-- In preparation for our wedding, my fiance and I purchased just about every form of insurance we could in an effort to safeguard against inclement weather and random acts of God.
But sometimes the confluence of events you face can't be planned for, because you would never imagine them occurring in the first place. Such was the case when my close friend and I unknowingly bought the same wedding gown on the same day while shopping on opposite sides of the country.
Even now, after the fact, the odds seem wildly unlikely. We were more than 2,500 miles apart at the time. She's statuesque, I'm petite. There are thousands of wedding gowns for sale in this country. How could this have happened? Jamie and I discovered the freak coincidence four days later, when we had both returned to our homes in New York City.
“Ummm - I got a dress in Vegas!!!!” she excitedly blurted over an instant message chat box. “How did it go for you?”
“I got one upstate!!!” I replied, mirroring her glee exclamation point for exclamation point.
She asked me to describe mine first, so I began to detail the vampy satin gown with a fit-and-flare silhouette and pleated sweetheart neckline that my mother had bought for me at a boutique in Rhinebeck, New York. It came with crystal embellishments at the waist and side, but I planned to change them to better suit my taste, I added breathlessly. What was hers like?
There was an extended pause and I wondered if Jamie had been called away from her computer. Then a dull ache formed in the pit of my stomach. When she finally began typing again, it was as if I knew what she was going to say before I even read the words:
“I THINK WE GOT THE SAME DRESS!!!!”
Our online conversation continued in a flurry of incredulity, with Jamie sharing that she too planned to change the embellishments, that we should take a photo together to commemorate the moment, and that in a crazy way she felt like we were now bonded for life.
But while I feigned conspiratorial laughter onscreen, at home I began sobbing in front of my monitor. Jamie’s wedding was set for April; my own date wouldn’t arrive until September. Both would take place in Brooklyn, with overlapping friends. I suddenly felt like I would be wearing “Jamie’s Wedding Dress: The Sequel.”
Mostly, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that my fiance would see the gown so far in advance of our ceremony.
“He's a guy, I’m sure he won’t remember,” my mother said in an attempt to comfort me over the phone. But in a world where milestone events like weddings are extended indefinitely through profile and cover photos on social media, I knew there would be very visual reminders that Jamie and I were wedding twinsies. And I was already dreading them.
My mother called the salon in Rhinebeck to see if we could put the brakes on our order. But the owner responded by saying the dress was already in production. They couldn’t offer us an exchange or help with a resale, the owner said. We were on our own.
We had already paid for it in full, so I tried to shake off my frustration. It felt frivolous to even consider buying another one. But over the weeks that followed, the tears continued to spill whenever I searched for statement necklaces, opera gloves or other accessories that might set me apart from my friend.
"Did you originally plan to wear opera gloves?" my best friend Linda gently asked. We both already knew the answer was no. Her subtle inquiry had made it glaringly obvious that in my efforts to disguise the double dresses, I was verging on costumery.
Still, guilt continued to prevent me from acting on my feelings. Rationally, I understood that wearing the same wedding dress as Jamie was hardly the end of the world. Romantically, I knew that the focus of the event was a celebration of love, not formal wear.
But selfishly, there was a part of me that wanted my own singular fashion moment too. And when I finally submitted myself to this desire, however shallow, the crying stopped. It was time to face the shopping racks again.
I promised to pay my mother back for the original gown and I asked if she would support me as I looked for a new one to replace it. Incredibly, she responded with enthusiasm, saying she just wanted me to be happy.
"If you put your dress up for sale online, it may take a few months, but someone will buy it," a colleague assured me.
Buoyed by her confidence, I created an account on Preownedweddingdresses.com, uploaded photos and posted the listing. It was unworn and unaltered, surely someone would snatch it up quickly, she said.
To this day, I have received zero inquiries.
Undeterred, I began my new search in the meantime, trying alternate channels to cut costs. I purchased two discounted white designer dresses on Gilt.com, a long-sleeved, knee-length Valentino with a sheer floral overlay, and then a silk and gold lamé single-shoulder gown designed by Notte by Marchesa, hoping one would click.
Both were incredibly chic. Neither felt quite right. Thankfully, unlike at the boutique, they could both be returned.
I then considered having my mother's wedding gown altered to my measurements. But, sadly, large areas of fabric had been damaged over the years, despite being preserved in a hermetically sealed wrapping. So we scrapped that idea as well.
"Make some appointments at bridal salons in the city," my mother told me. "Your sister and I will take the train down and we will search until we find something."
So it was back to the traditional route. The three of us spent an entire day in February trucking along slushy New York City streets, stopping in between destinations for coffee, cookies and gossip, and, of course, admiring and trying on lots of beautiful white dresses. And wouldn't you know, during the last appointment of the day, the very last dress I tried on revealed itself to be "the one." I wouldn't have even noticed it had my mother not pointed it out, calling it "the Veronica Lake one."
It was a silk charmeuse halter with a deep-v in the front, a splash of ruching in the back and a slight train--the perfect combination of sleek and glamorous.
And in a silver lining, the store selling it, The Bridal Garden, functions as a nonprofit, with proceeds donated toward education for underprivileged children. If extra funds were going to be spent on a second wedding dress, we could at least all feel good about it knowing they went toward a wonderful cause.
When April finally arrived, Jamie floated through the day like a goddess in her gown. And when my wedding day came this fall, I felt like a movie star in mine.
Happily, we looked like nothing resembling twins. But, in the end, I think she was still right: We will always be bonded by an uncanny experience during one of the most special times in our lives--that, and the fact that we both apparently have very good taste.