There is no THE DRESS: get over the fantasy and avoid wedding dress regret

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embroidered wedding dress on offbeat bride alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
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My fiancé called me while I stood in the fitting room of David's Bridal Collections, staring at myself in the mirror. “I'm wearing my wedding dress!” I squealed, my inner Glinda-the-Good-Witch-Loving-Three-Year-Old hyperventilating in ecstasy.

It was my first dress shopping trip and I hadn't honestly expected to find anything to my liking. I was, after all, the same person who'd exhausted everyone's patience spending several weekends and tens of hours searching for the perfect prom dress.

“Have you seen her in this yet?” my sales associate asked, pulling aside girl after girl to tell me how special and pretty I looked in the gown. “She's the first person to ever wear this dress. I don't even want to put it on anyone else. It's like it was made for her.” “You look like Katharine Ross in the Graduate,” my mom said, tearing up. “This is it.” I announced. “This is The Dress.”

Three hours later as I sat in the car with the dress, a shocking receipt, and a growing feeling of foreboding, I couldn't remember what I'd liked so much about the dress. After a few more hours of brooding on it, I was fairly sure I hated it. What had I done? Is this wedding dress regret!?

What had happened to tea-length? To diaphanous? Since when had I wanted a cathedral-length veil?! I looked over the pictures again and again — berating myself. Empire waist? I'd wanted something fitted in the waist, not loose. Stripes and lace? Too casual, too trendy. It was obviously too formal while simultaneously too informal. How could I have missed it? Above everything else, it was too goddamn expensive.

Tormenting myself over wedding dress regret

I spent the next day punishing myself by looking at other less expensive dresses that matched my previous expectations — jaunty little things with skinny velvet bow sashes, birdcage veils, and soft layers of tulle. I looked at the picture of myself in the polka dot tea length gown that clearly should have been the dress I chose, if it hadn't felt too much like a dress I would wear to someone else's wedding rather than my own.

“Why don't you just try it on again and see if you still hate it while you're wearing it?” my fiancé asked, attempting to be the voice of reason in the cloud of my growing madness. It sounded like a good idea, but over the next several days, I found myself coming up with excuse after excuse as to why I couldn't try the dress on. “I need my waist cincher. I don't think it will even fit without it.” “I don't have a strapless bra.” “I'm sick and I won't look good anyway, so today's a bad day to try.”

After five days passed and I still hadn't tried on the dress, it became evident that I was afraid to try on the dress again. I was afraid that I would put on the dress and would see it in the harsh light of reality, proving that I had made a massive mistake.

Manipulated by the wedding industrial complex

It wasn't so much the fact that the dress cost nearly quadruple the price of the other dresses I'd looked at that made the possibility of the mistake so scary. It was the idea that I had let myself be manipulated into making that mistake by the Wedding Industrial Complex. I feared that I'd somehow listened to the saleswoman as she told me what a special bohemian snowflake I was and internalized it. I hated the idea that I had fallen prey to Wedding Industrial Complex's marketing schemes, even though I already knew what to expect and was trying so hard to avoid them. I am a critical thinker, goddammit! I am a conscious consumer!

When I finally put on the dress a second time and saw that it still looked beautiful (even without a strapless bra), I realized that my problem doesn't lie with the dress. It lies with the idea of The Dress. The One.

A wedding dress has somehow gone from being the nicest dress you already own, to being the single most important and meaningful piece of clothing you will ever wear. That's a lot of emotional baggage to wrap into one garment!

I had built such an unrealistic emotional connection to the idea of this dress that nothing could possibly live up to the expectations I had created for it. I was perfectly happy with the idea of getting married in the gown I'd bought, but it certainly wasn't My Wedding Dress. You know, THE DRESS

My Wedding Dress is the gigantic Glinda-pink, southern belle-skirted concoction of my three-year-old dreams. It's the regency-inspired, empire-waisted, sheath I'd imagined in middle school. It's the tea-length, polka-dotted, vintage, prom dress I'd pictured in college. It's the draped, diaphanous Grecian gown, and romantic mantilla I'd dreamt of wearing in the middle of a forest clearing. It's the striped and pocketed, lace, A-line gown I will actually be wearing on my actual wedding day.

It is all of those things and none of them because it isn't real.

My Wedding Dress is just a fantasy.

THE ONE is just a dream.

And that's OK!

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Comments on There is no THE DRESS: get over the fantasy and avoid wedding dress regret

  1. I agree that for most of us there isn’t one perfect dress to fit everything that we’ve ever wanted. You nicely point out that we change over time. This article made me feel so much better that I wasn’t the only one with this experience. I felt crazy because I tried on my dress on two different days before I purchased it, but still had these feelings before I went to my fitting. It worked out in the end.

  2. This is spot-on for me! I had also imagined a specific type of dress, went to 5 different dress shops trying on all sorts of things, but never really feeling like “this is the one!” or wanting to cry or whatever like I felt I should. At the 6th store, I struggled to settle on the dress I eventually ended up purchasing because I wasn’t feeling that overwhelming “OMG THIS IS THE ONE!!!” moment that I had expected and had been told to expect by reality TV, the WIC, everyone… I tried it on again and remember thinking, I do really like this dress, and I do feel pretty in it. And that was what sealed it for me. Now that it’s ordered I don’t have a choice, but I still find myself seeing things online and wondering “what if that would have looked better!” or “wow this one is way cheaper”, or beating myself up over the thought that it’s “not offbeat enough” because it has trendy elements (I am sure that is a sore spot for lots of us OBBs!!). But deep down, I am positive I will be happy with it and look awesome and trend-be-damned, I feel pretty when I sparkle!!!

    I feel like everyone bride needs to hear this. As long as you like how you feel in it, there doesn’t need to be tears or bells or fireworks to tell you that! 🙂

    Also, your dress has pockets?? So jealous. Love dress pockets.

