The population of the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area is 1.25 million people. As cities go, that’s really not very large; lots of American cities are bigger, and certainly in global terms, it’s not immense.
No, Richmond does not feel all that large until you find yourself crammed into a small bridal shop with the 625,000 women who are either brides, mothers of brides, sisters of brides, bridesmaids, or babies of brides.
This weekend, my sister, my mother-in-law and I joined my daughters and a mother-in-law-to-be for a whirlwind day of wedding dress shopping. We did this in Harrisonburg with the Older Daughter about three years ago, so we thought we knew what to expect.
We were wrong.
The Younger Daughter had made several appointments, because you can’t just drop in to a Bridal Shoppe and browse around. You have to have a “consultant.” This person chats up the bride and can determine after three minutes exactly what the bride likes and doesn’t like. She then shuts the bride up in a tiny cubicle with some strange undergarments, and brings her things to try on.
We’ll call our first stop “Goliath’s Bridal” because we do not wish to be litigated against. When Team Suz arrived for its 9:30 appointment, all 625,000 Richmond women were already in the parking lot waiting for the doors to open. We hung back because Team Suz includes her grandmother, and we did not want her to be trampled in the stampede.
Once inside, we were assigned a “consultant,” who used her 180 seconds to determine what some other bride, possibly on Mars, liked. After shutting Suz in a cubicle, she brought dresses that looked like a bride had exploded out of a pile of Miracle Wip. One of these looked like The Mummy exploding from a pile of Miracle Wip. Another of them had a ten-foot train, which our particular bride immediately stepped on. No.
Because these dresses require more infrastructure than a nuclear reactor, it takes an eternity to get from one to the other. Plus, consultants at Goliath Bridal work with more than one bride at a time. After hours of waiting, the brides’ entourages get bored and start critiquing other brides. As it happens, these brides’ entourages have no sense of humor at all, and so it’s not uncommon for the police to be called.
We watched all this with incredulity, taking turns sitting in the two chairs provided for our group of six. In our same area were three other brides and their cheering sections, a large bevy of bridesmaids looking for dresses, and two mothers-of-the-bride trying on things in unhappy colors while their own entourages insisted that no, those ruffles don’t really make your rear look like the bed in “The Princess and the Pea.” In the middle of this chaos, someone had loosed a handful of toddlers, and they were playing tag. Techno music thumped in the background, and I began to think longingly of the peace and tranquility of a cruise ship.
When our consultant brought Suz a dress that looked like a bride erupting from a duvet, we called a halt and sprinted for the car.
The presence of the grandmother precluded any stopping for soothing beverages, so we went on to the next place, which we will call Alfred Angelo, because that’s its name and because we want everyone to go there. We were one of three brides in the ENTIRE STORE, and their entourages were comfortably seated on sofas at discreet distances from each other. No techno played anywhere, and everyone was polite and kind. Our consultant took Suz with her to look at things, so every dress she tried on was perfect. We breathed and relaxed and made friends with the other families.
And yes, she found the perfect dress, and maybe we all cried a little. And yes, I shed some tears of joy because my youngest daughter is so beautiful and precious, but I have to admit, even though she’s going to read this and know the truth, relief was also a factor.