Getting the Dress
There's no denying there's pressure on brides to find the "perfect" wedding dress. Magazines, movies, television and the entire media and pop culture landscape relentlessly feed us images of what a wedding dress should look like. It's hard not to internalize all that noise - to some degree - even if you know it's all ridiculous. I went into the dress search with a firm vow not to buy into the bright white strapless dress I felt would be pushed on me no matter what. I had all these notions that it was going to be incredibly difficult to assert what I wanted - sleeves, tea length, no ball gowns or princess looks, a reasonable price - in an industry that I assumed would prefer that I stick to the normal.
Turns out I worried over nothing at all. I ended up buying a dress at the first appointment at the first shop I tried. The staff at Madeleine's Daughter in Portsmouth listened to my budget, what I wanted and helped me find exactly what I had pictured. New Hampshire has many great bridal salons - I've had the privilege of working with a number of them on photoshoots - but I've only ever shopped for myself at Madeleine's Daughter. I suspect that you'd find the same level of kind professionalism at the other great shops based on meeting many of the owners over the years at the magazine.
Basically, at the suggestion of the stylist at Madeleine's Daughter, I combined the parts of two dresses that I liked into one. They're both in the Encore by Watters collection which includes reception, exit or destination wedding dresses, which worked perfectly for me as they're typically less formal and much less expensive. If you're looking for something non-traditional or that won't put you into debt, these are great categories to explore. If you are actually having a destination wedding, they do travel much better. I didn't worry once when I had to pack it up in the car for the drive to Portland.
I loved the top part and back of this one, but wanted a skirt more like this. The thing is, neither dress was at all what I wanted - had the stylist not had me try them on, I never would have wound up with my dress. An open mind, it turns out, is really important. I ordered the shorter dress (it's not the one I linked to - it's no longer on the website) plus a bunch of extra lace. The amazing alterations manager, Renee, then created the sleeves, shortened the skirt to the length I wanted and added the scalloped trim back onto the neckline and hem.
My biggest pieces of advice when dress shopping is to keep an open mind, use your imagination and bring no more than three people you trust and love.