When I first started looking for a wedding dress I wrote on my travel blog about the experience. I’ve come a long way since then. I went from thinking “my dream dress will look exactly like this, now I just have to find it!” to “which one of these dresses will work for me?” This shift in attitude took nine visits to bridal shops on two different continents. Totally normal experience, right?
(That’s me, on one of my first dress shopping trips. That’s confusion painted on my face!)
In that first blog post I described my dream dress as a “totally bad ass work of art piece of clothing.” I threatened that, could I not find such a garment, I would hop down to Zara and buy a little white number and call it a day. I thought finding the perfect dress was simply a matter of spending enough money, building the perfect Pinterest inspiration board, scouring bridal shop web sites, and combing through rack after rack of gowns.
How very wrong I was.
Here’s how it works in the real world: Not everything you see on Pinterest is attainable. Not just because of money (although I was heartbroken when I learned the price of this little Oscar de la Renta) but because what happens on the runway doesn’t filter downstream as fast as you might think. Bridal fashions change very little year to year, until very recently colour was mostly non-negotiable (except if you’re Vera Wang! go Vera!) and most bridal gown silhouettes would make Walt Disney proud. To colour outside the lines in bridal fashion is hard. And living abroad doesn’t make it any easier (not that I expect any pity, I know how lucky I am to be here!)
But you live in Europe! you say. Capitals of fashion abound! True, but I live on a small island, where sheer demand simply doesn’t support an avant-garde bridal scene. And jetting off to Paris for a weekend to wedding dress shop? That’s a little too indulgent, even for me.
Why don’t you just buy online! you say. I learned the hard way that shopping online from Europe is expensive – import taxes can make purchases painfully pricey, and a wedding dress would be no exception.
Why don’t you buy at home in Canada! you say. Well, I tried. Back when I thought we would host a large New Years Eve wedding I thought I could order a dress in Canada and have it altered there a few weeks before our wedding. But it turns out we’ll only be in Canada a few days before we say our I do’s, and I’m not sure many seamstresses/tailors would agree to such a tight deadline. (And why put the added stress on them, or me?)
So I was left looking at local bridal shops (or Zara) on the little island of Malta where I live. And I tried the Zara route, I really did. I tried cocktail dresses, sundresses, and separates. I tried to convince myself that I would feel better in a frugal dress, that I could over come that little bit of disappointment I felt bubbling up by focusing on the savings. But I had that gnawing feeling that, like many other milestones in my life, if I bucked tradition too much on this one I would end up regretting it. Yes, it’s self-indulgent, but I want to feel like a bride. And I just didn’t in a cotton sundress, or a silver sequin mini dress.
So I was back at the racks of fluffy, sparkly, white concoctions that could pass for cupcake costumes in a bakery themed musical. And the only thing that saved my sanity was to stop looking for what I thought I wanted and start being open to the options that were in front of me. Which one of these dresses can work for me?
That shift in mindset saved me a lot of agony and anxiety. If you have a vision in mind that you just can’t find, I highly, highly recommend it.
Check back soon for “What it’s like to go wedding shopping abroad”!
Image via Mike & Jess in Malta