Monday, February 24, 2014

DIY Wedding #5: the Dress.

The past few weeks we've been talking about foundational things to consider such as the theme, venue, colors, & bridal party. But now it's time to consider "the dress." You may not need to be reminded, but it's easy to get caught up in the details and forget to take some time for you.

the Dress

What every girl dreams about in her wedding schemes, is the dress. I mean THE dress. It isn't just any dress, it's the ONE DAY ONLY dress that you'll say "I do" in and model in your $1,000 pictures. I don't say that to intimidate you, but these are the subconscious feelings that are ingrained in us ladies with the first Disney princess movie that we watch. It's a lot of pressure. How will you ever find that ONE dress?

Well, first, take a breath and realize that even though it is your BIG day dress, it IS only one day of your life. An important one, but not your life. Don't stress over it--it isn't worth it, even if you don't find your dress within your time frame--it will come. I promise.

I should know. In the beginning, I didn't care a ton about trying on several dresses, visiting various shops to find the "one." I had my eye on a beautiful, vintage dress on Etsy, only $250 including shipping that would customized to my measurements. In my mind, that was checked off. I ordered it pretty quickly after engagement, because I had my mind set on it, it fit my budget, and I knew it would take some time to ship from China. Then the day came when it arrived. I opened the package with bated breath and carefully pulled it out. It truly was beautiful--a bit more elaborate and white than the picture originally revealed, but that was all right by me--I accepted that when I agreed to purchase it from China for $200. As I slipped into it, it fit perfectly. It was a strapless, mermaid that showed off my curves without going overboard, with tiny details and beading sewn into the lace overlay. But there was one problem--my Mom and best friend didn't cry. That was never a requirement for me, but you could tell--it wasn't "the one."

My heart sunk a little, but I refused to care--this was the one that I had bought, it wasn't in the budget for another and it wasn't bad anyway. Then one day, a month or so later, I happened upon a wedding dress portrait from David's Bridal. I had never really cared for DB because I felt like it was the Walmart of Weddings and all the dresses were relatively the same--NOT the vintage style that I wanted. But this dress, was vastly different--it was simple, not weighed down with heavy beading, but tastefully decorated with some unique touches here and there. Out of curiosity I clicked on the picture and much different from what I was expecting--$2,599--it was only $500. Granted, that was more than I was originally thinking but lower than my Mom had planned on. I closed the link and forgot about it, I already had my dress. But in the next few days, it lingered in my mind. So I showed it to my Mom and told her that this had caught my eye, but I was determined to like the one I had. Now not every girl gets a second chance, but my Mom graciously made an appointment for me and that dress. When I came out--she cried. When I tried it on for my bestie--she cried. It was so good to feel like a bride.

I tell you all of that because I learned the hard way that it's so important to try stuff on before you make a decision. I heard this advice before and disregarded it because I didn't initially care, but I ended up caring more than I thought. Plus, it just isn't the same special experience if you just order instead of modeling some dresses for your Mom and besties--it doesn't have to be Kleinfeld's for it to be a great or memorable experience. It's hopefully not something that you'll be doing again, so make the most of it and have FUN!

It's important to not set your mind on one thing until you've tried it on and bought it. Most chicks have their dress mentally picked out already, but it leads to disappointment if it doesn't look the same on you as the model or isn't available anymore. Be open to the possibilities. Take some picture ideas with you to the appointment and be sure to be specific about the things that you're looking for like: ivory, lace, or simple.

When deciding for the style for your dress--it technically matches the setting of your wedding--if not, so be it--it's your dress, your day, your decision--it wouldn't be a bad one. For me, the simplistic, casual but elegant style fit perfectly for an outdoor, summer wedding. The skirt was light and flowy, so it wasn't too hot or hard to get around in. These are all little details to consider as you're browsing.

It's also good to consider who you take with you when you go. For me, it was a quick, on the fly trip, so it was just my Mom and sister. In a way that works best because you don't have several opinions to consider. Ask the people that matter most, that care the most, and won't try to push their opinions or live vicariously through you. Opinions are good--you need to hear them out, but too many can make it a miserable experience because you can never please everyone perfectly. It's life. Smaller head count--less opinions.

Some pro's for David's Bridal (and probably similar stores--though I haven't done any research) is that if you buy your dress at DB there are probably perks and discounts included. Such as $20 off each bridesmaid dress or a discount on MOB dress. Be aware of those helpful hints and do some research before you go.

In the end, pick a dress that you feel comfortable in, one that makes you feel like a real bride. You'll know it when you see it.


Once the dress is decided, the hair is the next natural step. The decision often goes hand in hand. I originally wanted a strapless dress because I wanted my hair to be down and curled--the loose, natural look. So I based a lot of my searching on that.

