The bride on her wedding day, in the dress designed by her best friend. Photo: Gina Francesca Photography and Design
I was completely unprepared for a wedding when I got engaged.
I had never seen a full episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.” I had never wrapped bed sheets around my body, Grecian-style, and walked down my hallway humming “Here Comes The Bride.” I had never ripped sketches of white, bell shaped dresses out of my third grade Trapper Keeper.
I’m the woman who started the controversial food and romance blog 300sandwiches.com, tracking my quest to make 300 sandwiches before my boyfriend, Eric, proposed. Eric, who was a lovely cook, joked I was “300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring” after I made him a simple turkey and Swiss. I spent two years making peanut butter and jellies and BLTs and meatball hoagies to cook my way to an engagement. At 257, Eric popped the question.
One might assume that any woman so determined to earn a proposal would have plotted out every aspect of her potential wedding, down to the lace and beaded white gown with the 4’ train. But I didn’t.
Sure I had dreamt about Mr. Right. As a kid in pigtails, I envisioned us living together in our modern contemporary house with floor to ceiling windows and a Jeep Wrangler parked in the driveway. I thought about the moment he would propose and how shocked and speechless I would be, while trying not to “ugly cry.” But my daydreams never drifted past the point of engagement. No wedding, no vows, no three-course dinner at a country club. And certainly no dress.
The author trying on a dress at Vera Wang.
In my adult years, I became a reporter for The New York Post’s Page Six column and covered celebrity weddings (along with divorces). Prior to that, I wrote for the fashion newspaper Women’s Wear Daily, and studied the industry’s titans—Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein. I spent my working hours writing about other people’s weddings and dresses, but never did I surmise what I wanted for myself.
And then I got engaged. It was time to do a different kind of research.
I booked appointments at bridal salons with my mother and two trusted fashionable friends in tow. I tried on mermaid style ball gowns and fitted silk dresses with sweetheart necklines. Store clerks oohed and ahhed, fanning out trains as I walked out of one dressing room after another. Everything fell into two categories: prom queen or uptown private school princess. I am neither.
I parked my browser on Pinterest, begging something to speak to me. There were dresses for galloping through a lavender field in cowboy boots, or striding through a candlelit garden, hair slicked back in a chignon tighter than a corset. Nope. And absolutely not.
A wedding dress isn’t a costume. I needed something that was authentic to me, that showcased the best of me. For that, I needed to take a long hard look at who I was: I’d lived in New York for 15 years. A survivor of the New York dating scene, I’d kissed and dated and been dumped by a lot of frogs and thankfully the only scars I have to show from it are a few nasty text messages. I was an independent woman in charge of her own life (even if that meant choosing to make her man 300 sandwiches after he made a silly joke because she is hell-bent on getting the last laugh). I felt confident, and I wanted a dress that reflected that same self-awareness.
If I were getting married a decade earlier, my dress of choice would be different. At 25, I was insecure and still searching for my identity. I second-guessed all of my decisions: career choices, toxic friendships, fashion trends (what was with my obsession with vintage kimono dresses that looked like couch slipcovers from the 70s?). A tulle ball gown might have been suitable for that life stage, the more fabric to hide underneath, the better. Sequins would have made me sparkle in the crowd, since I always feared not being pretty enough, skinny enough, or…well, enough.
The author in her wedding dress. Photo: 300 Sandwiches
But I didn’t need that armor. I wanted something light and body conscious, something that would reveal the best of me—my body and my heart, warts and all.
Turns out I didn’t find that dress on the rack. I designed my perfect dress with my bridesmaid and designer Caroline Fare, who made a lace gown by hand. It hugs my curves, with a hint of sparkle, and reflects my life at this very moment–blissfully content, and independently happy.
The author’s new book, 300 Sandwiches: A Multilayered Love Story … with Recipes, is available now.