What if you don’t want to play “princess for a day” at your wedding?

Guest post by Renee Turner

What if you're the kind of bride who identified more with Aladdin than Princess Jasmine?
What if you're the kind of bride who identified more with Aladdin than Princess Jasmine?
The entire boutique, from the desks to the doorknobs, was white. The carpet. The clothes racks. The ceiling-high change room curtains. The flat couches bigger than dining tables. And, of course, the wedding dresses.

Racks of the frothy things lined the walls, with more pinned onto dummies around the room. Dim lights cast a daytime soap glow over everything, and soft music played in the background (Sadé, maybe?). The whole place was bigger than my apartment and so very white.

Clutching my ratty handbag and hoping to snag one of the pleasantly dippy assistants manning the front desk, I was instead served up to Frannie — a sharp-eyed, middle-aged assistant in a sensible outfit. White, of course. We shook hands and Frannie began her spiel. “All of our dresses are made here in Australia. If you like something, we can add straps, change the fabric or the lace, whatever you want.”

Clearly, my two earlier phone calls had missed Frannie completely.

“Uh, actually, I was told you had a sale on. I have a pretty tight budget…” I trailed off. Frannie's face hardened.

I don't like princesses. As a girl I wanted to be Aladdin ready with a smart remark, a charming smile… I didn't want to be Jasmine, flouncing around the palace garden in a huff…

“Come this way,” she barked. I was whisked out to a temporary shopfront next door with cracked plaster and snaking metal racks crammed with dresses. “These are all ‘as is.' The prices are on the tags. I'll be back in a few minutes,” she explained before marching out.

Right. I took a breath and approached the rack with the handmade “SIZE 12” sign. How different the dresses looked in the light glaring through the bare window compared to their appearance in the boudoir twilight next door. The satin looked too shiny, the diamantes tacky, the lace yellowed. Many of the dresses had pulls, rips and makeup stains from squeezing over too many hopeful brides.

“Ready yet?” Frannie barked behind me.

“Oh, uh,” I gasped, “still looking.” She disappeared back into first-class bridal, leaving me in economy. Chastened, I pushed faster along the row, surreptitiously flipping over price tags and making faces.

Eventually, I had separated four not-too-hideous, not-too-ruined dresses from the crush. “Go in, undress, and I will hand it to you,” Frannie instructed. “There's no hook inside the change room.”

No hook? I'd gone from scented towels in the Powder Room next door, to no hooks and a gap-y curtain.

I put my hand through the curtain and waved it at Frannie, who filled it with a dress of the “what the hell, I'm here anyway” variety. After some tying, zipping, and pinning, I emerged. I twirled dutifully and trod on the train. After a few more adjustments, Frannie stepped back, professional eye roving over me. “Looks good. We can put some padding in the bust.”

Then she waited for me to… something. Burst into tears or shriek in pure joy? This wasn't my first foray into wedding dress land, and each time I'd felt like the spectators, from my mum to friends and dressmakers with mouths full of pins, expected more from me. Instead, all I'd felt was guilt for not being appropriately pumped.

The weird thing is that not only am I dying to get married to my amazing fiancé, I also love dresses. My work wardrobe may be faded, but I've always got a sharp dress ready to go. I've been known to enjoy lace, bows, satin and many of the other things that I feel uncomfortable about in the form of wedding dresses.

[related-post align=”right”] “I'm not sure this is really me,” I admitted to Frannie. Feeling like I needed an excuse to justify taking it off so quickly, I added, “I'm not really into princess-y dresses.”

“Oh, but why not?” asked Frannie, bustling behind me to unpin. “It's your only chance to be a princess for a day. Every girl wants that.”

“Actually,” I replied, suddenly tired of being “helped” by this well-meaning woman and others like her, “I don't like princesses.”

Frannie looked at me like I'd suggested roast baby for lunch, but I didn't care. As I'd said it, the problem had crystalized for me — and I'm probably not the only Offbeat Bride who feels this way.

I don't like princesses. As a girl I wanted to be Aladdin, dashing through Agraba with a pet monkey on my shoulder, ready with a smart remark, a charming smile and, if all else fails, an escape route. I didn't want to be Jasmine, flouncing around the palace garden in a huff and a midriff top.

Real or imagined, princesses are boring. Kate Middleton may be an intelligent woman, but ever since she said “I do” to a prince her purpose has been to look pretty and have (male) babies. As a feminist, I find our society's obsession with “princessdom” nauseating. Plus, when did marriage, which has long been considered by many cultures as a rite of passage to adulthood, become an excuse to spend ridiculous amounts of money living out a childish fantasy of being rich, pretty, and adored?

