OPEN THREAD: How do you deal with wedding dress regret?

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NO RAGRETS with this dress from Chantal Mallett Bridal Couture.
NO RAGRETS with this dress from Chantal Mallett Bridal Couture.
I'm a bride-to-be in about six weeks. I bought a dress, and was told by one person the dress wasn't for me, so I exchanged it for a different dress… But now I'm not sure. Do you have any articles on wedding dress regret and making the best of the dress you've got? I cannot afford to get another dress! -Cheryl

Oof, the infamous wedding dress regret. The first thing to know is that we think the whole concept of “THE DRESS,” that one perfect wedding dress that makes you cry etc, is totally a fantasy. There are dozens of outfits that might make you cry with joy. It's less about finding just the right one, and more about balancing other people's opinions with your own priorities like budget, aesthetics, and even ethics.

We'd love to hear from Offbeat Bride readers who've felt pangs of wedding dress regret — how did you deal with it? What helped you get over it?

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Comments on OPEN THREAD: How do you deal with wedding dress regret?

  1. The thing that will make you beautiful on your wedding day is your smile. Your dress is merely an accessory to your happiness.

  2. ME! So, here was the story. I love costuming and fantasized about beautiful colored gowns. I found a gorgeous purple and black lace prom dress online but only 1 store had a sample and it was 12 sizes too small 🙁 after several roadblocks like this I found a simple ivory dress that fit great but I felt cheated. I was creative and bold and we have a family tradition of colored dresses, I was born for this, why was I in a white dress? It fit, that’s why. I resigned myself to a cool reception dress. Then. I called my talented Aunt. One who wore a blue dress and taught me how to sew. We added a bold crinoline, a sassy border. I custom made my wedding belt (with skulls!) And by the time we were done I had invested so much time into my dress that I became attached. I could not even comprehend taking it off in favor of a dancing dress and I love it to this day.

  3. I wouldn’t focus on your dress being what makes the wedding great. I feel like looking at “what will make my guests comfy” works better: are they getting sufficiently fed for that time of day, are they not sweltering or freezing as a group, do they have access to a bathroom, etc ? If so, you planned fine. Princess Diana had the fanciest, most poofy wedding dress ever, and as we all know now that didn’t change her wedding or marriage : P

  4. I am getting married in August and I have so far found three dresses that I am layering into one with a corset and jacket over the top to bring it altogether for our steampunk theme. I randomly spotted these dresses in Myer, Target and Viola in three different parts of QLD, the best part is I will be able to wear all the dresses separately after the wedding, and thus set for race days and formal events into the future. Why look for the “one” dress that will only be worn for a few hours?

  5. After my wedding I realised just how much the dress didn’t matter. I had originally intended to buy a cheap dress online but my parents wanted to buy my dress and felt strongly that I should have a proper dress custom made to fit me. Whilst I did love my dress, I would have been equally happy in any of the other dresses I’d considered. In retrospect it was all so unnecessary- the amount of money spent, all the leave I had to take for appointments, the time it took to lace up on the day, and the faff of getting it dry cleaned and finding somewhere to store it. Make a decision and stick to it- stop looking elsewhere, and remember it’s just an outfit you’ll wear for one day. It’s not worth getting stressed out over.

  6. I think one way to think of dresses, which sort of goes out the window when one starts to think about *wedding* dresses, is that they don’t have to be standalone objects that tick all the boxes all by themselves – they can also be a backdrop for other details.

    One thing that I’m really happy about with my wedding outfit is that I’ve been able to include lots of extra things on top of my (relatively-plain-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things) dress – a wrap made out of a vintage kimono, the earrings that my partner got me for my 30th birthday, an antique pendant bought for me by my grandmother, a Victorian sweetheart brooch, tights from a favourite independent designer – that all make me happy individually, and collectively make the whole outfit feel really personal.
    (And as an added bonus, will give me loads to talk about throughout the entire reception!)

    If the dress isn’t completely doing it for you by itself, is there anything you can add to make it your own?

  7. it’s true, the dress doesn’t make the wedding and the wedding doesn’t make the marriage. that said, for most of us our wedding is the most photographed day of our lives so, to my thinking, the clothes are important. what is important is that you feel great, feel pretty, feel comfortable – find a dress that makes you feel good or find a way for your dress to feel good. adding accessories, taking preliminary photos, and asking for support are all good things. it’s Ok to tell people “I need compliments for confidence” when showing your dress. I’m sure YOU will be spectacular !

  8. Exchange it! I had a really bad case of wedding dress regret…although I do admit that no doubt some of that regret came from the family drama during the first dress shopping session.
    Luckily, I was able to exchange it for one off the rack in the store that was in my size. The only alterations I needed were on the length.

