When I imagined going to purchase my wedding gown, I pictured rows of beautiful white gowns and a smiling, bright-eyed saleswoman eager to help me with the selection of the most important dress of my life. I would put the dress on, and the tears would well up in my mom’s eyes because her little girl was going to be a beautiful, blushing bride. Everyone would gasp, oooh and aaah at me as I stepped onto the pedestal while a team of women pinned and tucked the fabric for a perfect fit.

But that didn’t happen for me –– at least not at first.

I made an appointment at a well-known chain bridal store because they were open on a Sunday. With my work schedule, it’s amazing that I found time this early to search for a dress. I had my maid of honor, my best friend and bridesmaid, my mom and two grandmothers ready to assist me with my dress selection. We arrived 15 minutes prior to my appointment and waited to be greeted with the smiling face I had anticipated.

The consultant approached me, glanced at her clipboard and read a script. It was as if she didn’t even care what dress she sold me. Her gaze never met mine until she asked the following question: What size do you wear? 

I didn’t really know about the rule that bridal gowns are horribly off from your normal size, so I answered that I usually wear a size 8 or 10 in dresses. She showed me to the plus-size section of gowns and gestured to the 14 section. She also didn’t hesitate to tell me that “us big women” shouldn’t be embarrassed of our sizes.

Are you kidding me? Is this really happening?

I was very obviously mad at both being insulted and also not being sized appropriately. I took the first size 14 dress she gave me, put it on, came out of the room and … what do you know? It was way too big. We then proceed to put on about three more size 14 gowns, all with the same result. This was not how I thought this experience would be.

Frustrated that I could not find something that made me feel beautiful, my mom suggested we try to go to another bridal boutique. We drove past a few others, but they weren’t open on Sundays. I was more than upset. How can I plan a big beautiful wedding if I feel big but not beautiful on my wedding day?

That’s when I met Shelley, the wedding dress savior.

Bustles and Bows was having a sample sale until 2 p.m. that Sunday. It was about five minutes after closing when I arrived, but Shelley looked at me with the bright, smiling face I had anticipated and allowed me to look around while she began closing up the store. It seemed as though every dress was special, with unique fabric, crystals and all the other accouterments that would suit my personality and tastes. I was smitten with both her and this boutique. I knew this would be the place to purchase my dress.

I’m not going to go into detail about the price of my gown because I don’t want it to seem as though the boutique sells “budget” wedding gowns. Let’s just say that it was originally one price and I paid about a fourth of that price because it was a sample that had been custom- made and then not purchased. She has many dresses like this in the store as well as others that approach the $3,000 mark. The most important thing to me is that it is beautiful and everything I had wished for in a wedding gown.

I can’t say enough about Bustles and Bows. From their soft Frank Sinatra tunes to the glittering chandeliers casting a reception-like glow on you and the gown you’ve chosen, it is sure to make every bride feel beautiful. I returned there this weekend to purchase my bridesmaids’ dresses, and though Shelley was not there, her staff carried on the image I’m sure she has worked very hard to establish. Everyone was professional, caring and interested in what I want for my big day. This is a far cry from being wrongly sized, called a “big woman” (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that) and being shoved into one of 20 dressing areas like cattle.

My bridesmaids and I left feeling excited and ready for these next few months leading up to my wedding. It is finally feeling real. We have the church, the reception site, the photographer, videographer and now flowers! My theme is beginning to be fleshed out of my imagination, and I’m so excited for every little step along the way.

Stay tuned next month for my flower fiasco –– OK, so it’s not a fiasco, but my florist is a funny lady. I can’t wait to tell all of you about my experiences in her shop.