Finding my own wedding dress was a study in disappointment. I didn’t have any of the appropriate reactions I felt I was supposed to have, and the ‘yes, this is the dress,’ moment didn’t happen until I went to the last fitting. Indeed the entire process of planning my wedding unearthed strange emotions and bizarre traditions and expectations I’d never thought mattered very much. In the end it was a great day, and much to my own annoyance, I have to admit I’m glad we didn’t just elope like I wanted to. But having gone through the experience has left me with many social questions (and my own commentaries) about why the North American Wedding is what it is. How did it become this giant event? Where did the expectation come from? Has every family experienced such emotional upheaval over such a stupid societal construction?
So when I came across this book at the Bargain Book Barn, I was intrigued. Written entirely by Canadian writers, this collection asked twenty-six women to write memoirs on recalling their wedding day attire, and their essays begin to unpack all my big questions. From Indian saaris and pant suits to Bhutan Kiras and the traditional ‘white’ dress, the essays are much less about the outfit themselves and more about the world swirling around the garment. The wedding dress is the grounding in the tumult of emotions and memories. The collection culls stories from all walks of life: from immigrants, aboriginals, transplants, and emigrates to traditional cute-meets, divorces and remarriages and everything in between. No two stories were even remotely alike, and I particularly enjoyed the essays that focused on the symbolism of weddings and what that meant or hadn’t meant to the writer. For some, marriage wasn’t a thing they were interested in, but found they had to sign the papers to keep their visas. For others, the wedding dress that carried true weight wasn’t the ‘white’ wedding, but the thrown-together, off-hand event that had been the ceremony they really wanted. A few could barely remember their dress, or even the day itself because the life that came after was far more interesting then that pinprick in time. For two stories in particular, they never actually wore the gown, but what it represented has stuck with them in an indelible way.
The anthology is broken down by the old wedding poem, “Something old, something new….” etc. the stories collected under their relevance to each phrase of the poem. At the end of each essay, the writer has provided a photo of the dress. Sometimes with her in it, sometimes just on a hanger, but I really enjoyed this little addition. It added context to the stories (at least for me), to be able to see the dress described, and to think about the photo submission on the part of the author. For some, it was the only photo they had, and it felt like an extra window into the author’s life to be able to see a picture of them in the garment described.
I’m happy to have stumbled across this collection. It was a great read, and has certainly helped me in my own questions about the ‘white wedding’ and its relevance in society.
Bingo Square: The Collection