The day I got engaged in November of 2019, I already knew that I wasn’t going to wear a wedding dress.
As a child, I loved nothing more than seeing brides in white ballgowns. But as an adult who became a bridal editor, by the time I was done with my third wedding magazine job in 2016, I knew that I wanted to elope. Having spent several years breaking down every part of the wedding planning process for work, I couldn’t see myself enjoying the stress, financial commitment, or societal pressure that go into what some consider one of the biggest days of their lives (even if I was an “expert” on it). With that in mind, I then didn’t think that I could justify spending money on a wedding dress — that, according to The Knot, on average costs $1,800 — for such an intimate affair. And, as someone who is trying to minimize excess fashion consumption in my life, I also couldn’t face the thought of buying a look I would wear only once.
That meant no big bridal store visit with my family and friends. Instead, I picked out a white suit by a New York designer that was already in my closet for a small union ceremony in Manhattan and bought a majorly discounted white cocktail dress from one of my favorite brands online for my legal elopement in Hawaii. I didn’t feel the type of thrill or excitement that bridal publications tell you that you should feel when you try on “the one,” but they felt like “me,” and I knew with 100% certainty that I would wear both again on many occasions to come. As the weeks went on, sure, I felt an occasional pang of doubt whenever I would see an unmistakably bridal look from one of my favorite wedding designers pop up on my Instagram feed, but I pushed it aside.
The fleeting thoughts turned into full-on uncertainty though when I attended Bridal Fashion Week, a semi-annual event during which bridal designers present their newest collections to the press and buyers. As I looked at one elaborate dress after another, I realized that I was more moved by the thought of future brides-to-be wearing a cathedral veil embroidered with a heart at Galia Lahav, a mini party dress featuring cut-outs at Houghton, and a frock with oversized sleeves at Rosie Assoulin than I was by the looks I had in the back of the closet. I wanted to at least try one bridal dress.
As soon as I put on the Khloe dress from Houghton, my longtime favorite bridal brand, I felt the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling I get when I see a look that I know will define the next season on a New York Fashion Week runway; I’d found my dress for Hawaii. The body-hugging style needed no alterations (a big plus when the wedding is a month away); the mesh material was breezy enough for an outdoor beach wedding, hugging my body without constricting it; and the corset detailing and uneven neckline added just the right amount of unexpected to an otherwise-timeless silhouette. And while I haven’t worn a strapless dress since the early ’00s, I couldn’t remember why when I put this one on.
Still set on wearing something by a New York-based designer for my city ceremony, I went to the studio of Jackson Wiederhoeft — a Thom Browne alum, this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and the most exciting new name in bridalwear. While I was fairly certain that I wanted a tuxedo-style bridal suit from the designer who, in the three years since launching his eponymous brand Wiederhoeft, has become known for his subversive creations that toe the line between avant-garde couture, fairycore fantasy, and classic romanticism, I was surprised again when it was the Charlie, a high-low dress in matte satin with a meringue-like corset bodice, that made me rethink everything I thought I wanted in a wedding look.
In the process of opting for two new wedding dresses, I didn’t compromise on my values entirely: While the Wiederhoeft style landed right around the cost of an average wedding dress, and Houghton’s costs less than $1,000, both brands make their designs ethically in New York and L.A., respectively. Charlie was created using 100% recycled fabric made in Italy from a post-consumer recycled yarn; meanwhile, Houghton uses an on-demand production model that eliminates excess waste. Both brands also create pieces for every body size which, while should be considered a normal practice at every label, is still unfortunately a rarity in the industry that frequently perpetuates fatphobia.
In the months leading to the wedding, people asked me what I was planning to wear — a common question for any bride-to-be but even more so for one who went from bridal to a fashion editor — I found myself giving an answer that, just like my reaction to my first set of looks, lacked the enthusiasm expected of a bride: “It’s a small wedding, so I am just wearing a suit and a cocktail dress.” While no one ever questioned it, the more I downplayed the looks in front of other people, the more I felt like I was downplaying the day on which I was about to make one of the biggest commitments of my life.
In my new dresses, on both of my wedding days, there was no mistaking that I was a bride — people were calling out congratulations, little girls were staring at me in delight, tourists were taking photos; the dresses were as special as the vows that my husband and I exchanged. While I don’t recommend changing your mind about your bridal dress shortly before your wedding for the sake of your wedding designers and your own stress levels, I do suggest waiting for a dress that you can’t wait to wear on your wedding day, rather than one you feel like you would wear on any day. And, maybe it’s naive but I still believe that I will wear both of my wedding looks again, albeit to more special occasions rather than work, where I have since worn my original white suit to, or a girls’ night out, where I debuted my first white cocktail dress. Then again, why would I want to reduce dresses that will forever remind me of my wedding to an everyday look anyway?
As for my bridal accessories, I wore used heels that I already had in my closet. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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