Lots of people like to tell the stories of how they got engaged: where they were, how it happened, who asked whom. But no one talks about what happens after the initial joy wears off—that first awful moment when you realize that you’re going to have to buy a wedding dress. I never dreamed of my big day, and I haven’t been planning the minutiae of my wedding since I was a kid. When other girls were dreaming of princess ball gowns and spring weddings, I was contemplating what I would wear for opening day of Major League baseball—go with the lucky hat from the season before or break in new one? In fact, I wore checked dress pants and a pair of sneakers to my first formal dance at Wellesley, but I held off on the baseball cap.
Somehow, I’ve found myself getting married anyway, and although I’ve never really thought of myself as overly traditional, I’ll be hewing fairly closely to the norm when it comes to my wedding. I’ve tackled the issues attendant with who we’re inviting, and where we’ll have it, to open bar or not, and what my “colors” will be. (Seriously? How is this a thing outside of the script for Steel Magnolias?)
Occasionally this has been done with gritted teeth, but mostly with a “let’s have fun” attitude. All except for the dress. I managed to put my dress shopping off for as long as possible, and when I finally succumbed to the process it was six months before the actual day, much to the dismay of the bridal shops I visited.
I couldn’t sleep the night before the appointed day of shopping, as all the possible horrors of what could happen danced in my head: Nothing would fit. All the dresses would be huge princess-style ball gowns. The only dress I liked would cost the equivalent of the GDP of a small country. Lace and taffeta would cover every surface. Everything would be a stark white that would make me look like death. My strapless bra would fail. I would fail.
So I did what any self-respecting die-hard Red Sox fan would do: I tried to look at it as though it were a sporting event. But this was no minor-league transaction I was undertaking. Looking for a dress is like looking for a marquee player, not a utility infielder. And the more I tried to look at the dress problem from every angle, the more issues I found.
This one dress needed to play every position: I needed a marquee utility player—which is like saying you need a unicorn with butterfly wings. The dress needed to make me look good, but still feel like me. It needed to be appropriate for walking down the aisle but also for dancing later. I needed to not laugh when I saw myself in it. And did I mention I wanted to not look hideous?
And then I saw it another way: I needed a dress that was a home run. A single to advance the runner on base is not what you’re looking for in this situation. This is no time to play small ball. You’ve got to swing for the fences, and trust me, I did not want to whiff.
So, on the appointed day, I showed up with a strapless bra, and my other support: my best friend, my mom, and my sister. Like any good scouting team, I expected them to cover different areas: My mom would love nearly everything and cry a lot; my sister (who works in retail) would make sure that no one made me cry; and my best friend would laugh with me, not at me.
And then I tried on a metric ton of dresses. (Truly, I was not prepared for how much these dresses weigh.) Standing on a platform in a slip while someone instructs you on how to “dive in” to a dress is not my idea of a fun day, but it had to be done. I learned a lot of things standing there half-naked. For instance, lace and I do not get along. Also, backless or sheer-backed dresses are beautiful, but there’s a reason they always show the models from behind: They provide zero support for what’s in front. But I was pleasantly surprised by the number of times that I looked, well, pretty. And bridal.
In the end, there was no moment when I just knew like a bolt of lightning that this was the only dress for me. There was a dress I liked more than the others, and I thought it would make one hell of a statement on opening day. I realized that the dress wasn’t going it alone, however. We made up a team, and we were both going to swing for the fences. The bridal salon attendant put a veil on me to try to complete the picture, and my best friend and I both burst out laughing. There’s only so far you can take a woman from her sneakers.
Jennifer Garrett ’98, who lives in Seattle, will not be having her wedding at Fenway Park, despite intense negotiations with her significant other.
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