The first thing is that we’ve selected a date and place for getting married and then celebrating said marriage. We have signed all our documents and sent all our deposits. So that’s done–and it only took a small amount of anguish!
The second thing is that I bought my wedding dress this past Saturday. It was fast, easy, and not stressful at all. I’m being serious, it was a perfectly breezy experience. It was breezy because I stacked the deck in my favor; the Hornberger System of wedding dress shopping, really. This entails that you know which thing you want. But in order to get buy-in from other people, you feature it as part of a series of things, each item in the series making the thing you want look better and better, until the thing you want emerges as an obvious but organic choice. I have provided this simple, typed out explanation of the Hornberger System because YouTube does not feature a clip from this particular episode of 30 Rock. The only failure of the system was that I didn’t end up buying the dress I had picked out ahead of time; instead, I picked out a better dress. What’s it called when your strategy works but then you abandon the strategy for another, cooler thing? Is that called living your best life?
Prior to my appointment, I had found a dress online that was pretty and cheap. To be clear, It was more than just pretty; it looked like me, it fit the kind of wedding we were planning, the reviews were high, and yes, the cost was low. In my appointment request, I asked to try on this dress (knowing I would buy it) and then selected two other gowns that an algorithm had decided were garments I “might like.” A few days before my appointment, I was sent a mildly terrifying email from the bridal shop, telling me that if I didn’t confirm within the 24 hours before my appointment, they would cancel me and give it away to one of the countless bridezillas-to-be on the waiting list. This is a Beverly Hills shop we are talking about–there was no way in hell I was losing my spot to some lady who double-parked her Land Rover and didn’t have the foresight to make an appointment. As instructed, I emailed my confirmation the day before the appointment. And then, because I had a feeling my email confirmation was not enough, I also called. To reiterate, I confirmed twice. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my appointment the next day and I was met with two stunned employees, telling me they thought I had canceled.
“We have it here that you canceled,”said the now-nervous hip girl behind the counter, adjusting her large fake frames and flipping through pages of schedules and lists.
I looked down and saw a large black X over my name.
“No.” I said. “I confirmed twice.”
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the joy of LA is that everyone is exceedingly nice to you on account of not knowing to whom you might be connected. They don’t know who might have a meltdown; they don’t know who will threaten to sue; they don’t know who will tell their famous dad that they were dicked around at a bridal shop. It’s a game of chance, interacting with other humans in LA. So with this in mind, it goes without saying that I was immediately assured that yes, of course I would still have my appointment today and yes, absolutely, it was their fault for the miscommunication and please, please, look through the dresses, pull anything you want! (Some minutes later, the source of the issue was revealed. Turns out another Katie canceled her appointment. Normally I would be a little critical of this no-last-name system they are apparently using, but they were truly so nice that they needn’t be ridiculed further.)
My stylist, Catherine, took my dresses and me back to the changing area. I had selected a 4th dress to try on, because it was the most expensive one I could find. On my way back, I made my way through throngs of future brides, many of which were in full-on ball gowns, veils that started in one room and finished atop their heads in the other. I saw mothers with pursed lips and Botoxed foreheads, murmuring, “Well, that’s nice, if that’s how you want to look at your wedding.” I heard one woman in a wedding dress pleading with her stylist, “I’ll be smaller for my wedding! I promise! I know it!” Her stylist simply reassured her, reminding her that she’d just order it in her size, which only made the woman more upset.
I had invited two friends, and they weren’t quite there yet, so I opted to try on the worst dress first. Catherine followed me into my changing room, and it occurred to me then that there was likely the expectation that she would watch me get undressed and then physically put the dress on me. I have always been a person to change clothes in private, even amongst best friends. I was the person in high school theatre who put on a full crinoline in a bathroom stall before I dared took anything off in the hallway with the other girls in their bras, gleefully singing the complete soundtrack of “Rent.” Am I a Never Nude? I don’t know, maybe. But the point is, there were these heavy few seconds where I wasn’t getting changed and Catherine just stood there and no one said anything. Finally she said, “So I can help you….or you can just put on the dress yourself.” And I tried really hard to pretend like I’m cool and so whatever, man but it’s very possible I was physically pushing her out the door as I gave a carefree, “Doesn’t matter to me!” laugh.