  3. Thank you, I really needed this today! I just tried on a wedding dress for the first time and I was freaking out over the whole “it must be the most amazing, perfect, high quality, dream dress you could ever possibly imagine” thing. I want something comfy that feels like me, but I don’t want to spend a ton of money and I don’t feel like it needs to be some amazing perfect gown that somehow perfectly represents me or fulfills all my dreams. So thank you ever so much for that reminder that my fantasy dresses are just fantasies and that is absolutely ok!

  4. Oh, I feel you! My dress was the third one I tried on at David’s Bridal on my second shopping trip (first one was to an awful salon where the lady didn’t listen to me at all and just put me in dresses I hated). It wasn’t what I had imagined either, but it’s a lovely dress that makes ME feel pretty and I could afford and those things were most important to me. I cried when I saw myself, but not because it was the dress I’d been dreaming of forever. Rather, I cried because I felt so pretty and bridal and all the things I worried about not feeling as a plus-sized bride. And now I’m really excited to marry the man I love in a pretty gown!

    • “Rather, I cried because I felt so pretty and bridal and all the things I worried about not feeling as a plus-sized bride. And now I’m really excited to marry the man I love in a pretty gown!”

      The post itself was just brilliant, but this really hit home with me! My mum and friend were gaping at me as I shed a tear upon seeing myself in my dress, because no one would have imagined it in a million years – but I don’t think I’d ever looked in the mirror and felt attractive before, and even I had to admit that this dress looked stunning. I haven’t spent my life dreaming about my wedding dress, it didn’t seem like a particularly important part of the wedding to me – I was planning on something tea-length and casual with sleeves, most of me hidden away because I didn’t think I’d ever feel pretty. I actually ended up with the exact opposite! I’m still having doubts about it, a) because it was much more expensive than I wanted it to be, but my mum had saved up for ages and was really excited to be able to treat me to it, and b) because of the whole ‘Dream Dress’ mentality leading me to think I needed to be wearing the most incredible dress I’d ever seen, instead of something I feel pretty in and I know my partner’s going to be blown away by (I think he still thinks it’s a tea-dress).

      Life’s too short to worry so much about any one dress. Especially when you’re wearing it to marry the love of your life.

  5. As a second-time bride, I never felt I needed to find “TEH PURFEK DREZZ”, even though I ended up not really liking the one I had the first time around (my mother’s dressmaking talents kept me from completely hating it). Maybe it’s age, second-nuptials, or having such a Zen-minded fiance to keep me grounded, but I never felt I should get “something to make up for the last one”. I just wanted something with sleeves that still looked beachy. I found it by accident when I was half-drunk during a downtown festival, and I still like the dress a lot.

    I guess since my wedding dress fantasies when I was younger always changed every few years, I never had my heart set on any particular style for when the time came, and I had absolutely none after my divorce. Probably a good thing – my first wedding dress idea at age six was my grandmother’s 1950’s pink diaphanous nightgown and robe set. I would have looked like Glinda the Good Witch getting ready for bed.

  6. Thank you. I have 3 weddings before my own this year, one of which has a princess gown with a drop waist and the rest fitted mermaid. I went for my dream princess gown, high waist, long and sweet but enough to make me feel like a woman/bride and not a child. I can look sexy and day of the week (At least I tell myself that everyday lol) BUT for some reason since I bought my dress a few weeks ago I feel like I should have gotten something fitted and ‘sexy’ since that term seems thrown around so much and I am 23 which apparently means I need to wear something ‘fun and to show my age/waist while i am young’ ….

    Thank you for this. Confirmed for me that I have chosen a dress because I loved it and I feel good it in.
    You have secured my bridal salons purchase lol

    I can now stop looking at pictures of in on the internet and wandering if it was the right choice.

    • Wow.. I have been searching the internet thinking I’m the only one to feel this……
      I have the opposite experience to you Emma. I couldn’t find the ‘dress’ I loved and couldn’t trust having it made and putting everything into a dress I may end up not liking.. I love the idea of a big skirt and remember thinking when else will I wear a big gown??
      I then went to a bridal boutique and was told I looked better in a form fitting, tighter dress that shows my body more.. I went ahead and bought the dress- so expensive there was no option to buy another and I am now 2 months away from the big day thinking should I have gone with the big beautiful gown..
      I keep seeing wedding gown photos all over my social media like it is stalking me!!
      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling this unreal expectation of perfect. When everyone asks me about my dress I say- it’s hard because you have to choose ‘one style’ even if you have different sides to your personality and like different things (How I try to explain it) – they just look at me with a puzzled face haha. I’ve even had to start waist training as I’m self conscious in the style or may be letting the pressure get to me!
      Lots of love ladies – thanks for letting me get it off my chest

  7. Thank you for this! I was engaged previously and bought a dress for that engagement before breaking it off. It was a long dress that had off the shoulder straps. It was a pretty dress but it just wasn’t me and every time I looked at it I felt like I should have taken more time finding THE dress.

    It’s four years later. I’m now engaged again and getting married this month. For my dress I decided to stick with the one I had originally bought but alter it. It’s now a short tea length dress with a kelly green petticoat and I love it. However, I keep thinking about how I should have the traditional long princess like dress, long veil, how maybe I should look again for THE ONE (even with 3 weeks left). But after reading this I think my mind has settled. I love the dress, it may not be perfect but it suits me just fine.

  8. This brings a breath of fresh air to me 🙂 I was so caught up in fine small details and such of the dress that I’d begun to forget everything else that was important.

    Plus, my partner in crime has always said he’d marry me in a potato sack if it came down to that because for him, he’s marrying his lady, not the dress shes in.

  9. I really enjoyed reading this, I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I have never thought about ‘the dress’ and now I’m really meant to care. A lot. There is a huge amount of pressure put on one outfit, it is difficult to put it all in perspective and be happy with what you decide on.

