I have always enjoyed watching shows like Say Yes to the Dress, but never felt that I wanted that specific experience. It just seemed torturous, to be honest: coming out in gown after gown for the (dis)approval of the people you brought with you; what seemed like emotional turmoil at trying on and loving dresses that you eventually realized was out of your budget; the childhood dreams of the perfect silhouette marred by non-availability. How I wanted, and still want, to find the dress I would wear to my wedding was always coloured by my love of thrifting. While I believe that the elusive vintage black velvet dress is still out there in the ether waiting for me, my Mom had her heart set on me being in a white gown and us shopping for it together. In our situation, a compromise was attainable: I will wear my black velvet dream at the court house, and I will wear the white dress at the reception.
Once we had decided upon our course of action, I started researching what I wanted my dress to be – not what it was going to look like, mind, but where it would be purchased, and what it would mean. Many years ago, a friend of mine had purchased their wedding dress at a place called The Brides Project, which is an organization where the profits go towards cancer charities. This appealed to me quite a bit, because some people I deeply loved had lost their battles with cancer, and they wouldn’t be able to make it to the wedding, but I wanted to honour them and reflect their spirit in our celebration.
We set a date – my Mom, my man of honour, and me. The Brides Project has a rule because of how limited the space is: you can only bring so many people, and that was fine by me. In fact, I think I rather preferred it that way; the wedding that Mikaius and I are planning is intimate, with only a selected number of people, and catered to reflect the kind of couple we were. This was perfect.
When we walked in, we were greeted at the door by very friendly staff members. We were asked to remove our shoes and to put on slippers provided by the shop, and then we were led upstairs, to rooms filled with beautifully beaded dresses and gowns . The Brides Project is located in a multi-story, old Toronto home, and the various rooms have been apportioned into dressing rooms with racks upon racks of dresses, either donated by past brides or bridal salons. We were in the old bathroom, and it was the quaintest way I have ever shopped for clothes – the old bathtub was full of tulle, and the old shower filled with veils!
A month or so ago, my bridal party and my Mom and I had checked out Nordstrom, The Bay, and a few other places to try on gowns, trying to see if there was a certain silhouette or material that was calling us. We went into our appointment mostly settled on what we were looking for: a lace, tea-length dress with a cap sleeve. We found a beautiful gown that was exactly what we were looking for, but in the wrong size, and altered in a way that wasn’t quite what we wanted. We found the same gown, this time unaltered and brand new, but still too big on me. And then, miracle of miracles, we found the exact same dress in my exact same size! Brilliant, I thought, we were getting a dress on our first try!
Since we still had maybe half an hour left on our appointment, we decided to keep looking and trying on dresses. Mom found a beautiful mermaid-style dress that also fit me perfectly – and she was very excited about it because the lace was almost exactly the same as that on her own wedding dress almost 3 decades ago. When we went to try it on, we were both shocked – it zipped up perfectly. The only alterations it would need were to adjust the bodice to fit me better, and a little off the hem. I feel beautiful in that dress, in a dreamy, almost magical sort of way. I was against the idea of wearing a veil with my dress, but while we were there, we tried on a beautiful waltz-length number that just disappeared into the dress like an ethereal gossamer butterfly wing, studded with teeny tiny Swarovski crystals, and I was sold. The dress I got was brand new, and originally from David’s Bridal, and we got it at a considerable discount for the sticker price.
So there I was, in the grand tradition of bridal gown shopping, in a dress that was the opposite of what I thought I wanted. And I was happy.
One of my main takeaways from this particular adventure has been that I truly felt no particular way about wedding dresses. They are gorgeous, and the one I went home with is intricately laced and beautifully beaded and it makes me feel good – but it is not as important to me, as, say, having good food at my wedding, or the vows I’m writing for my marriage, or even the venue we chose together, where our loved ones would gather with us to celebrate our love. But this dress was chosen with love, and purchased at a place whose values I believed in – and I shall be wearing it on my wedding day feeling like a bride, light-hearted as I marry my Mikaius.
Here’s two of the dresses that weren’t quite it, but were fun to try on nonetheless! Peep my Mom behind me, adjusting the dresses.