The Wedding Dress

Today is an exciting day for a young bride to be. I think it’s called “Trying on the Dress Day.” I’m not sure it has an official name, but the name I have given it describes exactly what is in store.

Now, mind you, I am not invited to tag along. Thank God! I mean, shucks!

Men are horrible tag-alongs for shopping in general. I, for example, am a one-hour shopper at best. I go in and I get out. There are no OOHS and AWHHs when men shop. We do not try stuff on. I have a pretty good idea of what might fit, and if I buy it, I wear it. No fussing around.

Women, on the other hand, are genetically wired for extended periods of shopping. There doesn’t even have to be any “buying” as long as there is “shopping” on the agenda. I have no idea where the reserve tank is, but women folk I have known can keep going forever. Five stores by lunch is nothing.

“Let’s go try that shop the other side of the Mall.”

“Oh, I love that place.”

“Me, too. After that we can grab a salad at the deli around the corner.”

“And after that we cut across to the Plaza on the west side. There’s five or six shops over there I’ve been dying to look at.”

If the man is along on this excursion, he is lying in the back seat of the car praying for a meteorite to fall on him.

My wife and my daughter know this about me. They understand that I really have nothing to offer when it comes to dress buying. And, thus, the idea of inviting me to go along never actually came up. It never occurred to them. And I’m fine with that.

They know that if I was sitting on some silk cushioned pillowed chair, in some swank bridal shop, I would say something stupid and useless. She would try on the first dress, and I would say, “Wow that’s beautiful, honey. You look so radiant. I like that one. Let’s just have them wrap that one up for you. The Braves come on at 1:00. Y’all ready to go?”

So, it’s just better if I’m not there.

Every bride wants the perfect dress. The right amount of lace. The right amount of class. It has to flow perfectly from her shoulders, accenting her glow as she walks down the aisle. The sheen has to be enough to match the sparkle in her eyes, but not so much as to make her look like a fake Hallmark Movie bride.

I have to say it. And this is just the man-brain in me speaking, I know. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wedding dress on a bride that wasn’t perfect. I mean, how could any dress on that face not be perfect. Of the brides I’ve seen on their wedding day walking down the aisle, and I’ve seen a lot in my years, she could be wearing a feed sack with lace on it and it would still be perfect to me.

My Mama and Daddy went to the Justice of the Peace without telling anybody about getting married. Whatever she had on that day, that was the perfect dress.

Perfection is in the woman wearing the dress, not the dress itself. I’m not campaigning for feed sacks at weddings. Don’t get me wrong. The perfect dress makes the perfect woman look even better. I’m just saying that it’s hard to improve on “perfect” even with a ship-load of lace and sheen and sparkling beads, hair extensions and a French manicure.

This will be my wife’s second such shopping adventure. She has been to the Bridal Boutique before. Her job is to encourage the bride to be. To offer support. To carefully consider each option as the bride waltzes from the fitting room.

The young face looks in the mirror and scrunches up her nose, purses her lips, and shrugs her shoulders at her mother. The Mom tilts her head over to one side, bites her lower lip and rocks back and forth.

“Turn around for me.” She turns. The material swishes at the movement.

“I’m not sure this one is really you, honey.”

Mom is in a tough spot. She is there to agree with the bride, but not too much. She doesn’t want it to appear as if she is just saying “yes” to anything. That would make her unhelpful. But neither can she show too much disapproval, because her daughter did choose the dress she’s trying out. Too much negativity, and it could insinuate that the bride’s taste in gowns is not good enough for Mama.

It’s a delicate balance to be the advisor and confidant. But that is the Mother’s job. That and to write the check once they decide on the perfect dress.

My wife wore my sister’s dress. Mama altered it. Her Mama made the veil. She can probably tell you every detail about it. The only image of the dress I have in my head is from a framed picture that sits on a shelf in our home. Men are dress blind and sentimental stupid?

I’ve often wondered if she ever regretted not getting to shop for a dress all her own. Both of our mothers were practical women. They were the kind of women that ‘made do’ with what they had. Both could sew and stich and build world empires out of needle and thread. I don’t recall “shopping for a dress” ever being discussed. But, of course, I wasn’t invited then either.

All I remember is how perfect she looked that day. And if the dress had anything to do with that, I’ll concede to the dress. But I suspect the magic was in the day itself and the dress was just along for the ride.

But, this is a big day. Looking at the most beautiful dresses on the face of the planet. Surrounded by silk and sheen and beads and lace and glitter. The decision made today will soon be captured in pictures that will live on cell phones for the next 50 years. A framed portrait of a moment in time that will sit on a bookshelf, or a mantel. A white dress flowing around her feet.

When the wedding is over, she will save the dress. It will be packed away and protected like it is already the heirloom that it will one day become. A small child will discover it hanging in the back of a closet.

“Grandma? What’s this?” Grandma takes the dress out for the first time in decades. She tells the little girl about shopping for the dress with her mother. About how nervous she was, and how she felt like she was floating down the aisle on her wedding day in this dress.

“I want to wear it when I get married” the girl says. “It’s so pretty.”

“Well, we’ll see. You might change your mind by then.”

“Oh no, Ma’am. I love this dress. It’s just perfect.”

Yep, it sure was.