    In Hong Kong (currently based) there is a custom/trend of hiring a photographer before the wedding, hiring 3+ dresses (traditional Chinese and Western white) and suits for for the groom and spending a day taking pictures around the territory.

    The thought of choosing one is daunting

  10. This is definitely something I needed to hear today, not just in regards to “The Dress” but “The Wedding”.
    I’ve never been the sort to dream about her wedding day, but I’ve been so caught up in “THE Wedding” that I found myself today almost hysterically PMS-sobbing to my mother about one very small part of the day not going the way I wanted and her talking me down into realising it really wasn’t a big deal.
    Gah, why do we do this to ourselves?!?!

  11. Thanks for your post! I’m struggling with this right now. I’ve been picturing this particular dress that I just can’t find. And then I went dress shopping with my sister, and I found something I loved that feels like the opposite of what I want. But I think it might really be “the one”–then I found a knock off version of it online, for $1000 LESS than the SAME DRESS I tried on, and bought it.

    It hasn’t arrived yet. I still don’t know if it’s “the dress.” I’m still second guessing it. I’m still wondering if I can dye it a different color. I’m wondering if I should cancel the order and reorder it in champagne. I wonder if I should even bother.

    At the end of the day, I sort of feel like: eh, if it feels good on, looks good on, and seems to be unique in some way (or if I can make it unique), then what’s the big deal? I didn’t spend a lot of money, and the ceremony itself is more important than what I’m wearing.

    I really appreciated what you had to say about your evolving dreams of the dress. I don’t remember what I used to imagine. Ever since we officially became engaged, I’ve been trying to think of what I’d like to wear. I tried some of those on, and none of my family has liked any of them. So I tried some other things. The dream is not helping me maintain mental health: it’s time to let go of the dream and embrace something that looks nice but doesn’t have to be the most important (or expensive) piece of clothing I’ll ever wear.


  12. I relate to so much of this post. I also feel like somehow the Wedding Industrial Complex tricked me and has swindled me out of my hard-earned money. My dress is by no means ridiculously expensive, but when I hear about other brides finding their Perfect Dress for $150 a little part of me dies inside.

    My dress is also… train-ier(?) than what I was looking for, and it’s truly gorgeous to look at but there’s also the part of me that wonders if it’s too feminine and traditional and cumbersome and HAVE I MADE A MISTAKE? It’s a weird feeling to have, considering I never expected to find myself wearing a “white” dress at my wedding.

    Thankfully, I’m having two ceremonies for two religions and it’s my Christian dress that gives me all this anxiety. The Hindu dress was half the price of the Christian one and absolutely nothing like I envisioned… and is yet somehow perfect and I am in love with it. <3

  13. SO glad I’m not the only bride feeling this! I hate shopping to begin with; that, paired with my already indecisive nature led to an 8-month, anxiety-ridden, mother-fighting search for THE DRESS that ended in something completely different than what I initially set my mind on. I still have second thoughts about the dress I purchased (with my wedding a mere 2 months away) but whenever those doubts rise up I just remember the actual shopping process and it calms me into dress acceptance. Though it’s not what I thought I wanted, I do like it best out of all the dresses I tried on (that were in my price range, anyway). If nothing else, I’m glad the search is OVER.

  14. You know what? I’m really fed up with this whole ‘one dress to rule them all’ nonsense. I think the author and many of the addidional comments put it more eloquently than I could. I don’t know how anyone could love just one dress the best throughout their life. This has decided for me what I’m going to do with my wedding dress after I’m married. I’m going to preserve it and then, say for our 25th wedding aniversary or another momentus event, I’m going to get it re-designed to a style I like then! 🙂

    • That’s a great idea. I think if I end up with no girl children I will do that. If I have a girl I will save it in case she wants to do something with it.

  15. I had the same thing. But I already decided I was going to have to add details to my wedding dress to get it to be what I wanted and I lucked out I found my at Davids Bridal $99 sale. I originally was going to get a custom made dress, but finances won’t allow it. So mine’s a tulle hi-low dress and I’m adding black tulle to peak out underneath the front and back. Then I’m adding a longer detachable train of black tulle, a corset back and chain drop “sleeves” to complete the look. I might be doing the alterations myself and with a friends help as it’s so expensive to have others do it. But the thing is, learning to get something that you like and turning it into something you love. I’m just happy I found something that I’m going to get to work for me.
    I love the way your dress is, especially the pockets 🙂

    • That sounds really funky and really special – I think adapting it yourself makes it so unique and you, it sounds perfect!

  16. Oh my goodness, YES! Thank you for this. I bought a very plain, bright white dress (I never thought I’d wear white!) from a vintage clothing store. It’s a reproduction 1950s style dress from Unique Vintage. Though I love it, the dress is only a little bit like what I had envisioned. In the end, it’s actually great because I can go crazy with my handmade accessories. This whole “perfect dress” concept kind of goes against what life really is: things happen that aren’t what you’d expect, but in the end, it’s all okay (maybe even better than you planned!)

  17. Last part of authors story reminded me of those fabulous, distinct and special wedding dresses I had in mind when I started to think that I may get married… first, Medieval style dress with detachable sleeves, then, when I was into tribal bellydance, something bellydance inspired… too bad my now husband didn’t propose then 😀 For my actual wedding I bought a dress in bridal boutique and attached some teal blue flowers on skirt and fabric at the bottom – so it became unique and special with very little effort and costs. Still, I had dress regrets, especially when seeing some non-white extravagant beauties here in OBB, but, well, you can have only one dress in your wedding day and not all your Pinterest board, right?

