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5 Brides On What Made Their Wedding Dresses 'The One'

From classic and timeless to one-of-a-kind and unique, these brides stunned on their big days.

Life & Travel

A couple's wedding day is arguably one of the most important days of their lives which is why it can also be an extremely stressful time. There's so much to decide on: wedding party, guestlist, bridal party, colors, venue, food, etc. And then, there is the wedding dress. The dress sets the tone for the big day and all eyes will be on the bride as she makes her entrance. So many factors play a part in choosing the perfect wedding dress: budget, personal style, wedding theme, and timelines, so it's no wonder it can all seem overwhelming.

Add a pandemic to the mix and you might be ready to just march down the aisle in some sweatpants. But, before you do, I spoke to some amazing women who have been where you are and they are giving me the lowdown on why they chose the dresses they chose and how they knew it was the one. Whether you had to postpone your wedding until next year, change the venue, or downsize, we hope that these brides provide some inspiration for your upcoming special day.

Charmaine

Courtesy of Charmaine

"Everything leading me to this dress felt like it was destined to be. I left a disappointing wedding dress appointment, and as I walked to get a bite to eat, I saw a store window that was merchandised with so many elements that screamed ME! A gold mannequin (I am a gold fanatic), peacock feathers (my wedding colors), and of course, the dress...MY dress. I instantly said, 'Now that's what I wish I could wear.' It was far from white and anything typical, so it hadn't crossed my mind that I could wear something so unique.

"I went in the store, tried it on, it fit perfectly, and I just knew in that moment that I was going to wear what felt the most authentic to me. Coincidentally, my bridesmaid dresses had already been chosen at that time, and they just happened to be green, so it really felt like that dress was made for me."

Courtesy of Charmaine

"I got married in 2012, and I was on my dress hunt while living in Toronto, Canada, so the selection was quite limited at the time. This was during the blurry instagram food pics era, so I definitely didn't have many inspiration photos saved. This is to say, I didn't have a major vision as I honestly doubted the options available. I figured that accessorizing my look would be the best bet for a unique colourful moment, and I am just happy I was able to find my dream dress by a fun twist of fate after a failed dress appointment."

Courtesy of Charmaine

"My dress was created by TOME from the Tome Dress Salon in Toronto, Canada. It was really special to wear a dress while working with the actual designer, because I am a creative person with DIY tendencies. The moment I tried the dress and it fit and I teared up, I looked at Tome and said, 'Can I wear this to get married?' And he said, 'You can do whatever you like!' We laughed and I honestly felt empowered, because I knew he was 100% correct. I then said, 'Now let's make it bridal!' So we worked together to make it more of a mermaid silhouette with tulle peeking out, and added a feathered headpiece. I have Caribbean roots and my wedding was a destination wedding in Barbados, so it just felt perfectly on theme as well."

For more of Charmaine, follow her on Instagram @charmsie.

Courtney Brand Agbetola

Courtesy of Courtney Brand Agbetola

"There was no overwhelming feeling of it being the one when I put it on, if I'm being completely honest. My first go-round with dress try-ons, I found a Berta gown that I was so certain was the one and I had my heart set on it. I wanted to buy it on the spot, but knew that my now-husband wouldn't be too happy if I spent $14,000 on the first dress I tried on. He encouraged me to go to at least one more bridal shop to try on dresses just so that I'd be sure. A designer I was following on Instagram was having a trunk show at this small neighborhood bridal shop close to me called Parvani Vida that had been there since I was a little girl, so I asked my sister if she wanted to go with me to look. I ended up finding both of my dresses that day and neither one of them were a part of the trunk show that I went there for.

"When I tried on that dress, I loved that it was bright white and showed just enough back and chest, but it was the train that made me say 'yes'. The dress was simple, but the six-foot train was extravagant and all I could imagine was it trailing behind me down the aisle in all of its lace and beaded glory. It was the quiet wow that I really wanted."

Courtesy of Courtney Brand Agbetola

"I was really wanting to choose something classic, that I'd be proud to look back on in five, ten or fifteen years and still be happy with my choice. I also wanted a dress that was reflective of who I am as a woman. This particular dress felt like it embodied me. A little daring, but simple. A little sexy, but timeless and sophisticated with just enough detail. Gorgeous enough to make a statement without being too loud. I also had to consider what kind of bride my husband wanted to see walking down the aisle. I didn't want to look like a princess, but I did want to look like an angelic version of myself as I walked towards him. This dress hit all of those points.

