The dress

Wedding dress in a box

Wedding dress in a box

The car pulled up to the church, and the driver helped me out. I stepped onto the path, my silk-white high heels making the tiniest crunch on the gravel. And then I looked down at my dress. My dress! At some point on the journey it had turned yellow. It was bright yellow. My dress had turned bright yellow, and the bells were pealing their discordant tones to tell me that the service was due to start. How could I get married when I was wearing a yellow dress?


I woke up, gasping slightly, eyes adjusting to the dark. My books were towered up all higgledy-piggledy on the desk, Virginia Woolf topping one pile, Keats on the other, and fifty or so loose pages of blue scribblings in between. My finals were rapidly approaching.


On the other side of the desk stood the box. I tiptoed across the floor, the carpet cold and bristly underfoot. I opened the box to check again – had I made the right decision? I had felt so good about it in the shop, but now there was no going back and the money had been spent. Was it the right one?


The dreams had started about three months before the wedding: my dress was in the post and had got lost, or it had been cut with scissors, or it had turned green or yellow or too short or ripped. And always, no time; no time to go back and change things. I was walking to church in the wrong dress.


I peeked inside at the dress – a gentle white: ivory, I think it was supposed to be called. A field of tiny pearls, the heavy silk; it was the weight and beauty of marriage in a box. I would slowly stroke it, reassured. I had made the right decision. It was right. Of course it was right. It would all be alright.




“You can’t walk too slowly down the aisle,” our vicar told us as I held onto my father’s arm. This was the rehearsal, the night before. I had talked like a hyperactive six-year-old to anyone who would listen about how amazing my dress was, but this was the first time it had really sunk in: they would all be looking at me. All of them.


I don’t do theatre or stage, I am malcoordinated and medium-alright-looking when I’ve made an effort. I had a nice dress, but that did not mean I could strut down the church slowly like a model. I could feel already my cheeks burning. Was there a way of doing it a little faster?


I just wanted to be married, really. The venue people had asked us what the theme was for our wedding and we’d looked blankly at them. The theme was that we would be married, surely?


Or did they mean which Bible passages and songs we’d chosen? Because we’d spent ages with that, whittled it down, planned in detail, told the vicar that we weren’t telling him how to do his job but this is what we’d prefer him to say.


Turns out, they meant colours and stuff.


I just wanted to be married. I cared about the service, the words, but not about the frippery and frivolity.


There was something in me that wanted to run down the aisle in a hoody and just grin and get married. But there was also a shy six-year-old that wanted to twirl in my magical white dress and say, “Look at me!” That girl would dance all the way down the aisle and wait for the applause.


And then there was a shadowy teenager in me that would emerge from time to time and whisper, “Who would want you?” and I would feel rooted to the spot in shame.


I just wasn’t sure what speed that would average out at as I walked down the aisle.



coming out of the car

He had told me he’d see me no later than 12.05. I was twenty minutes late – but that was the photographer snapping, all crocodile grin. Not my fault.


“Sorry I’m late,” I whispered when I reached him. Our carefully-chosen first hymn was already in motion, piano keys dancing heavily. “It was the photographer.”


“I expected nothing less,” he said. His smile was sideways at me, his eyes were reassuring while he wiped the sweat off his hands.


We spoke the vows: i had wanted them to leap and fly out of my mouth, but in the end they came out shuffling a little, shyly. It didn’t matter: they were said and the gold rings cooled our sweaty fingers.


He grinned, I grinned; and we were young and excited and married.


full dress

“This dress,” the preacher paused in the middle of his sermon,”deserves to be here, in this magnificent church, on this important occasion. It is beautiful, isn’t it?”


The congregation mmmm-ed their approval, and I plumped out my skirt, just a little.


The preacher talked about Revelation 19, about God as host to an eternal party. He talked champagne bubbles, a bridegroom, a bride given a beautiful dress to wear, a dress that deserved to be there.


In my deserving-undeserved dress, I was sparkling and fresh and white. Everyone was looking at me, and I was looking at him.


We held hands and knelt down and peeked over the prayer rail together into the rest of our lives.



Over to you:

  • Can you relate to that feeling of fear and blessing, that deserving-undeservedness?

Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a horse, a book, stairs – and today the dress. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment.


