What does the bride wear to her third wedding? 

Dressed for Distress

I said I wasn't going to become obsessed with my wedding, but it's like the chickenpox. This is my third marriage, so there should be no wearing white and no church.

But this is the first marriage for the groom, and his family is head-over-heels happy about throwing some kind of festival that their boy is entering adulthood at last. In fact, this is the first of My Three Grooms with a family that even cares. He's on board with my minimalist plans, but I suspect he wants the whole thing to at least look like a wedding.

And the problem with that is at any wedding, the bride is the center of attention. All eyes are on the bride.

I do not want to be the center of attention. Take the dress, for instance. This is the most important, critical dress of your life. This is the make-it-or-break-it dress. All eyes are on the dress and all minds will judge the dress.

This is too much pressure.

My first choice is black with white flowers on the skirt, a slimming choice for a woman who currently weighs more than she did when she was nine months pregnant.

I showed the groom a photo of the dress, and he said, "But it's black. People don't get married in black."

So I ordered a different one, a champagne dress in crinkly rayon, that broomstick style that's all the rage now. I looked like a giant baking potato. I sent it back. The black dress came and I furled it out before him.

He has always had a winning way with words. No matter how fat I get, he says I look good. Every new outfit "looks good." Every horrible new haircut "looks good." For the black dress, I get silence.

"Haven't you got anything to say?" I prompt.

"It looks black," he says.

OK, maybe I ought to think about something else. The many-married get married in suits, but suits require a waist, and two things women my age haven't seen in years is their waist and their virginity.

Even in the trendiest mall there is no store called The Olde Fat Bridal Shoppe, so one Monday evening, a hour before closing when not a soul is in the mall, I pick a store where I have credit and test how many prom dresses I can try on in 60 minutes. I grab a half-dozen white or beige dresses off the racks and sprint for the dressing room.

The cutoff size for going to the prom is apparently one size smaller than I am, because there are no dresses that fit. My size sits home with a pizza on prom night. White dresses are see-through and don't look good with the black hose I wore to work that day.

Tip No.1: Trying on dresses requires you to wear the actual underwear you plan to wear with the dress.

Tip No.2: Summer dresses require summer grooming. My winter armpits are so hairy-scary, I can't focus on the dress. One dress has so much static electricity it wraps around me like mummy gauze. When I pull it off it electrifies my hair. I cannot get an accurate impression of how I will look in wedding photos with the dress glued to my black legs, furry armpits and my hair standing on end. This isn't working.

I get trapped in one sheath that has a zipper up the back. I get it on, but I cannot get it off. When women gain weight their arms get shorter — a known fact — and they cannot deal with back zippers anymore. I am too embarrassed to call for help, so I just rub up against the wall and inhale deeply until the zipper comes down enough to grab it.

Tip No.3: Bring a trusted friend to help you who will not regale your reception guests with stories about how you got trapped in the dress.

Finally I accept the ugly fact: I wear a size larger than I did last time I bought clothes. I sprint over to the Fat Lady department, where obviously no one parties. There are no prom dresses. What fat ladies wear are huge, garishly colored muumuus for staying home and watching Oprah and Rosie, or the types of suits you always see on very large women who sing in Pentecostal choirs, the ones that have flowing capes instead of a jacket and a huge hat to match.

But these actually look good to me. Mentally my mind has embraced my fatness. And there are white ones! There's a white sheath with a full-length white duster over it with a satin collar. I have a choice of a size too small or a size too large. The size too large makes me look like Calista Flockhart, lost in her clothes. This is it!

Except the white duster resembles a doctor's coat. Instead of a bouquet, I should carry a stethoscope and tongue depressors; instead of "I do," I'll say "Ahhh."

What to do, what to do? Keep looking, and when I can't find anything else, come back to get this suit? It'll be gone. It'll be singing "When the Saints Come Marching In" at some church.

At home, there's a new catalog in the mail with a gauzy mauve dress with a matching hat which costs almost as much as the dress. I show it to the groom. He is now terrified to say anything, so he is back to "looks good." I almost order it when another catalog comes in, and there's a white rayon, cotton and linen dress with empire seaming. The model looks great in it. I will look like the iceberg that hit the Titanic.

"Do you think I would look fat in this dress?" I ask the groom, who is now wild with fear.

"But you're not fat," he offers in desperation. "It looks good."

Ah! That's why I'm marrying him. Wearing what, I don't know. But this fella is a keeper.

Mariane Matera is a free-lance writer who lives in Richmond.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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