Wedding Dress Shopping — When Your Daughter Lets You Tag Along

Barbara Falconer Newhall's daughter wore a black and white plaid dress to go wedding dress shopping. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Christina donned a dress to go wedding dress shopping. Photo by Barbara Newhall

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

When I picked out my wedding dress forty years ago, I did it all by myself. It didn’t occur to me to phone my mother and ask her to fly 750 miles from her retirement home in Phoenix to my place in San Francisco so she could help me find a dress. As frugal, sensible, mid-century Midwesterners, we didn’t fly all over the country just to go shopping.

But that was 1977, and this is 2016. Things are different now. Grown-up kids live all over the planet, and keeping up with them means getting on airplanes. Often. My daughter, therefore, didn’t think twice. She needed to pick out a
wedding dress, and she needed her mother’s help. She needed a wing man. So she phoned me from Los Angeles to ask me to fly down for a shopping weekend.  I said yes.

Wedding Dress Shopping — My Idea of Fun

It turned out to be one of the most fun weekends of my existence so far. Three whole days of shopping. Three whole days of shopping with my daughter. Three whole days of shopping with my daughter for her wedding dress.

Life doesn’t get any better than that. Especially when our three days of wedding dress shopping progressed as magically as they did. On Friday, we found two lovely dresses at Le Marriage Haute Couture in Santa Monica. On Saturday, we found two gorgeous

A rack of gowns poofy enough to fill a queen-sized comforter on sale at Le Marriage bridal salon in Los Angeles. Wedding dress shopping. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Wedding dress shopping: A rack of gowns, each poofy enough to stuff a queen-sized comforter. At Le Marriage bridal salon in Los Angeles. Photo by Barbara Newhall

dresses at Panache Bridal in Pasadena. And on Sunday we found an off-charts-spectacular dress at the Nordstrom Wedding Suite in Brea. No doubt about it: the Brea dress was The Dress. We were certain of it. Both of us.

We had a great time finding The Dress — driving all over Los Angeles, missing our freeway exits as we talked up the pros and cons of our latest discoveries. We — Christina, that is — tried on ivory confections garnished with appliqued lace, pearly sequins, seed beads, metallic thread, rhinestones, pearls, Swarovski crystals. Saleswomen talked to us of satin, tulle,  organza, chiffon, charmeuse, silk and horsehair.

Wedding dress shopping: a frothy gown and a slinky one. Photo by Barbara Newhall

A frothy gown and a slinky one. Photo by Barbara Newhall

Wedding dress shopping included peeking at sparkly headpieces, some of them encrusted with Swarovski crystals at $1,500. It meant trying on bling-bordered veils — elbow length, fingertip length. Gowns with trains. Gowns with enough poof to fill a queen-sized comforter. Slinky mermaid gowns that curved scandalously under the butt — something a nice girl wouldn’t think of wearing in public in my day. Which was 1963, btw, give or take.

In Lace From Head to Toe

My mother was miles and miles away in Phoenix when I picked out my wedding dress at Saks in San Francisco forty years ago. I was used to doing things on my own in those day. Indeed, I insisted on doing things on my own. I wound up choosing an ivory gown appliqued with lace from neckline to hem. It was a safe choice and one that the saleswoman at Saks assured me would be appreciated by my mother and the ladies of her generation.

But I wonder now, had my mother been with me on the day I went wedding dress shopping, would I have have bought a different dress, the one I was actually leaning toward? It was a crisp white gown with elegant lines. No lace, no frills. Modern like me.

Yes, I was used to doing things on my own in those days. But maybe, like my daughter, I needed a wing man. Maybe I needed my mother.

For a peek at me in my 1977 wedding gown, go to “The Day She Popped the Question — And He Said Yes.”  For a glimpse of my future daughter-in-law trying on my wedding dress for size, go to “I’m the Mother of the Groom, Now What?” 




  1. Cheryl McLaughlin says:

    Lovely, Barbara. It must have been an amazing experience to see her in those different dresses and get to know her perspective about them. It’s such a big moment.

  2. What fun! Wonderful that you agreed on the choice!

  3. Nice piece, very sweet.

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