Ashley’s Journal: Saying Yes to My Wedding Dress

Cary, NC — Before I embark on the tale of how I “said yes to the dress,” I have to start by saying I’m truly not your typical bride.

I’m not the girl that dreamt of the day I’d shop and find the fairy tale ball gown. In fact, that kind of grossed me out. For an everyday look, a t-shirt, shorts, and a ball cap are much more appealing to me than any romper or maxi dress.

So, knowing that I needed to find something I felt both beautiful and like myself in for the big day, a serious uphill climb was in front of me.

Feeling Like a Misfit Bride

One of several goofy-faced engagement photos I took with my fiancé Brittany (left).

Along the way, I’ve learned that there must be at least 4 billion shades of the color white. I learned that some stores you can’t even walk into unless you’re okay with spending well over $1,000. Me personally, I can’t imagine spending that much on a single piece of clothing for a single day. I’d rather save some bucks and get an extra honeymoon excursion instead!

I also learned, to my dismay, that practically no bridal boutiques offer bridal suits fit for women, and very few carry more than a single jumper, which can have a nice bodice similar to a dress-up top but flows down into pants. Still elegant, still bridal and it would diverge enough away from a Cinderella-style dress.

It was honestly a bit defeating that in a place as diverse and covered with stores as the Triangle is, there was little to nothing to look at in these areas. I walked out of some stores feeling low on hopes and high on pressure. I tried on many gowns, complimenting this or that for the benefit of the retailer helping me, but not really recognizing myself or liking what I saw in the mirror.

The Mimosa Pitcher Moment

I spoke to various shop owners and retail assistants about my particular style and the challenges I was having finding anything of the sort. Most were kind, sympathetic and helpful, even offering options to custom make something. They just couldn’t make what I was wanting to try on appear out of thin air, and I understood that.

Then came the lowest point of my bridal shopping experience. I had an appointment at one shop in Cary where I became super uncomfortable and felt genuinely judged for what I was looking for. I got confused looks, saw off-putting glances between staff and wasn’t given any sort of help with carrying dresses, picking things out, or even helping with the zippers.

I was stunned because I had gone onto Facebook to ask for local shop recommendations that would be welcoming and have lots to choose from and this store was one of the most mentioned. I’m not here to name names or damage reputations, so I’ll just leave it at the ending of the story. My mom and I found a nice breakfast diner where we split a mimosa pitcher immediately after leaving. True story… and they were delicious.

Me, A Bridesmaid, and a Hail Mary

Okay, so now the good part. I’m to the point where I make my third big trip out. I’ve hit about 4 or 5 locally-owned shops and 1 major chain at this point. Then, on a whim, I made an appointment for a place I hadn’t heard of before but was recommended highly by someone on Facebook. After the last experience, I went into it with hesitation.

This time, I just went with a best friend of mine, Belén, who is one of my bridesmaids. She was able to join me after work on a random Thursday in April. I figured there was no reason for my mom or sister to join us since it seemed I had a long road ahead of me. My friend gets to town and this time we ventured into Holly Springs to give Uniquely U Bridal and Formalwear a try.

Funny enough, I had never been to the downtown area and we were almost late because it was a little tricky to find, inside the Town Hall Commons building. We made our way through the door and I immediately felt at home. It was a nice, wide-open showroom and has a bright, airy, and sort of industrial feel to it. The owner Raven greeted us right away as we started to look around.

I was actually seeing dresses I could see myself in. And folks, that’s pretty rare.

Flattering, Fun and Mom-Approved

I pulled a few from the racks, as did Belén and once she got a feel for my style, Raven started to pull these great dresses off the racks like some sort of bridal Mary Poppins. It was awesome and for the first time, I smiled through the entire appointment.

Now, to be clear, I can not share the details of what I picked. At least not until after my wedding date, October 30, 2021, because my lovely fiancé claims to read many of my articles and I can’t foil the surprise. But, I can tell you that once I put it on, it was an unreal feeling.

Raven opened the curtain after helping me into it and the look on Belén’s face and mine were all it took. Non-verbally, we had collectively agreed, this is it!

The first thing I noticed, just looking into the mirror at myself was the natural smile it brought to my face and the fact that, despite my brain’s natural inclination, I could not find something wrong with it or something that made me self-conscious about my body.

We, of course, had to get my mom on a video call right away. I held the phone up to my face really close so I could show her all at once and see her reaction. It was even better than priceless. A few wows and happy dance moves were had, tears were shed and before I knew it, it was officially mine.

Proud to be a #ShopLocal Bride

I can’t give a sneak peek of the dress, but I can show a peek at our wonderful wedding venue, a vineyard in the mountains of North Carolina.

Feeling sincerely happy to be there and comfortable enough to have some fun with it throughout the appointment made a significant difference in my experience, in my day, and ultimately in how good I felt about picking a dress there. Besides, in doing so, I was supporting a female-owned, black-owned, and locally-owned business which meant even more to me personally.

Now, all that’s left to do is find a separate outfit for the reception that I can dance around in and feel comfortable in for hours on end. Maybe I can find a jumper online or I may discover the right store after publishing this.

As the timer clicks down, with just 4 months to go to get that outfit and more wedding details sorted out and a honeymoon planned that COVID restrictions won’t ruin, I am left with one question — where’s that mimosa pitcher when I need it?

Story and photos by Ashley Kairis. See more Ashley’s Journal entries on CaryCitizen.

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5 replies
  1. David
    David says:

    Great article loved the tone, the effort to get it right, and the humor
    Good luck to you two on your life journey – happy for you

  2. Joanne
    Joanne says:

    You wrote a great article and i am do glad that you selected your perfect outfit.
    Congratulations…and Best Wishes for a wonderful wedding day!

  3. Trish
    Trish says:

    So happy that your found your perfect dress! And thanks for profiling that terrific wedding dress shop! Looks like a great place that breaks the wedding shop mold.

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