One Awkward Wedding: Dress Shopping Tipz from an Expert

'ello. Me again! What's that you said? You want me to talk EVEN MORE about wedding dresses? OK!!!

I could talk about wedding dresses all the livelong day so I think I just might. Now that I've shared the oppressively long and detailed story of my own personal dress shopping journey, I wanted to share a few tips & observations I learned while out in the field. Magazines and wedding blogs always tell you the boring obvious stuff like "know what kind of dresses you like" and "make an appointment" and "don't eat spaghetti while trying on wedding dresses" but there's so much more to this magical process and the world needs someone to share the real dirt. I can be that dirt person!

- Be upfront about your budget. 

This might be obvious and covered by other people but I felt it bore repeating. For serious, y'all, just tell these people what you can afford and stick to it. One thing I was consistently impressed with at all of the stores I visited was how respectful they were of my financial limits. I was nervous we'd encounter that seminal Say Yes to the Dress moment where I'd set a strict line for the budget and then someone would haul out a $4,000 gown and I'd fall in love and have some kind of emotional crisis but not one of the consultants so much as attempted to pull that move. They kept ME in check, pulling me away from more expensive gowns and showing me comparable options within my price range.  I was grateful and surprised by this. Other places might not be the same but that's all the more reason to stick to your guns. Financially speaking. I wouldn't advise bringing actual guns into a bridal salon...

ALSO: if this means that Say Yes to the Dress isn't like real life...what else do you think TLC has been lying about?!!

- Wear nude underwear.

Nothing ruins the illusion of a schmancy white gown like hot pink polka dotted undies shining through on your behind. I realized that the only nude underbusiness I own was of the thong variety and didn't know how appropriate that might be in a semi-public dressing room situation, so the weekend before we went shopping, I spent several hours on Friday night sitting on the floor of Target digging through bins of nude colored underwear trying to find just ONE pair of full-booty coverage bottoms in my size. I managed to find two pair (pairs? I don't know grammar anymore!) that fit, so I snagged 'em and never looked back. Turned out that both were lace and fully sheer, negating the modesty I'd tried so hard to preserve. Shoulda just gone for the thong!

Related...

- KEEP IT SILKY SMOOTH

Let's just cut right to the chase: when you're going wedding dress shopping, you might want to make sure your  whole downtown area is in check, if you know what I mean. Now, obviously I believe in a woman's right to style or not style her body hair as she sees fit, society be damned, however due to said society, many women (for example me) might feel insecure, for better or for worse (undecided) being seen in her skivvies with an unkempt bikini area. SO if you are one of these ladies, you might want to spend an extra few minutes with your Venus Spa Breeze (not an endorsement, but would love some free razors if you're offering, Venus) before you hit the shops, because your business will be on display for many and I mean MANY eyes.

Which brings me to this...

-There Is No Time for Modesty.

In the course of my shopping weekend, I think my bresticles (and more!) were seen by no less than 9 pairs of eyes, some belonging to strangers, some to friends, none, PRAISE HIM to my future mother-in-law. I'm all for casual nudity but there are some situations where you might just want to keep a little mystery alive, you know?  

All of the consultants I worked with were polite and offered to look away but honestly, I figured get over it. Again, as I said, I'm not that concerned in general about a little nip-slippage, who cares, (oh you just KNOW I'm going to be such a self-righteous public breastfeeder some day) and especially in front of these women. It's like being insecure when you go to the gyno. These ladies probably see like 30 pairs of knockers per day, minimum, they are completely immune and genuinely uninterested by your hooters. You can try to play it coy but that'll just drag everything out and make the whole day slightly longer and more complicated so I say just get over yourself and let those boobies fly.

Maybe don't accidentally wear see-through underwear, though, this isn't Showgirls. Sorry, sweet lady at Lovely Bride...that can't have been pleasant.

- CREEP ON EVERYONE AROUND YOU.

