Say Yes to the Dress
by Jennie Goutet
I was married in Columbia University’s chapel in New York City, and the thing I loved about that church was the fact that when the doors were opened for the bride’s entrance, long rays of light streamed down the aisle into the dark chapel, making the entrance dramatic and special.
On the day my husband and I were to wed in late October, there was a 95% chance of rain predicted, and my colleagues couldn’t resist teasing me about the rainy wedding I was sure to have. But I tilted up my chin and replied, “I’m sure God will give me sun for my wedding.” In my heart I prayed, God, please give me sunshine—just enough for the entrance so that rays of sun will fill the church at the moment I enter.
When I woke up that morning, the weather was already proving to be beautiful. There was not a rain cloud in sight. Later, as I stood with my father outside of the church doors, I could hear the strains of Braveheart’s romantic theme song, “For the Love of a Princess,” being played inside. And just at the moment when the music reached its peak, the ushers opened the doors from the outside. I heard the minister say, “All rise” and saw the congregation turn as one to look, beaming at me as I entered—entirely bathed in sunlight. I felt so blessed in that moment. It was as if it was not just my father walking me down the aisle, but my Father as well.
Lately, I’ve been obsessively watching Facebook videos of Say Yes to the Dress on my phone at night. Here in France, I’m behind on all the TV shows and movies that come out, so I didn’t even know this was a show until . . . (looks at calendar) April 2022. My nighttime routine used to be solely devoted to reading, but now these bridal shows have captured my fascination as I scroll from one to the next.
I ask myself why. Why this show? Why now after I’ve been happily married for nearly 22 years? I mean my wedding was great and all—maybe the best day of my life because it was pure pleasure, pure hope. It was unalloyed with the pain, fatigue and fears that accompany other momentous occasions, such as welcoming a child into the world. Do I simply want to relive a great day?
I’ve given this question some thought, and the only insight I have into my wedding dress obsession is that perhaps I miss the period of life when such great hope lay before me. When it seemed that the best was yet to come, and not that the best had already come and gone.
And maybe that’s what draws me to these shows about weddings. In the years since our own wedding, I’ve had three children who are now teens, and one baby who did not go to term. I’ve moved from New York to East Africa, back to New York, then to France where we now live. I’ve gone from an office job to full-time motherhood to a hobby blogger to full-time author. I’ve gotten older and a bit saggier, a bit plumper—relating more to the episodes in the Curvy Girls Boutique (and tearing up as they find the dress that makes them feel as precious as they truly are).
I write romances set in the Regency era, and so my stories inevitably lead to a wedding, or at least to a declaration of love. In my most recent book, The Sport of Matchmaking, the hero and heroine (George and Lady Alice) are each reticent to marry, which of course provides the needed tension in the story.
For Alice, it’s simple. She lives in a time when all that the wife brings into the marriage instantly becomes the property of the husband as soon as the knot is tied. As an independently wealthy woman, she is reluctant to give that up, especially when there is no guarantee that she would be cherished or valued by her husband. She does not dare let down her guard until she finds the right man, one with whom she is certain to be cherished and valued.
This was how I felt when I met Matthieu, my first boyfriend after becoming a Christian. The difference in how he treated me and how he viewed me compared to my past relationships was remarkable. When he asked me to marry him, I did not hesitate. I knew he cherished who I was on the inside as well as the outside. He valued my essence.
I think we delight in happily-ever-afters because we’re witnessing the essence of a person being treasured. It’s the thing that makes us tear up at weddings and relive our own. Weddings, and even romance novels point to the Divine Romance that we all long for. We long to wear our white robes, the holy dress, the wedding clothes that designate us as the bride of Christ. We might be wasting away on the outside, but we are being ever renewed on the inside.
My characters Alice and George will of course realize that they are destined for one another, because romances always have happy endings. But that’s only because it’s the innate story that makes sense to our soul. Our divine romance with Christ has a happy ending too. I can’t wait until the Lord comes with my wedding clothes.
I can’t wait to say yes to the dress!
Jennie Goutet is an American-born Anglophile who lives with her French husband and their three children in a small town outside of Paris. Her imagination resides in Regency England, where her best-selling proper Regency romances are set. She is also author of the award-winning memoir Stars Upside Down, two contemporary romances, and a smattering of other published works. A Christian, a cook, and an inveterate klutz, Jennie sometimes writes about faith, food, and life—even the clumsy moments—on her blog, aladyinfrance.com. You can learn more about Jennie and her books, and sign up for her newsletter, on her author website: jenniegoutet.com.