The first dress I came out of the dressing room in got the reaction I was hoping for — the ooooh, you look so beautiful! But when I looked in the mirror, I didn't see me. I saw a girl in a wedding dress, sure, but not me. I tried on a few others, and while there were a few I liked, I quickly got overwhelmed. I left the store feeling fragile, but also with a few ideas of what looked best on me in reality (strapless, who knew?).

My second shopping experience was a charity sample sale for Brides Against Breast Cancer. It's a fantastic organization, and I was eager to walk out of the sale with a steal of a dress, and having helped to support their efforts. My maid of honor and soon-to-be aunts-in-law were my support for the sale, and despite their no pressure attitudes, I became overwhelmed even more quickly than last time. I may have cried quietly in the corner.

It should have been a great experience — the volunteers were knowledgeable and kind, and I had three women that I adore cheering me on — but I only lasted about an hour. I tried on more dresses, several of which felt like Cinderella's sparkly fairy godmother dressed me, and all I was able to focus on was holding myself together. Despite the support I had in my corner of the penthouse, I wanted to sit on the floor and sob. I refrained.

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

(Not me.)

For me, and I suspect for a lot of other women, wedding dress shopping magnified every insecurity I've ever had. Body image issues, emotional issues, ev-er-y-thing. Each experience left me feeling overwhelmed at best, and on the verge of a breakdown at worst. I wanted to like it. But not only was it not fun, it was the antitheses of fun. It was decidedly un-fun. I didn't want to panic — one of the things I promised myself when Matt and I decided to have a “real wedding” was not to allow all of the planning and the details to overtake me — but after two shopping experiences I felt like I would never find something. I would never look into the mirror and see myself as a bride. I was destined to walk down the aisle in jeans.

So, as you can tell by the title of this post, I did find something. I found THE DRESS. How? Well, I did what worked for me. I removed myself from the stressful situations — from the women I didn't know telling me I looked oh so pretty and the Disney princess style dresses — and found the one. I followed one of my very favorite pins to, ordered myself a sample dress, and tried it on in my best friend's living room. And when I looked in the mirror I finally saw it. I felt how I was supposed to feel. I let go of the other experiences and my many insecurities and finally saw what I wanted to see. ME! I said yes to the dress!

How was your dress shopping experience? Anyone else feel overwhelmed like me?

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About Ashley

I'm Ashley, a 31 year old witty, sarcastic New Yorker planning a wedding on a studio apartment-sized budget in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I consider myself a Brooklyn girl, and I fell in love with a Queens boy, who I will marry on July 5, 2013. He's as witty and sarcastic as I am, and he's awesome.

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  • Well done on finding your dress, your way. I’m a bride-to-be too and really didn’t enjoy my first dress shopping experience. I expected happiness all round but the bridal shop assistant wasn’t nice at all and made me feel really uncomfortable! I think the expectations surrounding wedding dress shopping can be so high and therefore a potential recipe for disaster (even without negative assistants..)
    Great post and congrats! x

  • Thanks! For as much as I can spend a Saturday afternoon sucked into those bridal shows, I think they may have given me some unrealistic expectations for the magical experience I was supposed to have. Best of luck finding your dress – don’t hesitate to step outside of the bridal shop box!

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