Today is my 7 year wedding anniversary. As old photos found new life on my Facebook wall (thank you all for your sweet messages!), J and I had a wonderful Monday day date in Portland: brunch at Central Provisions, holding hands popping in and out of shops among buttoned-up 9-5’ers, and nibbling macarons at the Portland Patisserie. Nothing crazy, but I was so grateful for the pause to reconnect (and need to do that more often!). Then I scooted for a client meeting, picked up the kids up at preschool and shuttled them off to gymnastics class. Back to real life, you know.

During my meeting, one of my favorite parts was listening to the bride share about the process of working with designer Sophie Theallet to create her wedding dress. The way she described how she felt trying on dresses, how she loved what she saw in the mirror, how Sophie herself was such an exclamation point of the experience, oh, it all brought me back to my own wedding dress memories.

I was a member of the two dress wedding club before it was even cool. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Let’s rewind to April 2009:

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I never thought I’d be the type of bride to cry in the fitting room after a dress fitting. But on Friday, that was me.

When J and I started to map out our wedding plans last fall, the dress was a piece of the puzzle that I wasn’t terribly concerned with. Photos? Yes. Location? Yes. And so on. Dress? Not so much. Or at least that is what I thought.

You see, I waited until January to start my dress hunt, certain that I would have better luck finding something for a destination wedding after the new year and perhaps new stock (little did I know dresses come and go quite often). But when I arrived to try on dresses at a local shop with my entourage (mom, sister and BFF Kara), the sales associate informed us I was quite late and would have to choose a sample dress from stock. With a limited selection and waning enthusiasm from said associate — let’s call her Nancy — I tried dress after dress without success, and my hopeful disposition was quickly challenged. Frustrated, I left and decided to return a few days later when Nancy wasn’t working.

This time I was paired with Michelle (again, names have been changed), who I immediately liked much better. She, too, paraded dress after dress into my fitting room and we soon had a rhythm as I dove into and out of taffeta, silk, chiffon and lace. Two hours later, I was again frustrated and my mom suggested I revisit a dress I had vetoed from our initial appointment. I liked it much better this day, when compared to my other options, and decided to pull the trigger after the seamstress pinched and pinned the oversize sample so I could get a better idea of the magic she planned for my soon-to-be custom-fit look. I didn’t love the dress. But again, it needed a lot of work. I had a vision she (let’s call her Karen) seemed to understand, and I was convinced I could now check another item off the massive bridal To Do list.

My dear mom and I made the hour drive to the bridal shop f-o-u-r times for fittings, each time the vision I had for the dress lessening (and the pit of uncertainty in my stomach growing) as it seemed Karen just wasn’t able to make it happen. I was having trouble sleeping. I was irritable with everyone. And imagining our wedding day was becoming harder and harder as I hated picturing myself in a dress I didn’t love. How interesting that the one thing I really wasn’t all that concerned about out of the engagement gate was suddenly casting an awful shadow over all of the very, very good things about our plans.

On Friday, I put out an SOS midnight call to my friend Rebecca Grinnals of Engaging Concepts and host of the Engage! seminars. I’d liken her to the cheerleading captain of the wedding world; she knows everyone who needs to be known in the wedding biz. Within minutes she replied with a calming, yet concerned, email saying she would see what she could do. Saturday morning, I received a phone call from Randy Fenoli at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York. You know, the Kleinfeld’s and Randy, the host of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.” This sweetheart was racing around for Bridal Market Week but walked me through our emergency steps to take… email him a photo of myself, my measurements, and my top dress choices from their website. Done. His assistant checked the stock and he got back to me with what was available, and how we could make this happen if I wanted to fly to NYC this week. Amazing. Simply amazing. There’s a reason why that store, and Randy, are known for their greatness!

Meanwhile, I had been emailing with Traci Romano, of Traci Romano Events, in South Norwalk, Connecticut, about purchasing a Sara Gabriel cage veil. She sent me an email this morning with a few more details, and I replied explaining my latest dilemma with Friday’s fitting and that I thought I should start looking for another dress altogether and wasn’t sure if a cage veil might match what I find, so we should wait to place my order (I know that’s a run-on sentence, but that’s kinda exactly what my scatty email sounded like, I’m sure). She wrote back right away, saying I was welcome to any dress in her store if I wanted to drive to her shop in Connecticut.

30 minutes later, I was packed and on the road.

It was a perfect day for the 4-hour trip to Connecticut, and I was feeling hopeful as I watched spring blooming much faster the further south I drove. The green grass and budding trees made me happy. Boy, was I on a little adventure!

Traci left her family gardening while she scooted over to meet me at her darling waterfront boutique with open arms. And hallelujah, wouldn’t you know, the first dress she showed me I loved and… is now mine. It was that easy! Seriously! Can you hear my sigh of relief?

I’ve learned a lot of things through this planning process, both about being a bride and a business owner. In retrospect, I wish I had given greater importance to finding the right dress initially and trusted my instinct on the second fitting, not waiting until two weeks before our wedding at the fourth fitting to realize my 911 dress emergency. Dress #1 is just a dress. Dress #2, my Cymbeline Paris beauty, is an experience. I feel amazing in my new dress — my dream dress — and I cannot wait to marry J wearing it (For the record, I never thought “my dream dress” would ever part my lips, either, without being followed by a finger-down-the-throat puking motion). Feeling beautiful shows.

I can’t say enough about Traci as a model businesswoman. She made me feel like the most important person today. She showered me with the kindness and grace that I can only hope my clients feel, but that is missing from too many other bridal appointments. I could go on and on about the other dress shops I visited in between or the other vendors I have interacted with, but I’m going to assume you can guess that exceptional customer service is lacking in most. Today’s adventure goose chase, however, most certainly also reaffirmed my belief in the human spirit. Traci is one in a million (she even had a friend with another boutique in town on stand-by if I couldn’t find anything at her shop! And her seamstress, too!).

Just 10 hours later I am home and I can now, most contently, return to normal, minor last-minute wedding chores. Two weeks til we leave for St. John, 20 days til the wedding!

UPDATE: Sadly, Traci doesn’t run her beautiful boutique anymore. But I’ve been giving her the nudge ever since to get back into it. Won’t you please, Traci?!!

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photos by the ever-amazing Jules Bianchi

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