As for salon vs. doing it yourself. That's up to you and your experience or comfort-ability. Most of my friends are great at doing hair, theirs and others. I didn't want my bridesmaids to be responsible for that, so I asked a good friend, Jami, if she would be willing to help out that morning. We did a test run two weeks before, and then she was able to duplicate fairly quickly the morning of. Then she was available to help the rest of my girls with their hair if they wished.

Since I told my girls to do whatever they wanted with their hair, it wasn't as though I were requiring them to do a complicated updo on their own. So having an extra hand, or friends to help was all that I really needed for them. If you do want it to be a certain style, I would probably recommend going somewhere, or hiring a few friends to help out. Going to a salon, though expensive, does have it's advantages--it could count as a gift to the girls and it also makes you feel pampered on your big day.

The veil is not essential to being a bride anymore--in fact, I often prefer a dress without. You have more options: half-up, completely up with flowers, all down with a tiara or flower crown--you name it, somebody has done it and it's on Pinterest. However, in my experience you shouldn't knock the veil just because it's traditional.

My friend used to work at DB, and she informed that whenever a girl puts on a veil, something magical happens and there isn't a dry eye left in the house. It's the traditional wedding symbol of a bride--transforming a pretty prom dress into a wedding dress. I was set against a veil, but the assistant put one on and my Mom cried even more. What she had said was true--I looked in the mirror and I was the bride.

That decision had a domino effect--I then decided to have my hair completely up in a loose updo so that I could show off the gorgeous back of my dress and fit the veil.

I will say to be careful about where you buy your veil or other accessories. When visiting a store like David's, it's easy to accept the accessories that they match with your dress once you're high on finding "the one." Unless you've counted that in to your cost, veils are very expensive--like $100+ expensive--at David's, and I'm assuming like stores. I had one friend that made their own, and another that got theirs off of Amazon or Etsy--something like that. Know that David's does not do returns, so if you later kick yourself for your extended purchases, you're going to have to bite the bullet. So be careful about what you take with you on that day--know that there are other, cheaper options out there and you can always come back for those pieces later.

This isn't something that I can tell you what to do--but my advice, pick a hairstyle that you'll rarely get the chance to do. I'm not a "spend time in front of the mirror" type of person, so it was nice to be pampered and have my hair twisted and braided in ways that it normally isn't. I'm still a huge fan of the simplistic style however, so if it suits your personality, place a few favorite flowers in your tresses and go.

If you haven't caught my thought yet, this is all about you and your personality--the dress, the hair, the wedding as a whole will showcase your personality as well as your husbands--who you are as a couple. Go crazy!

Another thought, for those of us that have men that prefer long hair and yours is currently anything but--some tips for growing it out ASAP.

  1. Have it trimmed often. Getting rid of the dead ends regularly will greatly lengthen your hair. It may seem counter-productive, but that's the biggest mistake that people make. I had a friend that is a fantastic hairstylist and this was her greatest piece of advice to me as I was growing out my bob.
  2. Keep it healthy! If you style it often, make sure to compensate with quality S/C and protective serums and moisturizers. I splurged and bought the "Sexy Hair" products at Ross or Marshalls for a 1/3 of their normal price. 
  3. Try out Coconut Oil--there's a lot of benefits for your hair in doing treatments with this stuff, here's a link to get you started.
  4. Avoid the temptation. You may get desperate and try the "grow it faster" routine with prenatal vitamins. But there are proven red flags in doing so--in pregnancy your body requires greater levels of iron, folic acid, and calcium--but not when you're not pregnant or trying. Instead try out Vitamin A, C, E, or Biotin. It wouldn't give you 6 inches in a month, but they will strengthen your hair and grow it in the process.


Ladies, all of this is fun stuff--when else do you get to dress like a queen? But the accessories...they're the icing on the cake. It is oh so fun to peruse sparkly jewelry and lacy garters. The style of each is purely preference--it's hard to go wrong with your choices.The accessories are a spot in the budget to go cheap without looking cheap. Let me explain.

With jewelry, there's CZ, feux pearls, even colored beads--they all look nice and include a nice price. Unless this is something that you've really wanted to splurge because you never will again, or someone, like Dad or your fiance, gives you some pieces as a gift--I highly recommend checking out stores like JC Penney for some affordable jewels.

I was originally going to go with a huge bunch of pearls to complement the strapless dress--it wouldn't be competing with the dress lines. But with the dress I ended up with, I had minimal space to work with and I wanted a simple statement piece that said it all in one. So I chose the necklace that Andrew gave me two years prior when he told me that he loved me for the first time. I knew that out of all the jewelry in the world, it would mean something to him that I picked his. I took my rings and necklace to my bestie who currently worked at a jewelry store to get them cleaned--they were so sparkly and looking new in the end!

My earrings were from my local Target, bought to match my necklace and showcasing my favorite--pearls! I think they cost $5. 

The garter can be a great, easy DIY for you or someone willing. That way you can pick your colors, lace, type of flowers, etc. If you're busy with other things, Etsy is great spot for finding cute, customized garters. I actually didn't bother to buy one because I wasn't doing a garter toss at the reception. However, Jacqueline found out that I didn't have one--I think the night before the wedding. She immediately scrounged up my scrap fabric and needles, insisting that "I had to have one."

