THE WEDDING DRESS – the Dress of a Lifetime

I have put off this conversation for too long. But it is truth time for me. True confessions. By the time we are done I will be ready to hear your arguments. Those same arguments I have been having with myself for my whole life.

THE dress. The dream. The expectations. The pressure. For one day. The wedding dress stands high atop the dream pile of so many little girls – and eventually – adult women. We hook little girls onto the princess train early in their lives. In most cases that image leads to more self-consciousness and insecurity than it does joy.

No second chances. For one day you will act out the princess dream. You’ll have flowers in your hair. Your guests will dine on tastefully chosen plates with coordinated silver and crystal. You will be generous and gracious. You will be thin. You will spend more than you should – more than you have – because this is your only chance. Everyone will tell you that you look beautiful. Take a picture – because tomorrow …

You may find this hard to believe, but I enjoy Hallmark movies – lots of Hallmark movies – AKA brides galore. Despite my earlier comments, I am a superfan of traditions. Of cultural predictability. Of decency and kindness. Of apologies offered and accepted. No guns. No beasts at the door. These movies reinforce goodness. But they can also be heavy handed related to cultural expectations. Whenever the trope appears – when a young woman steps out from behind the curtain wearing the dress – there are tinkling bells and harps telling us that THIS – THIS – is the transformative moment when a girl becomes a BRIDE. And, every single time, my gut locks and I want to scream. Because, for some reason, I experience it as a control mechanism. I want to say, “Why isn’t anyone celebrating that this new couple loves to laugh – and that they are kind to one another!”

But in my head, I know it is simply a symbol of our culture’s gender and class values. Perhaps it’s dated. Perhaps our values have changed. But I don’t think so. I think it is still spot on. It is a way to highlight the qualities we still value in a woman. (By the way, I don’t include myself in that ‘we.’)

I’ve wondered about the groom equivalent. I think it might be the engagement ring as a symbol of financial strength – you know – so he can support his bride-to-be. We value that in a guy – still. But he gets to be comfortable – in flat shoes. No make-up or bevy of stylists fluttering around.

I don’t have a ‘solution.’ Or an alternative. What I wish is that we can all back up just a little and talk about ‘the dress’ as a symbol. To talk about why it is so important in a girl’s life.  

Thank you for listening. Thoughts? I can take it, I promise.


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  1. Pam Holt says:

    Refreshing to read. I had forgot how uneasy this ritual makes me routinely feel when attending these exorbitant festivities. I’ve Always felt my old radical nay-sayer self under my facade of ‘isn’t this nice face!’.
    But that conversation of ‘all this tedious$$ promenade’ would be inappropriate AT the event! Haha.
    By the time I’m home I’ve forgotten my ritual disgruntlement.
    Btw- i love rituals + ceremony- but a few weddings are lovely!
    You nailed it in part, for me. ??

    1. SusanAdam says:

      You definitely sound like a kindred spirit!