  18. I had almost the same experience! I found my dress online on David’s Bridal’s website, thought it was perfect, tried it on, loved it, had the approval of my sister (not easy to obtain), AND it was under budget. It felt great. But as soon as I took it off, even before I got to the cash register, I had these inklings of buyer’s remorse, and as time went by, as I waited for it to arrive at the store, it got worse and worse. Then it DID arrive, and I put it on again, and loved it again! But as soon as I took it off, the lurking sense of letdown came back. But maybe that was just because it still didn’t fit quite right, and I’d have to get it altered. So I took it to a lady for alterations, and put it on again. And loved it again. And left it with her to make perfect for me, and started to feel the letdown again. When I went to pick it up from the alterations place last week. and tried it on, it felt the most perfect it has so far. But now that it’s home, hanging behind my door, I feel crummy about it again. It’s like I only love it when I have it on.

    • This happens to me, too. When I tried the dress on the second time, I asked the future husband to take a million pictures of me wearing it. Now, when the doubt-cloud descends, I take out my phone and look at the pictures to remind myself that I look pretty awesome in the dress and tell the doubt-cloud to STFU.

    • I had almost the same issue- mine was at home several months before the wedding and I was having a heck of a time finding THE shoes (as important as the dress to me) so I was trying it on alot. About a month before the wedding I put it on after getting some alterations, with all my accessories, and almost cried from disappointment. So I hid it away and didnt look at it again until the day of the wedding. I wouldnt let myself look at pictures on my phone or any other dresses on Pinterest, etc. When I put it on for the ceremony I was still nervous but realized what had drawn me to it in the first place and when I saw my (now) husbands face I knew I made the right choice. We just got our pictures back and I love the dress more in the pictures than ever before and im now excited to wear it for our reception in September. Its crazy what wedding brain can do to us but just try to remember how you felt as soon as you knew that was your dress! Since you love it when its on im sure you wont regret it in the end.

    • Yes this happens to me so badly! I put it on and loved it; my mum loved it (and she’s really honest) and my dad cried at the photos. It fits the mental image of what I wanted, and what I know my fiance likes (luckily, they coincide with my likes). And yet, despite all of these positive signs, periodically a cloud of doom descends that I chose too fast, that there’s some imaginary thing wrong (I like to pick a different feature to take apart each time, I’m destructive like that) or that I should have looked around more. It hasn’t come back into store yet, but I’m so scared to try it back on even though I loved it so much the first time. Too much choice is paralysing sometimes.

  19. I thought that I would be all excited about choosing my dress but in the end, I hate clothes shopping. I always have and probably always will. Apparently my wedding dress was no exception. Having my dress made consisted of a couple of google searches, showing my (extremely amazing and patient) dress maker what I liked, telling her that I trusted her judgement and twenty minutes at a fabric store. The first time I tried it on I was so relieved because I did worry I hadn’t spent the multiple trips trying on several hundred dresses that I thought I was supposed to. The dress is pretty, makes me look pretty and all I could think about when wearing it was the “trying not to cry” look on my soon to be husbands face. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me (:

  20. I suffered with a particularly strong bout of ‘dress guilt’ right after buying my dress. We searched for about 18 months and phased through several styles, fabrics and wads of tissues before finding a designer I loved and THE dress. It’s everything I had sketched out and more. A LOT more £££ than I was banking on. I’m not a materialistic person, at all. We live very simply and I don’t worry about not having what others have got. It didn’t ‘need’ to be a designer gown. In fact, I was purposely not looking at higher end designers because I didn’t feel a dress warranted a 4 digit figure. But I suffer badly with self image and wanted, for one day, to feel as beautiful outside as I do within. As you said, that’s a LOT of emotional baggage to put onto one dress!! My wonderful partner was insistent I “just buy the dress that gave me the goofy grin” but I held off on purchasing it for as long as I could, and every time people asked me why I hadn’t ordered it yet, I shrugged, almost apologetically and said “oh, well, you know, it’s a lot of money.” Like I was apologising for the price of the dress!! I think it’s a shame that the dress has gone from being a representation of you at that moment in time to needing to be the epitome of your personal fashion statement. It’s a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on someone and it takes away from what the day is really about. I envy all those brides who wander into a store and choose a cute, shirt white dress and make it completely ‘them’. But I’m not like that, I’m not ‘city-chic’ or a rockstar model. I’m kind of traditional when it comes to wanting a dress that screams ‘bride’. and you know what? since I bought it, I’m okay with that 🙂

  21. As a kid I thought the perfect wedding dress was the gown Jennifer Connlley wore in her dream masquerade scene in the Labyrinth. I wanted to look exactly like her on my wedding day when I was like 7. But things have changed slightly in the past 20 years. I agree with some of this article but I think that part of my particular issue came from the mindset of my fiance’s extremely traditional Mother that you HAVE to wear a white dress and for me, all white dresses look the same. No disrespect to brides who wear white dresses, I’ve seen some very breath taking white dresses (especially in weddings featured on this site) but hours and hours shopping for the perfect white dress was so disheartening I wanted to give up. I just don’t look or feel nice in white and after a while it just seemed like I was never going to get a dress. Then I started thinking outside the box and asked myself what I wanted. I have this tendency to try to make everyone else happy at the expense of my own happiness. My fiance told me to look for other dresses that were black or red which are our wedding colors and then added that we’re getting married on Halloween and this is about us so screw what everyone else thinks, wear what you want. So I started my search for black and/or red wedding dresses and eventually found the one I knew in my heart was “the dress” Luckily for me, I have a friend I found on etsy who is making my bridesmaids dresses and she looked at the pictures I gave her and said she could make that dress however I wanted it, and I got it in the mail a few weeks ago and it’s perfect. I’m happy that my guy shook my mindset and got me thinking about what I want and what fits my personality. It got me re-excited for this whole business. Plus searching for the “offbeat wedding dresses” led me to this website and this website has been amazing at not only giving me ideas for our actual wedding, but also helping me deal with sticky situations that arise while wedding planning.

