The week after my first wedding dress shopping experience with my bridesmaids, my fiancé and I began our next year of travel. First stop was down south to Melbourne for six weeks. Melbourne is the home of the other half of my bridal party as well as an incredible woman who has been like a surrogate mother (SM) to me for almost ten years now.
I hadn’t expected to find the perfect wedding dress the first day so I had been looking forward to the whole mother-daughter wedding dress shopping experience. As a bonus, I also have two surrogate sisters in Melbourne (SS) one of who has a particularly good eye for style and I couldn’t wait to share the experience with her too.
Plus, as time went on the feeling in my gut had been growing that the Brisbane gown I had initially found, just wasn’t quite right. Maybe it was because it seemed just too easy? Maybe it was because of the price tag? Or maybe the universe had something else in store for me.
Wedding dress shopping 'take two'
Either way, I felt I needed clarity and confirmation before I began to attempt to find the money for it. So, we set a date for wedding dress shopping ‘take two’ attempt to find the perfect wedding dress.
In the mean-time, I did a lot more research. This time in an attempt to find a solution that would cancel out the uneasiness in my gut. I chose a large store that stocked a huge selection of gowns and several designers and promised a fairytale experience.
Narrowing it down to seven styles of dresses (yes, seven! I told you I had no idea what style suited me ha ha). I emailed to make the appointment so I could give them the list of gowns to have ready to try on.
After a few days I followed up with a phone call and gave them my list over the phone as well. Again a few days before the appointment I also called to confirm they would have the gowns there that I wanted to try on and they claimed they hadn’t received my list. I went over it again and was disappointed to discover that they would only have two of the gowns in their store for that Saturday.
But…I also discovered they would have a designer in the store that day. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to have an expert tell me what would suit my figure and taste. So, I continued with the appointment. Arriving on the day with SM and SS (with both kids in tow) I was so grateful for their efforts to be there for me. Little did I know how much I would need them.
A bad wedding dress shopping experience - no fairytale here!
I walked in first and was greeted by a gum chewing, disinterested girl at reception who couldn’t have cared less who I was or that I had an appointment to choose the most important dress of my life!
They didn’t have the two gowns ready for me to try and just waved me to a rack and said, “just look through those and I’m sure you’ll find something”.
Now, anyone who knows me well will understand this dilemma. It takes me a lot of research to narrow things down and I have a lengthy process of gathering information before making a decision. Especially, important and personal decisions.
I also suffer from shiny object syndrome so pointing me to a rack filled with white, tulle, sequined dresses is a recipe for me becoming lost for hours and then overwhelmed with stimuli.
In an attempt to avoid that fate I headed towards the designer. He was buried amongst a flurry of young bride-to-be’s and I couldn’t get near him. At one point he walked past me and completely ignored me as I attempted to say hello.
Another close encounter with said "designer" had him look me up and down with a frown of disgust. It felt like I wasn’t young enough, or as my fear monkey would have me believe - pretty enough, to warrant his attention. Not cool!
This was not the fairytale, magical princess wedding dress shopping experience I had imagined it would be!
Overall, there was a distinct lack of professionalism, passion and respect by all the staff which began to infuriate me. Doesn't everyone deserve to feel like important when choosing their special dress, regardless of their age, shape or perceived beauty!
I was increasingly feeling like it was all a bad idea. SM and SS had arrived by now and came to the rescue as best they could. They found a couple of gowns for me to try on but nothing suited me at all.
There was no help from anyone in the store, no advice, no magical moments of feeling like a princess as I chose my special dress and potentially spent thousands of dollars at their store. Nothing! Just a bad wedding dress shopping experience. In the end, we left to go have lunch instead.
The wedding dress shopping experience every girl should have
Walking across the street we came upon another wedding dress store. A small boutique store called Silk and Style Bridal that had a stunning gown in the window. SM suggested we take a look and see if we could make an appointment and I’m so glad we did.
They didn’t stock any of the designers from the previous store but they were so kind and excited for me for my upcoming wedding and suggested several others I could try right there and then.
I was made to feel super special, not just by the girl assigned to look after me but by every single staff member there who I came in contact with. They seemed genuinely excited for my upcoming nuptials and put the effort in to make me feel beautiful and glamorous.