Before my appointment, I was also sent a list of things I was supposed to bring. Those items included a strapless bra, a pair of nude underwear, and heels that would more or less be the same height as my wedding heels. Once Catherine was out of my changing room, I took to my bag of tricks (which is a canvas bag that basically says “Books! Books! Books!” on it.) I made some changes and then slipped the dress over my head. This all took about 15 seconds; Catherine was back in the room as though she’d never left. (Some might argue she didn’t need to leave at all, and there is a reason they change you into the dress in the first place.) Now, because I wanted to prove to Catherine that I had read the instructions, and that I deserved an A+ for Being the Very Best Bride To-Be, I said to her, “I brought some shoes…like the email said.” I deeply and truly wanted her to tell me I’m great for reading an email. She came close though, telling me that was cool, and then asked if they were kitten heels. Here’s the thing: they were not. I had actually brought a kind of shitty pair of black pumps, because the heel height was the closest to what I would eventually buy. But I said, “Yes.” I don’t know why I said “yes,” but I wager it had something to do with wanting to prove how very good I am at being a bride/human who can read emails. So I said “yes” but then I proceeded to pull my shoes out of the bag, assuming she would want to adjust the dress accordingly. Or to prove to her I owned shoes. I’m not too sure about the thought process on this part. What I pulled out was one black pump and one black high-heeled bootie.
“I thought these were the same when I packed them,” I said.
Instead of waiting for a response I awkwardly put on the one pump, all but toppling over. See? my face said to Catherine. A shoe! I was standing on one foot at this point, trying to channel Audrey Hepburn, while Catherine patiently waited for me to stop showing her my one shoe. She was very very nice about it before she told me that she actually didn’t need me in heels for this fitting. I also want to note that one time (at a different store) I went to a bridesmaid dress fitting, didn’t bring shoes, and they gave me god damn earful about it. So. I just want my baggage to be known.
My friends arrived for dress number 2, and they brought a nice camera! So I was able to see how the dress and subsequent dresses photographed. That was a very happy accident, and I think that’s probably a good tip for any of you readers who plan on trying on a white dress someday. Dress 2 was supposed to also be a part of the Hornberger System, but what do you know, it was lovely. Too lovely I thought, eyeing myself up and down. The peanut gallery agreed, though; it was a pretty good dress. #3 was meant to be the ringer, and while it was also very lovely, AND I had told them out of Catherine’s ear shot that this was the dress, I found myself not believing the plan anymore. #4 was pricey and I looked Catherine in the eye and said, “You know I’m not buying this, right?” In the end I tried on #2 again and chose it for the following reasons: 1) It showed a clear choice and represented a specific point of view 2) Spoke for itself without accessories 3) Looked and felt adult 4) Small dramatic details. 5) Butt-centric; one must know what to emphasize.
I’ve heard that some shops will ring a bell or do something showy to announce the selection of a dress, but Catherine was like, “I’ll bring you some paperwork.” She also brought us cans of champagne, which we drank while sitting directly in the middle of another bride’s fitting. She was up on the step, in front of the mirror, the whole Say Yes to the Dress thing, and we knew we shouldn’t be there when we realized we were oohing and ahhing along with her family. We moved on to another faux-Victorian pink sofa, and found another bride at which to ooh and ahh.
I know I’ve made my opinions pretty clear when it comes to my wedding. No ceremony! No walking down a thing to meet another person at the end of the thing! No more aviator sunglasses! (I haven’t explicitly written about that one, but woof, can we get a memorandum on synchronized dancing into a banquet hall wearing aviators, I mean, Christ, if there is something on my top 5 list of things to do away with forever, it would be this. Anyway.) YES PARTY! But there was a time when I was “no” to the wedding dress. I thought it was too frivolous to have a place in my “simplest wedding ever” plan. It didn’t make logical sense, like there would be no buy-in from anyone else if I asked for one thing but not the others. But it was enough people telling me I was going to want one, and then looking at dresses online and deciding I did. The Hornberger System can only work for so long until a disrupter comes along, throwing the whole thing off. Like Dress #2. And lots and lots and lots of other disrupters before it, and I’m sure, many more to come.