Say Yes to the mess

What exactly is the difference between a gown and a dress? Do I look cheap? Will my future children make my money’s worth by re-wearing it?

At one point I was under so much pressure (mostly from my thoughts) that as I looked at a friend walk down the aisle in her wedding gown, tears welled up as my heart shouted “She’s pretty, and I acknowledge the beauty of the dress! But that just isn’t what I want!” I was so frustrated by then, I was willing to wear any dress anyone picked for me. I don’t care. A material object is not going to make me cry. What do I want?

Initially I thought it would be pretty easy because, like my clothes shopping, I go into a reasonable shop, try on a few and pick out what I look best in. DONE. So far, the wedding dress journey is about the roughest part of wedding planning. In retrospect, it worked out well but I never want to have nightmares about a dress ever again.


Let me explain the tensions. I’m thrifty designer. I live in this constant struggle between not spending on material things frivolously and spending money for intangible objects of artistic value and beauty. I fluctuated between a $99 dress that did-the-job and a beautiful $3000 dress. There was nothing in between those 2 points but varying degrees of vanity and compromise.

The only way to resolve the tension is by assigning meaning. Dresses, like cars, are different things to different people – be it for utility, prestige, comfort, fun or even self expression. For myself, thinking about what a dress meant laid the foundation of what I would like my entire marriage to be. My painful search for a dress was a desperate search for meaning. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The show ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ was good research (Yes, it counts as research). Countless women tried on different gowns and balanced family expectations until they finally get it just right (you know the story ends there when they start crying the minute they put on a dress). This is when I witnessed just how much meaning a dress holds and the variety of reasons people attached to it.


  • Wedding dresses are normally white, therefore it should be white
  • I need to look show-stopping/expensive/princessy because this is my special day
  • It has to showcase who I am, my style, my personality
  • It needs to match the theme/ venue/ appropriate for events of the day
  • It must make a statement even if it’s against the grain
  • Everyone needs to like/approve the dress. At least most people.
  • The list goes on…

A symbol is an idea or belief condensed into something visual, and often it alludes to something bigger. (E.g. A nike tick represents a ‘can-do’ spirit, it leads us to their value of ‘just do it’.)

So, all the above reasons didn’t symbolize or lead me to what a marriage is to me, and did nothing to justify a fancy dress. They didn’t make sense at that point because I stood by 3 values: Mission, Community and Simplicity.

  1. A marriage is a sending forth of 2 people for a purpose beyond themselves.
  2. A marriage is for the people and is real.
  3. A marriage needs to be rooted and not thrown off by distractions.

So, just give me a reason! Just a little bit’s enough

  1. White represents purity and newness. IMG_0611
    • Maybe it’s hard to understand oneself as being pure, I feel pretty unspectacular and maybe even unworthy of being called pure. But I also see purity as the clean slate, the new life and journey together that the couple enters into from this day on. And of course, the purity we strive to even though it is mega difficult.
  2. A beautiful, grand looking gown st-peters-longrepresenting the beauty and depth of the promise made between the couple.
    • Marriage is a pretty serious and scary promise to me but also one that really blossoms and is made for the good of others. Beauty works the same way, it is for the pleasure of others. (This gets pretty philosophical sounding, check the definition! Feeling beautiful for yourself alone is actually pointless.)
  3. It should be decent. Don’t think I need too explain much.

So this is where all the drama stopped for me. When I finally made sense of a dress that costs more than $99. Weddings seem to be a whirlwind of varied expectations and personal convictions, but it really helped to go back to basics and to question everything. It helped me to learn about cultural traditions and also about personal convictions. The ceremonies itself are full of rich symbolism and I can’t think of a better time to explore those symbols than this moment when we are ministers of this sacrament to each other. Since we are the ones holding each other to this major promise in life, to be a husband, to be a wife. (tea ceremonies, bridesmaids, gate crashing, walking down the aisle etc…)

I may never really know this feeling of putting a dress on and feeling like I can finally get married now, and all my dreams and expectations are fulfilled with this dress. But I’ll sleep well knowing that it’s a dress that endured a mess that means something to jes and leads to a yes (I rolled with the rhyme).

Then again, maybe I’m just looking for a reason to be thrifty.

(that said, I do thank all the people who challenged me and offered help to look for nice wedding dresses online that were cheap and good. :P)

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