Despite an accidental tea-length mishap and panicked attempt to cancel the skirt....my third dress is still the dress of my DREAMS. As soon as I got engaged, the most exciting part of planning was imagining my dress. I looked through dozens of different wedding magazines, folding corners of pages that inspired me. Then, I looked up the price of each and came up with designers that fit that vision, but weren't $10,000....because that was way out of our budget.
After pinning ~all the pins~ on Pinterest and feeling happy with my combined vision board, I started thinking about what I wanted my bridal dress shopping experience to look like. Because I had modeled bridal gowns for several years back in Ohio, I had seen myself in just about every shape and style. I saw the super conservative, the glitzy, the see-through bodice, the elegant and the dresses that were hybrids of some of the above. Here's a few of those gowns from over the years, but if you're going to look at them you have to excuse the terrible quality of flip phones that we had back then and agree to laugh at baby Carley.
Apparently it's bad luck or something to be in a wedding dress before you're actually a bride, but modeling for Kotsovos in Cincinnati, OH was one of the best jobs I've ever had and I'm just going to assume I wore their gowns enough that it all cancelled out. I mean, I ended up with Jon, clearly I can't have too bad of luck. LOVE HIM.
Anyways, where were we? Ah yes. After looking at what worked and didn't work on my body and analyzing all the magazines and Pinterest boards, I wanted to make sure I had my favorite people around me when I got to go try on dresses for REAL life. What was most important to me was having my parents, my three sisters, and my two friends who became sisters after growing up together. Because two of my sisters had just had babies and we are split up between different cities, the weekends we were all in the same city were limited.
We ended up going to look in Columbus (where two of my sisters live) instead of in Chicago (where the other 2 of us live) because we all happened to be there one weekend. I did a ton of research on the best bridal stores for my budget with my favorite designers and ended up making appointments at La Jeune Mariee and Henri's Bridal. La Jeune Mariee had incredible reviews and my sister's best friend went there, so we booked that first. Then, all of my friends I made doing Miss Ohio USA got their stage gowns at Henri's, so I knew they had amazing stylists.
I was lucky and found my dress at La Jeune Mariee, pictured above, which I just have to rave about. They gave us cupcakes, champagne, and the cutest sitting area and dressing room corner. Taylor was my stylist and is honestly one of the best humans ever. She is in my top 3 favorite vendors I had for my entire day!! We ended up cancelling at Henri's after finding my dress, who charged us a small fee, but it was worth it to find my dress.
If you're deciding when or where to get yours, remember:
some places make the dress from scratch which can take up to 6 months to get delivered
you will want to account for 2 months to have alterations
if you have time, definitely add in a buffer there for mishaps!
do your research and start with a few appointments, even if you have to go again with a smaller group or on your own
be open to shapes you did NOT have on your vision board
Fun little story: July seemed early because it gave me over a full year before the wedding, but thank goodness we found it that day because they accidentally ordered my dress with the wrong length and needed to start from scratch in January! I went to try it on, so ecstatic to finally be in the dress that wasn't clipped in the back.....and the designer had made it in a regular length. I'm 6 feet tall soooo you could see my lower calf and ankles and feet. Not a cute look. La Jeune Mariee worked with the designer, however, and got the correct length made with an express flag on the order. It ended up coming in May, just in time for me to plan alterations and get everything squared away.
Alright -- I'll stop talking about how amazing La Jeune Mariee is if you promise to look there Ohio brides. Back to the shopping day! I personally went in knowing I wanted a mermaid or trumpet gown, that I wanted to play around with lace and no lace, and that I wanted some kind of over-skirt. First we tried on this plain one, which I thought was so classy and elegant but it left me wanting more.
Next, we added a simple over-skirt to see if that gave me the "oomph" I was looking for:
I still felt like I needed to try others to compare! Perhaps a funkier over-skirt would have done it, but I have to believe it all happens for a reason or we would all try on 400000 dresses in all different cities and states and that's just not realistic y'all.
I tried on this pretty lace, long sleeve one after that I don't have any photos of because I had everyone delete them after haha. My best friends, knowing me well, kept a few so this is all we got!
Finally, the third dress tried on was THE dress we bought! I first put on the lace mermaid gown by WTOO and, ummm, melted. Then, they added the simple over-skirt you see above. That didn't seem like the perfect fit, so my sister suggested a more unique over-skirt and BOOM we had it.
After we all cried and were loving the combo we had chosen, they asked me "Are you saying yes to the dress?!?" and I responded through tears "It depends on the price." After we all burst into laughter, we talked about pricing with my Dad who was the ultimate owner of my dress budget. After finalizing that it was a fit, we toasted with champagne and it was exactly what I would have pictured for this *magical* moment based on TV shows I watched and day dreams I had had.
But afterwards, if you're even peppered with indecisiveness, you might have moments of doubt like I did. At one point I called the salon and was like CANCEL THE OVERSKIRT. To which they responded, "we already ordered it, it'll be okay, just see if you like it when you come in and we can always re-sell it at our reduced luxury store." I never told anyone that so if my parents are reading this now, don't worry, I ended up loving the over-skirt more than anything hahaha.
As the months go on, you might even see other dresses that you wonder about or start questioning if you'll still like it after all this time. However, hold true on what you chose! You wouldn't choose something if it wasn't right and what was meant for you doesn't miss you. Wait for it to come in because guess what? There are a bazillion dresses out there that you didn't try on, but logically you chose what you thought was best based on your budget, body type and the options available to you based on where you live. At the end of the day, it's just a dress you'll wear for a day. Make sure you're obsessed with it, but chances are we will ALL look back in 45 years and think of at least one thing we'd change about our wedding. That's just life and the evolution of our personalities, opinions and maturity!
Lastly, if you try on your dress when it comes in and you absolutely loathe it? Don't force the magic. Sell that ASAP to a reduced wedding dress store and go to a place like BHLDN that takes less time to ship or a bridal boutique that will let you buy your size off the rack to save the time. It's the madness of wedding planning that makes the good memories and stories, so do what you have to do. Won't be the first task that's chaotic and surely won't be the last.