How I Chose My Wedding Dress (and The Ups and Downs with it Prior, Present and Post Wedding)

To be honest, I never thought about planning my wedding. I never thought of the theme, the location, the decorations. The only thing remotely planned was my wedding dress. Not because I was looking but because when I saw it, I said, “That’s the one.”

When I was in high school, I always wore a pearl necklace. I was the cliche’d teenage girl who watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s and fell in love with Audrey Hepburn. I attempted many times to replicate her style but alas, her slender and tall body pulled things off that my stout and petite one didn’t have a chance in. So, along with her influence, I went on my own path. I experimented with mod clothing, ballet flats, and even fell into the dreaded trend of skateboard attire (I mean, Avril Lavigne was SO COOL!). I got more into fashion and subscribed to Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and could call out the new trend before people started to catch on to it. Finally, I settled on one thing I knew I could always look flattering in… and those happened to be dresses. I hated pants (still do), I thought they were constricting. I loved how a dress was so flowy and feminine. No one ever looks bad in a dress.

So as I was flipping the pages of one of the many fashion magazines I subscribed to, I saw it one day. It was a Zac Posen, Ready to Wear, Spring 2013 gown and it was glorious. And I thought, “That’s the one.”

Fast-forward to four years later, where I found the man of my dreams and got engaged to him. We set a date and I started to plan. This planning included finding THE ONE!

Here’s the spoiler: Zac Posen no longer had that gown available. I contacted their customer support and they said that they can produce it again… for $20,000! As soon as I said that I couldn’t afford it, they ghosted me. Heart. Breaking. At that point, I couldn’t pout too long because what is a girl to do? My wedding was six months away!

So, how did I find my wedding dress? Instagram. Social media really is powerful, and I scoured the seas that is the Explore page to find a dress. I found it from a photo of a model looking like a stunning angel - a post from the designer, Galia Lahav. I immediately contacted them, found out they were having a trunk show the following week and went. They said that, because we were already six months out, there would be a rush fee but I negotiated with them and they said if I bought the dress that same day then it would be waived.

The people at their flagship store in Los Angeles are the kindest people I’ve ever met during a wedding dress fitting… granted, these were the only people I’ve met for a wedding dress fitting, but I was thoroughly impressed by their professionalism. Galia Lahav herself was there, and she too, was fairly kind (she did make a comment about the size of my ring, noting that it was too gaudy for her… but I mean, to each their own, right?). They went over a few dresses with me, grabbed the one (hi, angel dress!) and a few others, and we went to the fitting room. I should note, my mom, maid of honor and matron of honor were there to support me. I chose not to bring all my bridesmaids (although I sort of regret that) because I had heard that it can be more pressure when trying on dresses.

In the fitting room, a number of female strangers saw me naked, helped me put on thousands of dollars worth of dresses, and then helped me walk center stage, also known as on a platform, in front of a mirror, with my mom, sister and best friend sipping champagne and admiring the beauty that is Galia Lahav’s gowns.

I felt like an unqualified model about to walk the runway. Galia came by to admire her work too, and we all gazed at the details, along with other more personal details about me, as in how my boobs looked, how my waist looked, how I felt in the dress, what others thought of the dresses… I mean, it’s truly a scary and surreal experience. I got naked with the strangers a few times more, showed off the gorgeous dresses in front of my family and friend, and ultimately decide on the angel dress.

Out of all of the dresses, it actually did come down to two I really liked - the angel dress and a flower dress. Both were form fitting and had a particular wow factor that I was looking for. They were unique yet classy, and they both felt right. However, I was dead set on the angel dress and even though I wanted to sleep on it, I didn’t want to pay the rush fee. The total price, after the alterations and such were done, was almost half the price of the Zac Posen dress.

Before you shake your head in disapproval for the cost, look at the big picture. Each couple has to decide on a particular category to spend a little more on; the category that sets the tone for the wedding. It could be the flowers, the decorations, the food, whatever. What my husband and I decided was most important was the guest experience. So food was huge for us. However, for myself, I did budget a bigger number on my dress (as you know, fashion has played a big part of my growing up).

The range of what a bride spends on her dress can vary, from under $1,000 to over $20,000, and I don’t think any bride who chooses any of this amount should be judged for it.

One of the planners we interviewed even stated that she budgeted more on her look for the day - she hired a celebrity makeup artist and hair dresser - because she wanted to look and feel beautiful that day. No shame, ladies. Buy the dress you love (as long as you can budget it in and afford it!).

I wore the angel dress on my wedding day, and lo and behold, I was crowned a Disney princess to all of the little girls there. It was magical. I felt beautiful, I got a lot of “oohs!” and “ahs!”, and I knew the dress I had chosen was perfect for me.

- EPILOGUE -

The photos came in later, and I was so ecstatic that I sent them to the PR for Galia Lahav. Their response was very cliche, saying basically thank you for sharing. As an avid instagram user, I was a little disappointed that their enthusiasm didn’t go beyond the email. I looked at their page and noticed a trend - European, leggy models who probably weigh as much as me at 5’1, but they’re a foot taller. They were gorgeous goddesses who looked a little hungry…

So I responded to the PR. I said I noticed their page was filled with mostly European models, not real brides and added, “The company you work for can continuously choose those women to be featured, but I would like to add that they are not the only ones that look beautiful in those dresses.”

The PR responded, thanking me for my thoughts. I was so disappointed, not only for myself, but for every woman of color.

However, something did change… several months later, I stumbled upon their Instagram page again. I saw more women of color on it, and my heart skipped a beat. Although I was not chosen to represent their brand on their page, I was happy to see that others were (and I hope that trend continues).

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Needless to say, I’ve come to peace with my wedding dress journey. Just remember a few key things:

  1. The wedding dress fitting can feel intrusive, but you probably won’t see any of those people again and hopefully you’re in a shop where they make you feel good anyway.

  2. If you feel beautiful in it then you will feel beautiful in it on your wedding day.

  3. Be smart about pricing and don’t aim for a dress that you know will cost too much in the end.

  4. Even now, I still look at wedding dresses that I wish I wore, but that goes to show that there are so many stunning dresses, you can’t really go wrong!