I had two wedding dresses. I had a beautiful dramatic gown for the ceremony and a flowy, comfortable gown for the reception. I didn't plan it this way, it just happened.
The dress was one of the most important parts of the wedding for me. I had dreamed about it, envisioned it, swooned over it for as long as I knew that weddings existed. And while it turned out to be the dress of my dreams, it didn't look anything like I expected.
The dress I wanted at twenty-eight was not the same dress I pictured when I was eighteen. I thought I wanted a tulle-filled ballgown, I thought I wanted it designed by Vera Wang. I tried on a gorgeous pouffy Vera Wang wedding dress and felt like a fraud.
In 2007, my favorite wedding dress designer was Reem Acra. I went to her New York City showroom and loved the dresses from years before and after, but that season was not meant to be. Designer Monique Lluillier was blowing up that year, and one of my top contenders was featured in all of the wedding magazines. It was a gorgeous dress, but I just couldn't bring myself to wear what was on the billboard.
After stepping in and out of dresses all over the country, even dabbling in designing my own, I found my dream dress at a little boutique in the valley. I went to the shop because they carried Oscar de la Renta, but the dress that took my breath away was from the Spanish designer Manuel Mota. It had the sleeves I wanted and was Spanish lace over eyelet. The style, the fit, and the vibe was perfect for the Georgia wedding I was planning.
I went back to look at the dress five times. I took a friend, I took my mom. It was a huge decision and I wanted backup, even though I felt it was perfect every time I tried it on. With each person I made go with me, the look on their face and mine told me I had found my dress.
The Manuel Mota dress was custom made to my measurements in Spain and took five months to arrive. My mom was with me for my first fitting. It didn't fit. The dress was too tiny. It wouldn't zip. I tried to quell the panic. The ladies at the boutique assured me that I would lose a few pounds before the wedding from the stress, that all brides do. I was already small, and I know my body well, and I knew that wasn't happening.
I'll spare you the drama and just say that after weeks and weeks of alterations, I could squeeze myself into the (absolutely stunning) dress. But wedding days are long, and there was no way that I could last hours upon hours unable to breathe. I took advantage of the boutique's sample sale and bought a gorgeous Carolina Herrera. It was strapless dotted swiss, and the fabric draped in the most beautiful way.
On the day of my wedding, I had to lie down in the limo because the Manual Mota dress was so tight I couldn't bend at the waist to sit. My handmade veil - trimmed in the lace from my mother's wedding dress - kept getting caught in my false eyelashes and made it almost impossible to see. It was all worth it. The look on my soon-to-be husband's face was something I will never forget for all my days.
This weekend we'll celebrate five years of marriage. Two houses, two movies, and two kids later, it has gone by in the blink of an eye. My wedding day was the best day of my life. There were things I did right, and things I would do differently, and none of it mattered as much as the vows we shared. I'm not sure anything ever will.
photos by Rob Garland