  22. I got married in January…. and whether or not I chose the right dress is something I still think about.

  23. So glad you posted this, I was sure when I went looking for ‘the dress’ that I was going to get a certain style of dress and not a traditional white/cream one. Of course the bridal store owner pulled one I would have never picked and it was awesome. Since then, because I knew it was so not the style I thought I’d get – I’ve been seriously second guessing whether my friend talked me into it and if I really liked it or not. It is a lot of pressure, all those pictures! I put it on again for other friends and realized, yes, I really really like it (and so did they). Chalk it up to wedding overload!

  24. I can absolutely relate to the OP and everyone else who have commented. I originally wanted something fairy tale and fantasy-like, something similar to Daenerys Targaryen’s dress when she married Khal Drogo, with bell sleeves. I was set on buying a simple dress and then making all the embellishments and applying all the beadwork on my own so that it would truly be one of a kind. I event bought a simple dress with empire waist at a charity wedding dress event for $100. This was in the middle of an ongoing search for a ready-made dress that was nearing 8 months (and I had tried on at least 48 dresses). After meeting with a seamstress, I decided that it wasn’t worth the work and money to buy the extra materials for the beadwork, train, and bell sleeves AND then make everything by hand. I ultimately went back to a boutique and ordered the third dress I had tried when I first started my dress-shopping. Yes, it was 4x my budget, it’s almost the complete opposite of what I had originally envisioned, and I feel like a sellout to the Wedding Industrial Complex… but I’m 4x more excited about wearing it on my wedding day than I had felt about the other dress.

  25. I thought I would hate wedding dresses… I’m not a big clothing person, I’m short and curvy so I figured dresses would make me look boxy, and I’m pale so I figured I’d look washed out. I was really surprised to fall in love with one mermaid dress after another – they made me look sexy and sophisticated and bridal, and so what if I couldn’t sit down or even walk quickly. It was just a matter of choosing between the beautiful $1000 beauty and the $3500 stunner.

    And then – almost by accident – I tried on a ruffly ballgown. And I loved it. I could move! I could pick up my skirts and run! At the same time I was looking into photographers, and focusing on beach pictures (since I’m getting married on the beach) and noticed there were two classes of pictures – woman standing still and looking sculptural, and woman – with her new spouse – in motion. I decided that on my wedding day, I don’t want to be standing stiffly in all my pictures, trying to tame a train I can’t even reach. I want to be comfortable, wearing a real (albeit strapless) bra, I want to be able to walk and dance and eat cake, and most of all I don’t want to be thinking about my dress.

    So, yeah, my wedding dress isn’t the most beautiful dress I tried on, or even the one that makes me look the most beautiful. My wedding dress is the one in which I felt comfortable and happy and free – which, after all, is how I want my marriage to make me feel.

  26. I decided against the only dress that I liked while browsing on the David’s Bridal website because it was available online only and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through the hassle of returning it just in case I didn’t like it (also, my apt complex is a major PIA about packages). I ended up buying one of three tea-length dresses that they had in the store because my stepmother liked it so much. I almost immediately started feeling down about it, wishing I could do an exchange or something. But part of me worries that I might end up not liking the online-only dress. I feel kind of silly fretting about it, because I’m not expecting to have this magical feeling come over me because of a dress, but I do want to feel pretty on my wedding day. I haven’t decided what to do…

    • Perhaps return to the store (or a different one if you’re embarrassed about going back) and try on a dress similar in style/shape to the online-only one. At the very least you’ll find out how you look in that style/shape, and it may help you decide whether to take the plunge and order online or do something else.

  27. Originally, I wanted tea length, hi-low, with some retro flare and serious color pops. Then I ran it by A, and he gave me lemon face, and started talking about cathedral trains and hoop skirts. Lol

    After thinking about it and some compromise; what was really important to me to have in my dress was that it worked with my body, was under $200, & any color but white.

    I found a dress like that online at DB. It ended up on sale, so I went up to try it on, in black – because it was the only color option in my size.

    It is the only dress I’ve tried on, but I liked it and with the sale/being discontinued I was able to order it in champange for $50.

    I’ve done the doubting myself thing since I bought it last month. I’m not even positive what shade it’ll actually be. My pick up appt. is on Tuesday and my ladies will see it for the first time.

    I’m anxious about the color being terrible, or looking worse than I remember. It makes me feel a lot less crazy to know that I’m not the only one doing the second guess tango.

  28. I almost think that my distain for my dress caused me to have an out of body experiance and write this post. I felt incredibly pressured to buy a dress I didnt love, wasn’t close to what I wanted and for more than I wanted to pay. I got seduced by the sales person, the dress I wanted didnt exist in my city at the time and someone had offered to pay half and then backed out when it was too late to return the damn thing.
    Immediate regret in the car.
    I wound up taking it to a dress shop and getting it cut into a tea-length gown so it was a bit closer to what I wanted.
    Peer pressure is the worst.

  29. I went to Davids with my mom and her former best friend (still my friend and bridesmaid <3) right before my mom decided to move to Alaska. I thought I had found the one. I think in my head, I wanted my mom to be there when I found the dress I would wear. Luckily I did not buy that day, and we had the chance to go, my whole wedding party and a couple others to Alfred Angelo. I tried on what I thought was my last dress of the day and hated it. I was really disappointed, but happened to glance up at just the right angle and off I went to grab one off the rack. I could not even tell exactly what it looked like in the bag, something just told me I had to put that dress on. It was perfect, everything I wanted, satin, ivory beaded corset top, pickups and a medium train; the price tag? Less than ideal. I went looking online for something close and happened upon a girl selling my dress in my size and in my color. Half the price. She even let me pay her monthly until it was paid off. I now have my perfect dress, and made a new friend out of it! Just went for alterations yesterday, the only thing it needs? The corset back added, and bustling. Sometimes, there really, really is the perfect dress.

