Saying No to the Dress

Wedding DressI have been writing songs for the first time in my life, and one that has struck a surprising chord with listeners is called, “Wedding Dress.” It is about a woman who gives her wedding dress away on her 50th anniversary because she and her husband know that, “It’s not the dress, that’s the most important part.”

I wrote “Wedding Dress” in response to two things that were going on in my life.

My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary last year and my daughters were somewhat addicted to “Say Yes to the Dress” on reality TV. I watched the program with them a few times (it was doing a marathon of shows!) and was appalled to see young women and their mothers making such emotional and costly decisions. They were spending thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars on a gown that would likely see the light of day just once. I could only assume that this was just the tip of the financial iceberg and that the bride’s family was investing heavily in this event on every front.

It was a wonderful opportunity to talk with my girls about the reality of weddings. The reality is, that although you want a memorable and enjoyable time for both you and your guests…it isn’t really about the day.

It’s about the marriage.

Face it; the most gorgeous, expensive wedding in the world will not create a lasting marriage. The people getting married do that, and their focus should be on that long-term relationship, rather than the extremely ephemeral event. To start that process off right, they should discuss their expectations before getting married at all. If they are not on the same page in values, visions of their future and the things they expect from each other in everything from fidelity to finances…they are off to a rocky start from the beginning.

The other thing they should discuss is their (or their parents’) budget when it comes to a wedding, and how much they truly want to spend. After all, you don’t want your family’s longest lasting memory of your wedding to be the credit card bills!

When my husband and I decided to marry, we were older (27 & 28) than many couples. We were established in our professions and agreed together that we would not ask our family to pay for the wedding. His family opted to pay for the rehearsal dinner, according to tradition, but other than that, we took care of everything ourselves. We split the costs between us and agreed we would keep it small, beautiful and meaningful.

This meant limiting our guest list to 100 people.

It also meant that laying out thousands for a wedding dress would be a silly idea. Instead, I shopped early at my local bridal gown salons and found a past-season gown that was discounted for that reason, and it was great. Was it my dream dress? I don’t really know, since I was never too obsessed with bridal magazines and designers. I just knew when I put this one on, it made me feel curvy and beautiful, and the lace hat that went with it suited me perfectly. It cost about $300 with the hat.

Granted, that was 1986, but it was still very inexpensive compared to what I saw in magazines.

I wore it to the engagement photo shoot, the day of my wedding, and never again.

I moved it four times in 25 years and finally it occurred to me that my daughters’ taste was very different when it came to wedding dresses and neither of them expressed any interest in wearing my gown for their own weddings. It was never going to be worn again, unless I did something unusual…unless I gave it away.

And so I did. The chorus and tag of my song says, “She looked back as she drove away, and wondered she didn’t feel, a pain down in her heart. She tossed that dress right in the bin. She laughed out loud as it sailed in, for it’s not the gown that’s the most important part. They know it’s love, not the gown, that’s the most important part.”

What will we do for our lovely daughters when it comes time for them to consider a wedding day?  

We will give them a sum of money that they can then allocate any way they choose. They will decide how much of “their money” they want to spend on a wedding, and whatever is left over will be theirs to put toward a first house, furnishings, or anything else they may need to start their future.

Will we be disappointed if they choose something small and inexpensive? No, because it is not about us. It is about them and their choices. At this ceremony we truly are there to give them away and to be their supporters.

Will I give them any advice? Sure. “Don’t skimp on the photographer. At the end of the day, the pictures are truly the things you will treasure even 50 years later.”

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