"I could have gone on and on with dresses, but I chose that one and had to be done with it, because unless you're designing a dress from the ground up, it's so easy to feel like your dress is missing something. Both of my dresses were Enzoani wedding gowns. Prior to getting engaged I'd never really imagined myself in a wedding dress, so I can't say that I envisioned myself any particular way. I did know that I didn't want a strapless gown, or a ball gown. I knew I wanted something form-fitting with no overwhelming ruching or any fabric that was noisy. Looking back, I looked exactly how I wanted to look on my wedding day and wouldn't have changed a thing about my dress, hair, makeup or even jewelry. It all truly worked out perfectly."

For more of Courtney, follow her on Instagram @greeneyesgoldsoul.

Courtney Danielle Bryant

Courtesy of Courtney Bryant

"The day I found my dress, the location we visited was the 3rd or 4th place we had been to. I still hadn't found anything I absolutely loved, so by the time we arrived to this particular location I was excited but pretty certain I would have to get my dress made. When my bridal stylist Leandra McCall pulled the dress, I was reluctant to try it because it didn't look anything like I envisioned but she convinced me. It was the 2nd to last dress I tried on and every single dress that I tried that day and prior to had to be shimmied and jumped into but my dress, it slipped on with so much ease. It fit like a glove and it actually took my breath away. I didn't want to be the cliche and cry but as I looked in the mirror I felt the tears well up. And I was shocked because I really almost didn't try it on.

I fell in love with it the moment I slipped it on. I felt classy, sexy and comfortable in it and the drama and glam was exactly what I wanted. It complimented me in all the right places and I felt like I could dance in it all night."

Courtesy of Courtney Bryant

"Also, this one dress could be 'customized' into three different dresses. My skirt and sleeves detached so I walked down the aisle with my skirt and long sleeves. For dinner, I wore off the shoulder sleeves and the skirt. And for dancing, I removed the skirt before changing into my second dress."

Courtesy of Courtney Bryant

"I purchased the dress at Bridal Reflections on 5th Ave and it was created by Galia Lahav. We customized the both sets of sleeves, the train on skirt, the sheer panels on the back and the beaded design in the front to really customize it to my liking. Fun fact: I was so nervous to really love the dress that I had to visit it three times before committing to it."

For more of Courtney, follow her on Instagram @curlsandcouture.

JaLisa E. Jefferson

Courtesy of JaLisa E. Jefferson

"With my husband and I knowing and planning that whenever we got engaged, we'd want to get married right away, I ordered a dress on ASOS the day after he proposed. If you are a frequent online shopper like myself, you know they don't play about their two-day shipping. Long story short, it came Monday evening and did not fit. My manager then reached out to Grace Loves Lace right away hoping we could pull something off. They were clearly sent by God. They opened the store on a 'closed' day and had someone come in on their off day, all to move mountains and get me in this amazing dress and veil—the morning of the wedding! In 20 minutes, I tried on this dress and was out the door! I am so grateful for them, their incredible service and for accommodating me on such short notice.

"In a sense, I kind of feel like this dress chose me. Like I previously stated, this dress was truly a saving grace moment. Upon visiting Grace Loves Lace and trying on my wedding dress, I knew this was the one. It fit like a glove and was exactly what I envisioned it to be!"

Courtesy of JaLisa E. Jefferson

"Although I initially had a totally different vision for my wedding dress, I quickly realized this was what I needed and didn't even know it until it sort of just happened. My initial disaster of a wedding dress quickly turned into the most beautiful gown I'd ever seen."

For more of JaLisa, follow her on Instagram @jalisaevaughn.

Kristen Desiree

Dress Details: Bridal Boutique: Adorn Bridal located in Nashville, TN.

Designer: Rita Vinieris Rivini

Courtesy of Kristen Desiree

"Before finding the perfect dress for me, my family and I had been shopping around all day long at different boutiques before stopping at our very last appointment for the evening. None of the dresses I had tried on up until this point had given me the 'WOW' factor just yet. I must admit I was beginning to get discouraged a little bit. As soon as we arrived at the last boutique, I immediately said to myself, 'I'm going to find my dress here.' I began trying on different ones and as I tried on 'my dress', I could just feel it. Keep in mind there were no mirrors in the fitting room. The stylist helping me started to say, 'Oh my goodness, Kristen' as she was helping me put it on. My heart started racing because I was so anxious to see.

"As I walked out, the looks on my mother's and sisters' faces were in awe, just speechless. Their mouths hit the floor and my sister said, 'You look absolutely breathtaking.' I walked over to the mirror, completely shaking, and the second I saw myself, emotions of joy and happiness took over. I had never felt more beautiful before in my life and that's when I said this is 'The One'."