It wasn’t just for me either. They did the same for every single bride there no matter what age, size or shape. The entire experience was a whole lot of fun, just like it should be, and I highly recommend Silk and Style Bridal. (But please book an appointment to have the best experience). We even found a dress that we all liked very much and I left there with plenty to think about.
So now it was down to two dresses. The one in Brisbane and the one from Silk and Style Bridal in Melbourne. But I only had two more weeks to go until we left for overseas so I had to move fast.
After much deliberation, I decided that the one in Brisbane had to be seen again. So, in a last ditch attempt to find certainty I found a store in Mornington called Sabrina Moda that for $50 would have the Brisbane dress shipped down for me to try on. Yay, I booked it straight away. They followed up and let me know when it arrived and we set the day for ‘the final’ session.
I was certain that when I tried it on I would know for sure which one I wanted. After all, they were both beautiful. But I was concerned about cutting it fine. Once we left Melbourne I would be on my own for the rest of the year until the wedding. I had to have a dress!
In the meantime, I had a special gift of kindness that turned out to be the beginning of the story of my wedding veil. It was one of those moments you cherish forever as you go along the crazy wedding preparation journey.
A super special gift of kindness
I have known SS for many years now and been blessed to watch her two children grow from newborns. Not only do I adore her but I also value her opinion, style and straight up approach.
I had seen photos of her wedding and she looked absolutely stunning! We were about the same size and she knew I was beginning to stress about the looming overseas deadline and no dress. Little did I know there had been a discussion and I was to be given the opportunity to try on her wedding dress.
It fitted me perfectly and her veil was exquisite with hand-sewn beading along the edge. Then came the surprise. She offered for me to wear it on my special day if I wanted to!
It brought me to tears! Lots of them. And still does. Who does that?! Who offers someone their prized possession to someone else to wear on their wedding day? That tells you a lot about what an incredibly kind and generous person she is. I’m so blessed to have her in my life.
I was completely blown away and so grateful. True, I would love a dress of my very own but it took the pressure off knowing that I had a dress that I could wear on the day and I would look beautiful. It's moments like these on this crazy wedding dress journey that I will cherish forever.
The mother daughter experience
The day came to go visit Sabrina Moda in Mornington and for my last wedding dress shopping opportunity in Australia. SM was coming with me and SS was going to drop in too (with the kids as well, I don’t know how she did it!).
I was super excited that today would be the decision day. Plus, I was looking forward to what SM would think of the dress from Brisbane.
Sabrina Moda was a beautiful small boutique store, and from the minute I walked in I had that feeling of being cared about. They have an impressively huge range of dresses and even do bespoke gowns by Jaye Lena. Everyone was so attentive to what I needed.
As we waited for SS to arrive SM found a couple more to try on that she thought I would like. I should have listened to her all along because one of them completely took my breath away. It was just so me!
It came down to three gowns. As I left the store with my head in a flurry, I knew I had a tough decision to make. And only a few days left to make it before we headed off for the rest of the year. No pressure Tegan! Ha Ha.
The flight day came and still, nothing felt right. It's a big decision to spend thousands of dollars on a dress to wear only once. Plus, I knew I had the SS dress as a backup. So, off I went for the rest of the year without a decision being made!
Some would say that was a big “f” for “failed” in the wedding dress shopping department. But deep in my gut, I knew there was something more to this adventure.
Besides, I had a lot of fond memories from the experience so far. The best of which had been with my bridesmaids, and SM or because of SM and SS. People kept telling me throughout the entire wedding preparation period that I had to make sure to cherish the experiences.
Without my real mother, I didn’t think I could have the special mother-daughter experience others talk of. But she made it possible. Besides the wedding dress shopping we had been to wedding expos, flicked through magazines together, had lunches and talked about everything wedding and basically had a really wonderful time.
If you aren’t blessed to have a mother or a surrogate mother like I do, then be sure to involve someone in the process because it’s the moments you spend with them that will be what you cherish the most afterward.
As for me, it’s back to the drawing board. I wonder, is every bride this indecisive? But I just can’t deny that it didn’t feel right yet. As time went on I would discover why. The universe had a different plan for me and my wandering wedding dress adventures.