Anyway, after putting a sizeable dent in Frannie's conviction, I raced through the rest of the dresses, vetoed them all, put my comfortable cotton dress back on and breezed out the door into the sunshine.

I don't want to be “a princess for the day.” I want to be me: the person my smart, hilarious, kind, geeky fiancé loves. The woman who can be elegant and ridiculous, serious and funny, smart and silly all at the same time, in the same dress. The problem with wedding dresses is that you can pour some of us Offbeat-ers into as many frilly white creations as you want, but we're still who we are.

And I may be feminine, but I'm no princess.

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Comments on What if you don’t want to play “princess for a day” at your wedding?

  1. So we’ve decided to close comments on this one due to a perfect storm of hurt feelings and our staff being stretched too thin to moderate to our usual standards.

    While we totally thought this post was going to be a hit, sometimes we don’t catch everything and we totally respect y’alls rights to disagree. I’ll just be scolding myself over in a dark corner of my messy apartment, and let’s try it again tomorrow!

  2. This a million times. I want to look awesome on my wedding day but not in a “wedding” dress. I don’t know the difference between ivory, champagne or oyster – they all look white to me. I tried on some “proper” dresses and felt ridiculous in all the giant strapless ballgowns. I don’t want to be a princess – I don’t want a train, a veil or hundreds of attendants to primp and preen over me.

    I want to look like me, just a shinier version of me.

    • I feel this way when I catch Say Yes to the Dress. Everything’s just so.. fancy. While I think it would be super fun to play dress up in those lovely gowns, that’s all it would be: dress up. Not being me. I’m not a fancy person and never have been. I’m the woman who wears dresses to work, but behind her desk kicks off her shoes and sits on one – or two – feet. One day I want to look amazing at my wedding, and if I can go barefoot and find a dress that’s made out of jersey knit I think I’d be in heaven. 🙂

  3. I loved this post. It was so entire;y how I felt trying on dresses for my wedding. When I finally found the perfect dress for my hubs and my tiny pagan elopement, I was so relieved. It was black! and short! and… on sale! Plus, the FH was with me and paid for it. I thought the sales woman was going to pass out when she found out what it was. But the important thing about a wedding is that you’re happy. And comfortable. Just find something you love with a little or as much drama as you want.

  4. Loved this post – I felt the exact same way leading up to my wedding (married this July). I ended up wincing and telling people through gritted teeth that I didn’t want to be a princess for a day – that has never been and never will be me! My sister helped with make up and a simple up do bun, I wore my glasses, I had a simple yet flowing dress – no puffed up meringue or diamante riddled strapless dress for this bride!I’m glad I listened to my mum and bought a sparkly brooch to compliment my sparkly hair comb – that was as glitzy as it got, but it did look nice. Oh – and some simple slightly sparkly flats – I ignored the pressure to wear heels! Hobbling around on my wedding day didn’t sound like a good idea.

    Stay true to yourself and you’ll feel great – good luck! 🙂

    P.s. I bought a lovely dress on sale – I went with my mother in law who firmly told the sales assistant our budget – she was fab

    • Glasses, exactly! The glasses I have now are *perfect*. Except, they are photochromatic 🙁 I can’t have my glasses suddenly darkening…I’ll have to come up with something else, but I *will* be wearing glasses and probably flats too!

      • Aw, good for you! I’ve only been wearing glasses for the last 2 years, but they’re so me now it seemed silly to ditch them and be rubbing my eyes all day. Contacts sch-montacts 😀

        I wore my wedding flats on our honeymoon on the first night out for dinner – it felt like a nice little secret. I’m so glad I can rewear them, rather than having a pair of ivory heels in a box forever..!

  5. Good for you for sticking to your gut! 🙂 Sounds like a grump of an assistant…Bummer! I, too, was met with those comments when I went to try on dresses. I had one failed attempt where I left totally exhausted after only trying on 3 dresses because I was so overwhelmed by ‘princess pressure’. (I love fluff. Fluffy, soft dresses are so delightful!) I fixed the issue of princess pressure by having my fiance join me on the next go-around. When the assistant asked if he thought I looked beautiful, he told me what I wanted to hear- that I looked like a bad-ass. (Because I totally do.) I wasn’t about to give my money to a shop that couldn’t tolerate a non-princess with lovely, colorful tattoos in an insanely fluffy dress.

    Have you found your dress yet under better, more you circumstances??

  6. I have to point out that if it was a boy Kate had had, with our new law it wouldn’t have been any different if it was a girl! Yey!

