Erin’s Engagement: Outfitting the Party

Between the wedding dress, the bridesmaid dresses, and the tuxes for the gents, getting dressed for the big day can leave a bride-to-be feeling exhausted.

When a woman gets engaged, there are two questions she’s most likely to be asked. The first is “When’s the big day?” and the second is “Have you picked out a dress?” For several months after Randy and I got engaged, I wasn’t able to answer the second question. I wanted to shop for a dress, but I wanted to do it in a particular way. For one thing, I wanted my mom and sister to be with me. The next time we’d all be together would be Christmas, so I figured we could wait until December 26 or 27 and brave the bridal salons.

Unfortunately, I completely forgot how busy and chaotic the holidays always are. There was never a good time for the three of us to venture out, and my sister—who has two children and is expecting a third—was exhausted from all of the activity surrounding the holidays. So my mom promised me she’d make a trip to DC to go dress shopping with me. A few weeks later, that’s just what she did.

I knew I wanted our first stop to be Lady Hamilton in Clarendon. I’ve lived in Arlington almost six years, and I’ve always loved Lady Hamilton’s storefront. It always has the prettiest dresses on display. I’d heard it was best to make an appointment to try on dresses, so I made one a few days in advance. When my mom and I arrived at the store, we immediately dug in, combing the racks for the perfect dress. Selecting dresses was the easy part. Trying them on was a workout—I immediately wished I’d brought a bottle of water with me. The dresses themselves are heavy, and jumping in and out of them, then hoisting them up to go look at myself in the three-way mirror, actually tired me out. The other things I wished I’d brought were a strapless bra—because most of the dresses I tried on were strapless—and a pair of high heels. All of the dresses were too long, and wearing heels helps a bit. Most bridal salons offer a range of heels for you to wear, but those were too big for me, too. When you’re trying to walk around in a too-big dress that weighs about 20 pounds, it’s best not to also be falling out of your shoes.

We didn’t find the perfect dress that day, but I found it shortly afterward during a trip to Ohio to visit my future mother-in-law. I asked her if she wanted to come dress shopping with me, and she happily agreed. She has two sons and no daughters, so she seemed excited to do something girly for a change. I didn’t think we’d actually find the dress that day, but we did. I tried on about five before I found the one. It fit almost perfectly, and I felt beautiful in it. I felt bad buying the dress without my mom there, but when I called her and told her how much I loved it, she told me to go for it. Finally I could tell people that yes, I had picked out my dress!

The next step was finding dresses for my bridesmaids. For this, I dragged my sister and matron of honor to a bridal salon to inflict my sister’s worst nightmare upon her: trying on a variety of ill-fitting dresses in a range of unflattering colors while she was four months pregnant. The little sister in me loved it, but I know it was cruel. She was a great sport, though, and we narrowed it down to a few favorites. I asked two of my other bridesmaids, Clay and Molly, to come shopping with me again to make the final decision. I found a few more dresses to add to the mix, but when I brought them into the dressing room, Clay took one look at them and said, “Erin, I love you, but that dress has a bubble skirt.” I slowly backed away. There’s only so much you can ask your friends to do for you, and apparently a bubble skirt is too much. We did find a nice dress by Dessy that everyone liked. I received the dresses a couple of weeks ago, and I love them.

Next, we needed to dress the groom and his groomsmen. For this, Randy and I went to Men’s Wearhouse to check out the selection. Unlike the search for my dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses, this trip took us roughly 20 minutes. We walked in, flipped through a book of options, and Randy decided what he wanted—with me serving as a consultant. Men’s Wearhouse offers a feature called “group manager,” which allows the bride and groom to view online which of the groomsmen have had their measurements taken, and it can send personalized reminders to nudge the groomsmen who haven’t. Once again, men win the “whose life is easier?” contest!

There are two more people left to outfit for our wedding: I have to find a little suit or tux for my nephew Andrew to wear as my ring bearer and a little dress for my niece Catie to wear as my flower girl. I’m just beginning to think about where I should look for these tiny outfits (Andrew is five, and Catie is two). With 2½ months to go, I need to find something for them to wear so that our bridal party is complete. Any suggestions? What tips do you have for brides who are searching for the perfect dress?

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