I never, in a million years, thought I would be buying a wedding dress in Spain. That being said, just a few years ago, I never thought I would be this happy, this in love, and this inspired. So here, standing on a little black box in the middle of a pink marble dressing room, wearing 15 pounds of white silk and a 5 foot diameter skirt, it’s impossible not to smile and reflect on how incredible life can be.
I’m also smiling because I look ridiculous. It’s a very similar style to the little girls we’ve seen dressed in white, poofy communion dresses, waddling behind their moms on the way to church on Sunday. Read: an oversized cupcake. With puffy princess sleeves and a floor-length veil. But, having no way to communicate rather than miming “something tighter” (not the easiest charades move), I try on three similar giant dresses, each one slightly more hilarious than the last.
Let’s just say the experience of buying a wedding dress in Espana has been… interesting. After making an appointment through email (with the help of Google translate), I’m greeted by two women in their 60’s - one stout and round with a tall bun of brown hair; the other with bright orange curls and pink lipstick that goes well beyond her lips. They sit me in front of a book of dresses that I awkwardly thumb through, before getting fed up and saying very loudly “cuánto dinero tiene usted.” I’m in the process of (slowly) learning Spanish, but after traveling through Latin America, I’m quite familiar with the words “cuanto” and “dinero.” I write my budget on a paper and, with a shrug say “mas o menos,” “more or less,” one of my favorite Spanish expressions. Their reaction is clearly not positive. Evidently these giant cupcake dresses cost serious coin.
After two minutes of loud banter (assuming about my sub-par budget) the two disappear and come back with four dresses. I’m steered into the pink marble dressing room, which has mirrors on all four sides, and handed a pair of scary tall (5 inch +) sparkly shoes and a floor-length half slip with three tiers of lace. I put on the slip and wait for the first dress, feeling like I could fall out of the tall shoes and off the black box at any minute. Both women come in, and one motions for me to bend my knees and put my hands above my head. Feeling like I’m acting out a summer camp song wearing nothing but a bra and lace floor-length slip, I mirror her and stretch my arms up. A minute later, I’m miraculously dressed. It’s impressive - one women slips the dress over my head, the other reaches under the skirt and tugs down the layers of silk. The first pulls at the back and pins the straps and the other pulls my hair, twists it into a bun, and sticks a veil on top. Assuming this is simply how it’s done here, I decide to let go and submit to the two Spanish shopkeepers manhandling me through three more dresses. After each dress, I’m asked “esta, o otra esta?” and by the end, I have evidently chosen my wedding dress through a quick process of elimination.
The final dress (which I don’t care for in the least) hangs outside as I get dressed. When I walk out, one of the women writes the price ($100 euro above my budget) on a business card, and places her hand on my back as she walks me toward the door. She literally opens the shop door, steps outside with me, and waves goodbye. The whole process takes less than half an hour.
Walking home, I can’t help but think about that TLC show, “Say Yes to the Dress.” I’m having fantasies of my girlfriends and sister sitting among gorgeous white gowns, sipping champagne and gabbing in English as the friendly shop owner chooses dresses that are actually my style. But, like everything right now, this is a new (and somewhat hilarious) experience that I’m happy to have had.
A few days later, I try again, visiting the store of well-known Spanish fashion designer, Rosa Clara. Some aspects are similar (my budget is too small, I put on the slip thingy and the towering rhinestone heels and am dressed by two women) but the overall experience is much more posh and friendly. The dresses are beautiful and, after two more shops and a few days of deliberation, I end up moving forward with a non-poofy dress that is absolutely stunning. Now, with four months before the wedding (yes, I (now) know this is late to buy a dress), I just need to find shoes with a shorter heel and less glitter. Should be easy enough… right?