Last But Not Least

"Feeling like your real self…is all that really matters."

We all love to read about real weddings. It gives us the chance to imagine the behind-the-scenes details and dilemmas that that real couples deal with on their way to the altar. After all, every bride finds details to wrestle with-and in my case, it was The Dress.

The truth is, I’d never envisioned myself in a wedding gown. When I did entertain the notion of nuptials, I pictured an unconventional ceremony where I’d sport something fun and flirty. Then, at 31, I got engaged. And suddenly, the idea of avoiding the white dress altogether seemed woefully naïve. It took just one question from my inquisitive mother about what I might wear instead for uncertainty to enter from stage left: "Ummm," I told her. "Perhaps I’ll wear blue?"

The first bridal boutique I visited, of course, didn’t stock bridal gowns in sophisticated periwinkle. Before I knew it, I was crammed into a dressing room as a stout saleswoman barked at me to strip, handed me a mesh face mask, and slid what felt like 20 pounds of white satin over my head while yelling to "Suck in!" as she torturously zipped me into a too-small strapless.

Once the adjustments were made, the sight of the girl in the mirror left me breathless: I felt like a bride in a magazine. The only problem, I realized after a few twirls on a pedestal, was that I didn’t feel like myself. The shiny gown wore me, not the other way around. My first instincts were right: White just wasn’t me.

Finally, one happy day about four months before the wedding, I found a worthy gown in beautiful chocolate-brown satin with a plunging V-neck. I fingered the fabric, twirled in the mirror. This was it! It made me feel beautiful. This was the dress I wanted to get married in.

By the time I found it, of course, my resolve had been tested so many times it was steely. More than one well-meaning in-law had said, "But how will people know you’re the bride in the pictures if you’re not wearing white?" I always gave the same answer: "I’ll know I’m the bride, and that’s all that matters." In my opinion, that’s what a wedding should be about: feeling like your real self as you take the plunge into matrimony.

Kate Chynoweth is the author of the best-selling book The Bridesmaid Guide: Etiquette, Parties and Being Fabulous. She is also the creator of The Bachelorette Party Kit (see more details at, and the food editor for Pittsburgh magazine. She lives in Pittsburgh’s East End.

Categories: Weddings