If there has ever been a sentimental object that is hard to let go, the wedding dress is a serious contender. (Funeral urns are probably in first place). The odd thing about wedding dresses is that we tend to keep them even if the marriage was a total failure. Let’s think about the logic of this for a minute. We spend more on one garment than we’ve ever spent on another piece of clothes, for something we’ll wear once, and then dedicate storage space to it while struggling to make room for our work wardrobe, even if the very thought of the groom that went with it makes us shudder. Weird, isn’t it?
My husband wore his suit to our wedding. He still has it. He wore it to a business conference a couple of weeks ago. In fact I think he may have worn the same shirt and tie as well. Think how odd it would be for a woman to wear her wedding gown to a work gig!
I wore my grandmother’s dress to my first wedding. I was the only granddaughter, and Nana and I were the same height. If I hadn’t gotten divorce cooties all over it, I could probably have pulled it on this morning and worn it. What actually happened was that I had to have five inches added in the waist, because I used to be fat. The dress was a 1939 satin stunner with a beaded collar and a train. It cost $19.99 off the rack. My grandparents were married over 50 years. It was a legacy dress and now I can’t bear the sight of it. It may be in a closet somewhere, and maybe one of my cousins’ daughters could wear it, but maybe she would feel the same way I do: divorce cooties! Ugh!
My second wedding was a bit more pragmatic. I went to Ross and bought a white dress for $36. I still have it and we’ll be at six years this summer. I’ve lost over 20 pounds since then. I haven’t tried the dress on, but it was a bit too long at the wedding and I’m sure it will be “longer” now. The reason I saved it was that I thought it would be romantic to wear at our 25th wedding anniversary, or perhaps our 40th. (Not sure we’ll make it to 50, but we’ll certainly do our best). I’ve started to question how flattering this too-big, too-long, low-cut dress might be on my elderly self, and I think I’m ready to let it go. I ran it by my husband.
Me: “I’m thinking about selling my wedding dress.”
Him: “I didn’t realize you still had it.”
Me: “I wanted to run it by you in case you wondered what I was doing and took it as some kind of sign.”
Him: “If you wore it at our anniversary, it would probably have taken me a few minutes to recognize it.”
Me: “Yeah, like whenever they play the song from our first dance!”
Weddings are something most men accept as a ceremonial tradition to get out of the way so they can get on with being married. “Just tell me what to wear and where to stand.” A wedding is basically a big photo op. If I had ours to do over again, I’m 70/30 in favor of eloping to Vegas, and I don’t think anyone in either of our families would have had a real issue with that.
The real sentimental, romantic object for me is my ring. It’s an unambiguous, plain gold band from an ethical jeweler. It’s never left my hand. This ring has been on my finger through every minute of our marriage, everywhere we have traveled, and everything we’ve done together as life mates. It’s a very potent symbol. It’s also… pretty practical. I’ve worn it running a marathon, climbing a mountain, fording streams, pounding tent stakes, climbing up and down ropes, crawling under barbed wire, jumping over open flames, and standing waist-deep in mud, not to mention while folding laundry, scouring pots, and clipping the dog’s nails. Anyone who wants to do all that stuff in a poofy white dress: video or it didn’t happen.
I believe in marriage. I believe in romance. I believe in love, not just heteronormative love, but love, end of story. What I don’t believe in is going into debt for a ceremonial garment, keeping a symbol of a dead relationship, or hanging onto an heirloom that could cause quarrels among the potential heirs. My wedding was not the happiest day of my marriage – just the first day – and maybe letting go of my dress could bring a little luck to a new bride.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.