I'm so glad that she did, because not only was it a beautiful gift, but now I have a keepsake that was made by a dear friend. I think of that every time that I see it.

As for the shoes, I wanted to go with the casual, summer wedding theme and chose mint sandals from Charlotte Russe. They were cheap and cute--not my favorite--I preferred the $70 designer ones, but my budget didn't. In the end, I knew that I would kick myself for spending that extra $60 on sandals, and I knew that people wouldn't necessarily be looking at my feet.

There are a lot of great designer shoes or knock-offs out there at stores such as: DSW, Marshalls, Ross, and even Payless. You'd have to be pretty picky to not find a shoe that you liked at one of those locations.

One thing that I was bent on having, was a cute robe. I wanted to be able to wear it while getting ready so that it would look cute in pictures, and then you have it for later. I got mine on Etsy. But if you're daring and running out of DIY's, it's not hard to find some easy patterns for sewing your own.


When it comes to make-up, things are more simple. You can stick with your normal routine or experiment, but either way, make sure to give it a test run before the big day.

Make sure your lipstick "sticks" and doesn't leave marks on your man after the big smooch. I used Maybelline's SuperStay Lip Stain per advice of a newly married friend. It stayed on all day without being gloppy because it temporarily stains your lips instead of coating them. I highly recommend it!

Avoid "cakey" foundation--most youthful faces do not even need this stuff. Try using just concealer for any random blemishes and some matte powder to nix the oil. Maybe even toss in a blush or toner.

Find good, reliable mascara--stuff that won't crumble into your eye at inconvenient times or make you look like Yzma in the Emperor's New Groove. It's good to buy it new closer to the time, the older stuff get's thicker and crumblier.

Treat yourself and invest in GOOD eyeshadow, stuff that doesn't crease or melt off (if it makes you feel better, the expensive stuff lasts forever). My favorite is Urban Decay--it's expensive, but a year later I haven't even gotten halfway through my $30 tin--it's paid off. Plus, it's good to not skimp on everything and treat yourself to some special items that you wouldn't normally splurge on.

Educate yourself on ways to apply make-up if you haven't already and find a good facial routine to follow. There are lots of healthy, natural, easy ideas out there--check out my Pinterest board for some great links. If you choose to tan, it's really only unhealthy when you sizzle yourself to looking like a lobster. Make sure to keep your skin moisturized and don't rush the process--a little extra Vitamin C never hurts.

It's also a good time to whiten your teeth for those upcoming photos. I got a great coupon on Crest Whitening Strips through Target (I assume from registering there) for a bride and groom set of whitening strips. Add in the mail-in $10 rebate on the box, and I spent under half the price for the great stuff.


I consider this an important part of the bridal regimen and I think you'll agree. Nobody wants or plans to be bridezilla--but if you stress yourself out enough, you'll eventually drive yourself crazy, and you start to not care how you act. The best way to prevent that is to regularly take time away from the planning and do normal, fun things. At the time of that decision, you'll feel like you're shooting yourself in the foot because of the voice in your head that says, "if you don't keep planning now it won't all get done in time!" But trust me, all good things are accomplished in the end, not all things are worth accomplishing over your sanity, and you'll do yourself a favor by not pushing your limits all the time.

Know when it's good to work hard and when it's time to play. 

It's a good way to keep yourself sane and not drive your friends and family crazy--I'm sure they want to spend some time with just you and not your special notebook. Especially if you're moving away after the nuptials, make memories with the people you won't see that often afterwards.

Also, take some time with just yourself. Put on the yoga pants, whip out the popcorn, and watch a chick flick, soak your feet in epsom salts, spend some extra time with God, OR just lay there and do nothing--it really can be appealing, and that's coming from a socialite that gets her kicks from being around people.

Whatever you do to get some relief from your stress--do it and often! It's good to care, but you don't have to devote your life to putting on a good wedding--it's not about that anyway.  If you don't, you risk the chance of being worn thin by the time your wedding comes and that defeats the purpose.

A little rabbit trail here, but I think it's necessary. 

Word to the wise (and from a previously stressed bride): this culture has stressed the need to throw a great wedding, to be the best, and impress your guests. But reality check--it's not about that at all. Sure you want it to be nice and fun and enjoyable. But you're getting married to your best friend, saying "I do" for the rest of your lives--THAT is a big deal. And if you don't care more about the marriage after the wedding, let me just say you're doing yourself a disservice. Being too wrapped up in one day isn't worth it, care more about what's left after that day passes.

With that said, engagement can be one of the greatest times of your life, enjoy it! 

Hope that helps you! Stop by Raindrops on Roses to check out Jacq's post on "the Dress!"

Next week, we'll cover "the suit" AKA your man. And if you're like me, you'll love talking about him. 

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