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Must I say ‘yes’ to the dress?

April 6, 2010

[Note: Bob Cooper and I were married at home this past Sunday, April 4.  The following blog post was written not long before.]

 I told friends recently that I would soon be getting married in quiet ceremony at home, one of them asked this question:

What are you doing about a dress?

A dress?  It had not crossed my mind.  We had deliberately planned the simplest way possible to get married.  We’d have the rabbi and immediate family only – just a small group, not too many to gather around us as we pushed aside the living room coffee table to exchange vows in front of the fireplace.

“Oh, I’m sure I have something,” I answered.  But later, I thought over the contents of my closet with its collection of black cocktail dresses, and admitted something new might be called for.  But whatever I wore would have to be something simple, and appropriate for a second marriage.  It’s just family, after all.  Then I remembered that we would probably take a few photos.  All right, then , maybe something a little dressy.  But nothing at all resembling a wedding dress.

The fact is, I have a thing against wedding dresses – as well as the whole wedding extravaganza  concept altogether.  I have a theory about why divorce is so prevalent, and it has everything to do with the gazillion dollar wedding industry.  I’m convinced that many a young bride has been so caught up in the idea of the EVENT – which includes having the once-in-a-lifetime chance to splurge on some satin and lace confection and become, for one day, the princess in the fairy tale – that she managed to overlook some nagging inner doubt about whether the guy was truly her soul mate.

A marriage and family therapist who runs divorce support groups repeated to me something her friend said about her wedding day.  “I kind of knew at the time that something was wrong with the relationship  But I had this really pretty dress, with buttons down the back  …”

I can’t say it was exactly that way for me when I got married years ago.  I didn’t particularly love my wedding dress, a flouncy Mexican affair with sleeves that could be used, if one had a ceremony at the beach, to capture carp for the luncheon afterward.  (We were actually married on the rooftop of the St. Moritz Hotel in New York, with neither carp pond nor aquarium in site.)  What I most remember about that time was a quiet inner sense that my imagined life, with all my fantasies of promise and romance, was about to come to an end.  But there was also a sense, once the whole party-hotel-menu-photographer-invitations thing was underway, of some runaway train that could not be stopped. 

On a recent visit to my mother I joined her in watching one of her favorite afternoon TLC reality shows, “Say ‘Yes’ To the Dress.” Filmed at the iconic bridal salon Kleinfeld’s, it allows you to peek into a dressing room to watch prospective brides choose their wedding dresses. Once the decision is made, the price of the chosen gown flashes on the screen.  $5,600.  $12,500. $7,000. Nothing below $3,000 – not on the day I was watching, anyway.

Believe me, these did not appear to be wealthy people shelling out four or five figure amounts for a dress for “that special day.”  I was fascinated.   But at the same time, frankly, a little bit revolted.  I couldn’t help thinking how many Haitian homes and villages could be permanently rebuilt for the price of one gown. (Okay, I am hopelessly proletariat.  My mind always seems to go there when confronted with excess.)

I suppose the question of an actual wedding gown doesn’t apply to me, since I am not exactly a young bride, and mine will be a second marriage.   (This, however, did not stop the previously twice-married Judith Nathan, roughly my age, from going the whole gown-and- jeweled tiara route when she married Rudy Giuliani in 2003.) But more than that, I am an entirely different person that I was as a confused 22-year-old bride.

I love beautiful clothes as much as the next woman – maybe even more. But on the day that Bob and I commit to spending the rest of our lives together, in sickness and in health, I don’t want to be distracted by fashion.  I want to be clear-eyed and aware of exactly what I am doing.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t go out and look for a really pretty dress.  Maybe even in ivory or cream.

[Want to know what I actually wore? Check back in a few days.]

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 7, 2010 4:33 am

    I couldn’t agree more about the wedding extravaganza. Those fairy tales have really had an effect on our culture… and our judgment. It’s as if people don’t want to “be married”- they just want to “get married”.

    Congrats on the vows- that’s wonderful! Can’t wait to find out what you wore 🙂

  2. April 7, 2010 5:00 pm

    Congrats!!! And I’m in the same camp on the extravagance thing. I got married in a simple JCrew dress on the beach in Hawaii and though yeah, I am divorced now, I wouldn’t have changed how we got married, and IF I ever marry again, would totally do something similar!

  3. janepollak permalink
    April 9, 2010 10:33 am

    I got a sneak preview of ‘the dress’ and you look as radiant and gorgeous as anyone could, no matter the price tag. All the best!

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