Let me tell you unwed ladies—the dress is just the beginning. Apparently the white frock and all of its accoutrements account for THE MOST IMPORTANT ENSEMBLE YOU WILL EVER WEAR. Well, that’s what bridal stores, magazines, websites and Southern lore tell you. After that day, a brown paper bag is more than acceptable for all occasions. Just don’t screw up that blinding white (or charming ivory, in my case) confection!
After locating the desirable life-long partner and loving mate with the head of thick, brown hair and hazel eyes (#1 priority!) and the dress (a close second), you search for the veil. Please tell me you’ve skimped on the “Girls’ Nights Out” and haven’t taken a tropical vacation in the past 5 years because this simple scrap of net and lace will cost you somewhere between $1,000 and $5,000. If seed pearls and pricey embellishments are your thing, you should have a cool $10,000 stashed in your freezer (no need to embarrass yourself in front of the snooty shopgirls come check-out time).
I asked Jamie if he had any greenbacks collecting freezer burn in his Union Square apartment. After all—what’s a more practical purchase in the months leading up to your wedding than a diamond and seed pearl veil?? With great sadness, Jamie told me that the only thing in his freezer were “off parts” of the pig (snouts, trotters, entrails), pear-infused vodka and the odd ice pack or two to help his skateboard injuries (yes, Jamie is 28 years-old and skateboards to work up 5th Avenue).
BUT THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTY ENSEMBLE OF MY LIFE! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?
My mother saves the day…
At the tender age of 22, Mom packed her hatboxes and steamer trunks and moved to Madrid. That year in Spain (during Franco’s regime, mind you) and in Western Europe would be her “sentimental education,” her “grand tour”—the time she would establish herself and her platinum locks far from the Deep South. My grandparents were thrilled for their first-born and all the opportunities that awaited her.
They weren’t so enamored of the idea of a “Continental Suzanne,” however, that they actually wanted her to marry a hot-blooded bullfighter or a Camembert-sniffing Pierre. My grandmother’s first trip to Spain included a purposeful stroll down the Gran Via and Calle Serrano to shop for a “mantilla” (mahn-TEE-ya), or a Spanish wedding veil. Purchasing this lace shroud—the finely woven piece of net, silk and lace that would fall over my mother’s eager, innocent face on her wedding day—was a sign that she was expected to return after 12 months time and marry a good, Southern boy.
This story—and that veil—suit me. Don’t they? I’ve always said that it took traveling around the world and up to New York City before I found my love—the man who shared a hometown with me, always living just miles away.
So, on my wedding day, I will wear the same piece of Spanish lace. Mom wore it over a pillbox hat, my sister fashioned it as a shawl, draped around her shoulders, and I will let the piece of lace hang from my loose chignon. No money spent and a wonderful tradition upheld.