Friday, March 4, 2011

A Tale of Two Dresses

Betty Beguiles recently challenged her fellow bloggers to reflect on their wedding dresses. What the dress said about us then and what our thoughts on the dress say about who we are today. Personally, the questions posed are about much more than fashion.

What I wore, how I chose it and how I felt wearing it reflect so much on my expectations going into marriage, and ultimately how I feel about expectations (and fashion) today.

I was far from a “Bridezilla.” I was over the moon to be engaged and excited about the wedding, but I preferred a small affair. My husband- to- be and my parents wanted a larger wedding. I knew I wanted to get married in my hometown. We met in the Church in my hometown and I thought it greatly romantic to be married in the very building we met. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

When it came to my dress I had two requirements. The color had to be the darkest shade of white that could still be called white. Alabaster is too kind a work for how very white my complexion is. I also have a great amount of almost black hair. An odd combination I am aware. Therefore, white is not the most flattering color on me. An ivory or wine shade of white was necessary. I also wanted a halter style dress. I find this fit the most flattering on me and I’m not a huge fan of strapless dresses in Church.

What I thought would be my wedding dress

To my complete surprise, my mother and I found the perfect dress in the tiny boutique in my small hometown. It was dark ivory lace in the halter style with a long train. It was also more than double what I thought I would spend. I won’t share the price because I am shamed! My mom cried when I tried it on. We ordered it on the spot and she purchased it for me. The wedding was planned and deposits were made.

A few months into our engagement we found out Joseph needed his first heart surgery. All the wedding plans that seemed to be so important melted away with the “honeymoon” carefree stage of new love. There were many decisions to be made and prayers to be said. At the last minute we decided to move up our wedding and get married before the surgery. We decided on a Sunday to be married the next weekend.

There were strong reactions. Some of our loved ones found the circumstances romantic and a testament to our commitment to each other and the sacrament of marriage. We believe strongly in the graces of the sacrament and knew we would need those graces for the hard road in front of us.

Others were less than supportive. Emotions were high and the sum of all the circumstances may have been a bit much for some. Things were said that made me feel like less than a bride. “It’s not a real wedding” seemed to be the theme of those not is support of our decision. This created a fashion emergency for me.

My fancy, lace covered, extremely expensive dress had not yet arrived and would not have been fitting for the somber/joyful small affair.

My maid of honor and mother put together a wedding in a week as I had just started a new job and was working 12 hour days. They suggested I go to a bridal store and buy something off the rack from the less formal wedding lines. It would be white and a wedding dress, but not too fancy for a small wedding. I should have listened, but all the fighting and opinions of others made me feel as though I had no right wearing a wedding dress.

I spent every night that week in the large bridal store. I would only try on bridesmaid dresses. I was so emotional I had to call my fiancé to come and pick me up one night as I couldn’t drive myself. Wearing what I thought was my best dress option; I asked my fiancé and his friend their opinion when they arrived.

“Umm, it looks like a bridesmaid dress, but you look nice” my fiancé said.

I threw a shoe at him. In public. Not that I encourage throwing shoes at people in the comfort of their homes either.

Other people’s reaction to the biggest, best and hardest time in my life was preventing me from knowing what I wanted for myself. And I was allowing it. I was frustrated. All the expectations I had for my wedding I had given up out of love, how could people think badly of me? It was my first and only identity crisis and the only time in my life I look back on with regret.

Two days before our wedding I walked into Fashion Bug on my lunch hour and purchased a dress off the clearance rack for $14.99. It was white, it had lace and it was from their “beach wedding” line. I did not love the dress. I didn’t even really like it. It was the only white dress I could find that didn’t look too much like a wedding dress but was still a wedding dress.

On our wedding day with my family

I didn’t feel beautiful on my wedding day. I didn’t have my dad walk me down the aisle. Although that is what I wanted, I feared it would have appeared to others too “wedding like”. Because of the circumstances I didn’t feel as though others thought I had the right to be happy on my wedding day.

The wedding itself was amazing and the kindness and generosity of the people who supported us was overwhelming. There were about 50 people present and the mass was intimate and gorgeous. The important aspects of the day were perfect.
The best picture of us together on our wedding day

But the fashion - that symbolized a huge compromise. I compromised myself by allowing others to define the circumstances of our wedding. I still pray I will forgive myself someday.

My expectations of others and their opinions of my life have greatly changed because of the lesson of the wedding dress. It was a lovely wedding. I’m so sad I didn’t embrace it as fully as I could have. I did learn a very valuable lesson. Joseph and I no longer care what others think of our choices. We pray about what we do and how we run our family and that is as far as the consulting goes. We protect this union.

