My "Say Yes to the Dress" Experience: Part 1

Shopping for my wedding dress was exhilarating, confusing, and addictive (my heart sank when the two-hour appointment was over). Even after over a year of working at your favorite bridal magazine —scouring our entire gown gallery —I was still surprised by the range of emotions that overtook me. I haven’t said yes to the dress (yet!), but would love to share my experience at Kleinfeld with you, in the hopes that someone out there can relate.

First, here was my inspiration, courtesy of my personal Pinterest board:

oscar de la renta wedding gown

Dress by Oscar de la Renta. Photo credits: Erin Hearts Court Photography.

wedding gowns

Dress at left by Romona Keveza, shot by Kate Stoops Photography; dress at right is "Scarlet" by Monique Lhullier, shot by Paul Johnson Photography

wedidng gowns

Both dresses by Monique Lhullier. Photo credits from left to right: Gia Canali and KT Merry.

My biggest challenge: narrowing down the silhouette. You can see from my picks above that A-lines, ball gowns, and fit-and-flares were all there. I thought I’d be able to cut them down, based on sheer trial and error, since I have a very particular body type (curvy, 5 ft 2"). Big mistake. I tried on a huge range of gowns—lace columns, tulle ball gowns, satin mermaids —they were all equally beautiful. My first lesson: It’s not enough to simply feel "beautiful" in your dress. If there’s a style that looks incredible, but you find yourself tugging at it, looking at it sideways, and it just doesn’t feel like "you" (Badgley Mischka’s "Ava," I’m looking at you), then it’s not The Dress.

badgley mischka

"Ava" dress by Badgley Mischka

However, by all means, try on that insane gown you never envisioned yourself wearing, if nothing else, just to get it out of your system. One ball gown was so massive, it took the assistance of three people, just for me to slip it on. It had every decorative element you can think of (rosettes, sparkle, volume, drama). I resembled a (very expensive) frosted cupcake, but you know what, I had a blast. That wasn't how I envisioned myself walking down the aisle, so we moved on.

Now if you find yourself twirling around like a ballerina and hurt your neck because you keep admiring the back (true story: thank goodness my fiancé is a physical therapist), that’s a sign you’re heading in the right direction. I can’t post a photo of the gown that made me feel this way, because I don’t want to spoil the secret! But I can tell you that it’s so brand-new, I couldn’t even find a photo of it online for y'all. And it looked so blasé on that hanger, but in the words of Mom, "came alive" when I put it on.

That brings me to my second epiphany: Your consultant will completely make or break your appointment. Mine was Deborah Asprea, all you "Say Yes to the Dress" fanatics out there may recognize her name. I instantly connected with her, swapping stories about our Brooklyn neighborhood (she married in the same church where I’ll say I do.) Most importantly, she was able to articulate my wedding vision in a way I never had—sexy, yet utterly romantic. When I told her about my obsession with Mantilla veils (Spanish-style lace), she directed me to one with crystal embroidery instead that mimicked the look I wanted, but was even better. Find a consultant who feels like your fashion fairy godmother.

mantilla veil

Photo credits from left to right: Jose Villa and Momentus Special Events & More.

Despite my major progress, I decided to think it over for a few more weeks before buying anything. That's when I made a huge mistake: Showing Dad and my fiancé a reject dress (pictured below). I refer to it by that name simply because I didn’t pick it, not because it isn’t stunning (it is). They immediately told me how amazing I looked and what an impact it would make at the church, throwing me into a state of chaos. Beware of photo-sharing overload—no good can ever come from it.

gown shopping

The author in Pnina Tornai

Who ever said buying a wedding gown was easy?

Tell us: How many stores did you visit before you found the winning dress?

— Stefania Sainato


Featured: David Tutera on How to Keep Your Reception Fun. See more Q&As with David