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I can’t believe it actually happened. I first wrote about the search almost exactly a year ago, and have tried on every single dress in existence since.

And guess what? I bought one of the first gowns I tried on, from that very first day my mom and I went shopping last January. It took a little over a year and a lot of visits to bridal salons up and down California, but I did it. Here is my journey of saying Yes To My Dress…

{Barbara, Katierose & me last week, the day I bought my dress}

I visited every bridal salon on Melrose Place. And drove two hours to a trunk show that I think was in Newport Beach, but my memory is blurry now.

I accidentally dragged my bridesmaid Michelle to a trunk show for gowns that started at $10,000 (should’ve asked before I signed up. You live, you learn.) We had a lot of fun, but mostly I was terrified of ripping a sequin and being held liable.

{Me, in a $20,000 dress I had no business wearing}

I visited every bridal salon on Wilshire in Beverly Hills.

I went to a Monique Lhuillier sample sale, and wrote about my experience for Hello Giggles.

My bridesmaid Julia drove up to L.A. to help me look at gowns with her sweet baby Avery at Carolina Herrera. Avery accidentally fell and got a bloody lip; she didn’t even cry because she is a trooper, but Julia almost cried for fear of getting blood on the gowns.

{Avery in her Happily Ever After dress shopping shirt}

I visited my favorite bridal salon in Beverly Hills again.

I trolled Gilt’s semi-annual bridal sale, deciding I was now a “carefree bride” who buys wedding dresses in online flash sales! Then panicked and realized I wasn’t, and made another appointment at a bridal salon on Melrose Place.

I went to Glamour Closet with my mom and she tried to convince me to buy a grey dress, and then a gold one, mostly to punish me for making her look at so many dresses, I think.

{My mom’s face when I came out in a dress she loved and I hated}

I visited Melrose Place again, and fell head over heels in love with a gown that costs as much as an expensive car. And I learned the hard way why people tell you DO NOT TRY ON GOWNS OUTSIDE OF YOUR PRICE RANGE. JUST DON’T DO IT.

My dad and I went to San Francisco for a marathon day of shopping. I went in with a secret mission: My Maid of Honor Jacquelyn also had trouble choosing her dress (although not as much as I did), and finally brought her dad shopping with her. She picked the one that made him cry when he saw her in it. Another one of my friends recently chose her dress because her dad cried at the sight of her in it, too. So I figured I would just buy the one that made my dad cry… But every time I came out my dad just jovially exclaimed “Oh! Lovely!” and by the end of the day, he napped while I switched gowns, so when I walked out, he didn’t cry because he was asleep.

{Me & my dad, pre-dress napping}

Went back to Beverly Hills. Tried a new place my Maid of Honor Katierose found. No dice.

I decided to go to the Glamour Closet sample sale, because these already steeply discounted gowns would be even more discounted, and some of the proceeds from this wonderful store go to research for Parkinson’s Disease, a cause very close to my heart. I got in line at 5am behind two guys who had slept there to hold the place for their fiancés. (Awww!) I brought iced coffee even though it was the middle of winter and freezing. And I realized when I finally got in the store that I’d put my pants on backwards. Didn’t find my dress.

{The line outside the Glamour Closet when I left}

My spin instructor gave me the name of a seamstress in Beverly Hills who custom makes gowns, whom she heard about from one of her other students, who got the name of this seamstress from her wedding planner, who is also wedding planner to one of the kids of the Real Housewives, so you know she’s legit. Even my spin instructor was in on my dress saga.

Went back to Melrose Place to try on that spectacular dress/car again, just to abuse myself. Still loved it, still couldn’t afford it.

{Me & Barbara, after one of the many dress excursions}

Then, early this January, I had a meltdown and showed Tony pictures of me in all of the dresses I’d tried on up until that point. I couldn’t think straight anymore. I know, I know. But, we’re doing “first look” photos because we don’t want to miss a minute of our party. I’ve worn wedding dresses in sketches at the Groundlings. That jig is already up. I didn’t know what I wanted or liked anymore, and when it came down to it, his opinion was the one that mattered most to me. And I’m so glad I did; the dresses he loved and didn’t love surprised me, and his thoughts helped me narrow down the style of dress I wanted. His favorite was the same as mine… Until I told him the price. Then he hated it.