  30. I just purchased my wedding dress. I had two appointments that day and two more the following weekend. I was lucky enough to be able to go with my friend who is also getting married next year and need ed to shop for a dress as well.
    We both hate shopping and weren’t looking forward to the whole experience. We figured we would be trying on dresses for many days.
    Turns out at the very first store we both put on dresses we liked. I looked at hers and said how pretty it was and she thought the same of mine. So we marked them down as possibilities and went for lunch. We had a couple hours to kill before our next appointment. While at lunch we talked about the dresses we tried on and I said ” maybe we should just get those dresses and be done with it. We both look good. The price was right. It really doesn’t matter what we wear, people are going to tell us how beautiful we look. We’ll wear the dress for one night and that’ll be it! I like mine, you like yours. Why go through the stress of finding THE DRESS. It might not even happen!”
    So we went back to the store, bought the dresses, got a coupon for a free bottle of champagne for the pub we just came from, went back and sat on the patio drinking our champagne! Done! Yes we have both second guessed our decisions but looking at our pictures we look good! We’re both going to rock our dresses and our weddings! Stress free!

    • Wow your care free attitude really just put things in perspective. Its true every bride looks beautiful on her wedding day so why stress about it. Thanks for the reality check!

  31. Can I just say that I really needed this? I’m in the beginning stages of wedding planning and I have already gone through style after style, each time changing my idea of what I want my dress to look like, yet never finding one that measures up to my expectations (especially with all of the AMAZING things I’ve been seeing as I comb through the Offbeat archives, I mean… the POSSIBILITIES!!). Reading this makes me feel like it’s ok to feel this way, and that maybe I won’t regret whatever choice I make in whatever mood I happen to be in when I buy it. The wedding is just ONE DAY and this helped me remember that.

  32. I own a bridal consignment shop and almost half of the dresses brides bring me to consign have never been worn because they bought it feeling pressured + realized later they didn’t care for it.

  33. Thank you so much for this!
    I found a great dress online last week, on sale, in my size, that I had drooled over two years before while shopping for a bridesmaid dress for my mother’s wedding. I was so excited the evening that I bought it, especially knowing that the store has a return policy just in case it wasn’t quite right. Still, I fretted so badly the very next night over buying the wrong “One” that I couldn’t sleep. I got out of bed and tortured myself in the dark on my computer staring at all kinds of other dresses thinking “I should have gone to more stores,” “I should have waited,” “How do I know that it is The One?” My fiance was even worried about me and asked what was wrong.
    It is all so silly to get so worried over the perfect dress. There are so many beautiful dresses out there and we just need to find one that we feel beautiful in.

  34. I am having so much wedding dress anxiety. I think it’s worse than any other part of the wedding. I didn’t struggle with anything like I’ve struggled with this. It’s driving me crazy! I made the mistake of buying a dress that was too small as a way of motivating myself to lose weight, and it didn’t happen, and now I don’t have time, so I literally spent $600 on a dress I can’t even wear. And now I like a red prom dress I’ve found that fits, and it’s only $125, but I’m still having trouble committing. It gives me anxiety. I’m worried the (minimal) silver embellishments will clash with the gold at our wedding. Red isn’t even one of our colors. What will people say about me wearing red and my matron of honor wearing white? What if I don’t love the dress on the big day? Etc, etc, etc. Hopefully I can change my mindset about THE dress, too, and love myself, my dress, and my pictures on my wedding day.

  35. This is absolutely FANTASTIC.
    THANK YOU! I have been feeling so confused and upset that after only TWO bridal salons and a handful of dresses I cried (and I am a NON cry bride, people – it’s been said that my tear ducts don’t work properly! Haha) over a dress that I did NOT expect to cry over. WHY? And then the next morning I woke up immediately remorseful over the purchase of a dress over my budget that may not even be what I truly wanted! How could I have made such a snap decision when I’ll only get to be bride once? Over a few tears?
    Anyway, I’ve been frantically wondering if I should try on more dresses to be absolutely sure. My mother would kill me however, she’s made me nervous myself in the fact that she has made so many suggestions to ‘edit’ the dress with bling since it’s a New Year’s Eve wedding. So now I’m wondering if so many changes are to be made, is it the right one? Was I too hasty? Should I try on more dresses because I’ll never have the chance to again? Is it “the one” if I’m having such doubts?

    Then something happened. Well now two things including this blog. One is that the most amazing man in the world – my father – saw the pictures of me in the dress. He told me it was absolutely beautiful and that I was absolutely beautiful in it. And that he loved it. Then this past Christmas, he passed away. I’ve never been more heartbroken, and watching my mom lose the love of her life, and seeing the photos of the simple outfit (so 80s!!) she wore to the court house to marry my father as a blushing bride marrying her soulmate made me realize that the dress is a small accessory of a small day when the bigger picture is marrying the man that is your love, your friend, and your companion.

    Thank you for this! You truly helped a bride remember that a dream dress is an elusive fantasy 🙂

  36. Thank you for writing this. I really needed to read this, because I was totally freaking the fuck out this past week. I just ordered a dress online that I’ve never tried on. This resulted from not finding a dress locally. So I did the same thing… I went to 3 bridal stores and I tried on so many dresses. And then the last store I went to was David’s Bridal and I almost bought a dress there, but didn’t. But what I did discover was that I can wear any dress, thanks to a wonderful sales lady there that made a wonderful comment about being comfortable in ones skin and that it’s the bride that makes the dress not the other way around. So in the end, I ordered my custom wedding dress online (something I’ve never done) from Wai Ching. I hope that it turns out well, but either way, I’ll just have open expectations. This post really has put my mind at ease. So thank you.

  37. I appreciate your words on this topic, I was going crazy few days ago just after I bought the dress. I was confused and not sure why I made this choice after wearing so many dresses. There is something in every dress I wore that I liked, but not the complete package. So, what we imagine might not be out there and we just go with the one that flatters better. It’s all the media and people make a big deal of this. It is important, but shouldn’t effected me that much. I honestly felt I am emotionally or mentally sick at the moment to go from one extreme to another. I am so glad that I am not the only one 🙂

  38. I’m still in the dreaming phase, but have a lot of worries about finding a suitable plus size dress that won’t break the bank.

