This time, it was my turn to pop the question.

I wanted to ask her in just the right way -- something not dripping with sappiness, but also something that reflected that she --  and the question -- are very important.

I walked the aisles of Target, Googling unique ways to ask someone to be your maid of honor. While I didn't dislike any of the ideas -- a scrapbook with the question on the final page, for example -- I also didn't want to over think or over spend to ask a question. (I am the bartering bride, after all.)

As is often the case, I found my best inspiration on deadline. (Remember, reporter.) Headed to David's Bridal for a bridesmaid dress shopping appointment this past weekend, I stopped at a grocery store to grab bottled water and snacks for the girls. (Best to keep your lovely friends well fed and watered if they're trying on sometimes not-so-lovely dresses for your big day, right?) 

Then, I journeyed to the cleaning aisle and found the perfect *hint*:
Good thing it's Valentine's Day season, as I didn't want to use a congratulatory balloon (seemed a bit pretentious) or a thank you balloon (seemed a bit generic). 

The woman who tied the balloon to the broom and dust pan didn't get it until I explained it.
I hid the balloon in my trunk and drove to the bridal shop. Now, it was the girls' time to try on umpteen dresses and find the one they wanted to wear. Remember: I'd already tried on dresses of the white variety not one, but two times.

The morning before we all went dress shopping, I'd asked the girls via text message what they'd like to spend. I figured that avoided anyone feeling pressured to spend more because others might want to, and it allowed me to provide our spending limit to the dress consultant without revealing who might want to spend less and who might not have a limit at all.

Interestingly, two of my bridesmaids will be a bridesmaid for the fifth time at our wedding, and even more curious, they both said this was the first time a bride left choosing the dress to the bridesmaids. Most brides they know, Amy and Katie told me, have selected the dress or a few choices their bridesmaids may choose.

That's just not my style, particularly after I swooned over a few bridal gowns, only to feel HIDEOUS in them. While, yes, I want the girls to wear a dress that suits our rustic theme, I also want them to look and feel beautiful. Selecting a dress I like and forcing them into it is no guarantee of either. 

So, we embarked on what I now call Dress Democracy, Take One. These were the favorites. Bear in mind, the girls will be in plum.
One time, right after the dressing room doors closed, I took off. I ran past brides in eye-catching white gowns out to my car, grabbed the balloon and the little card I'd written and ran back inside. I hid it all behind a rack of veils.

I was shaking a little. I was excited to reveal to Stephanie that while she may have not known it-known it, I knew she should stand beside me when I marry my best friend. We grew up together, driving Barbie cars through the snow on days off from school. And just three years ago, in one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me, she secretly arranged for three girls who later would become my bridesmaids to hide and surprise me with a night out when I moved back to Ohio after nearly five years of working and living in other states.

I waited until the others emerged from their dressing rooms because I wanted them to witness this, too. Then, I reached back and presented the balloon.
Like the woman at the grocery store who'd tied the dust pan and broom set to the romantic balloon (lol), Steph didn't get it at first. It was when she started to cry that I knew that she did.
I popped the question, and she said yes! I now commiserate a little with all of you grooms out there who more often than not have to find the *perfect* way to ask.

Importantly, the other ladies have said yes, too, and I couldn't be more grateful to have had them by my side all these years and soon, on a day I've never anticipated so much. Amy is the most loyal and giving friend a girl could ask for, Michelle and I have much more in common than our first names (for one, our lovable yet spicy natures), Maggie is my college roommate (for three years!) and the friend who drove cross-country with me, and Katie and I often talk for hours (preferably over Melt grilled cheese, please).

I've reflected on all of their friendships since becoming engaged, and I love them even more for trying on, with a smile, some of the less desirable dresses inflicted upon them.

"It looks like a Hefty garbage bag," Steph said of one short variety. 
"I feel like I'm a mushroom," Amy agreed.
"I'm just glad I'm not trying that one on," Maggie chimed in.

In the interest of keeping my bridesmaids my bridesmaids, and given that I am the queen of untagging pictures I don't like on a certain social media site, we'll keep that dress and others the secret of this bride and her very best friends. :]
1/28/2013 01:16:24 pm

Sweet. :) I decided to only go with my sisters (only two of them) and asked them shortly after we got engaged with a hand-made monogramed-on-high-quality-shiny-paper. No maid of honor. Just the two girls who know me best and love me anyway.

Incidentally, I was a bridesmaid in both of their weddings as a teen. They put me in formal, floor length traditional gowns that no one would ever wear again (and which weren't particularly flattering to begin with). I wasn't having that. I'm getting married outside in July. I don't want them to be dying of heat exhaustion. I also want them to have an opportunity to wear the pretty dresses again. So I knew I was going for something in my colors, but knee length and not a style that screams "bridesmaid" or even "formal."

In the end, I actually chose and bought their dresses for them, but not on purpose. There was a ridiculous sale on BM dresses at David's Bridal just after Thanksgiving, and I saw it just a few hours before it ended. I was pretty confident we wouldn't have another opportunity to score dresses that cheap. So I got them on the phone and asked what size to order, if they had any major preferences on styles, and whether they preferred blue or green (I was open to them both either of the colors or being in opposite colors). I ended up scoring their dresses (one blue and one green) for about $30 each, for dresses that retailed for $120. (With shipping it came out to about $80 for two dresses that were at my house by that Friday! Probably the best bargain of our wedding so far.) They both tried them on at Christmas and loved them in different ways. Even though their bodies are opposites the styles actually worked and looked beautiful on both.

Anyway, good luck. I can't believe there's actually a category in wedding planning where I'm ahead of you. Yay! :) I mean that in the kindest-you're-way-far-ahead-of-me-in-all-the-plans way. haha.

1/29/2013 11:09:41 am

i think all the ladies look wonderful in their dresses except steph looks like she is slowly and passionately murdering the camera with her eyes. still so happy for you girls.

what my wife did was she picked the designer and the color but let (within those guidelines) the bridesmaids pick any cut that fell within that category... it ended up looking very cool>

4/23/2013 04:43:38 pm

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