Y'all. The VERY BEST part of wedding dress shopping is the other shoppers. It is like physically being inside an episode of Say Yes to the Dress. A DREAM COME TRUE! The very first boutique I went to was tiny and was just me (snooze) but all of the others had open dressing areas. Well, open posing areas, I mean. We changed in private rooms (now THAT would be some casual nudity) but then all of the mirrors were in outside of the dressing rooms, so that the bride's peeps could see her...as could everyone else in the room. It was flipping awesome.

It's important to surround yourself with people who share your interests and hobbies, which is why I choose to hang around people who love spying on and judging other people's business so you can trust my entire crew was deeply, deeply invested in the lives of everyone around us.

There was the gal at Lovely Bride who was trying on exclusively 4K + designer gowns...all of which were hideous...and the other gal beside me who kept trying on really pretty dresses but then pairing them with like, bad accessories or mis-matched veils and Schmoops and I had to physically restrain ourlseves not to just take over her whole fitting and yell "you're doing everything wrong!"

She totally was, though.

At David's on Sunday there was this super cute girl trying on all these short, retro looking gowns and we all kept staring at her and at one point I gave her a thumbs up when I really liked what she was wearing (is is never normal/smooth to give a thumbs up, just FYI), she then started trying on traditional gowns and we all got really nervous and worked up about it because she so clearly was working the short look better...what would she choose?! She chose short and we all cheered (outloud) and clapped for her and she was THE cutest and I love her. Beside her were two Asian girls who may or may not have been friends OR they were both alone and became friends there. Hard to tell. I kind of hope they became friends there and remain life long besties forever. Wouldn't that be a great romantic comedy?! They kept swapping gowns and trying on the same looks. In our super humble, totally correct opinion, all the dresses they were trying were snooze worthy.

RK Bride was the best though, obviously. I mean, that place was out of control. At any given moment like 10 women were trying on wedding gowns and everyone was crowded around staring at them. I was sharing a 3 way mirror with the woman in the changing room next to me and according to my crew, she was having like a legit SYTTD experience. One of the members of her party, who turned out to be her Mother in Law, kept harshing on all of her choices and the consultant literally said "This is about you. This is your day. Not theirs."

Aaaaah! I die.

The next day when we went back to pick up my gown we had pah-lenty of time to kill just standing around like morons while the staff looked for my dress. We became BFF with this group of women shopping for a dress for a wedding the week after mine. We were suuuper invested in her search and she picked the dress we all liked the best!!! But then I found out she was having a beach wedding and I found her gown too formal for a beach wedding and was super upset she didn't ask my opinion first because I thought we were pals?! Girllll why don't you listen to my advice??

Thennn we went to Heartland Brewery near Port Authority to get burgers (unsurprisingly, the very worst burger I have ever eaten...here I thought the bus station was known for their haute cuisine) and who was seated at the table next to us but ANOTHER future bride we had been all up on that day! She and her mom were sharing a piece of cake (cuuuute!) and we basically accosted them, yelling "OH MY GOD HI!! You looked so beautiful! Did you pick a gown?!"

Annnnd they just stared at us in shock/horror and we had to introduce ourselves as fellow RK shoppers who had been staring at them the whole time she was trying on gowns and that's not weird at all. So lesson within the lesson: keep your stalking under wraps, you creep.

It was seriously so much fun. I half-jokingly but actually mostly seriously would consider just going and hanging around one of these salons some day just so I can spy on people buying dresses. Seriously I will do it. Would you like to come with me?!!

Ok, enough is enough, I will stop talking about wedding dresses now! I swear. Hopefully these essential, life-saving tips might come in handy for someone, somewhere, someday. Probably not but I just really like giving unsolicited life advice, so there ya go.

XOXO Liz

One Awkward Wedding: Get Down with the Gown

Excitement abounds, you guys. I have officially made the most important decision a woman could ever make in her whole life: I've said yes...to a wedding dress! SQUEE!

I lead with sarcasm because I continue to allow the feminist internet to give me deep guilt and anxiety over all of my wedding-related enthusiasm but there's no need to rehash that here. I'm quitting Jezebel, I swear.

Onward!