  39. Thank you for this article. Im getting married in May and I have already brought one dress, freaked out and changed my mind and have brought a second which I totally love and still freaking out. All my friends and bridesmaids are hung up on crying when you find that dress, and having that magical feeling when its the one. Im not there, the dress I have is beautiful and I love it.. but there has been no magical feeling. Actually, i hated the experience of finding a wedding dress. But reading these threads is making me feel less crazy and anxious and reminding me that its whats inside and underneath that matters, and that I will be beautiful in what ever dress I have chosen.

  40. I appreciate this post SO much. I just purchased my wedding dress this past Sunday (today is Friday) and I already have doubts. I look at pictures of myself and keep quibbling about how my waist looks. It’s hard for me, currently, to imagine what it’ll look like on the day of. Obviously, it needs altered and I’ll wear more forgiving undies underneath and may look into shapewear. And I’ll have my makeup done and my hair won’t look like crap, and I’ll have a veil on that I like opposed to the one they put on me at the store. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking your dress isn’t good enough. I said yes to it so unexpectedly. My mom cried, the salesgirl loved it, everyone who walked by loved it. I stared at myself, and I loved it. Until I left the store, with that receipt and the growing sense of panic.

    I’m returning to the bridal shop tomorrow with a bridesmaid of mine. I’m hoping to jump back into my dress while she tries on bridesmaid dresses. I just need to see it in person again. I went for a strapless dress with this gorgeous flowing train, lace bodice with little bits of sparkle. Oof.

  41. Thank you for making me feel Ok again! I tried on and bought my dress because I felt so right in it, but months down the line I am terrified it’s “too plain” because it doesn’t have layers and layers of lace, diamante, beading and all those other bells and whistles that many wedding dresses have. The crazy thing is that I feel this way in spite of the fact that I NEVER wear stuff like that in every day life, and my Fiance thinks those kinds of dresses are really ugly, and my Dad cried when he saw the try-on photos… all good signs I picked the right one, right? I’m really panicked anyway. The wedding machine puts all sorts of crazy pressures on us that cannot be fulfilled by one dress alone.

  42. Thank you for this. I am in this place right now that I paid $1,000 for this dress and I loved it when I bought it but now I feel like I’m not in love with it because I felt that this dress wasn’t MY DRESS. This made me feel so much better

  43. This was a such a great article to read. I was looking for dresses and both my bridesmaids are married and they both were assuring me that I would know THE DRESS when I found it and they both had this otherworldly experience when they saw and tried on their dresses that this was THE ONE. I don’t know if they’re saying this because that’s how they really felt and they had this gut reaction or because of the wedding industry. Every time I tried on a dress they would ask “is this it?” and I’d list what I liked about it but they were certain if I didn’t start bawling tears of joy that it’s not it. It’s hard enough finding the right person to marry, I don’t need this pressure from a dress as well.

  44. I am going through this..

    I bought my dress during my first shopping trip. (which I regret) but the dress was nice, on sale and my friends mom offered to plop $500 on the dress…. I felt like I couldnt refuse that. I mean I could have, I could have said I’d like to keep looking and the offer would still be there, but I felt really obligated.

    The dress is LOVELY. Then I made the mistake of showing it to my fiance (who doesnt know that I bought a dress yet) the dress online as an example of what I was considering and he said he didn’t like it *facepalm*….I almost burst into tears right then and there. He was so confused (poor guy). This happened last night

    I rally myself pretty well, the dress does look nice on me. I keep reminding myself it is just a dress and in the end he will love me in whatever I choose because it is not about the dress, it is about me and us and our union….

    But I do regret not looking a bit more. I had plenty of time..

  45. Ok, here’s the sad reality of my post. I got married 8 MONTHS ago, and I found this post by googling “wedding dress regret”. I was hoping to feel better by reading other people’s blogs and stories.

    I went through a ridiculous process to find my wedding dress. I went to every boutique I knew of and must have tried on at least 60 dresses (I’m too scared to actually count)! Here’s what I discovered:

    I had dresses saved on Pinterest and felt I had narrowed my dream dress down to one style. But then, I tried on a lot of different styles, and a lot of them looked really good. The more I tried on, the more confused I got. Then countless hours spent on Pinterest confused me more. (Tip: stay away from Pinterest completely)

    I got confused when I liked things I hadn’t even considered. I ruled out styles because I felt pressured to avoid strapless. (Spoiler: I ended up with strapless!) I thought that something was wrong because I didn’t have the “Yes to the dress” tears moment (other than crying from not being able to find something and stressing). Then I actually did cry about a dress that I personally loved to pieces and quite possibly was my perfect dress. Unfortunately I asked too many people for their opinion and they said it was too conservative. I took their word for it and continued the frustrating search.

    I ended up buying something very nice, I got so many compliments on it, and people tell me I’m crazy for doubting that it was amazing. Yet I doubt it any time I look at my photos! I wish I’d worn tulle, or maybe more lace, or something a little more sexy, or the dress I cried in. I see dresses out now and am convinced that the perfect dress does exists and it was just bad timing.

    The reality is, if I turned back time, I’d probably go through the exact same process. Unfortunately it’s true, hindsight is a bitch. There are so many things I would do differently/better if I was planning my wedding right now. But this is the current me talking – chilling out post-wedding, nothing to plan and not much stress in my life – saying that I wish I could do it again. The version of me one month before our wedding was certainly not keen to start again! I kinda feel like you can’t win. Especially if you have difficult making decisions in general, like me.

    But every time I go through this dress regret business, I find the same answer from wise women all over the internet: you did win! You married an amazing guy and get to fall asleep with him every night. That is awesome, and it’s more awesome than any dress I could have worn!

