Say No to the Dress: An Older Bride Goes Shopping

In search of a simple dress for my wedding.

In search of a simple dress for my wedding.

I can see it in my head: a slim dress of cream-colored satin, covered with the softest of lace. Little cap sleeves of lace drape my shoulders. The dress reaches to my ankles, so as to show off my pretty satin 1920’s style pumps, and so as not to drag in the damp grass or sand. I know that my dress is out there somewhere. I cannot be the only bride who has envisioned a simple, graceful lace dress for her outdoor wedding.

But I sure haven’t found it yet! What I have found are Little Mermaid confections with hobble skirts ending in a burst of froth; stiff, strapless Barbie gowns more suited for a walk on the red carpet than for a walk down the aisle; and delicate little bodices perched atop what appear to be tulle pot scrubbers – you know, those puffy things we made in the third grade as Mother’s Day presents (sorry, Mom). Or, for the older bride, a dowdy suit, or a sexy-schmexy skin-tight short sheath dress. So not me.

Sure, I know that the bridal industry is just that – an industry bent on persuading brides to spend as much as possible – and I don’t have to play along. In fact, I made my first wedding dress. A skinny 22-year-old, I looked like Glinda the freaking good fairy, but I made it myself! The marriage only lasted five years – he was a wonderful boyfriend, but a lousy husband – and we were both too young for such an undertaking. But the wedding was a fun party; all the aunts, moms, sisters and female friends got together to make a buffet of cold salads, ham, roast beef, and little rolls. The cake was embellished with fresh flowers, and the reception hall was decorated with translucent balloons filled with colorful confetti, which the guests popped as we left to start our short-lived marriage.

The second time around, for my marriage to the wrong fellow I wore an off-the-rack ivory suit with a peplum jacket – pretty snazzy for a civil ceremony with just the two of us.  After a controversial courtship (enraged exes on both sides, lots of gossip and disapproval), we eloped to Denmark, where divorced people like us could be married with far less paperwork than Germany would have required. This marriage lasted twenty years and produced my gorgeous daughter, though it ended badly. Does any marriage that ends end well?

And now I’m heading to the altar for the third time. “Good Lord, woman! Can’t you see that you’re just no good at this marriage thing?” I hear you say. Ah, but I’ve learned a lot from my first two unions – about relationships, about myself, about how to handle conflict, to be patient, to be kind. As a wise old Southern woman once told me, “Honey, everyone’s got something to teach you, even if it’s how not to be.” And I’ve learned a lot about how not to be from my time with hubbies #1 and #2. I wish them well.

And anyway, three’s a charm! (Or three strikes you’re out) My good, good man proposed to me this summer by the light of a full moon, as we watched the ocean waves whisper and murmur below us. We’ve been a couple for three years now, know each other well, and are more compatible than I ever was with my first two mates. This man is the love of my life, the one who sees through me, recognizes my foibles, thinks I’m beautiful when I’m tired and grumpy, and loves me – not his idea of who or how I should be. And I’ll devote the rest of my life to being the best wife I can to this dear man.

But, in order to marry him, I’ll need to find a dress. Where are you, simple lace gown? And we’ll need a venue – not a grand palace, mansion, or winery where we can entertain hundreds with passed hors d’oeuvres and squab with caviar. Just a pretty outdoor spot for the ceremony and a nice place to drink a bit of bubbly and eat a simple meal with a small group of friends and family. We are not wealthy people, nor are the loved ones who will be driving or flying in to help us celebrate. “Don’t cheat yourself – design your dream wedding!” I’ve heard this from websites, well-meaning friends and family- and let’s not even talk about the wedding planners. “Buy, buy, buy! Spare no expense! After all, what’s ten thousand dollars – it’s your only wedding! Oh, that’s right, ahem…”

I’m confident that we will eventually find a pretty place, a simpatico officiant, and that we’ll have a lovely, simple, small celebration with our families and friends. No limo, no swans, no DJ, no ice sculptures, no tower of cake, no hours of posed photos – just a celebration of the sweet love we’ve found at long last. Did I mention that we’re living in Germany while planning a wedding in the U.S.? Wish us luck.

 

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