Courtesy of Kristen Desiree

"Honestly, my dress is a slight departure from what I envisioned simply because I always saw myself walking down the aisle in a long-sleeve lace detailed dress with a dramatic train! I was set on having sleeves and had specifically said from the beginning, I did not want it to be tube top. But, little did I know, a sleeveless gown was meant for me."

Courtesy of Kristen Desiree

"I chose this dress because not only did it stun all of the most important women in my life, but I didn't have not one negative thought about this dress. I knew I wanted to feel extremely confident and beautiful walking down the aisle to my best friend, soulmate, confidant, and soon-to-be husband. This dress solidified that for me. There are a million beautiful dresses in the world, but when you find that one that instantly fills your heart and the room with emotion and love, you have to say 'yes' to the dress!"

For more of Kristen, follow her on Instagram @curlyhairedchik.

Featured image courtesy of Charmaine

Before Tracee Ellis Ross was the adored Rainbow on black-ish, she was the quirky and stylish Joan Clayton on Girlfriends that so many of us loved. Girlfriends was a sitcom that showcased four friends living in L.A. and navigating dating and friendships. The series which premiered in the fall of 2000 has had a lasting impact on the Black community thanks to its relatable characters and notable one-liners. After eight seasons, however, the beloved series ended abruptly with no explanation and no closure for fans.

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When I was ten, my Sunday school teacher put on a brief performance in class that included some of the boys standing in front of the classroom while she stood in front of them holding a heart shaped box of chocolate. One by one, she tells each boy to come and bite a piece of candy and then place the remainder back into the box. After the last boy, she gave the box of now mangled chocolate over to the other Sunday school teacher — who happened to be her real husband — who made a comically puzzled face. She told us that the lesson to be gleaned from this was that if you give your heart away to too many people, once you find “the one,” that your heart would be too damaged. The lesson wasn’t explicitly about sex but the implication was clearly present.

That memory came back to me after a flier went viral last week, advertising an abstinence event titled The Close Your Legs Tour with the specific target demo of teen girls came across my Twitter timeline. The event was met with derision online. Writer, artist, and professor Ashon Crawley said: “We have to refuse shame. it is not yours to hold. legs open or not.” Writer and theologian Candice Marie Benbow said on her Twitter: “Any event where 12-17-year-old girls are being told to ‘keep their legs closed’ is a space where purity culture is being reinforced.”

“Purity culture,” as Benbow referenced, is a culture that teaches primarily girls and women that their value is to be found in their ability to stay chaste and “pure”–as in, non-sexual–for both God and their future husbands.

I grew up in an explicitly evangelical house and church, where I was taught virginity was the best gift a girl can hold on to until she got married. I fortunately never wore a purity ring or had a ceremony where I promised my father I wouldn’t have pre-marital sex. I certainly never even thought of having my hymen examined and the certificate handed over to my father on my wedding day as “proof” that I kept my promise. But the culture was always present. A few years after that chocolate-flavored indoctrination, I was introduced to the fabled car anecdote. “Boys don’t like girls who have been test-driven,” as it goes.

And I believed it for a long time. That to be loved and to be desired by men, it was only right for me to deny myself my own basic human desires, in the hopes of one day meeting a man that would fill all of my fantasies — romantically and sexually. Even if it meant denying my queerness, or even if it meant ignoring how being the only Black and fat girl in a predominantly white Christian space often had me watch all the white girls have their first boyfriends while I didn’t. Something they don’t tell you about purity culture – and that it took me years to learn and unlearn myself – is that there are bodies that are deemed inherently sinful and vulgar. That purity is about the desire to see girls and women shrink themselves, make themselves meek for men.

Purity culture isn’t unlike rape culture which tells young girls in so many ways that their worth can only be found through their bodies. Whether it be through promiscuity or chastity, young girls are instructed on what to do with their bodies before they’ve had time to figure themselves out, separate from a patriarchal lens. That their needs are secondary to that of the men and boys in their lives.

It took me a while —after leaving the church and unlearning the toxic ideals around purity culture rooted in anti-Blackness, fatphobia, heteropatriarchy, and queerphobia — to embrace my body, my sexuality, and my queerness as something that was not only not sinful or dirty, but actually in line with the vision God has over my life. Our bodies don't stop being our temples depending on who we do or who we don’t let in, and our worth isn’t dependent on the width of our legs at any given point.

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