So, I set up one last round of appointments, this time including Vera Wang, which had since moved to Beverly Hills and where I hadn’t been since that first day of shopping with my mom. Katierose, my bridesmaid Barbara, and my friend Jason (who just had his own fabulous wedding, and who used to be a stylist in New York) came with me.

{Jason, generously sharing his stylist skills at no charge. I love him.}

And at Vera Wang, we all fell in love with a dress that was in my budget, that I could move in, that I felt like a bride in. It felt classic and timeless, while still unique and unlike any my friends have worn. I could picture the flower girls’ reaction to it, my dad walking me down the aisle in it, Tony’s face when he saw me… That was the dress I wanted to get married in. I sent a picture to my mom, and she reminded me I tried that dress on last January. In all of my mania, I’d forgotten it. She still loved it, and Tony hadn’t seen it – I’d tried it on so long ago, I didn’t even have the picture on my phone anymore. We bought it. I have my dress. And it will still be a surprise for Tony.

{My mom’s dress, which she had preserved in hopes I would one day wear it… Sorry, Mom.}

{Tony’s beautiful mama in her gown}

I’m glad the process shook out the way it did, and I wouldn’t change a thing (my mom, and most loved ones, probably would though.) I would have bought a very different dress last year than I ended up buying last week. And I know myself and how difficult it is for me to make decisions – I have trouble deciding what to order at a restaurant, and I would have spent the past year second-guessing my dress and panicking that I’d made the wrong choice. But I ordered my gown one week shy of having to pay rush fees (yep. The wedding is August 1. It takes that long to make a wedding dress.) So there is no going back.

{My gorgeous grandma with her dad, on her wedding day}

Looking back, though, it was an intense, fun, hilarious, horrible, amazing journey that brought me closer to my friends and my mom. I’m so lucky and grateful that I have so many beautiful women (and Jason) in my life to support me, take pictures of me, tuck my butt into a too-small dress and help clamp it on, and tell me I made the perfect choice. They made the experience fun, and made me feel special and pretty. Some girls could care less about their wedding dress (or at least have a “healthy perspective” on it). I’m not one of those girls (if that’s not already abundantly clear). I was a woman obsessed. But even for me, it got to a point where I was just done. I wanted to find it. And now that I have, I’m relieved and thrilled. A little sad, because now it’s over and something I don’t get to fantasize about anymore. But, now I get to dream about marrying Tony in it, knowing what I’ll look like when we say our vows, and that’s even better.

{Our celebratory champagne at Vera Wang}

In the throes of one of my (many) panic attacks, my Maid of Honor Katierose pointed out that any of the gowns would work (save for a few especially ill-advised designs, like the one that can only be described as “It looked like I was pooping out a train of tulle.”) They were all beautiful, and there is no one dress that captures everything – at a certain point, you have to decide if you want a princess moment with a ball gown, a red carpet moment with mermaid cut, a loose flowy dress that is comfortable and ethereal… You just have to pick.

{Katierose, probably before and after talking me off one ledge or another}

There’s a lot of pressure put on “finding the one” – people say you’ll just know. For me, that wasn’t the case with the dress. I loved a lot of them, and it was hard to decide, and I ultimately picked the one I felt happiest in, that was easy to move and dance in, and that I knew Tony would love as much as I do. But, that “finding the one” moment was the case with Tony; somehow, when I met him, I did “just know.” Even though he was wearing high socks with sandals and shorts. We fight and have our ups and downs like any normal couple, but there has never been a moment of hesitation for me that he is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. And that’s saying a lot, coming from the girl who agonizes over whether to get fries or a side salad and took 396 days to select a wedding dress.