Nineteen years ago on a cloudy Saturday in October, I took a road trip with my mom, my sisters, and one of my best friends. We were headed to the next state over to look at wedding dresses and have lunch. When I got to my mom’s to pick everyone up at 7 a.m., I was in a state of simultaneous bliss and panic — I didn’t want to be late for my 9 a.m. appointment at the bridal shop and there are a few people in my family (who shall go unnamed) who have been known to be a little late. They weren’t on this day, though.
My cheeks were flushed, my hair was still wet, I was wearing an orange silk shirt, and the sparkly ring that had only been on my finger for a month still felt heavy and new.
We all piled into the dressing room, and my dress was the second one I tried on. I didn’t need to check anything else out. I knew what I wanted, and I said, “This is the one,” as my friend smacked my ass and said, “YES! I knew it!” She’d known me since 7th grade and probably could have picked the perfect wedding dress for me without me there.
My mom bought the dress for me which was a huge, unexpected surprise — my ex and I paid for our entire wedding and honeymoon ourselves, and my dress was in our budget. It came zipped up in a pink garment bag, and my mother held it as my sisters, my friend, and I dissected the long, $500 veil I was drooling over. After studying it hard enough, I knew I could make a replica for myself. I did that evening, sitting cross-legged on the floor of my apartment, with $2 worth of tulle from Walmart.
After the dress was carefully draped across the back of my trunk, we all piled in the car and had lunch at a local pub and ate potato skins, nachos, and cheese fries. We were so loud and bursting with excitement I almost choked on my food a few times.
That dress is still in the pink garment bag sitting in the back of my closet. When I see it, I think of autumn’s chill and the scent of rosewater when we walked into the bridal shop. I can taste the nachos we ate that day and remember the feeling I had when I saw my mom and sisters looking at my reflection in the mirror as my dress was being buttoned up the back.
It makes me remember that sense of accomplishment I had when I walked around with the veil on my head, alone in my apartment, after it was complete. I held a bunch of celery from my fridge like a floral bouquet and practiced my wedding walk to make sure it was the right length. My cat kept chasing me, almost ruining my masterpiece. I carefully melted the edges of the tulle to give it that professional look and felt so satisfied with myself.
And now, even though I am divorced, the memories associated with my dress haven’t turned sour. In fact, the dress has caught my eye more these past four years since my husband has moved out than it ever did for the sixteen years we were married.
I know I will never part with it, and sometimes I wonder why. You hear about women selling their wedding dresses, and some who just want them out of their sight. But I don’t feel that way.
I love my dress. It is a representation of how I felt on my wedding day — I was incredibly happy and so sure of what I was doing. I was surrounded by my best friends and closest family members. We got married in a barn and the small train turned gray from dancing all night.
It makes me remember the long talks I had with the woman who did my alterations. She had an apartment with huge windows across the front and you could see people walking on the sidewalk outside. I’d stand in her living room as she’d pin away and talk about food and she’d make us a cup of tea.
My daughter loves my dress. She’s unzipped the pink bag several times and looked at it, running her hands up and down the two-dozen buttons that adorn the back of it. She may want to wear it someday or have it made into a dress especially for her. That would make my heart burst.
But if she doesn’t, and that dress sits in the back of my closet for the rest of my life in its pink bag, that will be just fine too.
My ex-husband and I couldn’t get our love back once it went cold. But we had a great love once. That love was the vehicle that brought me to that bridal shop with some of the best women I know, which is still one of my favorite days of my life.
That love gave us a glorious wedding day we both worked hard to make happen.
And though we are no longer married, that dress is still the symbol of so many good memories. And every time I see it, those memories come alive and fill my soul with peace and gratitude. To me, that’s reason enough to keep it.