Marriage · Wedding

Don’t say yes to a dress, say yes to tradition

In the middle-of-nowhere Michigan sits an old bank, housing more beautiful white dresses than there are residents in that small town. Surrounded by fields, farms, and blue collar men is a plain building with a magical room my grandmother stood in – in 1953. 25 years later my mother walked into that building and stood in that same room, looked into those same mirrors, and said yes to a dress. Over 100,000 brides have been through those doors, and before you leave with your dress you walk past a small antique mirror and every bride before you looks back. It’s surreal when you’re standing there. They call it the magic room for a reason.

In an attempt not to fall into the trap of the Pinterest Bride, I tried not to think too much about what dress I would want. I knew what Ryan found flattering on me; I knew I wanted something classic; I also knew I upset my grandmother by turning down her dress. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but my grandmother was a very petite bride; and while I’m small, I’m not 22″ waist small. So on a chilly Saturday in the Spring of 2014 my mother and I headed to the only bridal store that matters (according to grandma) to look for a dress.

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My grandmother in 1944

I don’t honestly remember how many dresses I tried on, but it was only a handful. The one I picked was the second one I tried on. I didn’t fall in love with it immediately. I didn’t cry. I just said, “Well, this one is nice, what’s next?” I tried on a few more, some just for fun. One was very heavily beaded with a price tag of $2,400. My mom slipped it over my head, I felt the weight of the dress and my entire face went white. “Take it off! Take it off!” I scrambled for my jeans and my tank-top, and I stumbled out of the dressing room and passed out in the bathroom. Note to brides: Please eat before you go try dresses on, and bring a water bottle. You stand a lot, dresses are heavy, and most definitely don’t go hung over. 

As much as I tried to avoid the hype I was still nervous I wouldn’t find THE dress. The one and only dress! Because like men and soulmates there is only one absolutely perfect dress, right? Everyone tells you that you just “know” when you put that dress on, that there should be no doubt in your mind. Like you just “know” he is the one!

Iris Dress 2

I could have gotten married in a trash bag and it would still have been a legal ceremony. Ryan probably wouldn’t have gone through with it, but the dress is not actually a huge deal. It’s a symbol of the huge deal – a symbol of the tradition your parents gave you, that their parents gave them.

My grandmother’s marriage didn’t last 58 years because of a dress, and my mother’s marriage isn’t still going strong after 30 years because of a dress – but because of the traditions they upheld in their lives. The respect they have for their husbands. The tradition of being a 3rd generation bride in this store means I respect the traditions my family has raised me in.

After my fainting episode my mom said we needed a break from dresses and it was time to get some lunch. We walked across the street to get a bite and sat there talking about the dresses I had tried on. I said, “What if I pick the wrong one?” My mom just said, “Well it’s a good thing lots of dresses look good on you, so I don’t think that will be a problem.”

I had to change my perspective on this dress. There was no one dress, there were lots of nice dresses and we would pick one. The dress means a lot, but lots of dresses would have said the exact same thing. I wanted to show that I would be a classic bride and a traditional wife, I wasn’t trendy and looking for just what’s popular – and I am in it for the long haul.

Iris Dress 1

After lunch we went back and I tried that dress on again. I stood in an old bank vault that had mirrors on all 4 walls. I let the quiet take over and I said yes to the tradition that I will honor with my husband.

 

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