Aaaaaaah, the wedding dress story...where to begin, where to begin....
I was a senior in college, just about to graduate with honors from Memphis College of Art. I was living with my fiance and we were planning our wedding which was going to take place two weeks after I graduated. No detail was spared. We were having a jazz brunch at Bonne Terre Bed and Breakfast in Nesbit, Mississippi. A harpist was carefully chosen for the procession while Joyce Cobb was playing our reception. We were releasing butterflies, from the steps of the cedar chapel, following the ceremony. Flowers and cake were meticulously poured over. But the wedding dress was the main prop of the event.
I met a woman at a bridal show several months prior. A dress designer from Philadelphia. She was working with a local seamstress and I loved the samples I saw. My mother and I made an appointment with her for the following day at the home of the seamstress. When we arrived it was as sweet and quaint as anything I could have imagined. We were led upstairs of a beautiful Germantown home, into one of the guest bedrooms that had been converted into a bridal dressing room. Dresses lined the wall on a rolling rack. We were met with tea and coffee service and relaxed in large wingback chairs. The conversation was warm and pleasant. I explained that I had a design in mind already, and pulled out my sketchbook (of course! haha!).
The designer worked with me to come up with the perfect style and combination of materials. She took the plans back to Philadelphia, and within weeks, she sent my dress to the seamstress so I could get fitted and hemmed. Every time I showed up to the woman's house she had a coffee service ready, and I gave her a check. In all, the dress cost me $2500, of which I paid for by working as a bartender until 4am several days a week while finishing school. Because I paid with my tips, each payment was a small one stretched out over several months in small increments. At my final fitting, everything was great. The dress fit. We were giggling over mishaps and nervousness. The last detail we added were appliques to the veil. I gave her the last check along with a formal invite to the wedding and a map.
She walked me to the car where she hugged me goodbye. She told me that she was going to press my dress for me, and she will drive it to the B&B in the back of her SUV to protect it and keep it from getting wrinkled. She did this as a courtesy to all her brides.
After a festive rehearsal dinner, I went to my best friend's house and spent the night with my bridesmaids. We woke up early the next day to go to the salon and have our hair and make-up done before heading to the chapel. The wedding was scheduled to begin at 11am. At 10 I was just arriving and my mom handed me the phone to tell me the seamstress was on the other line.
I could barely hold the receiver to my ear as hiccup crying on the other end threatened to puncture my eardrum. She was running late. I told her no worries. If she left at that moment she would be on time, and we would wait. My exact words being, "Well, we can't start without you!"
And wait we did. 11 o'clock rolled around. Then 11:30. We called her and there was no answer. She must be on her way. Then noon. We asked the guests to leave the chapel and make their way into the reception hall. Then 12:30. Highway patrol was on the look out for accidents. Time to open the bar and start passing hor'dourves. 1 o'clock. Joyce Cobb starts to play. I refuse to leave the dressing room because I don't have any clothes to wear other than my cut off shorts and a t-shirt. I am sitting in my undergarments, champagne flute in hand, peering from behind the curtain at the parking lot and hoping to see her SUV zip in any minute. My mom hands me her cell phone. It's Chris. He says we are about to lose our harpist for the procession, and what are we planning on doing. Are we going to postpone? Cancel?
I remembered my rehearsal dinner gown was wadded into a ball in my overnight bag. I pulled it out and a woman at Bonne Terre ironed it for me. I hastily slipped it on, figuring the show must go on. Walking arm in arm with my dad up to the chapel door I took a long last look around the parking lot. My dad said, "Lis, it's not happening. She's not coming." With that, the chapel doors parted and we walked down the aisle.
I thought of this story the other day when my kids asked me about my wedding day. They asked me about the dress, and as they get older and understand more, I tell them a little more about the story each time. My 8 year old asked me if I forgave her.
Well, I have. I did immediately, only to realize later it was only as a way to avoid the pain of my disappointment. But over the years I have found myself in moments where I need to find forgiveness as well as seek forgiveness, and this story is always a good reminder to me of the healing power of forgiveness.
She did show up eventually with the dress. All the guests had gone. The only people with us were our parents and grandparents, and a few out of town friends. We sat on the back porch of the reception hall visiting. The chairs were tipped over and stacked on top of the tables. The janitor was vaccuuming the floor. I watched the wedding coordinator replace my orange daisies from the chapel doors with the next bride's flowers for a 6 o'clock wedding.
All of a sudden I heard my grandfather grumble, "I can't believe she has the nerve to show up now." And up walked the seamstress with my dress draped over her arm. "I'm so sorry sweetie, I slept in."
And so I draw dresses. Lots of dresses. Some are snarky. Some are sad. Some are fantasty. I never dreamt of being a princess, but I dreamt of wearing her dress! The clothesline allows them to twist and turn in the wind as if an unforeseen and/or uncontrollable force is manipulating them, rather than allow them to float unattached in empty space. Which is what I did that day, twist and turn due to an uncontrollable force. But I believe we are defined by our responses to life's challenges. By the time Chris and I sat down to dinner that night at the restaurant, I found out I had been dubbed the "Steel Magnolia" of Bonne Terre. Today I can still fit into the rehearsal dinner/graduation/wedding dress hanging in my closet. I wear it on our anniversary, and when we go out to dinner it is our little secret