    Good luck!

  9. Try putting the dress on and doing something you enjoy in it, like reading a book, or knitting, or playing computer games (but nothing messy!). Try and take some of the wedding tension out of it and see it as a normal dress for a bit, then take some selfies (or get your OH to take some, if you’re not into dress superstitions). Do something fun and relaxing for a while, then look at the photos.

    Imagine you’re looking at pics from your wedding day. How do you feel about the dress? Does it bother you? Is it going to distract and upset you when you look back, so you find it harder to focus on the happy memories? If so, ditch it. Find yourself a dress that won’t distract you, or turn it into one: change it, exchange it, give it away, sew bows to it, dye it, bedazzle it, add over and underskirts, butterfly wings, battery powered fairy lights, or wear an old favourite instead (first date dress?). The important thing is to make sure that whatever decision you make, you’re looking at it through clear eyes, without that The Dress anxiety hanging over you.

  10. I had the most love/hate relationship with my wedding dress. I went dress shopping with my mother on a whim one day before we even had a date set, I tried on a dress that I liked, was told it was being discontinued and I could purchase the floor model on a discount and promptly threw my credit card down. 2 years later, as we approached the actual wedding, I loved my dress less and less. In my head it was no longer shabby-chic, retro, and romantic. It was dated, chintzy, and the lace looked cheap.

    My mother was a saint, and spent hours with me reworking the bodice to have cap sleeves instead of spaghetti straps, switching out the plain white cummerbund for deep purple satin, and adding an enormous beadwork appliqué to the waist.

    After all that work, I still went dress shopping 1 week before the wedding and very nearly spent another $700 I didn’t have on a second dress.

    After a lot of tears, I came to the realization that although I had made some poor decisions, it wasn’t the dress’s fault. The dress had come to represent every tiny mistake and bit of anxiety I had about the whole wedding. I hated the dress because I was angry at myself and couldn’t find a way to ‘fix’ things. Unfortunately, sometimes in life you can’t fix things, and you need to live with the consequences and make the best of it. On my wedding day, I was the only one who cared what my dress looked like. 2 years later, no one remembers my dress, but they do still tell me how much fun they had and that our vows made them cry.

    I can look at the pictures and see the dress and not hate it now. I’ll never love it, but I can look at it and see the loving work my mother put into it, and remember her hands touching me as she draped the lace across my shoulders to pin it. I’m choosing to let the dress bring good memories rather than bad. It gets easier as time goes on.

  11. Look at the dress as a foundation. Now build on it! Accessories, pops of color, cool jackets, puffy, colored crinolines, awesome shoes, amazing hats, gorgeous veils….all can transform a dress. Play around with it and try to stay true to you. If it makes you happy, then it will show in the pics! And if you really hate it, it’s just a dress and you can have the most spectacular trash the dress photo session ever.

  12. I agree with what some others have said, think in the scope of your outfit, not just the dress. While I loved my dress it wasn’t the most awesome part of my outfit. The shoes, the vest, my hair. All things I loved more than my dress. The vest in particular, which was actually my solution to possibly regretting my dress.

  13. As an owner of an “anti” bridal salon ~ I LOVE this post!! Thank you sooo much! Too many times we see brides being convinced that the gown that they love … isn’t what they want by bridesmaids,
    “friends”, Mommas & even strangers who want to give their two cents about what “they” think the bride should or shouldn’t wear. Of course we fight back by gently reminding guests that it’s kinda about the bride 🙂 ~
    On the other hand, our shop was started because I was completely freaked out by the notion of having “the dress” and wanted to make the “right impression” for my new hubby’s fancy biz partners … my crazy obsession aka insecurity about getting the “right look” or “perfect theme” was finally squashed (after 26 purchases – not to worry, I was a mega BARGAIN shopper and probably spent under $1000 after purchasing/reselling gowns) when I found one by myself that made me FEEL fantastic, comfortable and just like ME! It would probably have been deemed inappropriate for a bride of my age – but I didn’t care … it made me feel like a million bucks and I was tickled that I’d resold all the appropriate gowns for one that was just ME!
    Luckily we built the shop from the notion that all that crazy wedding hype is kinda just that … hype! Find the gown that makes you FEEL amazing ~ put your ear muffs on or shop alone if you don’t want opinions, because EVERYONE, even the most well intended friend, has one. Be yourself … your style will find you or at least that should be the plan. ps – when you find it … stop looking and don’t show anyone ~ there is more than one reason why no one should see the dress before your walk down the aisle 🙂 Life isn’t a stylized shoot or pinterest board, it’s messy ~ fun and uniquely you!
    ps – my hubby LOVED it and yours will LOVE you as long as you feel comfortable and confident!