A few weekends ago I set out on an epic gown shopping excursion, visiting five stores in the course of three days and, spoiler alert: settling on a winner. The initial plan was to shop in  Lancaster and Elizabethtown, but a colleague suggested I should look here in NYC, as there might be more selection. To this suggestion I said "why thank you, I shall calmly and rationally consider this idea."

Juuuust kidding. I flew into a tailspin of worry and second-guessing and frantic g-chatting but I'll spare you all those details and just cut right to the fun stuff.

Joining me this weekend were my three "bridesmaids" (don't worry I have a whole long story coming about why I don't like the term "bridesmaid"... don't you just love me?), who are my sister Marge and friends Kathleen and Maureen and my Schmoopster, obviously, and I invited Brian's mom, too. I wasn't sure if she would say yes but sure enough, she did, so we were quite the crew. I was having a lot of emotions over bringing such a large group with me...was I putting too much emphasis on an antiquated gendered ritual enforcing the belief that a woman's value is only in her appearance?! Was everyone going to get bored? Were they going to resent me for forcing them to spend a day thinking about ME ME ME?

Possibly, no and NO.

If you're thinking "wait, I thought I was going to read about wedding gowns, why are you still talking about your insane emotional problems?" Um...are you new here?

Fine, fine, I'll get to it! This story is so effing wordy, I'm going to break it up into chapters to give the allusion of a break from the monotony. BUCKLE UP.

CHAPTER ONE: FRIDAY

My mom came up Friday afternoon and I left work early for "an appointment" which was not a lie AT ALL but also possibly misleading them to thinking I was caring for my health when in reality, I was on a shopping spree. (Again, I'm checking the mail daily for my Employee of the Year plaque. Do you think maybe FedEx lost it, or they have the wrong address?) We met downtown and visited two stores, just us. The first store was Saja Boutique on Elizabeth Street in NoLita. It was a super cute boutique carrying just this designer's wedding and bridesmaid dresses. They were all lovely - ethereal and floaty and flattering - but nothing super exciting. They'd be ideal for a beach our outdoor wedding or for anyone who doesn't want to look so traditionally "bridal." Turns out, despite the feminist internet, I definitely want to look bridal. So sue me.

Next up: Lovely Bride in Tribeca. This store was so gorgeous, it was like Anthropologie and Style Me Pretty had a baby - all glitter and chandeliers and vintagey details. I loved it and want to live there. Do you think they'd notice? It was essentially one long room - the front was partitioned by sparkly curtains and mirrors into a series of dressing rooms and in the back, they had racks and racks of gowns. We sat down with a consultant named Lauren who reminded me of a less obnoxious Natasha Leggero and talked about my likes and didn't likes and  most importantly budget and then she took me to the back to pick out some gowns to try on.

I tried on maybe 6 or 8 dresses here and was surprised to discover that many of the dresses look awesome. It helps that they pin and pull them so they fit you perfectly and your boobs are at once securely caged and perky and it's hard not to get swept up in the enthusiasm of the whole "IT'S YOUR BIG DAY!" scene, giving every gown an extra bit of oomph. I thought that trying on wedding gowns would be more  of a traumatic and painful experience...it definitely helps that I'm so vain and love staring at myself in mirrors.

My two faves here were a sparkly strapless number, which looked unlike anything I ever would have picked for myself (I'm more into a slim, sophisticated look) and this super cool slinky textural slip dress that looked like it was covered in little petals which was gorgeous but ultimately maybe not quite "me." At this store we were allowed to take photos and my mom brought her new tablet (a Christmas present from her perfect angel children!) and used that to snap photos...I felt like Michelangelo's David in the middle of a Japanese tour group.

It was awesome.

Here are some unflattering photos from this day. Schmoops is a gold medalist at cutting off heads in photos.

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We then went home to my house and drank wine and ordered Thai food and it was delightful! Dee-light-ful.