Amber is taking a break from concrete words and I will be hosting for the next little bit. The prompts for the next couple of weeks are as follows:
Mar 4 – the dress
Mar 11 – the bottle

Won’t you join me? Link your post below and read and comment on others’ abstractions on the instrument. For more info about ‘how to’ use the concrete to write the abstract, read Amber’s introduction here.


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37 Responses to The dress

  1. Kimberly 4th March, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    Oh, that last line sums it up perfectly! I’m very impressed you managed it without using the word princess, even if you do look like one:)

    • Mark Allman 4th March, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Or the word “radiant”

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      I’m so glad you liked the last line too!

      I told Jon I was writing this post and had done so without mentioning the word ‘princess’. He dryly replied, ‘did you manage doing it without the word meringue?’


  2. Jo 4th March, 2013 at 12:11 pm #

    This is lovely, Tanya and thanks for giving us a peek at your photos. So many weddings are all about the details of day and the dress. Which makes me love the last line ll the more ‘we peeked over the prayer rail together into the rest of our lives’ – that’s what it’s all about.
    Also totally get freaking out in dreams about bad things happening to the dress!

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      Thanks Jo – yes, I completely relate to your bafflement about the obsessive details with the dress and hoopla – and I’m so glad you liked the end line! I got a bit teary writing that bit. 🙂

  3. Liz Eph 4th March, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    You look lovely. I can identify with having doubts about being wanted. I had to write an essay at school called my wedding day and the teacher commented that I’d written it without a bridegroom being mentioned anywhere 🙂

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      I chuckled at the account of you writing up your wedding without a groom! Some of the weddings I see now are so intricately planned and Bridezilla-ish that you’d hardly notice the absence of the groom!

      I’m glad you got married after all, despite your expectations. Sometimes God is good like that…

  4. Ruth 4th March, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Love this stunning glimpse into your wedding day. Isn’t it funny, all the anxieties we have about things going just right. Beautiful post!

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Thanks, Ruth! Loved your post too.

  5. Mia 4th March, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Hi Tanya
    Oh, how we are all just like a princess wanting to look beautiful for our prince on our wedding day. A friend of mine who was a fabric designer and soooo artistic designed my dress and the two of us made it ourselves. It was a fairytale dress, but I remember when it was finished and I brought it back home, how paranoid I was of it getting stolen. The movie, Ammadeus, was released a week or two before my wedding day and my dad took us all to go and see this incredible movie. I was in a total panick and tried to bribe my brother to stay home to look after my dress. With no success! Well, to make a long story short, my dress didn’t get stolen and we all enjoyed the movie. By the way, you were just a gorgeous bride!
    Much love XX

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Wow – how cool! It’s amazing that you could say you had a designer dress – I could definitely understand your paranoia about leaving it alone though!

  6. Joy Lenton 4th March, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    A beautiful post, Tanya. Thank you for sharing your memories and wedding photos with us. You look absolutely radiant and beautiful – as you are in looks and character. I always want to disagree when you play down your appearance as you look lovely to me. Though I fully understand how having M.E and feeling exhausted all the time can steal our brightness and etch lines of fatigue and weariness on our faces. Your dress is sublime. Truly gorgeous! One to treasure indeed.

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

      Thanks so much for the lovely compliments, Joy! I also secretly think I look lovely – but then, I only ever show the good photos! I think I grew up as ‘not the pretty one’, which is actually quite a secure place to be. It doesn’t matter that I’m not stunning. Now, if someone was to criticise my intelligence, then that gets me all kinds of hot and bothered! My looks are not as central to my sense of self worth.

      Having said all that… I should really be better at taking a compliment! And not unnecessarily doing down my appearance. So, thank you for the reminder 🙂

  7. Helen Murray 4th March, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    What a lovely post, Tanya. You look so, so beautiful.

    • Tanya 4th March, 2013 at 7:36 pm #

      Thank you, Helen! It’s weird, looking at myself in my photo – it’s me, but it’s also like looking at another person, y’know? I’m glad you liked it though!


  1. The Dress | find time for tea - 4th March, 2013

    […] for me, challenging too, and an excellent way to practice the craft of writing. I’m joining Tanya Marlow as she currently hosts concrete words, and Amber Haines, who dreamed it up in the first […]

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