I have a confession to make. My wedding dress is still sitting in the same suitcase I put it in when my big day was over. I’m not even that sure where that suitcase currently resides, though I suspect it’s found it’s way to the attic. I haven’t even gotten round to cleaning it, In fact I’ve not once touched that beautiful white fabric since lovingly folding it away for its return to the UK after our destination wedding but here’s the thing: I look at my dress on a nearly daily basis.
Every morning when I get up I walk past a photograph of me in that dress standing in a forest alongside my husband shortly before our wedding. When I go downstairs for breakfast there it is again – a canvas print of that unforgettable moment, standing on the cliff tops overlooking a beautiful blue sea when my groom looked upon me in my perfect dress for the first time. Seeing those pictures brings it all flooding back, a distant dream and the happiest of memories, memories that those photographs will bring back every day for the rest of my life. Memories as pristine and perfect as that dress was the first time I looked at it, before it was left to gather dust.
On my wedding day though the dress, it has to be said, was not quite so pristine. As a photographer I knew from the beginning that it would be the photographs that I would look back on in years to come, not the dress and so, once I had seen it make its indelible mark on my soon-to-be husband’s memory I ceased to worry about it and got on with enjoying my day and ensuring our photographer had the opportunity to take the photographs that really would stay with me for the rest of my life.
Aside from some of the ceremony shots and some of those of our friends and family, in order to take full advantage of our dramatic surroundings each of what turned out to be our favourite photographs involved a small risk of the dress (or at least my shoes) getting mucky or scuffed. By the end of the day the dress had one or two tiny marks, my shoes a little dirt on the soles (though they were invisible beneath the dress anyway), and after some fairly vigorous dancing I’d lost a small piece of tulle fabric from the bottom but did it make any real difference to how I looked? Not a jot. My wedding day was not about a pretty dress, it was about enjoying ourselves and creating once-in-a-lifetime memories. The dress had its chance to make its perfect first impression but after that it was all about the photos as they would be the thing I would always hold onto, not the dress itself. Being able to look back on our smiling faces on the happiest day of our lives, relaxed and cutting loose in some epic settings through some brilliant photos was more important to me than being able to look back and remember how clean and white my dress was. My dress got a little mucky in the process but I have no regrets.
At the end of the day the dress can be cleaned, repaired and adapted if you want to use it again in the future, but for most people it will probably never again see the light of day. Of course you want to feel amazing and look absolutely perfect for that first impression on your groom and to a lesser extent your guests, but after that you have to ask yourself an important question:
Is protecting my dress worth potentially damaging my future memories or my enjoyment of the day?
Sometimes a little dirt is the price you pay to come out gleaming on the other side.