  46. I also needed to read this right now. I
    hate that others are experiencing or have experienced this same feeling, but there is some solace in the fact I’m not alone! There really is this pressure and idealistic mentality that swirls around weddings these days, it’s easy to feel hyper and question your decisions.

    I just ordered a dress from across the ocean from a resale site and am waiting for it to arrive. It’s an amazing designer dress with very intricate, hand sewn beading and sequins in gold and silver. It was originally very expensive and still $2000 for me second hand.

    I originally wanted long sleeves, lots of lace and a train even. This dress is sheath style, cap sleeves with no lace and lots of beading. I’m so worried it won’t look as good on my body type (athletic) and that I will have major regret. I don’t even have anyone to talk to about it because it’s embarrassing and I’ve spent so much. I want to keep it a surprise for my fiancé so I can’t get his imput which is tough. I haven’t even tried on ANY other dresses because I haven’t had anyone to go with and I felt nervous about getting intoxicated by the salon atmosphere. I felt a sense of urgency to buy this one as it’s been discontinued and hard to find. I feel such a strange mixture of excitement, sadness and uncertainty. It helps knowing that there is really no ONE dress and if I end up not loving it, I can resell.

    I showed it to my sister and friend who swooned over it and said it was soo me. If I was drawn to it and they said that, there has to be something to it, right?! It’s only one day, after all and as long as I have my sweet husband by my side when it’s all said and done, that’s what matters. I will try to keep my perspective

  47. I thought there was no such thing as that one perfect dress until I found mine. I agree we put too much pressure on finding it and that made me incredibly anxious about choosing period. The dress I bought is nothing like I thought I wanted. I can’t believe I almost bought the very first dress I tried on. Although it was beautiful I knew that much of the allure behind that dress was the significance in it being my first dress and the reaction from my family. If my Mom had her way I would have gotten that dress. I just refused to fall into that trap of the of feeling validated by the wedding consultant insisting I was ” the only one to try it on” or ” haven’t put it on the floor yet because they just got it from the designer and need to steam it”. Who cares really? They want you to harp on feeling like you’re getting something exclusive. The truth is they would hype up anyone who found interest in that dress. Even if they had a totally different shape. That’s their job.

    I found my dress months after I tried on my first dress and the same day Davids Bridal cancelled on me while I was en route to the appointment. I was determined to go to shop, get feedback and try on different styles aside from what I thought I wanted. On a whim I called a designer sample boutique in SF and they invited me in. No appointment needed. I should have known that was a good sign. Their selection was amazing especially for a plus size gal. I even told them they don’t give themselves enough credit considering their variety.
    The entire bridal consultant was laid back and only focused on what I wanted. They told me to pick out as many as I wanted to try on and no matter what we would try them all. I guess they figured they didn’t need to try to sell so hard. Most of the other Brides in the salon were like me – wedding within 6 months, no time to order from a designer or await months of delivery. It was pretty awesome, we had this amazing comradery amongst several brides. I was solo and the family members of another bride helped me pick my dress. I know my experience might not be like most and even without my mom, sisters or besties I found the dress I absolutely could not leave behind without regretting it. I cried and said yes to the dress.
    Once I got it home I couldn’t stop looking at it, opening the bag, smiling at it, smelling it, carefully trying it on and just beaming from ear to ear that it was mine.
    I believe if you’re true to yourself, patient and stick to your budget and STOP looking at dresses you can have that one true dress. Have confidence in your decision.
    A close friend of mine got engaged, wedding was literally 2 years away, 3 months in she went dress shopping and her sister bought her a dress. She kept looking, kept comparing and now she has 2 dresses.

  48. I tend to disagree. When I got married the vibe I got from walking into a bridal store for the first time was like being at a car dealership. The sales people weren’t there to make me feel special, but to make sale and that they would do anything including saying I looked perfect in a white plastic trash bag to make that sale. They also like to pit your attendants against you especially your mom, best friends and sisters to leverage you to get you to buy. Luckily I had a very fixed image in what I wanted to try on and what I’d be willing to buy, and as soon as it was clear the consultants wouldn’t show me that for whatever reason, I’d get dressed and walk out. I must have gone through nine different shops, but I did find my right dress. And once I bought it, I never looked back or looked at another dress because I was too busy looking at pictures of myself from fittings and moving onto other parts of wedding planning. I strongly recommend scoping out shops by yourself without the entourage because then you don’t have an audience to divert you from your goals. This is also best done on weekdays when business is slow and you can have multiple consultants helping you. I can only sing the praises of the final shop that helped me: they sell haute couture floor samples donated by designers to help Parkinson’s Disease victims and aid in research. The gowns are heavily discounted and they have to be altered to fit(which meant a seamstress that knew her stuff), but luckily they give you a list of skilled tailors and seamstresses they work with. Once I knew I had my gown and I had paid for it the girl who helped me offered to carry it to my car. I spent the next few months figuring out my accessories. As a rule I never buy my accessories when I buy my clothes. I don’t like cookie cutter outfits and when you buy a veil/headpiece and other bridal accessories that the designer of your dress picked you are just doing that. I spent a serious chunk of time talking to hairpiece designers, veil designers and jewelry designers over email. All were willing to do a custom design to my specifications, which is what happened, all for more reasonable prices than I ever encountered in any bridal shop. The thing with your bridal outfit is this: you need to get over the initial excitement and not cave at the first outfit that makes you actually feel like a bride. The right dress will do that and more: not only will it make you feel like an excited bride but it will make you feel as comfortable with yourself in it as you should feel in your own skin. My marriage didn’t work out through no fault of my own. But would I wear my gown again if I got married again, even despite the potential stigma? Absolutely. I love my gown more than stuff I’ve seen royalty wear. I may not have chosen the right guy, but, I still landed the right dress. My preservation agreement allows for me to get it pressed, inspected and refolded every two years. I never will regret buying this gown. Rather, I think of it as that tiny piece of Heaven that was made for me all along and a hint of better things to come.

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