My youngest daughter is engaged to be married. The wedding date is nearly a year away, but she is already making arrangements. I get it. She wants to know that things are handled, and I understand, because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. She and her fiancé have already secured the venue, the caterer, the DJ and the presider, so she let me know: It was time to find the perfect dress.
Shopping is not my idea of fun, although I have gotten better at it over the course of raising four daughters. Having been prom dress shopping with this child when she was in high school, however, I was prepared for long slogs through many bridal shops in many cities. I once paid a preposterous price for a strapless leopard print prom dress just to make it stop. We’d been at it for two weekends in a row, and she looked perfectly beautiful in everything she tried on, but nothing was right. I would have bought anything by the third weekend of this relentless quest.
This is the daughter who used to turn her nose up at the simple, backyard, low-budget weddings of her older sisters. She used to say she was not going to get married until she could afford the most lavish wedding our family would ever see. She would have a grand reception at a posh hotel, and wear a wedding dress that itself resembled a tiered, frothy cake, and money would be no object.
Funny, though, how children grow up.
My daughter and her fiancé are planning an outdoor wedding, simple but classy, and they actually seem to understand that the marriage is far more important than the wedding. When she actually said that she did not want a big cake of a dress, I knew that this must really be the man for her. They are funding much of the event themselves, but her dad and I offered to buy the dress.
My daughter planned the Day of the Dress to start with a brunch at her house, which was lovely. We were a party of eight: the bride-to-be, two sisters, three friends, one mother, and one stepdaughter-to-be (my daughter’s fiancé brings the blessing of grandchildren to the family). As organized as ever, my daughter had made an appointment at a local bridal shop. The first thing the boutique saleswoman established with us was our price range. Then our designated dress-expert brought an armful of dresses for the bride-to-be to try on. The very first one in which she emerged from the dressing room was fantastic, or so I thought; there were differing opinions among the entourage. Her preferences became apparent as dresses were tried and rejected: not too much lace, not too much fussiness, not too much train. We narrowed down the selection to three, all of which had slim, elegant lines and a plunging back. She looked gorgeous in all three.
The entourage made notes, took photos, and visited another shop, where we were less impressed by the dresses and the service. By then, of course, we needed lunch. Over a long lunch for eight, we compared those notes and photos and impressions, with no one dress a certain winner. And by then, it was time to call it a day and go swimming.
So we haven’t yet bought a dress, but I’m pretty sure my daughter has decided which one speaks to her. She is just worried about the price. Did I mention that she had grown up? I told her the cost was covered, which gave me a solid, good feeling to be able to say. Soon she’ll be saying yes to that beautiful dress, and scheduling subsequent fittings, and drawing ever closer to the big day.
Our day of shopping made me remember trying on my own wedding dress. I had cut a photo of it out of a magazine, and I knew it was the one. I tried on a few others for my mother’s sake, but I was sold on the one. I may not have looked as stunning in that dress as the model in the magazine, but I felt beautiful in it on my wedding day.
Which is what I want for my precious daughter. As I watched her twirl in each shimmering dress, I thought about her birth, her infancy, her lost front teeth, her adolescence, her dance concerts, her college graduation, her joys and sorrows and triumphs growing up, even that leopard prom dress. Now she is committed to lifelong love, set to become a wife and a mother at the same time. One of my greatest, secret pleasures of our shopping day was watching my youngest daughter mothering a 5-year-old little girl, who perhaps one day will be the young woman looking gorgeous in a wedding dress in a bridal shop, and my daughter will be remembering this shopping day. And God’s world keeps turning, and we are so very lucky to have such love in our lives.