CHAPTER TWO: SATURDAY

Saturday was the big Ladiez Day on the Town, as it were, with my whole motley crew of attendants. Today's plan was to hit up this gigantic gown emporium in Midtown Manhattan called RK Bridal. It is impossible to accurately describe this place with words, so I will provide visual explanation by way of the hit 90's television program Friends. Perhaps you've heard of it?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUMHDW3xG0M

I'm going to just assume you watched that whole thing and not get into summary but basically this place was a war zone hellscape. They do not take appointments, instead keep a sign up list in order of arrival, with groups waiting over an hour for a dressing room. While you wait, you can roam among the room, which is packed to the gills with racks on racks on racks of wedding and bridesmaid gowns. It is insane and stressful and horrifying and not quite the classy champagne-sipping experience you might dream of, but they do have a huge selection of gowns at a variety of price points so if you have a high threshold for insanity and know what you're getting into, I'd recommend it!

I was prepared. I had a bag of nuts, a bottle of water, a list of gowns I wanted to try on and five minions to help me find them. The store opens its doors at 9:30 AM so we arrived at 9. It was freezing cold and mildly drizzling as we huddled together like refugees on the sidewalk outside of the store. Eventually a staffer opened the main doors and allowed the congregated groups to move into the store vestibule. She passed around a list for brides to sign up...I was 6th. By this point other crowds of women were beginning to pour in and I was getting hella anxious. I get extremely stabby and stressed out in social situations where there is no order, like waiting for a dryer at the laundromat or trying to get on the subway in the morning. (Or basically all aspects of living in New York City...why do I live here again?)

At 9:30:01 a staffer pulled open the doors and bellowed: "YOU MAY COME IN!"

It was like the running of the motherflipping bulls, you guys. Everyone just started sprinting into the store in a gigantic herd. Imagine that scene in Titanic when they're all running for the lifeboats. A staffer was standing on a chair directing traffic - women shopping for wedding gowns were to head one direction, those looking for bridesmaids were to head another. We raced to the dedicated bridal zone, where yet another staffer was standing on a chair attempting to control the crowd. "IS YOUR NAME ON THE LIST?" She yelled? Several sad women who had yet to sign up pushed to the front, only to find themselves already on the second page. Once they'd gained control of the room, they began to read down the list name by name, assigning each bride to a dressing room and an attendant. I was in the first wave of rooms (BOOYAH) to be assisted by a woman named Janice.

Janice won't appear much more throughout this story - she talked with me briefly about my likes and dislikes and then set out to find me some gowns...she'd sporadically reappear to help me in or out of some gown or just sort of stand around staring while one of my peeps did her job for her. She was ... fine. I don't want to throw shade, but she could have been marginally more helpful.

Unimportant. Who needs ya, Janice. We had our own crew. This was when I really appreciated having this group with me - my crew and I fanned out throughout the store, in search of specific dresses I'd had in mind or others that seemed up my alley. I assigned Maureen the special task of bringing me stylish stuff I might not usually go for (she's a very snappy dresser!) and we all combed through the racks of gowns, pulling out our faves.

You were not technically supposed to take photos in this store, so I don't have any snaps of me (I know, you're like WHAT! We need more and more photos of you standing awkwardly alone in ill-fitting white gowns with your head cut off. Well sorry, guys, I can't help you here.) but did sneak a few of the scene:

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I tried on maybe 7 dresses here - a variety of different styles and cuts and once again I loved it. I meannnnn, standing around on a raised stage wearing a gorgeous gown while a crowd of people tell me how beautiful I look...um, sign me up to do this forever, please. Of these gowns, I was down to two favorites, but there was always one that stood out for me. There was no "oh mommy" (ugh) moment, no one cried, but I will admit, I'LL ADMIT that when I sipped into this particular gown ...I knew. I could see it accessorized, see it in photos, walking down the aisle. This was (probably!) THE ONE...but I wasn't quiiiite ready to commit.

First,we had to get the HELL out of that store and get some brunch. Ladies be brunchin'!

This was actually my favorite part of the weekend (even more favorite than all that spotlight time!). The six of us went to a cute little Italian restaurant near the store and got a great booth in the corner. They had delicious food and bottomless mimosas - something Brian's mom had never seen before. Needless to say, her mind was blown. We sat there for several hours just eating and drinking and laughing and it was just so nice. I felt very honored and special and loved to be spending the day surrounded by the most important women in my life, knowing they were all there to spend time with me.  It was a fantastic day and I loved every second.

