Burlap sack or bridal gown? Must read for MOBs (Mother of the Bride)
BY DEBBY CARROLL
“Why are you wearing that burlap sack?” asked my Aunt Essie, none too politely.
It was 1974; my wedding day and nothing about it was what I would have chosen, well, except for the groom and the dress.
My parents planned a traditional wedding for us while Ned and I dreamed of anything but. We were hippies and picturing marrying barefoot on a beach somewhere. Instead, we were married on a dreary Sunday afternoon in a charmless catering hall in Philadelphia.
But the dress was one I found in a shop that sold peasant-style clothing. I loved it; it cost $35. I knew my mother wouldn’t approve so I didn’t even invite her along while I shopped.
In retrospect, am I sorry I forfeited the one day in your life (if you’re lucky) you get to go all out bride and wear a wedding dress? Not exactly; but I do regret denying my mother, who died three years after my wedding, the day of joy that comes from shopping for a wedding dress with your daughter.
I experienced that joy with my first daughter and again this fall with my middle child, Tamra. My girls know how I shop so they were prepared for the way this Mom would hunt for the right dress, at the right price. I did my homework because I’ve heard lots of stories from fellow MoB (mothers of the bride) about wedding dress shopping trips resulting in drama, tears, and dismay. I know more than one MoB who schlepped to 20+ stores. Exhausting and exasperating!
This shopping trip should be fun and fabulous. I strongly suggest beginning the search with a warm heart to heart about expectations. First and foremost, remind your daughter the main focus of the wedding day is the marriage to the right partner, not what you wear. In truth, the gowns, as you can see here, are all pretty awesome and they look similar. It’s best not to make yourself crazy chasing perfection. If she finds one she loves, it’s a smart move not to wonder if there’s a better one out there somewhere.
First and foremost, remind your daughter the main focus of the wedding day is the marriage to the right partner, not what you wear.
Here are five tips to make the shopping experience easier.
- Bridal salons aren’t the only game in town. Consignment shops often have wedding gowns, as do thrift shops. Hell, anyone can buy retail; it takes talent to find a great dress at an awesome price. We only visited discount stores that sell samples and consigned dresses. We had plenty to choose from. Pictured here are a few of the dresses. (I promised not to reveal the final choice until after her May wedding!) I offered honest opinions as she tried on dresses but was mindful it was her wedding, not mine. Tamra’s opinion was paramount. And, her two sisters were with us. That’s about the maximum number of people who should come. I recommend not taking the entire bridal party. Too many opinions will muddle the mind.
- Take photos of each dress as she tries it on. The dresses may all run together in your memory. Photos help. You can take a photo of the price tag too.
- Have a game plan. We agreed we’d find a dress in one day. We made appointments at three stores and agreed to go to all. At the end of the day she’d choose the dress and we’d return to the appropriate store. Ultimately, she chose a dress in the last store anyway. We did agree, though, that if one dress at any point during the day was outstanding and she was ready to buy it, we’d do so and not look further. Keep the options flexible!
- Have a budget and make it clear. It’s easy to get swept up in emotion and overspend your budget. Don’t. You and your daughter should agree in advance how much you’ll spend. Tell the salesperson your maximum budget and instruct her not to show you any dresses beyond that price. It’s okay to give a range, “I’d like to spend about $300 but definitely no more than $800,” if that makes you more comfortable. There are gorgeous dresses in every price range. Know this, dress alterations can be costly, up to several hundred dollars in some cases. Factor that in to your budget. You can save money buying the headpiece online where they are much cheaper than in the salons.
- Call ahead. Most bridal stores, even consignment shops, suggest making an appointment. We made ours two hours apart to allow time for travel. We brought snacks so we wouldn’t forfeit precious time eating. In that call, find out if they have dresses in your price range. Know before you go.
Remember this, Mom. Your daughter will read your cues. If you go into this affair believing it will be fun and keeping the dress hunt in perspective, it’ll be a wonderful experience you will both cherish for years to come.
Want to share your dress shopping experience? We’d love to hear from you!