The saga of my wedding dresses is a hard one for me. Like so many hard things in life, the experience was freeing. The regret and anger I have at myself over the situation haunts me and motivates me to be who I am and no one else. I no longer care about or allow the opinions  or negativity of others to impact how I feel, especially when it comes to my own life. I’m so thankful we learned this lesson early in our marriage and before we had children. Because I have been so blessed by that clearance dress, I am growing to love it as well.

We kept our originally set wedding date and had our reception. My husband was feeling better after his operation and it was a joyous affair. And, because some of you have asked – yes, this is where I feel on the dance floor. I broke my leg in two places. I left in an ambulance strapped to a stretcher in a huge wedding dress. I don’t know why they called an ambulance. It may have something to do with the fact that several of the people making decisions had been drinking. It was midnight after all.

Since we did not walk in together on my wedding day, my dad walked me into the reception

With a college friend - right before I fell!

That night ended with a middle aged man trying to get me (and all of my dress) onto an X-ray table in the ER. I was wearing my fancy, expensive wedding dress. Made just for me. I told them they could just cut the darn thing off, but they wouldn’t do it. They said it looked too fancy and I may regret having them cut it off of me. Instead, I was mortified to have others called into the room, put iron aprons on and hold the thing over my head so they could X-ray my leg.
My older brother in the waiting room at the hospital. Poor guy has taken much heat for this SUPER funny picture

I had two weddings, and two wedding dresses. I was humiliated in both of them, but loved greatly in both of them as well. More importantly, I have one groom. And one very big lesson learned about protecting my joy.

With my groom. I love him so much we got married twice!


Teresa said...

Ooooohhh this one is soooo good!!!! LOVE IT! (It helps that I was there for almost every last minute of it!) :)

Krissy A. said...

I accidentally left a comment as my Mom--oops! LOVED this one Holly!

Lisa G. said...

What a story! I'm so glad your husband is okay! I'm not sure I would have handled it any better. There is social "protocol" surrounding serious events and your husbands surgery meant that everyone could "educate" you. What a tough time...But you look beautiful in both dresses!!

There have been a few times in my life where I have had to take pictures or smile for the camera and the memory is of a fake smile and a lot of stuff running through my head! I have to reconcile with those moments too. One of them was traveling through Austria with my roommates, my now husband and his two friends. I was soooo angry in a photo at my roommate and now I have to look at it and no one knows what was going through my head!!!

Kelley said...

This just makes me smile. I love hearing how marriages begin. It makes me feel very blessed to think about how different my husband and I are now than at the start of our marriage. I love that we've learned and grown together in God's grace. It sounds like you and Joseph are much the same in that respect. Praying for the blessing of a lifetime of growing and learning together!

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Holly, there's so much within this post. Wow! I'm so glad you had a chance to share that story. Who knew what would come of Betty's question, right? So many beautiful lessons learned in this one. I'm so proud of you, and so happy for your bright faith that has sustained you throughout your marriage!

Kathleen@so much to say said...

"I was humiliated in both of them, but loved greatly in both of them as well." This is such a beautiful quote. You make my day with this terrific story. Speaking of which: I have a link to send you, because you need to send this to Chicken Soup for the Soul, who are putting together a "bride" book.

I mean it. You need to send this story to them.

Second Chances said...

Yes, you SHOULD submit that story! It's wonderful and beautiful. It speaks volumes about us as women, wanting to please everyone but ourselves and settling for less than what we desire because of others' opinions. I'm SO glad you learned this lesson early in your marriage. I'm still learning :)

Sarah said...

Oh wow, I love this story! What a beautiful message of true love. Btw, your big, fancy dress is so amazing. I love that color... I too wanted the darkest shade of white. :) You look stunning, and I am so glad they didn't cut it off you!

Lagartija said...

Sniff, sniff! Beautiful story Holly! I'm really inspired by your whole marriage story in general. Thanks for sharing it!!

Christina said...

Thanks so much for sharing this story. I had only heard of your first wedding, and this story completes the picture. I'm so glad you didn't give up the reception and your big lacy dress, even if it happened after the wedding date! I hope I have the grace like you to see past details to the heart of the matter. My favorite part:

"I had two weddings, and two wedding dresses. I was humiliated in both of them, but loved greatly in both of them as well. More importantly, I have one groom. And one very big lesson learned about protecting my joy."