It finally happened. After careful planning, wishful thinking, and a little bit of champagne, we all bit the bullet and went wedding dress shopping. (If you're just now hearing about this, read Part 1 before you continue).
My best and oldest friend, S, flew in from NY to go with me, and another of my best friends, P, and her mom, L, came along as well. My sister was home from school for Thanksgiving, and my parents rounded out our little group.
My mom's cancer has progressed pretty significantly, and outings or gatherings tire her out pretty quickly. So we nixed the pre-dress shopping make-up session and turned brunch from an all-morning affair at my house to a quick meal downtown, just the girls (S, P and me). Luckily, S & P are proponents of liquid courage, so we sipped mimosas before we headed over to the shop.
Let me just take a second and say a huge THANK YOU to Annalise Bridal in Richmond. Seriously, if you're actually getting married and need a real-life wedding dress, go there. The owner, Lindsey, and her employee Katie were so wonderful. Katie had read the story on my blog, and reached out to me, so there was no need for my big, fake engagement ring (THANK God, because I was so worried I would slip up and call my pretend fiancé two different names or something). They had everything set up when we showed up, and were so gracious and helpful. Katie even ran down to grab a Coke for my mom from the store, since that's all she can really stomach and they didn't have any. I couldn't have asked for a better bridal shop. And their selection was INCREDIBLE. I think we're heading back there to shop for P for real early next year (since she's, you know, actually getting married. She's got the real ring and everything).
So we showed up to the shop, the whole noisy lot of us. S, P and I got there first, and I immediately tasked S & P to pick out dresses. Because I have no idea what kind of dress I want - since, again, I'm no where close to getting married - I let them have free reign. Basically, I told them to pick things they thought I'd look good in. Then Mom, Dad, Annie and L showed up. L kindly offered to photograph the experience for us, and my dad was our designated videographer (via his iPad. Gotta love technology). I told Mom and Annie the same thing as S & P - to pick out dresses they liked for me. I think I only picked out one for myself.
After we'd raided the racks, I headed into the dressing room. Kudos to the ladies who do this multiple times, in multiple shops. Let me tell you, when I do this for real, I'm picking out ideas online and going somewhere with enough options that the ONE is there. Unless you love stripping down and stepping into one after another after another layer of white tulle, it's not exactly the most exhilerating experience. But there is something to be said for seeing yourself in a wedding dress. Even the most tomboyish of girls feels like a princess. It's a feeling unlike any other.
P & L had picked up a little bouquet for me to complete the experience, and P was amazing at making every dress feel like a big reveal. She swept back the curtain and announced "Dress 1! Dress 2!" before every dress. There was a big, round platform in the middle of the floor with mirrors all around, just like you'd see on Say Yes to the Dress. I took my place in the judging circle and let the commentators weigh in.
The best part was hearing Mom's opinion on every dress. I think everyone else had opinions, but hers is the only one I heard. She got to tell me what she liked, or didn't like, about each dress. I tried on almost every style, so she could weigh in. I think we were all surprised by what she liked and didn't like, compared to what she's been saying my whole life.
Annie even tried a dress on, and it was so incredible to see her in it. We came out together in two different dresses and got to stand in front of Mom. It was a moment I'll never forget.
It wasn't quite as emotional as I thought it would be, but I think all of us were trying so hard to keep it light and fun that there wasn't any room for sadness. We joked and laughed and poked fun at each other, just like we would any other day. Mom tried on a bridal crown, like the queen she is. Annie laughed at my cupcake dress, and my dad learned about the difference between a shift and a mermaid-style dress.
At the end of the day, it wasn't about finding the perfect dress (which I didn't). It was about experiencing it with Mom, and hearing her thoughts on all the dresses I tried on. Because of the video, I'll always have her thoughts on dress styles. When I go shopping for real, I'll be able to replay all the footage and hear what she thought about how the different styles fit me and how they made her feel. L took some amazing pictures (still to come). And Annie and I got to stand in wedding dresses, before Mom, and have her see us in the white dresses you only wear once (or in our case, twice).
When I go dress shopping for real, it's going to be emotional. It's going to be sad, and bittersweet, and really hard. And to be honest, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to find the "perfect" dress (sorry, future fiancé) because she won't be there to help me choose it. But I'll always have the memory of her seeing me in a dress. And those I can treasure forever.