trash the dress

by ck on October 9, 2012

I hadn’t given it a second thought…until I opened the box.

I’d been dreaming it for ten years, and planning it for two, so I was positive. So positive that we booked it. Solidified it. And still I didn’t address the fact that it was contingent upon the contents of the box.

Until last week.

When I used my keys to break the twelve-year seal and release it’s magical powers.

My wedding dress.

This garment generally gets me a variation of the following response, “Really? I never would’ve pictured you in something like this.” In my defense, it was 2001. I was 22. None of my friends had gotten married yet and I was still in college. I hadn’t planned to get married, so I’d never opened a wedding magazine, and when I finally did, my eyes glazed over as if it were the latest edition of Newsweek.  Bottom line: I had no idea who I was or what I wanted, so I picked the first dress that looked nice and made my mom cry. As for everything else, I eagerly allowed myself to be guided by anyone willing to make a decision. Well, anyone except my then fiancé.

He knew what he wanted. A cool, informal suit. (Which he would’ve looked great in.) But I’d been advised that Saturday night weddings were FORMAL. So he had to wear the darkest, tuxiest, tux they had WITH a bowtie. He wanted us to dance to either “Angel” by Jimi Hendrix, or “The Girl is Mine” by Michael Jackson & Paul McCarthy. (Which was totally him, totally us, and would’ve been perfect for two non-dancers.) But I wanted something modern…so we went with Dido. Remember her? Of course you don’t. And worst of all? Since I didn’t know that photographers were an important investment, we went cheap and wound up with the worst wedding album in central Jersey.

Which is why I’d been planning a Trash the Dress session pretty much since the day I met ZonaFoto. Not that I actually wanted to trash my dress, but I wanted great, artistic photos to make up for the ones we had as proof of our big day. And everything was falling into place. Except my husband, of course. He didn’t really “get” why I wanted to do this, and was he expected to wear a suit? He certainly was not getting another tux. I told him he could wear whatever he wanted. I’d be in my dress and it would be fun regardless.

And then I opened the box.

The dress was perfectly sealed, as if I’d never worn it, and it was exactly as I would’ve remembered it if I’d had photos of my wedding hanging up somewhere in my house. Ornate. Beadish. Fruffy. So not me. I paused. Did I really want to wear it again? Did I really want to open the box, disturbing its slumber? All just to have it recleaned and resealed? Not that my kids would ever want to wear it one day…or even fit into it. They’re already almost as tall as I am. I started talking myself out of it, but I was trapped. The trip was planned. I’d set up the session. Booked the flight. All that was left was to break the seal. So I did. And the dress fit. And…I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it.

And so I did what any other last-minute bride-to-be would do. I panicked. I pondered what stores would carry white dresses at this time of year. Or should I just get another wedding dress? One off the rack that was more like me. Not ornate. Not fruffy. Preferably not one that actually looked like a wedding dress… I shared these thoughts with my husband, who in the same exhausted tone he had the last time we made wedding plans said, “Do you really want to go through this again? Why don’t we just get some new clothes and let Zona take her kind of photos in the city?”

“No,” I insisted, delving into my plethora of reasons why this simply wouldn’t do. I wanted nice wedding pictures. I’d been planning this for years. I really, really wanted it, puleeeeeeeaseeeeee…

He rolled his eyes and walked away like the sensible man that he is. And a few hours later I realized he was right. That dress wasn’t me. I didn’t want any more photos in it. And I certainly didn’t want to spend the next week searching for a new dress that I’d never wear again. How on earth did I get so caught up in the wedding mess again? Forgetting once again that it’s not about the day. Or trip. Or photos. Or dress. It’s about the things that can’t be planned. And the person you wing it with.

Freed from the burden of quasi-wedding logistics, I figured that the most fulfilling way to trash the dress would be to let my girls play in it. And even if the story ended there, the expressions on their faces when they realized they could try it on was more than worth every moment of anxiety I’d ever felt over the dress. They loved it, both losing themselves in the beads and glimmers and dreams that surfaced when facing themselves as brides. It was almost too much for me, so I was grateful to be in my emotional safehouse behind the camera.

And just after the exclamations of, “I look so beautiful,” and “You may serve me now…” and, “WOW! You can see my hoopfers in this thing!” came the best part of trash the dress. The “I’m gonna marry someone just like Daddy when I’m big” declarations. Followed by chatter of how lucky they were to have the daddy they had. And how lucky they thought I was to have him as my husband.

I didn’t trust myself to speak, so I nodded and kept shooting. Because they were right. I am lucky. I’ve spent the last twelve years feeling luckier and luckier with each day that passed. Lucky that he wore a tux and danced with me to Dido. Lucky that my life before him has faded away into memories as vague as warm, summer sun. And lucky that he talked sense into me and spared me the next lifetime of looking at photos of myself in my wedding dress.

(It looks much better on them, anyway.)






Jess in DC October 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

OK, so come on now. What are you doing? I thought the whole idea WAS the critique of the dress in the pictures in the ironic scenes. Earl and I can’t ever seem to get on the same page.

Kate October 9, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I picked my dress, but was lead astray by that same ‘Saturday evening is formal’ BS. I couldn’t bring myself to clean it. I ripped the overlay as we walked back up the aisle. If i would clean it, it would need to be repaired. But the truth is that I didn’t love it – or love me in it. It hangs in the closet, for little hands to find and enjoy.
By the way, my husband wanted the tux, so it’s also his fault. But we danced to What a Wonderful World. (good song, and super short for nondancers)

I adore how much you appreciate your love, how you see the growth and joy and real married wonderfulness.

Gigi October 9, 2012 at 7:18 pm

I bought a dress (I don’t remember if I loved it or not – but I do know that it isn’t something the Now Me would have worn) but I never wore it to our wedding. I held on to that damn thing for almost twenty years – and then I finally gave it to Goodwill. Unworn and with the tags still on it.

But here we are, more than 20 years, later. I guess that just goes to show that the dress, the ceremony, etc. aren’t what “makes” a marriage.

Dawn @What's Around the Next Bend? October 9, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I had the *perfect* dress.
My marriage, however, went to shambles.
…I would have rather had the perfect marriage…

Justine October 10, 2012 at 12:54 am

OMG, We danced to Dido and cheaped out on our photographer and got THE WORST album too. But that was with my ex-husband. What happened to my wedding dress should have clued me in on how our relationship would end up: I folded it and stuffed it into a Rubbermaid container that stayed in storage for years. Untouched. Without a hint of sentimentality. In fact, I think it may still be in there somewhere…

Tiffany October 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Those pictures are priceless.

I just opened my wedding dress the other day too. I’m not sure what to do with it…

Dad October 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Sorry CK but you still look as bueatiful, in that dress, as you did 12 years ago when I walked you down the isle. How proud I was then and now of you and husband. I hope and pray that you and MK stay married for 42 years like your mother and I. Love ya. Dad

Alison October 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I can’t get over the fact that you still fit into your wedding dress. I don’t even dare try that with mine because I know it will send me into fits of self-recrimination for my love of buttered toast. And chocolate. And wine. Which wasn’t a problem when I was 28, but surely is now at age 40-something. …

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