I can’t lie, I spent a lot of last week googling ‘what to expect at a wedding dress appointment’, and feeling mostly a bit nervous and confused. I booked myself an appointment to try on wedding dresses at David’s Bridal, rounded up my mum, and set off to pretend to be a proper bride for once.
The whole experience was one of the oddest of my life, I confess. To be clear though, this was largely to do with me and my own disconnect from all things bridal, and not at all to do with the staff of David’s Bridal, who were helpful as could be and all very, very nice. I’m just absolute shit at being a bride. I chose David’s, as they’re a big chain and were likely to have a good range of sizes, and lots of styles for me to test out.
So, what to expect at a wedding dress appointment? Well…I still don’t know, really, so I thought a ‘live’ run-down of my confusion would be the best way to unpack the weirdness of my appointment. This is going to be a long one, so maybe arm yourself with a cup of tea first.
Excuse the dodgy photo quality, they’re off Mum’s phone. Obviously this is not the dress, just some details of the one I liked best…which looking at again, I don’t actually like that much. Good work, me.
My current plan is to have my dress made by a bridal specialist local to my Mum, so this appointment was pure fact-finding. I wanted to try on lots of shapes to make sure that what I think I want is what suits me.
So, we arrive for my appointment, fill in a short form, and then we are directed into the main shop to look at the dresses while we wait for my consultant. I find one dress that looks ok, and the rest look like Victorian nightdresses to me. A good start.
My consultant tracks us down, and for some reason she is wearing cat ears. We discuss my requirements; tea-length, with sleeves and a sweetheart neckline, in tulle or lace, with minimal satiny fabrics, as I don’t like them. She pulls the dress we just looked at, which is a good beginning, and she asks if I’m open to trying other styles. I am, and she shows me a monstrosity of sparkles that she describes as ‘vintage’. After a hard no from me, she shows me a huge creation she tells me she can ‘just picture me in’, so I agree to try it as a ‘wild card’ option. Next, she selects a lace, long fitted number with a lot of nude illusion and a deep V neck.
While she’s setting up the dressing room, she sends me off to choose some shoes. Almost all the shoes are absolutely hideous. Sparkles, towering heels, satins, excessive glitter. Mum and I pull the least offensive we can find in my size, which turn out to be some Vera Wang kitten heels with huge brooches on the back. Within an hour my feet are killing me, so at least I know I won’t be wearing Wang on the big day.
The dressing rooms are in a huge room full of mirrors with little podiums in front of them, much like you might see on Say Yes To The Dress, a show my Mum is now an expert in. There are several brides being preened by sales assistants and various family members. I am bundled into a changing room, where my measurements are taken. I’m given a corset and instructed to put it and the shoes on.
The first dress is up; the tea length number I chose first. My consultant teaches me the ‘pray and dive’. She bundles the dress’s skirts up and holds the whole thing open for me. I am to put my arms up, pray, and dive in. This trick actually makes it pretty easy to get into the dress amongst the layers of skirt. Once in, I am whirled out of the changing room and onto the podium for my Mum to view. The dress is nice, but as neither me or Mum are the emotional type, we don’t provide the expected fit of weeping, so it’s back to the changing room.
The next dress is the ‘wild card’, which has so much skirt, I can’t walk out to the podium without bundling the front into my arms in an attractive manner. Onto the podium, and my consultant proudly spreads the skirts around me, which is very pretty, but not exactly what it would look like as I will not be wearing stilts, nor am I 7 feet tall. The top half of the dress is truly awful, with a straight cut top, and a one tulle shoulder strap. The skirt part is pretty and I concede that I like the lace detail and the subtle amount of sparkle.
The next long dress is even worse, with a severe plunging neckline and a skirt I cannot walk in. I’m left to stand on the podium surveying the true horribleness of this glorified nightgown, while my happy helper dashes off for another dress she thinks will work. This one has sleeves and is a long, mermaid style. It’s pretty, but not for me. She apparently disagrees and silently hands me a bouquet. Oh. She clearly thinks she’s nailed it. I attempt to turn round to see the back, and am immediately obstructed by the small train on the thing and almost topple over. The back of the dress is pretty, but I am certain now I really hate long dresses.
Luckily, the consultant has now accepted that long is not going to happen either. Three more tea-length dresses are found (I’m fairly sure I tried on everything they had in tea length that was a size I could get on) and I begin to feel like Goldilocks in a weird tulle nightmare. An all lace one is pretty but too fussy. A option from clearance has pockets, which I like, but is shorter than I want. A final option is presented. It’s strapless, but I’m offered a little faux sleeve jacket to try with it. The sleeves are plain mesh, and I’m asked to imagine it with the lace detail I might like. I can’t, and can’t comprehend how I am meant to part with all this money for a dress I have to ‘imagine’ with the right sleeve.
Finally, we go back to dress number one. I want sleeves. I’m enthusiastically brought sleeves, which are tucked into the cap sleeves the dress has, and the alterations woman is wheeled out to tell me she’s ‘pretty sure’ they could add the sleeves. By now, I’ve tried seven dresses (eight if you count dress one with added sleeves) and I want to go home. Mum starts to make noises about ‘going home to think about it’.
That clearly won’t do, and so Mum is whisked away to the shop floor. On their return I am told to close my eyes. My hair is twisted up into a clip, a birdcage veil is put on me and a bouquet pressed into my hands. While I wobble on a podium, in uncomfortable shoes, with my eyes closed, I am asked to imagine the BIG DAY. While I try to suppress almost hysterical giggles, I am instructed to imagine my hair and makeup are done, that my Dad is walking me down the aisle, that I can see David waiting for me…I am finally allowed to open my eyes. It’s too much. The dress is still pretty, but despite repeated assurances ‘it’s everything you asked for’, it is not everything I asked for, and even if I was planning to buy, this is not ‘the dress’. Eventually, I am allowed to say no, and instead she merrily writes down everything I am currently wearing and told to go have a drink, think about it, and come back another time. I am released from the podium.
The whole process was truly bizarre. My consultant was very enthusiastic, and very nice and helpful, and she really wanted me to find ‘the one’, but the pressure to buy is intense. My tips? Be open to trying on different styles, but when you find what you like, stick to your guns. Don’t be fooled by being passed bouquets and veils or anything else. If you don’t want to buy anything, be firm and keep saying you want to think about it until they back off. Try and enjoy the process for what it is. And then go home and do what I did, and have an enormous gin afterwards.