We left Suzanne our number and promised to call on Monday morning to place the order after sleeping on the decision, then the entourage of six traveled south to Buckhead for one last stop of bridal bliss.
We rolled in, laughing and joking and, I'm sure, scaring the daylights out of whomever was assigned to be our attendant that afternoon. A few minutes early, we checked in then shopped in the bridesmaids section looking for the nonflammable gowns I was determined to find. Well, at least most of us did. I looked around and realized we were missing my aunt, who had already made her way to the designer collection across the way. She can't help it; she's always been ahead of the curve.
While we waited, we again encountered another bride we'd shopped with before. "You know that place in midtown?" she said in hushed tones, "Not all beading." B's mom was sussing out the details when our, er, my attendant arrived on the scene. Ellen, as her name turned out to be, welcomed me and I cautioned her that I had a large, but fabulous, following with me that day. She looked around, counting the fellow shopper and her daughter and said, "Um, all of them?" I waved her worries off, "Of course not! Only five." Ha.
Ellen smiled and gave me a little tour of the boutique, which contained about five different sections. Larger than store 3, smaller than 1 or 2, this was the "just right" Goldilocks of dress shops. The entourage, bolstered by the narrowing and, indeed, selecting we'd already done (did you see the happiness on the faces in Part 3's photo?) moved strategically through the racks, eliminating options before I even had to look at them.
A lady in the store watched me pull a few gowns and smiled. "My daughter's on her way," she said, "And I know she's going to want that exact same dress!" I laughed because, though the trying-on portion of the event might feel like competition, the selection did not. Even if her daughter loved the dress and picked that dress as the dress, what would I care? We could share a wedding date and a dress and still have our own events. I told the lady her daughter was welcome to browse my dressing room after we finished.
Right before I went into the dressing room, B's mom pulled out a dress and her eyes grew wide. It was dress one! That durn collection of silk and stitching had followed us all the way through Atlanta. I quickly added it to the pile.
When I'd gathered about six dresses, the moms & co. gathered in the dressing area, spreading out over the couch and armchairs that faced the large three-way mirror. You thought shopping for jeans was hard--imagine trying to evaluate your posterior view when it's intentionally accented with a large satin bow or a lace bouf.
Ellen asked me where I'd been shopping and what I'd found that I liked, then helped me into the dress most closely resembling what I described. Eh, it was ok. After all, I was really just here to get pampered, then drive home, and call store 3 and order my dress in the morning. I asked to try on dress 1 from the first store and, as I walked out, we all shook our heads, laughing that we could've thought this dress was the one. What were we thinking? So not me.
We cruised through a few other dresses before I tried on one that had caught my eye. As Ellen zipped me into it, it just felt real. I walked out and the whole entourage quieted down. Whereas before they'd said, "Oh, pretty" or "That's beautiful," now they seemed at a loss for words. "Well?" I asked, before turning to look in the mirrors, but their smiles said it all.
I turned around and stepped onto the pedestal of the three-way mirror and, as the dress swirled around me, it clicked. This was the dress I would be wearing in May when I said my vows to B. This was the dress he'd give me my first married kiss in. This was the dress I'd wear as we waved goodbye to our friends and family and jetted off to a honeymoon and, even more, a life of our own.
Mom and B's mom teared up and, before I could, we added a veil and some fun accessories, which just sealed the deal. It was perfect. Ellen hustled me back into the dressing room to try on the other dresses. They were beautiful, regal, enchanting, and altogether not my dress. At the end she said, "I've been listening, and you've only said that you love that second dress." I started making excuses for the others as being "just not me" or "not feeling quite right" and she laughed, "You don't have to apologize--they don't have feelings!"
Ellen and I became close in the (eep!) two-and-a-half hours we shared in those close dressing room quarters. Sure, we went through the whole topless conundrum again (hard to have small talk when you're crossing your arms over... well, nothing), but she warmed to our group, laughing with them and telling me each time we went into the dressing room, "Oh my gosh, your family is just wonderful." Family--that's what it was. Some since birth, others since college, and one since that morning, but family none the less. Ok, and there was also an awkward bonding moment when I'm pretty sure my bum graved her bun while trying to climb out of gorgeous gown, but Ellen assured me it's definitely not the worst she's experienced. I mean, I did have some clothes on.
So... we bought it. Right there. No sleeping on it--there was no need to! I began trying on bridesmaids dresses and my aunt called out to me, then pointed across the room. There was the other lady's daughter wearing the dress I'd just purchased and looking downright beautiful in it. Her mom caught my eye and smiled. Ellen told me that she, too, was purchasing the dress that day. The girl and I laughed together and, wonderfully, she let me literally try on bridesmaids dresses next to her as she stood in the wedding gown. I'm telling you, these stores do something to women. Bonding. It's crazy.
We left the store 30 minutes after closing time with happy hearts and a promise that my dress would arrive by March 10. I feel like I have a due date, only mine required a down payment.
So the dress, the wonderful dress. It's beautiful and I wish I could post a picture. It's a mermaid style, white-white dress that fades to pink at the bottom with a plunging neckline and sequins that lead all the way up to the....
Come on. You didn't really think I'd tell you, did you? B reads this blog, even if he's not much of a commenter. And I know for a fact that he has a very invested interest in not knowing about the dress, which I love. Old-school charm. It's not everywhere these days.
Mom and I drove back to Birmingham so happy and beyond content after exchanging nearly a dozen hugs in the parking lot with our Atlanta-based shopping crew. We pulled away and I felt a twinge of sadness--such a great moment, over--but smiles instantly took over as I realized that one very large part of my planning was finished. I had a dress I loved and a memory with the moms and co. that I would never forget. And that's even better than finding the perfect dress. Well, almost anyway...