For every season, for every motif, for every person and for every color symbolism, there will always be the right wedding dress. Choosing what to wear in your wedding is as critical as choosing the the man you will be spending your sunset days with.
There’s a multitude of wedding dress styles to choose from – in some countries that have veered away from much of wedding rituals and traditions, dress styles number in the thousands. With this dizzying array, how do you choose yours? How do you make sure that your dress will be a reflection of the real YOU, not the fashion model on the glossy cover of magazines that grace bridal boutiques and corner stalls in the metropolis?
Buying a Wedding Dress: Style
The style of your wedding dress will depend on about four factors. There may be more but these are the most common ones we can think of:
- Type of wedding
- Your personality
- Your culture and that of your future husband
If you write down your thoughts about these four factors including any other detail you can think of, you’d have a good starting point for discussions with the boutique consultant. By rattling off your preferences, she can already come up with a short list and show you the styles immediately. This will save you time from browsing through voluminous catalogues and the sometimes crowded store racks.
Type of wedding: are you going to be married in a church and will the reception be inside a hall, OR are you going to be married in the beach, garden or in some enchanted island where guests will be free to roam around and then gather in an outdoor tent to offer their best wishes and congratulations?
An outdoor wedding would narrow your choices. You will certainly want to consider not wearing a gown that would require you to wear high heels, unless you want to leave permanent marks on that beautifully manicured lawn. Wear a gown that looks right with a pair of sensible but stylish flats to keep you from boring holes on the ground. For practical reasons, you may want to seriously not wear a long, down to the ankles type of dress. This will spare you from having to deal with a muddy hem. Make sure the hem is heavy enough not to fly up at the first sign of a sudden gust of wind.
For the same reasons, a train is not ideal for an outdoor wedding. You will likely find it covered in mud and grass stains by the end of the reception. If your dress comes with a veil, keep it weighted to keep it from blowing around too much, unless again you’d want your groom and pastor to chew on the lace by the end of the service, or risk the veil pin landing on someone’s cake.
Your personality: “tell me what you wear to your wedding and I’ll tell you what kind of person you are” may ring true, but remember that you need not be forced into wearing anything because it’s tradition or your rich mother-in-law has done the cherry picking in some designer’s rack. Your dress is you, inside and outside. Let it bring out the message on this special day.
Also, you’ll have to take your body type into account. If you have a good figure, show it off within the limits of decency, of course, especially if you’re getting married in church. Not that the pastor’s opinion should carry weight in the choice of your dress, but it is his church nevertheless, so be respectful of the place where your marriage will be solemnized.
A sleeve dress (one that clings to your body from neck to ankle) looks best on someone with a slim figure and curves to show off. If you’ve always been proud of your hips, look for a dress that flairs out a bit at the waist. If you want an overall slimming effect, do not invest in fluffed up sleeves and huge skirts, or you will look bigger than you really are. A skirt with lots of fabric so that it drapes and folds would be ideal. Do not add puff to the lower portion by adding a hoop or other fabric.
Your budget: who says you need a designer dress? One does get “suffocated” by the usual styles out there. You could spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress that will end up in an attic somewhere, only to be looked at when nostalgia strikes. Many brides think of their future daughters when they buy their wedding dress, but remember that your daughter could end up saying, “how could you wear a thing like that to your wedding, mum?”
If you have other wedding expenses and don’t want your wedding dress to take up the lion’s share, you can ask a sister or close friend to help you design a wedding dress. We know of a few friends who asked a private seamstress to do their dress, and they charge considerably less than boutiques and designer outlets.
Culture: The factor of culture plays a dominant role in weddings and when one wears a wedding dress that is typical of one’s culture, then the conversation gets livelier. For example, if you’ve been to a Scottish wedding, you’ll know that tartans and Highland kilts will be the dominant features of the wedding attire. Tartans are colorful fabrics that are also known as plaid. Scottish people also put accents to make the dress more attractive – like a Celtic knot that stands out.
Or you’ve seen the traditional Chinese attire. Brides will usually wear a red Chinese dress because red symbolizes love. If you’ve been to a Greek wedding, you’ll notice that both bride and groom wear flowers on their head instead of a veil.
Buying a Wedding Dress - Color
The color white, traditional for wedding dresses, was originally used to signify the bride’s virginity to the gathered witnesses. This virginity was likewise attested to by the hanging of a blood-soaked sheet the next morning. Though the custom of the bridal sheet has died, the customary bridal color still seems to be alive and well for the most part. Widows or divorcees might choose an ivory color to keep from claiming the white, but if tradition prevails, brides stick with what is expected in this sense.
The color white is not mandatory though. A differently colored dress would make a wonderful splash on your wedding day. The color red, for example, means joy, love, and fertility and is traditional for brides in China. No rules exist saying brides cannot wear purple or sage; indeed, an outdoor wedding might look even lovelier with a deviation from strict tradition. Always check with your pastor to see if you and your entourage can wear different colors, and ask him which colors are strictly forbidden.
Buying a Wedding Dress - Stories for You
If you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed by wedding preparations and agonizing over your wedding dress, you may want to take a break, sit and lounge on your favorite armchair, and curl up with a good book. We’d like to suggest My Wedding Dress: True-Life Tales of Lace, Laughter and Tulle published last month (January 2007) by Random House (ISBN: 978-0-676-97846-9; 0-676-97846-0). It’s an anthology of thoughtful essays that cover the full range of bridal sentiments, before and after the wedding. One of the contributors said that “the most important thing about the dress was that it wasn’t white, it wasn’t long and it had not a whisper of tradition clinging to it.”
There are about 26 essays from different women who talked about their wedding dresses and some of them, already divorced, described how their dress “felt all wrong” or “didn’t fit” or “it just wasn’t me.”
By taking time off from wedding preparations, you can re-charge yourself by reading about weddings. Wedding stories never fail to bring a warm glow to heart or trigger your love for laughter. For example, we looked for a story about wedding dresses and we found a funny one online from the Canadian Press (May 2005). It tells the story about a couple, Christopher Cummings and Charity O’Brien, both from Missouri, who got married on the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska. The title of the news story caught our attention: Weddings on Ice. Exchanging Vows on Alaskan Glaciers.
Guess what the bride wore to her glacier wedding?
The usual, white traditional – complete with sequins. But what else did she wear with it? We’ve chosen this paragraph and want to share it with you:
“The bride wore a curvy, strapless white satin gown sprinkled with sequins. She also had on tights, sweat pants, rain pants and a pair of hefty hiking boots fitted with spikes.”
“The groom was charmed. ‘That's the way she is…’ ‘although the dress was a surprise.’
Don’t forget. YOU get to choose, not anyone else. It’s personal, it’s special, and it’s an occasion that may happen only once in your life.