I imagine I'm going to get flamed for saying this, but here goes: to me, most wedding dresses are identical. Sure, there are little differences here and there, but the vast majority of them look like a cross between a cheerleader's uniform and a mass of whipped cream. When I asked my wife about this, she told me her pet theory: she's convinced that most women plan their wedding when they're five or six. While they may adjust some of the finer points over the years, they generally hew to their original vision. Consequently, although they may physically be in their twenties or thirties when they wed, the part that does the actual planning is a shrieking, high-pitched little girl with absolutely no taste.
I mulled it over. Certainly, the theory had some strong points, but it seemed a little harsh. Then I thought about Disney's Cinderella and, suddenly, I knew that my wife was right.
While the infantilization of America's brides is no laughing matter, it does carry a bright side. It means that wedding fashions are slow to change. While bridal mags and dress designers will scream about how this year's look is a revolutionary change from last year's look, the truth is that the changes from year to year are miniscule. Overall, last year's wedding dress is not all that different from this year's wedding dress, and this year's wedding dress is not all that different from next year's wedding dress. This is, of course, good news for Elizabeth Taylor.
The reason for these minor changes is clear: wedding dresses are incredibly expensive. According to my wife, $1000 is fairly common, and it's not out of the ordinary to pay twice that. While some people might argue that this is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for a dress that you're only going to wear once, I would have to disagree. Let's face it: your wedding dress is going to get a little bit of wear and tear on the big day, after which it will be stored away forever. Best case scenario, your giggling grandchildren might pull it out and dress you up as Miss Havisham for your funeral. More likely, it will sit in your attic until it is moth-eaten, after which one of your descendants will truck it off to Goodwill.
Anyway, back to the point. Given the high prices that wedding dress designers charge, there is a big premium on having a wedding dress that is in style. Consequently, last year's wedding dresses end up sitting in the back of the bridal store. Alone. Abandoned. In my wife's case, this meant that her wedding dress, which was originally priced at just over $1000, cost her about $200. My sister Susan used a similar method at her wedding, with similar savings.
Other options include buying the floor sample dresses or even (if you're not too sentimental) pre-owned dresses from eBay. In fact, my wife got a backup wedding dress on the internet for about $100. We ended up going with the one from the bridal shop, but it was nice to have a selection.
Of course, there's no rule that says you have to get married in a wedding dress at all. If you want to try something different for your special day, you should definitely do so. Thumb your nose at the fashion police! Wear red! Go Annie Hall style and wear a three-piece suit! Gorilla costumes never go out of style, particularly when accessorized with a tutu. Personally, I'm a big fan of Indian saris. And chain mail. Preferably paired together.
On second thought, you might just want to go traditional.
Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, sometime writer, and all-around cheapskate. A co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, his work has appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Roanoker, The Brush Mountain Review, The Eccentric Monthly, The Best of Times, and College Daze. He currently blogs on Crankster.