When I got engaged last December, I prepared myself for all of the usual questions: How did he propose? Have you set a date? What venues are you looking at? But the one question I didn’t expect to get from nearly every close friend and family member: Can I go with you to try on dresses?
Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m not having bridesmaids. Or tossing my bouquet. Or doing that garter thing. I’m probably not even having a first dance. In fact, my fiancé and I aren’t going to do anything at our wedding just for the sake of tradition. If something doesn’t immediately feel like us, we’re ditching it in favor of something else we love (goodbye, DJ; hello, six-piece jazz band).
But above all, I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s expectations of what a wedding dress is “supposed” to look like. My mom got married in a long-sleeved lace gown. My aunt tied the knot in a poofy taffeta number (hey, it was the ’80s). My best friends have worn all sorts of wedding dress styles, featuring everything from rhinestones to halter-tops to 30 pounds of princess tulle. I’m easily swayed by other people’s opinions, and as much as I love my family and friends, I knew I’d have a hard time sitting in a room with all of them, trying to make an important decision while navigating their differing tastes and the memories of their own weddings.
“Above all, I didn’t want to be influenced by anyone else’s expectations of what a wedding dress is 'supposed' to look like.”
So I went rogue. I told everyone I wasn’t sure when I was going, then secretly booked a bunch of week night appointments for myself. Just me. Alone. Solo. I live in New York City, so I had no shortage of shops to try. The places on my shortlist? Schone Bride, BHLDN, Lovely Bride and Catherine Deane, which all had flowy, bohemian dresses in my price range.
The first major plus: It’s a hell of a lot easier to get a last-minute appointment to try on dresses if you can go alone on a weeknight. Plus, because the dressing rooms are usually designed for more than one person, you’ll have a ton of space to spread out and lots of personal attention from the salespeople. At all four stores, the attendants were more than happy to take a few — fine, a dozen — photos of me in every dress and talk me through my feelings on each one I tried.
Yep. My feelings. Unlike so many “Say Yes to the Dress” reruns, where the bride is reduced to tears in the dressing room after watching her parents, aunts, best friends and cousins bicker through a marathon of dress shopping, I only had my own thoughts to contend with. Best of all, my life is usually so busy, making the time to casually try on fancy dresses felt luxurious, like getting a massage or going to the spa.
I have to admit, I did sometimes feel a little intimidated walking into these showrooms alone. At Lovely Bride, most of the other rooms were filled with at least five friends and family members, talking and laughing. As I read my book quietly in the waiting area, I started to feel a tiny bit lonely. But as soon as I was whisked into a room of my own, trying on beautiful dress after dress, I completely forgot I was flying solo and had so much fun.
After narrowing it down to a few possible contenders, I finally found the dress of my dreams in Catherine Deane’s beautiful, quiet showroom. It was the one. I knew immediately, 100 percent, no doubt about it. My fabulous dress guru Lisa gave me a celebratory bottle of Champagne to take home — which I, of course, drank by myself. I’d earned it.
Sure, it’s always risky shopping solo. Maybe I picked out the wrong dress, and it’s going to result in some sort of major wardrobe malfunction or VPL situation on my wedding day. But barring any potential disasters, I’m so excited to surprise not only my fiancé, but my amazing family and friends, with the most perfect dress in the universe. You know, IMO.