A Budget Fairy Tale Moment – The Story of My Wedding Gown (Part One)

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Now that wedding day is behind us, I can finally share the story of how I found my amazing wedding dress!

Photo by White Rabbit Photo Boutique

When we last left off in my dress shopping saga, I was crying to my fiance about how I tried on my dream dress that morning and wasn’t wowed with it, and about how I’m abnormal and I’m doomed to never find a dress. That was a Saturday.

On Sunday, the following day, I had walked about a mile from my apartment to a little shopping center for some retail therapy.  I had gone to a couple stores and didn’t find anything fun to buy so I had turned back to start walking home.  I’m not sure why but I was compelled to cross the street and walk back home on the other side of the road.  In doing so, I passed a thrift shop, to be specific it was a National Council of Jewish Women thrift shop.

And there, in the window, was my wedding gown.

I saw it and I knew right away.  I can’t say why I was drawn to it, specifically.  It didn’t really match what I thought I was looking for.  It was a-line.  It was white (well, ivory).  But before I could even set foot in the store to take a closer look, I knew it was my dress.

My heart was racing as I entered the store and made a beeline for the window display.  I didn’t bother to ask for assistance, I just climbed up in that window and got the dress down.  I was able to look at it closer now and see it was in pretty good shape.  I noticed right away it was a size 6, while I’m normally a size 10, maybe an 8 on a good day.  It had a zipper but the bodice had boning, so maybe I could get it altered to add a corset back?  My mind was racing.  Oh, the price!  I had to check the price.  What would I be prepared to pay for a secondhand gown – $50? $100?  For this gown, maybe $200, tops.

So imagine my *squeee* when I pulled out the price tag and it read “$15.”

Fifteen dollars?  Are they serious?  That can’t be accurate … could it?

I rushed to a sales person and asked if they had a fitting room.  They didn’t, but I was directed to a mirror along the back wall and was told to feel free to try it on over my clothes.

As I made my way over to the other end of the store, I had to laugh to myself – I may have laughed out loud a bit, even – at how different this gown shopping experience was to the several salon experiences I had.  This felt much more “me.”  Of course I would find my wedding gown at a secondhand shop!  Of course!

When I got to the mirror I plopped my purse on the ground, gingerly took the gown off the hanger, unzipped, and stepped into it.  Then I zipped it up has far as it would go, looked in the mirror, and laughed some more.  I looked so completely ridiculous, trying on a wedding gown over a t-shirt and blue jeans. I looked around to see if anyone was looking at me so they could share in my laughter, but no one was paying attention.  Nobody had anything to say.

Nobody had anything to say!  Unlike my prior dress shopping experiences, I had no one’s opinion to rely on but my own.  I felt empowered.  I felt like this is how everyone should pick their wedding gown.  No fake ooooh-ing and awwww-ing from bored girlfriends.  No one wrinkling their nose when you say which gown is your favorite.  No negative comments causing you to think twice before handing over the charge card.

While I still had the gown on, I sent a text message and photo to Mr. BFT:

“I think I just found my wedding gown in a thrift shop.”

I took the gown off and headed to the register.  I expected them to tell me the gown had the wrong tag but, nope – the cashier rang $15.  I was paying as another employee (volunteer?) came over and started ooooh-ing over the gown.  Uh-oh, this lady is gonna realize there has been a terrible pricing mistake, I thought.  “You’re buying the wedding gown?” she said.  “Yep!”  “Is it for your wedding?”  “I think it will be!”  She said, “That’s wonderful, it’s a gorgeous grown!  Congratulations!”

Whew.

Once the gown was paid for, I asked if they had a box or something to put the gown inside, since I was walking home and I wanted to keep the gown safe.  The cashier seemed confused and offered me a regular plastic grocery bag.  Sure, why not?  What exactly was I expecting, anyway?

So I walked home, one mile, with my wedding gown stuffed inside a plain plastic bag.

Once I got home I tried the gown on like a normal person would try clothing on … you know, without other clothes underneath.  The zipper made it about 3/4 up my back and the hem was about an inch too short.  If this were to be my gown, it would need some major alterations.  But still, I loved it.  When I looked in the mirror I saw a smile on my face like I hadn’t seen with any other gown I had tried on.  Mr. BFT said he liked it, too (although I suspect he would have liked anything).  Mr. BFT did ask me if the price of the gown had any sway on how much I loved it.  But it didn’t, really.  I loved it before I knew the price and was ready to pay a ton more for it.  Plus the shop had three or four other wedding gowns on a rack that didn’t impress me at all.  Yes, the price was nice, but my love for the dress went far deeper.

Initially my dress looked a little frumpy on me.  But I had a grand vision for it.  How I managed to get that vision executed will be explained in Part Two!