22: A Real Piece of Me

22: A Real Piece of Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Here Comes the Bride

A Real Piece of Me

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.

~Simone Signoret

I dreamed of a small but whimsical wedding. I envisioned something low-pressure and fun, something everyone could enjoy without being overly formal. I wanted the wedding to reflect my personality: I didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable or worry about etiquette or pay a fortune. I wanted to be relaxed. I was the exact opposite of Bridezilla.

But my family made up for that.

Being the first to get married in my family and marrying an only child, our families were perhaps more excited about our wedding than we were! Mother, father, in-laws, sister… their eagerness about planning our wedding quickly spiraled out of control.

My choice of wedding color was rejected by my fiancé, my choice of location was rejected by my in-laws, and the food was chosen by my parents. From party favors to invitations, everyone had an opinion and took advantage of my easygoing personality to make their choices for the wedding — at the cost of my own. At first, it didn’t bother me, but when even my sister started listing characteristics she “forbade” in my wedding dress, it was just too much.

It wasn’t about control. It was about the fact that this was my wedding — hopefully my only one — and I wanted it to reflect my personality. Right now, it was just a mix of my family’s demands. I had to own just one element of my wedding. Something that reflected my personality. Something people would remember years after the wedding. Sitting on my couch and looking at pictures of the Halloween costumes I’d sewn for my fiancé and me, I knew just how to do it.

A memory of my first “surprise” date with my fiancé came to mind. Knowing it was my absolute favorite, he (then my boyfriend) had surprised me by securing opening-night tickets to the latest film installment of Lord of the Rings. As we sat in the darkened theater, an image filled the screen, and I squeezed his hand. It was an actress standing atop a cliff. The wind blew her hair up in long ribbons, and her medieval-inspired white dress billowed with it. The sleeves were long and open, the curves of the dress were simple, and the belt added a touch of elegance.

“That’s the kind of dress I want to get married in!” I had whispered to my then-boyfriend. At the time, I was glad for the darkened theater: we had not yet discussed marriage, and I hadn’t meant to bring up the subject. I blushed.

But sitting there on the couch, the memory rekindled itself in my heart. I knew just how to add my personal flair to the wedding.

“I’m sewing my own dress,” I told my mother on the phone that evening. I sent her a dozen pictures I had found on the Internet. “It’ll be a combination of all the ones I sent you. The sleeves from the first one, the trim from the next…”

My mother groaned. “That’s a big undertaking,” she told me once she regained the ability to speak. “You have so much else to focus on for the wedding. Perhaps you should leave it to the professionals.”

I promised to make a prototype first, and if she really didn’t approve, I’d consider a wedding shop. She hesitantly agreed.

I got to work. The sewing store had many patterns for medieval-style dresses, but nothing was exactly what I wanted. I ended up buying three different patterns and creating my own prototype. It was finished within two weeks — much to my mother’s chagrin. But even she conceded that it would work.

Still, every once in a while she would e-mail me a picture of a professional wedding dress similar to the style I wanted. But the price tags, eight hundred dollars and up, were incentive enough to continue my project. I got to work finding the perfect elements for my dress.

At the fabric store, I spent hours scrutinizing fabric types. It was a summer wedding, but I wanted a fabric that would flow. It had to be the perfect weight. When I finally found the fabric, I needed almost two bolts.

“What on earth are you making?” the clerk asked me, eyeing the large pile of fabric.

I told her it was my wedding dress. I described the folds, the long train, the lace upper sleeves giving way to long, wide, flowing sleeves that gathered at the wrists with silver thread. Her eyes popped, and she treated the fabric with newfound respect. “To think,” she said in awe, “that one day someone will be getting married in this fabric!”

I took the fabric home and slowly, carefully got to work. I measured four times before cutting. I double-checked the prototype to make the proper alterations. I vacuumed daily to make sure the floor and worktable were clear of any loose pins that might cause the dress to snag. And each time one of my family members got a little crazy about planning the wedding, I simply let it go and retreated to my work area.

The night before the wedding, I was still sewing on the last of the embellishments. My mother was sitting stiffly on the couch, adamant that neither of us move until the dress was finished. When I made the last stitch, she breathed a sigh of relief and finally admitted she was proud of me for completing such an ambitious undertaking.

The day of my wedding, family members were still arguing over details. My in-laws and parents couldn’t agree on how to pass out the bubbles, my extended family argued over who got to sit at which table, and my sister and father argued over who they should ask to take candid video with their camcorder. But I put it all behind me. It was early July, but the weather worked out in my favor. The high that day, normally in the nineties, barely touched eighty. The dress’s fabric was the perfect weight. The breeze was gentle enough not to mess up my hair, but it was just enough to kiss the fabric of my dress, billowing it almost like it did in Lord of the Rings.

I didn’t tell many people I was making my dress. I hadn’t done it for bragging rights or attention. I had done it for me. Still, the dress received many compliments, and people asked where I’d found such a unique dress. They couldn’t believe I’d made it myself. Even the DJ made a special acknowledgment after learning I’d made the dress. It’s been nearly six years since the wedding, and whenever the memory arises, one of the few details people recall is the beautiful and unique wedding dress that I had made. And here’s why: It wasn’t the fabric or the embellishments. It wasn’t the sleeves or the lace. It was me. And that’s all I ever wanted.

~Val Muller

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