Marriage and Lisa Marie: The Dress Search Begins

War stories from Filene’s Running of the Brides? Not for Lisa Marie.

Courtesy of Filene’s Basement.

My mother is a discount junkie, so when I informed her of the Running of the Brides event at Filene’s Basement, needless to say she was on board for the whole ordeal. The event is the budget bride’s dream: a one-day sale in which gowns usually priced from $1,000 to $10,000 are sold for $249 to $699. The designers aren’t announced prior to the event, nor are the dresses available to try on before that day. Girls line up the night before with hopes that their dream dress is waiting inside. It was quite an experience, to say the least.

This was my first time wedding-dress shopping, so I didn’t feel the need to sleep outside the night before the event, but I was told by the Filene’s staff that the girls lined up starting at 10 PM. Bridesmaids and mothers wore matching T-shirts, carried whistles, and made signs, all to show their camaraderie for the upcoming dress search. As a bride-to-be without a clue of what I wanted in a dress, I heeded the advice of past brides and waited until about 10:30 AM to join the search for the perfect dress at the perfect price. Past brides had told me that going later helped you avoid the fanatical brides-to-be as well as allowed the Filene’s staff to return dresses to the racks after the early-morning mayhem. I am forever grateful for that piece of advice because it was relatively quiet when I arrived with my mother that morning. There were still girls with signs and matching T-shirts, but the cutthroat mentality didn’t consume them.

I began my search for a dress, which was no easy task considering there was no rhyme or reason to the dresses’ order on the racks. One thing I knew I wanted was a princess or A-line dress, because a mermaid or slim-cut style wouldn’t be flattering on my lovely but large hips. As I moved through the amazing gowns, packed tightly in clear plastic bags, I began looking at the bottoms of the dresses to see if they had large skirts, collecting them in my arms until I couldn’t carry any more. Dressing rooms are not an option at this event, but luckily I came prepared. My mother claimed a prime spot in the shoe section next to a large mirror, and I began trying on dresses in the middle of an aisle. Due to my research beforehand, I knew to wear clothes over which I could try the dress on, so I stripped off my cotton shirtdress and spent the next three hours in a low-cut tank top and leggings. Other girls were more brazen, stripping down completely in the middle of the store. I respect their self-confidence, but the tank top and leggings worked just fine for me.

The sisterhood of the event was the biggest surprise. The cattiness I had expected between girls was simply not there. If I accidentally grabbed a dress from another girl’s pile on the floor, she politely told me she was still trying it on. When a girl in the store found “the dress,” her entourage would cheer and the whole store would begin clapping along. Women would offer opinions to each other, offering an objective opinion between dueling bridesmaids or mother/daughter teams.

I tried on dress after dress, totaling about 25 for the day. Even with all the wedding planning I’ve done so far, putting on a wedding dress and looking at myself in those mirrors was the first time I’ve really felt like I was getting married. It was a surreal moment—Andrew and I have been together for almost five years, but getting married to him seems like such a far-off experience. Being in that dress really brought it to reality. I tried on so many gorgeous dresses and then took one last lap to make sure I hadn’t missed any others before we departed. Then I saw the dress. A spaghetti strap, A-line ivory gown with the most beautiful beading I’d seen that day. I swiped it off the rack, ran over to my mother to try it on, and instantly fell in love. The bodice hugged my torso, slimming my stomach and hips without giving the maternity feel of other dresses I’d tried. The intricate beading covered the bodice and trickled down onto the full skirt, shimmering under the fluorescent store lights. I loved it. Six girls walked by me and told me how beautiful I looked in it, sealing the deal. I had to buy this dress! I look at the price tag, and its original price was $2,200. Sale price? $249. I couldn’t believe it!

As we walked toward the checkout, my mother realized she had misplaced my shirtdress, causing a quick detour to the juniors department to find a replacement. One shirtdress sacrificed for the dress was just fine by me. I was one of the lucky ones to find my dress that day. Sure, I’m going to go to dress shops with my bridesmaids (when I choose them) and my future mother-in law, and it’s possible that another dress could fit me just as well or take my breath away yet again. But with a $249 dress, I can take that risk. Isn’t that what Craigslist is for?


Lisa Marie, a local bride-to-be, writes every Friday about planning her wedding, which will be in Washington in July. To follow her adventures from the beginning, click here.

To read the latest Bridal Party blog posts, click here.