Getting Cold Feet About Your Wedding … Dress

A bride on the verge of a breakdown wrote to Prudie this week, saying that she now hates the wedding dress she felt talked into buying. She can’t return or exchange it and yet doesn’t have the budget for a replacement. What should she do?

When I narrowed down the choice to the final two, my guests all agreed that one option was better than the other and I decided to go with their vote. Now, I regret not getting the other dress. When I look at the pictures they took of me wearing the dress I bought, I feel almost physically ill. But the dress is not refundable or returnable and it would be a huge blow to our budget to buy a second dress (at a rush no less) and what would I do with the first one? I’ve been having sleepless nights thinking about how unhappy I am going to be when I look at myself in the mirror on my wedding day and look at the pictures later. I can’t stop thinking that all my guests are going to be whispering behind my back about how dated and frumpy I’ll look.

Hi, honey. Can we talk? Prudie’s response is … okay, but as an overly personal finance blogger, armchair psychologist, and lover of wedding dress shopping stories, this is really more in my wheelhouse.

You seem to be suffering from a severe case of What-Will-Others-Think-itis, as well as a complicating touch of the Over-Thinks. First you say you bought Dress #1 because “my guests all agreed” it was the better choice, not because you actually liked it. Now you’re scared that if you stick with Dress #1, which you can’t afford not to do, “all my guests are going to be whispering behind my back.”

You will never be happy until you figure out how to live comfortably in your own mind. No amount of money spent and no number of dresses bought will give you that peace. Repeat after me: it does not matter what other people think. Really! If may seem counterintuitive, but you will be a much happier and more successful bride — and, um, person — if you channel your inner spinster.

Here are some steps you can take, once you’re a bit calmer and have some understanding of what you want, and need, independent of anyone else:

1) You haven’t tried on the dress again; you have only looked at pictures. Return to the store, this time with only one trusted friend*, and try on the dress. Perhaps it looks different in person. Perhaps the store can modify it in some way that makes it better. That’s cheaper, certainly, than starting from scratch. But perhaps simply being in it will help you can get back in touch with what you liked about it. There must be a reason it made it to the top two choices, after all.

2) If indeed Dress #1 is unsalvageable, then, okay, move on to the next stage of proceedings: planning to sell Dress #1 on eBay or to some secondhand/consignment store to recoup some of your investment, and figuring out how to get a vastly cheaper Dress #2 that will still make you happy. There are ways! Wedding dresses are hilariously overpriced. You don’t need to fork over four figures to get something that will make you feel beautiful. Here’s an entire slideshow full of options endorsed by Glamour. Here’s another slideshow full of even more options endorsed by Brides.com. Here is J. Crew. Here is Kimera. They make dresses, and they’re still way cheaper than what you can buy at Kleinfeld’s. Plus, they’re gorgeous.

Whatever you end up wearing, you will not feel good in it or about your choice unless you feel good about you. Do the hard work of isolating your own voice from the crowd inside your head and figuring out how to listen to it. Ask anyone you need to for help: your partner, a therapist, a good friend. It’s a process but one that will be much more valuable to your quality of life, over the long term, than a wedding.

There is also, of course, the possibility that you don’t want to get married at all and are displacing your anxiety about your partner onto the dress. Just sayin’.

*I would suggest asking the person you’re marrying to weigh in on all of this, but you sound rather traditional and I think that might give you vapors.