Once upon a time, most girls wore wedding gowns passed down through their families. It might be a grandmother’s gown that the bride’s mother and older sister had both worn, or in some cases an antique dress that has been around a lot longer. It was for expense reasons as well as sentimental reasons that wedding gowns were used and re-used. It was practical — why get a new dress when you have a perfectly good one waiting for you in the closet. Wearing your mother’s dress, or your grandmother’s dress, or even your older sister’s dress is a time-honored tradition worldwide, and if that’s what you’ve always planned to do. Go for it!
You don’t see many girls wearing family wedding gowns as much anymore for two reasons, IMHO. First, more girls are expressing their own style through the their gown selection. And second, because the girls who are getting married now are victims of their mothers’ poor fashion decisions in the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. Makes me shiver just to think about it.
My mother wore the ultimate 70s wedding gown — high neck, fitted long sleeves, A-line, covered in lace, and borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring. My mom looked absolutely beautiful in it. I, however, wasn’t a fan. Nor could I have fit my butt into her dress. She did offer that I could have the gown remade into something I did like (and something that would fit). Fortunately, she wasn’t pushy and I let the offer slide right by and went dress shopping.
One of my best friends, however, didn’t have it quite that easy. Her mother had always assumed her daughter would be the fourth generation to wear the family heirloom gown. It was a pretty hideous dress. Gorgeous on her generations of family, but not so fabulous now. Anyway, it was a really big deal to her mother. A HUGE deal. So when her mother took the gown out of the preservation, she had to go over and try it on. I remember laughing til I cried when my girlfriend described her horror as she slid into the gown. She’s bigger built than her mother and had always assumed the size would spare her the indignity of wearing the hideous dress because her mother wouldn’t want the gown torn apart to accommodate her size. Unfortunately, it fit. It was tight as hell, but it went on and it zipped… ALMOST. She isn’t sure to this day whether or not she made her next move consciously at the time, but the result is the same no matter what the motivation. Just as the dress was zipped to the top, she expanded her lungs and her gut — basically made herself as big as she could — and she popped those antique dress seams! True story. I swear. Her mother freaked, but the gown isn’t destroyed. It’s reparable, but not expandable. My girlfriend got a gorgeous, very flattering gown at a local boutique. She did wear her mother’s veil, though. And wearing a family member or friend’s veil is supposed to be very, very good luck for a new bride.
I’ve had two brides who wore family gowns. Thinking back, that doesn’t seem like very many. But a lot of destination brides get more creative with their gowns than hometown brides. One bride wore a sweet eyelet gown for the ceremony — very flower-childish — and she went down the aisle to the song California Girls. But she changed into a short white cocktail dress for the reception and by the time they cut the cake, she was wearing a white bikini. Not your traditional bride.
The other bride wore a gown built out of parts and pieces of the gown her mother wore and the gown her grandmother and greatgrandmother had worn. She looked beautiful, but I’d say the marriage of the two dresses was less than generally successful. It looked like it didn’t go together. To begin with, the gowns were vastly different colors. But the bride’s mother was driving that ship and the ship had left the port long, long before I was ever involved in the wedding. The bride wore the strange-looking gown beautifully and didn’t let it put a damper on her day.
It’s okay to decline your mother’s offer to wear her wedding gown. Remember, your wedding pictures will last forever, and if you don’t love the dress, you’ll always regret not having spoken your mind at the time. Your mother will get over the dress issue if you wear something else of hers, perhaps the veil she wore or a necklace belonging to her. Take her shopping with you (unless she’s completely evil and destructive, in which case you should leave her at home) and let her be part of your gown selection process. Instead of clinging to the old memories attached her old dress, make some new memories together and shop for your wedding gown and her MoB dress.
Now everything I’ve written above assumes you don’t want to wear your mother’s wedding gown. My next blog is going to be about fun things you can do if you DO want to wear a family dress. There are ways to update a gown without altering it structurally, if that’s an issue. There are modern touches you can add that will bring it out of the 70s, if that’ something you want to do. But that’s a topic for tomorrow.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!