  14. I guess I like my wedding dress, it’s not terrible, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I would just never be able to afford the wedding dress of my dreams. I basically had three things I wanted out of a dress: BIG ballgown, a material I could touch without cringing (I’m weird about the way things feel), and pink. I would have preferred either strapless or like, an illusion neckline, but I ended up with tank top type straps (and a v-neck, but I love v-necks so there’s no complaint there). It’s made out of taffeta, which I REALLY hate touching, and the colour is too..shimmery? like it looks kind of gold-ish in certain lighting and I don’t dig it. I would rather just consistent pink. But it’s honestly the best I could do, and I would rather be in a big pretty pink dress, even if the colour kinda changes in the light and touching the fabric makes me uncomfortable, than a white/off-white one. I may wear gloves so that I can’t feel it, haha

  15. I have been ridiculously indecisive about my dress. Spent twice what I had budgeted on a wedding dress, and one day I’ll regret it and wish I had bought something colorful, and other days I feel okay with it and like I’ll look like a “bride” and feel like a princess on my wedding day. I’m driving myself crazy! I can’t offer much advice unfortunately…I’m still trying to figure it out myself. But I’m trying hard to realize that it’s just a dress. I don’t even notice my friends’ dresses, really, in their wedding photos. I notice their beautiful faces and their emotions and the moments that were captured by the photos. And that’s how I would hope that everyone will view me and my wedding, as well.

  16. I got married in a white cotton sundress I bought for $50 at a department store. It was a casual wedding, and the dress looked pretty good on me. And it was kind of a spontaneous wedding, so I did not have time to buy the perfect dress from a dress shop and have it ordered and altered over months.

    I regretted that sundress a little. For awhile, I found myself looking through websites and store windows for a different, better dress, as though I could go back in time and redo it.

    But I’m the only one who looks at that dress with regret. Everyone else, my partner and all our guests, thought I looked lovely, and that the dress was perfect. It was helpful to realize the problem was in my own head and no one else’s. At this point, I’m at peace with it.

  17. I was genuinely expecting to regret my dress. I’m hurtling towards my wedding day at the moment, and my dress is in the alterations shop, but I keep looking at photos and I really am pleased with it.

    Which is a bit surprising, because it was a £125 dress from a charity shop. Yup, second hand, but fits me perfectly ontop and only needs the front underlayers taken up an inch or so so I don’t trip over it. I did dither over the train (it’s quite long), but the more I look at it the more I like it.

    I read on one of these conventional bridal sites that ‘As a wedding dress vendor, I know women have found the dress because they normally start crying’. It’s not only utter rubbish, it’s quite anti-woman. We are able to express our emotions without crying – I wish these sites would stop perpetuating the myth of the Perfect Day with the Perfect Dress with the Perfect Food and the Perfect Weather. No wonder so many people overspend and get sick with worry when that’s what they’re being told. How can women call out beauty mags for Photoshopping models but not apply the same common sense to wedding stuff? Don’t believe it! You’ll look fantastic if you turned up in jeans and tshirt – you’re there to marry your person! It’s awesome and anything else should play second fiddle 🙂

  18. Im feeling very deflated.. I looked through what seemed millions of dresses online as I hadn’t gone in and tried any on yet. I found one dress I loved and there was only one left in the country, luckily in the next major city and on sale as it had been discontinued.
    So I went and tried on two dresses in the similar style and fabric as the dress was too small to squeeze into. Confirming it would work with a little weight loss and letting out I bought it.
    That was two years ago. Recently I got into the dress, my MOH and big sis was there with two bridesmaids/nieces and I Bailey got a reaction from them. I feel so deflated. Now I’m questioning if I should buy another? Is it too plain or doesn’t it suit me? It’s made me question and what I never thought would happen… Dress regret

  19. I have some negative feelings towards my dress. I had a really hard time finding a dress and since I was having a bit of a short engagement, had to rush the process. I found one I thought was perfect, however once the dress had been altered, it wasn’t quite right and there wasn’t enough time to fix it. It’s alright to be angry or frustrated, nothing more annoying than trying to talk through your frustration and be shut down with “it doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t care, it’s all about who you’re marrying”. Which is true, but after being hounded by the wedding industry and people’s expectations about THE DRESS, it’s REALLY hard to just turn around and not care. Accessories do help, my super talented sister made my fascinator which I LOVE, my hair and makeup were perfect, and I wore lime green glitter shoes which were super fun (my dress was short so they were on display). Even with all my disappointments about the dress, my wedding day was great, full of fun, love, and family. That’s what I focus on when I feel those negative feelings come up, and that is worth way more than the perfect dress any day.

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