If I never see another episode of Say Yes to the Dress it will be too soon. I know that this is probably shocking coming from a girl who is writing a wedding blog, but the show is just too intense. Have you seen the episodes where mothers and MOHs square off against each other? Or where the bride breaks down in uncontrollable tears? Or, my personal fave, where people who are not the bride put on a bridal gown and strut their stuff down the showroom floor? I survived my wedding dress shopping experience with fairly minimal stress and I’m here to tell you how I did it.
I am a 6 foot 1 female who wears a size 10 bottom and a small or medium top, depending on the bust and the length of the shirt, of course. I know that my posterior is bigger than the average and thanks to my husband (and a lot of self talk) I have come to embrace that…for the most part. All that being said, I knew that my search for a wedding dress had the potential to be a challenge but since I wasn’t about to resign myself to wearing a pants suit to my wedding, I knew that I had to rise to the occasion.
First, my list of what they should actually tell you on “Say Yes to the Dress”:
1. Bridal Salons do not serve champagne – at least not in Ontario. They are not liquor licensed so just do yourself a favor and have a shot before you go. I did (more than once).
2. Wedding dress sizes are NOTHING like normal sizes. I decided early on that the only numbers I was going to be concerned with were the ones on the price tag. To imagine that women actually insist on squeezing themselves into a size 8 just so they don’t have to get into double-digit labels is heartbreaking.
3. Your very naked body will be seen by another human being that is not your partner or your doctor. Also, you may start to sweat. Don’t panic – this will make the sweating worse.
4. Find a decent bridal consultant and actually listen to them. Experienced consultants have dealt with every shape, size, dress, and designer – they know their business! I realize that all consultants aren’t cut from the same taffeta cloth but when you find a great one, trust them.
5. Seeing yourself in a wedding dress can be very different from what you imagine. Bring a couple of photos of what you like and if your heart is set on trying on a specific dress, call ahead to make sure the salon actually carries it. Other than that, keep an open mind about your options.
When you’re ready to get out into the real world and try some things on, I recommend reading some store reviews before you book appointments (by the way, I strongly recommend that you book appointments). As you would with TripAdvisor or Urbanspoon, take opinions with a grain of salt (mine included) but pay attention to experiences that discuss customer service, pricing and alteration reviews. Here are 3 stores that I checked out in the Greater Toronto Area:
Jealous Bridesmaids (Toronto) While I’m not a fan of the store name, the service was excellent and thorough. The consultant was very kind and my mother, MOH, and I had a misty-eyed, “Say Yes to the Dress” moment with one of their gowns. While I didn’t end up buying from them I would suggest checking them out, particularly during a sale. (Note: they recently moved to a new location with a much larger selection)
Sophie’s Gown Shoppe (Mississauga) Picture this: I was pretty much stark naked in the fitting room, trying to shimmy and jiggle my way into gowns that would not fit over my bum and hips. Honestly, I was on the verge of tears when the consultant entered with more dress options and said: “Man! I didn’t realize you were so hippy!” Ummmmm, WHAT?! Let’s put this in the category of things you should NEVER say to a half-naked bride-to-be that can’t get into any of the dresses that you’re bringing for her. For the record, I came to the store wearing a completely fitted dress – my figure was literally (and proudly) on display! Oh, and FYI to that consultant, putting a gown over someone’s head does not change the fact that the dress won’t fit over their hips (insert straight face emoji here).
Best For Bride (Etobicoke): This place was my safe haven. Gordanna is the consultant to see, ladies – she is hilarious, experienced, knowledgeable and all around amazing. When I first visited the store, I was there with my MOH helping her try on dress options. When Gordanna asked me what my dress looked like, I sheepishly told her that I hadn’t purchased one. She asked me to stand up, took one look at me, and said “I have the perfect dress for you.”
I tried to dodge her, I really did. I told her that I had had a tough time with some other consultants, she told me that I was ridiculous. I told her that I was too “hippy”, she told me that I had a body that was made for a wedding dress.
The store’s method for selecting gowns is really low pressure. Gordanna handed us a bunch of clips and advised us to place one on all of the dresses that I wanted to try on. I tried on one of everything, including the ones that I thought were hideous, and when I was done playing dress-up Gordanna pulled a stunner out of her tickle trunk.
No, I didn’t buy my dress that day and yes, my mother was entirely unimpressed that I tried on dresses without her. But several weeks, too many appointments, and countless dresses later, I returned to the original one that Gordanna had selected for me. I had to order it two sizes bigger than I normally would, significantly take in the bodice, order two extra inches of length, add crinoline, and my MOH purchased removable cap sleeves and a belt for me – this sounds like a lot of work but it really made the dress feel more “me.” My veil and a headband (that I didn’t wear) were free with the dress purchase and the store’s alterations were impeccable. Finally, my favourite part, you can book all of your appointments online!
Here is a “first look shot” of my bridesmaids, MOH, flower girl, and ring bearer. The split image pictures them with their eyes closed (top) and their reaction to seeing me all decked out for the first time (bottom). This priceless photo warms my heart and made the challenge of finding my dress worthwhile – I strongly suggest that you ask your photographer to capture this shot.
There you have it – my wedding dress story. I would love to hear yours! All stories are welcome – especially from the “hippy” brides.