Well, until  we split up and went home and I had my first Official Bridal Meltdown over the budget and guest list but that's another novella for another day. You're dying with anticipation, I'm sure.

One day left! Is anyone still reading this? OH WELL, no stoppin' me now.

CHAPTER THREE: SUNDAY

I woke up Sunday 99% set on the dress from HK Bridal the day before, but wanted to make one  more pit stop to that mecca of the WIC: David's Bridal. We had an 11 AM appointment at the David's flagship store where I did try on a few legit possibilities but mostly just took advantage of the opportunity to goof around.

My girls have this bridesmaid thing on lock, already showing up places in matching outfits:

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Well done, ladies.

Meanwhile, I tried on as many non-Liz dresses as I possibly could...like this ballgown:

image (1)

Which was actually gorgeous! But so not me. Too much fabric. How do you pee? And I couldn't go that voluminous...you've seen how slim my groom is. He'd be hidden!

I also tested out this sensual number that had like, chiffon wings flowing from the back. I made a turban. You like?

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And finally this severe trumpet number which admittedly did make my bod look pretty smokin...from the knees up.

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Better women than I have worn and will continue to wear these style gowns but they always make me think of the feather duster from Beauty and the Beast. Which, despite her obvious sex appeal, is not a compliment. Also, eating, dancing and walking are kind of my main priorities for my wedding (and life) so I remain miffed by this whole trend.

(No offense if you like this style!! To each their own! I'm sorry! How do critics live with themselves?!)

And here's my crew for the day. Maureen is on notice for not adhering to Bridesmaid Dress Code. One more stunt like that and she is OUT of the bridal party!

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After about an hour of being weirdos, we decided nothing at David's was speaking to us and hauled booty back up to RK to make things offish with my chosen gown. The designer I chose was actually 10% off all weekend at RK (booyah!) so our gal Janice told us that as long as we came back a half hour before their 3:30 PM close on Sunday, we could just cut right to the front of the line and grab the dress at the sale price. AGAIN not throwing her under the bus here, but she was apparently semi-misunderstood...another attendant told us I had to put my name on the bottom of the full long list which at this point in the day was at about 640,000. Luckily some manager did intervene and said that since I was just trying on one dress I could cut the line. I'm sure that the promise of a swipe swipe of the ol' Visa had nothing to do with this decision. Now all they had do to was actually find my dress which was  nowhere to be found. Our group poured through the racks. The attendants searched every dressing room, accosted every other woman holding an armful of white fabric, looked over and under and everywhere and they could not find my dress anywhere.

Then a full hour later, just as I was on the verge of an epic hanger and stress meltdown, they realized they had another version of the same dress hanging in the back room the whole time and, oh, would I like to just try that one one?

UM YES PLEASE.

I stepped into an empty dressing room and slipped into the beautiful gown and as I caught my reflection in the mirror, I quietly began to sing Shania Twain's masterpiece "You're Still the One" ...to myself...and then the whole store joined in, a cacophony of voices ringing out through the store and many people were brought to dramatic weeping over the beauty of  it all.

Juuust kidding that definitely did not happen. But I did buy the dress! Well, not this actual dress, this was just a sample, mine is being made by tiny child slaves somewhere in Asia as we speak (I do hate myself, don't worry) and will arrive in the store for me to pick up in a few weeks. Yay!

It was a ridiculous weekend but in the end, I was super happy and y'all, I looked AWESOME I'm not even going to pretend to be humble about it, I looked effing stunning. We were allowed to take photos of the final dress selection, which I stare at daily on my computer but won't show here because I need to keep rolling this suspense out for 6 more months. It looks very similar to a gown that a married friend of mine wore in her wedding...but I won't tell you which friend!

And that, my fine friends, is that. WHAT an epic tale of shopping and social anxiety and female bonding time! I have a LOT more to say about wedding dress shopping in general which I shall share with you tomorrow (STAY TUNED!!) but for now, I bid you all adieu.

1 Million Hugs to all who read this whole thing. You must be very bored at work!!!

xoxo Liz Ho