The first time I visited a bridal shop, I was 21 and by myself. I lived away from my family and bridesmaids. That initial visit was lonesome. I needed to order a wedding dress, but not like that. Not surrounded by daughters and mothers drinking champagne. Still, I learned something important on that scouting mission: I wanted a silk dress. The other dresses were beautiful too, but I liked the way the silk dresses rustled when they swept across the floor.
The second, third and fourth times I visited a bridal shop, I was with my family and bridesmaids. We scoured the racks for silk dresses and found one for the bargain price of $500. Yes, I said bargain, because most dresses were three times as much. I learned important things about my bridesmaids too. They were gracious and loving and also had specific preferences about their dresses that I did my best to honor.
The fifth time I entered a bridal shop was many years later when I was trying on a bridesmaid’s dress to wear for my friend’s wedding. I had just given birth, which meant the dresses fit me in weird ways. By the time the dress arrived, it needed to be altered because I’d lost baby weight. That appointment was the sixth time I visited a bridal shop. I remember being relieved that the garment would hide nursing pads so I wouldn’t leak milk during the wedding.
The seventh time I walked into a bridal shop was to buy a flower girl dress for my daughter. My sister was getting married in a swirl of gauzy pink tule. We picked out a coordinating dress for my daughter that had a heart cut out of the back. It was an inch too long and couldn’t be hemmed. The plan was for her to grow before she tossed flower petals at the wedding. That hoped-for growth spurt didn’t fully materialize, but I bought my daughter white shoes with tiny heels to make up the difference.
The eighth time I visited a bridal shop was last weekend. My oldest niece will be married this summer and my daughter is helping with the guest book. My youngest niece will serve as the flower girl. For a moment on that visit, I felt wistful. My daughter is no longer the little girl in white patent leather shoes; now she was selecting a junior bridesmaid dress designed for tweenagers. But oh what a special time it was with my sisters-in-law and nieces. The mother-of-the-bride took us out to lunch afterward, too.
Someday in the future, I might visit a bride shop again, either as the mother-of-the-bride or the mother-of-the-groom. What a full-circle moment that will be. Bridal shops aren’t only for brides. They are places where women of all ages gather to celebrate each other.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.