A lot of people will give you advice about your wedding, general tips or sayings that they’ve heard over the years that sound nice but aren’t very useful. But luckily, I got great advice when I needed it and from someone who really knew best.
The biggest challenge I faced with my wedding was finding a dress. I knew I wanted something fitted in the waist, with a skirt of tulle, that hinted at etherial, and was not unlike a gown Grace Kelly would wear in an Alfred Hitchcock film. I tried on a few white dresses at the start, but with my dark hair and olive complexion, the color made me look pale and washed out. So, white was off the table, as was lace, and Monique Lhuillier for that matter – whose dresses all seemed over designed and with too many appliqués.
My wedding was in July, but I only seriously started looking for a dress in December, which is considered incredibly last minute on the “typical wedding timeline” you’re supposed to follow. Dresses take 6 months to make, and though my husband is convinced it’s that way to justify the high prices, I had to get down to business. Otherwise I’d have to pay extra to rush a dress, if I could even find one in the first place!
So, I was under the gun, and spent the days before Christmas doing furious wedding dress shopping with my maid of honor, my sister and my mother. Our first stop was the well known, New York City staple, Kleinfeld, where I found one dress that I loved. It was sheer, beige, and long sleeved on the top, with a white skirt of tulle. I felt pretty strongly that this was it.
However, I wasn’t sure about the sleeves. I never really saw myself as being fully covered, even though the sleeves were sheer, I figured it was better to ditch them. The wedding was in the summer and I felt a little too constricted. “Can they make it for me without the sleeves?” I asked. The saleswoman quickly told me no, they’d have to order it first, have it delivered, then remove the sleeves via alterations. I thought it could be done easily, of course, Kleinfeld’s alterations department is known to have excellent seamstresses, but it made me nervous to pay for everything upfront when I might not like the end result. I told the saleswoman I would think about it over the holidays and get back to her.
As I visited two other boutiques over the next three days and didn’t find anything, I started to sweat. There wasn’t anything I liked, and that dress was still swirling in my mind, so I called Kleinfeld to get more of the details. The dress would have to be rush ordered, which means I’d have to pay extra to get it by May, not to mention the $795 price for alterations. I was looking at a dress cost that was nearly doubled because of the rush, but I felt pressure to just secure something.
Luckily, my eldest sister Jennifer, a skilled fashion designer and graduate of Parsons, chimed in as soon as I told her. She ended up giving me the best advice I received from anyone during the whole wedding planning. “Do not buy anything you have to alter in any serious way,” she said. She claimed there was simply too much risk, particularly with delicate materials and beading, that the dress could end up a Frankenstein of what I wanted, and that without the sleeves, it might not look like I imagined. So that was it. I took her advice and kept looking, losing hope rather quickly that I would find anything else.
The next week after the holidays, a wonderful college friend encouraged me to go to Sak’s Fifth Avenue’s Bridal Department, where she had found her own dress. I quickly made an appointment, grabbed my maid of honor and kept my fingers crossed. I told the sales woman that I wanted something fitted at the waist, feminine, off-white, and with tulle, but nothing lacy and NO Monique Lhuillier.
A few minutes later, she brought back ten beautiful dresses, including ones I had asked to see that were out of my budget (of course!), some that were too form fitting, and others that were strapless. I was desperate, and willing to give everything a try at that point. But after a round of failures, she went to the back and gathered three more. I immediately saw one on the hanger and asked to try it on. “I thought it might work, we just got it in, it’s Monique Lhuillier though,” she said. It was a light blush, was covered in lace appliqués, and stunning. Everything I thought I wouldn’t like, wrapped up in the most perfect package. It was exactly the right price for my budget and I couldn’t have been more relieved. I loved it!
The dress could be ordered through the regular channels, without a rush fee, and I could have it shipped to my home after fittings so there’d be no sales tax. I’ll also let you in on a little secret: if you open a Saks credit card when you buy your dress, you get a 10% discount on the dress and everything else you buy for the wedding. The Severine dress, as it’s called, was about 50% more expensive than that first dress, but of much better quality, a bigger wow factor for the venue, and with all the extra charges from Kleinfeld, ended up being less expensive than the original dress I would have had to massacre. It was a no brainer.
Months later, when the dress finally came, I tried it on and guess what? It was a perfect fit. The saleswoman pulled up the zipper, took a look, and exclaimed that we didn’t need to change a single thing on the body – it fit just right. An inch off of the straps later, a trimming of the tulle along the hem, and I was ready to go. Finding that dress felt like the real fairytale ending!
So that would be my advice to you: find something you love, just as it is, and don’t lose hope if it takes a little extra effort. Works for more than just a wedding dress, don’t you think?
Did you ever have trouble finding the right dress for an occasion? Share with me in the comments below! To see more photos from the wedding, click here! And in case you’re wondering what’s with all the wedding posts, it’s just for this week, in honor of my first wedding anniversary! Thanks to my wedding photographer Greg Finck for the first, and last images.