Essay: My Experience Preparing for a Mormon Wedding

Over the summer one of my high school friends, Emily got engaged. This whole summer I had been anticipating the moment when I get to see my friend in a beautiful white gown. But, to be completely honest, I was most excited to find a dress to wear to this wedding.

Originally I had not decided whether or not I wanted to drive five and a half hours home to this event, but after a bit of convincing and the date approaching I decided why not. Also as a side note: if you ever get invited to a friends wedding, go. How often do you get to see your friends get married—the answer is rarely? (That’s how I was persuaded to go). Anyway I decided I wanted to go a month prior.

This wedding was what I considered atypical. My friend and her fiancé are both Mormon. If you don’t know much about the Mormon culture and religion, that’s ok (I didn’t either); the Mormon culture has very strict social norms: no caffeine, no alcohol, girls wear longer hemlines, things like that. I had done some research on what would be appropriate for an event like this.

What I found from my little investigation were several things. Shoulders should be covered, the dress length should be as long if not longer than mid-thigh, and the dress shouldn’t be too fitted. With these limitations I set out on a mission to find the perfect dress. Typically at weddings the few colors you’re supposed to stray away from are black and white, so I kept that thought in mind.

Around the University of Cincinnati there aren’t many clothing stores in the general vicinity, so I had a limited number of choices. I don’t know why I walked straight into American Apparel and purchased a dress before considering the possibilities of the Internet. If you know nothing of American Apparel, you should know that it is a sweatshop free store. The other thing that I think is important is the aesthetic their clothes exhibit; my sister likes to call their clothing “raunchy”, “trashy”, words along those lines. So it probably seems funny that I purchased a dress from a store with little Mormon friendly items.

The dress I purchased did not follow two of the three Mormon ideals and it was black and white. I really know how to choose winners. The dress was a pointe tank dress with horizontal black and white striping. There are no sleeves and the neckline scoops rather low. The one thing this dress had going for it was the length; the bottom hit the back of my knees, which was a plus.

After driving five hours back to Chicago this weekend, their wedding reception was about three hours from starting. Typically one would get their hair and make-up done, but no. My mom and I decided to go to Target to shop for a bit, and then ate dinner at home with the rest of my family. The reception started at 7 p.m. and I began applying my make-up (slowly) at 6:55 p.m. I chose to keep a simple look: no eyeliner, a nude colored lip, blush but super opaque. At the last minute, I decided that I needed to cover my shoulders so I grabbed my distressed jean jacket from Hollister, and threw on a pair of wedges I bought years ago. I thought I looked good.

At the reception I was not feeling the same way. I still looked good, but not for that moment in time. My dress was a little too tight and a little too low, my simple and minimal amount of make-up was too much, and I felt like the tallest person there. I was Waldo.

I realize now that I shouldn’t have felt out of place. I should have felt as good as I looked. I live by the words “be you”, “be different”, “appreciate uniqueness”; but when I am the abnormality, I struggle to embrace that (and knowing people are looking at you definitely does not help). Looking different is ok, being different is ok; feel as good as you look or think you look. And hint: if people say you look good, you do.

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