    Loved this article so much, though, and every other word was spot on!

  7. OMG, I could NEVER imagine that some other girl would rather be Alladin, like I would want to be! (actually, sometimes I just wanted do be free Genie, with all that Phenomenal Magic Power AND sense of humor…)

    I’m kinda offbeat bride, my lovely fiancé is completely involved in everything about our party, and I definitely do not see myself in a princess-y dress. Or day. My fiancé got a little worried when I told him I wanna go decorate the venue in the wedding morning.

    I’ve read once, and totaly agreed, that you gotta be the best version of yourself on your wedding day, rather than just be a bride cosplay.

    (sorry bout my english, I’m not a native speaker and I haven’t been practicing conversation in a long time, just reading and listening)

  8. Actually, if you ever watched the movie (or the series that spun off of it), Jasmine also was much more into adventure and running around on the streets of Agraba than floucning around in a palace.

    • Jasmine was awesome! She stood up for herself and refused to marry someone she didn’t want to marry (awesome), she had a pet tiger (badass), she didn’t try to change who she was for a relationship (unlike Aladdin), and she was just as into adventure as he was, just a little more restricted by her royal status, but she didn’t let that stop her.

      Also, I don’t think she ever wore a dress. If she did, it’s definitely not her best-known ensemble.

  9. I loved this of course because I too don’t like princesses. ..I loved Scar from disney and even told people that was my name for awhile when I was a kid. Now as a bride I still do not want to be a princesss, I may have the white dress but there are spikes in my shoes. I guess what I’m saying is thank you for giving me an article to show my parents and friends so when they don’t take me at my word they can take somebody else’s

  10. I’m sorry for the bad shopping experience but what a moment of clarity! I do love to twirl about in swishable skirts – but it’s not for being a “princess” to me, it’s about being the graceful feminine lady (who likes the floaty appearance of walking in a floor length gown) that I am. Whether it’s in bridal white satin or hot pink linen or patchwork cotton…

  11. I cringed so hard reading this story, I’m still working the kinks out of my shoulders. As a former “bridal consultant”, I know that there are lots of brides that embrace the princess-for-day thing, but since I seriously dislike the princess obsession facet of wedding hoopla, I would never assume a bride must like something based on the fact she is a bride. Yech.

    On a different note, I think this is the first time I have seen a comment section on OBB that made me wish I’d abided by my ‘never read the comments’ rule.

  12. Remove my comment because it violates your comment policy, but don’t consider how this article violates your comment policy. I think you guys are slipping.

    I mean, I get that OBB is not the place for people who don’t hate everything about the WIC to come here and go “But what about us???”

    But there’s no need to imply that every bride who chooses a frilly white dress is betraying who she is, and that’s what that second-last paragraph said to me.

    Also, assuming every princess, particularly a real-life one, is so one-dimensional is pretty sexist, to be honest.

    I realize this comment will be deleted, too, but I don’t know any other way to let you know how disappointed I am in OBB for posting something like this, and refusing to hear any criticism of it.

    • I totally hear your points, and, in fact, in discussing it amongst the editors we HAVE edited the last paragraph a bit.

      But I must admit it’s caught me off guard because we had several editors read this post during the pitching and editing process and not one of us felt like this was saying that all people who want frilly white dresses are betraying who they are.

      When it comes down to it, there are ALL kinds of brides and all kinds of points of view, and none of them are wrong! We hope our reputation of supporting and highlighting as many view points as possible has shown that to be true.

      We feel like this article is saying “I’m not a princess for a day, and that’s okay.” And in the end we just want our fellow non-princessy types to feel as supported as our princess-y types! But wherever you lie on the controversial princess topic: YOU ARE OKAY! We love you!

      Bust mostly, we’re lucky to have such invested readers like you! So thanks for that. 🙂

  13. I never got the “princess” nonsense either. I was always a tomboy as a child and I always pretended to be a pirate or a superhero or Indiana Jones. The only princess I could stomach was Buttercup, and even she did her fair share of waiting to be rescued while everyone else had kickass adventures. I have found myself pretty disturbed by the Disney Princess explosion that seems to be happening around my friends’ daughters from the time they can walk, though I will say that the current crop of princesses is a little more bad ass than the crop of passive powderpuffs I grew up with. I just…don’t get the allure.

    And I’ve always found the assumption that deep down inside every woman wants to be a princess to be as insulting as the assumption that deep down inside all child-free women want a baby. Good for you for sticking to your guns and not giving in to the pressure to play princess dress up. I hope you find a dress that suits you and makes you feel like yourself for your wedding.

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