Let me add some context. I did not impulse buy. I did not dream of my wedding from the first time I saw Prince Eric and Ariel in The Little Mermaid, nor the first time I watched Steven Martin walk Annie down the aisle in Father of the Bride. I did not think of my wedding gown after watching 27 Dresses, nor did I feel the desire to go nuts-oh with the royal wedding bonanza.
I didn’t want a long, drawn-out gown search process. There’s nothing worse than torturing yourself, your friends and you family as you go from store to store, weekend after weekend, in search of “the one” while trying on “the one hundred.” I wanted an expedited gown search and that’s what I got. I couldn’t be happier and I picked the right gown for me.
How did I do it? Want to replicate it? I approached gown shopping that way I approached the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Here are the three key strategies to feel a great sense of accomplishment, check off one of the fattest tasks on the bridal to-do list, and have fun doing it:
- Be intense in a short time frame.
- Carefully select your bridal gown soldiers.
- When in doubt, sleep on it.
First: Be intense in a short time frame
My desire to get my bridal gown shopping down in one weekend came out of wants and needs. I wanted to “bang it out” and find the gown of my dreams inside of a few days and allow myself to focus on other wedding projects. I also needed to do it this way because I wanted for my mother to be with me when I picked the dress. She lives on Long Island, I’m in Boston, and she’s working her tail off to pay for my wedding, which will also be on LI. Asking her to take one weekend off of work is a huge deal.
So I grabbed mom and my MOH and invited them for a fun weekend in Boston with me. We’d dress shop, eat together, and watch bridal movies at night. We managed to stuff in The Prince & Me and Bride Wars for some more fun. Both my mom and MOH took the weekend off of work and drove themselves to Boston with me.
I planned for four appointments in one weekend. Two on Saturday (Camilla’s & Bella Bridal), one on Sunday (Gianna’s), and one walk-in on Monday (Priscilla of Boston). In between, I’d get lunch, talk about what I saw and felt, and simply bond with my wedding gown hunters. Instead of booking back to back appointments, I took time to reflect between appointments and uncover what I wanted to focus on.
I did the same thing when I was studying for the GMAT. I started studying a few weeks (not a few months) before the exam date and took plenty of time to absorb the material and reflect on my learnings between study sessions.
Your Bridal Gown Soldiers
When you go shopping for a gown, a lot is thrown at you. They say, “pull this,” “yank that,” “suck in.” I felt the heevy-jeevies when out from the bridal consultants mouth spewed the ever cliche “hurry up before it goes out of stock” rhetoric when they’re eager to make a sale. Bridal gown shopping is a stressful experience for any bride and you need to make sure you have the right support team in place to help you along. Many sites say you should only bring a few people. I brought two. Even if you bring a small army, there are three crucial qualities that every bridal gown soldier must have to support her bride commander: strong connection to the bride, humor, and a bit of maternal instinct.
Let me explain. I brought my mother and my best friend/MOH, Liz.
I greatly respect my mother for raising me the way she did and wanted her to be with me when I found the dress. When the moment came and my mother looked up at me, the twinkling of my dress reflected in her tear-heavy eyes, resulting in my insides rattling from the unconditional love and soul-connecting we shared. Her intent was not for my fiance, my brother, or anyone else – just for me and I relished in it. My mother kept it light-hearted too, encouraging me to make goofy faces in the lens of her digi-cam when it was quite obvious that the bridal consultant put me in a dress I did not like. And who better to have a maternal instinct than the woman who raised me. ‘Nuf said.
Liz is my go-to girl. With a level head, a deep sense of loyalty, and a history with me that goes back to elementary school, no one can watch my back better. Liz kept reminding me that the focus was on me this weekend and truly encouraged me to indulge. She asked those great questions that helped to clarify my vision for my gown and even climbed into the dressing room with me to put on dress after dress when the bridal consultant was not doing so (see picture left). Liz was also HILARIOUS this weekend. She regularly asked bridal consultants to make me into a “bride-a-saurus” when I was in a dress that was altogether too large for me and I had the jumper cables going down my back. She also helped me coin some new and inventive phrases like “contained bling” and regularly joining me in jokes where we referenced my chest as “more valleys than peaks.” She was also appropriately protective. When I tried on a dress at Gianna’s that I really liked, the consultant asked me the awfully overused phrase of “are you saying yes to the dress?” I froze like a deer in headlights and my face dropped. My maternalistic MOH stepped in and asked the consultant to give us a few and we had a heart to heart, deciding to put the dress into the maybe pile. Way to go, Lizzy.
This is also just like preparing for a graduate exam. I elected to study with people who had a vested interest in helping me as much as themselves, had fun while studying, and redirected me and others when mistakes or hiccups occurred. Simply brilliant.
Take this one step further: make sure the wrong soldiers are not shopping/studying with you. Avoid bringing along the individuals with ulterior motives, Debby-downers, and people who will throw you under the bus or make you feel insecure.
When In Doubt, Sleep On It
I don’t think a statement can ever be overrated when it really does so much. Let’s just look at bridal gown shopping to begin with. Here’s a timeline of events for me:
Day 1: The first store helped me to identify the neckline that I liked, but didn’t have the material that was my fave. The second store helped me to find my personal style and really pinpoint the material that was best for me. I found a dress that was very fun, but waaaaaaaaaaaaay over my price range.
Night 1: I pulled up both dresses side by side and looked at it with my bridal soldiers. We also browsed thru magazines, websites, and the pics from the day. Then we topped it all off with a pumpkin ale toast at a local restaurant commending us on a great day one. I slept on the ideas and the learnings and had an even better day 2.
Day 2: The third store helped me to feel more confident that I could find a dress in my price range. I found a dress I really liked, until I looked down and saw an element of the dress that really drove my bazzurk. My MOH and Mom liked the dress and the price point, but I didn’t feel confident. I put on a veil and still wasn’t there having the moment that I should have. So we put it away. We got lunch and registered at Macy’s to distract ourselves from the dress frenzy. This little break went really far.
Night 2: I took the opportunity to day dream, talk about what I liked, and looked at the day 2 dress side by side with the others two dresses. I watched more bridal movies and shows, and sipped wine with the weary soldiers. We even took a break and watched some normal TV, and by normal I mean TLC. Estrogen abounded.
Day 3: I went to Priscilla of Boston, who is having a huge-antic clearance sale and didn’t see a large selection or dresses with great appeal. I started pulling some dresses that interested me for one reason or another. And guess what…I found it. If I would have purchased a dress from any other day, I wouldn’t have had the dream dress and would have def had buyers remorse. When they put me in the veil and the shoes, tears flowed down my cheeks – my patience paid off and I was able to find the dress I wanted.
Same thing with studying for the GMAT. If something doesn’t make sense or feel right about the material, walk away and sleep on it. Then return the following day to solidify the concept in your mind. This way, you retain it better and the right concept sticks with you.
If you’re like me and you want to find your dress inside of a weekend or study for the GMAT without making it a months-long process, make sure you have the right soldiers by your side and don’t be afraid to sleep on it unless it’s perfect. That combined with a little bit of good luck will help you to find the dress of your dreams or land a good score on the GMAT.
Any other brides, bridal attendants, or wedding gown soldiers have a brief but successful gown hunt? Share in the comments here.