As promised long ago: the next installment of the story of my old-fashioned wedding.

o O o

It snowed.

It snowed a lot.

This was actually a common theme leading up to my wedding: the question was popped during the terrible storm Halloween weekend, which ruined the collective plans of everyone we knew and set the stage for even better ones in May.

And so, as I drove to the secondhand dress shop in Haverhill, the heavy flakes grew thicker and thicker, and enormous trucks threw up dirty slush on my windshield. It was February, and I was on my way to get my wedding dress.

We were throwing a homemade, country wedding, but I was willing to go all-out for the dress. Or $600, which comes to about the same thing; I just couldn’t see myself being happy with a dress that cost more than a month’s rent or a plane ticket to Europe. And besides, you can get a lot of dress for $600.

But it had to be the right dress. We had tried, armed with a full contingent of bridesmaids, the standard bridal superstore, but none of the dresses jumped out at me as The One. The beaded or lacy ones all seemed too fancy for my simple outdoor wedding–although if I had fallen in love with a confection in tulle, I was prepared to let suitability go hang in favor of my very own homemade fairy tale–and the ones with simple lines were all too stiff.

So this time, Mumsy Dearest and I were on a solo mission. We met at a small shop in Haverhill specialising in secondhand wedding and fancy dresses. I’ve never had any scruples about well-loved goods. It’s good to take something someone has discarded, maybe with a history of its own,  and put it to use once more. And that goes extra for a wedding dress, that someone had been so happy in.

So, long story short, I tried on many dresses that day. I had very nearly found what I was looking for, a beautiful ecru satin with light beading and a pick-up skirt, but I still wasn’t sure; like the others, it was too much, too heavy for my wedding, with an aisle of grass and a backdrop of ocean, though it would have been perfect for a church.

Then my eye tracked back to the dress that had caught my eye on the way in. The silhouette was narrower than the ones I had tried, and it wasn’t white at all; more of an old gold color. It wasn’t a wedding dress at all. But it was lightweight, supple silk, and hardly darker, really, than the ecru I was half sold on. And it was beautiful.

“You’re sure?” Mumsy asked. “You’re not worried about the price, are you?” For perfection, being not a wedding dress at all, cost a mere $175, less than half of the cost of the other I had tried.

She needn’t have worried. In truth, I would have paid a lot more to secure that dress. She suggested I think on it as we went to the next store, but I was too reluctant to let it out of my keeping. I wanted it, and that was that. I had found the emotional punch that had been missing from the rest.

Only afterward did I realise the resemblance to the dress I picked out at the very first from the superstore website. In person that one was heavy satin, and felt so stiff on I couldn’t see my way to wearing it, and I largely forgot about it in the welter of other possibilities.

More interestingly, my faithful friends pointed out that it looks uncannily like Belle’s in Beauty and the Beast, the Disney princess with her nose always in a book. I can’t say I mind.

And that is the story of The Dress. The one that caught me when I first walked into that crowded shop in northern Massachusetts, and the one I walked out with in the end. I never regretted it.