For better or for worse, the pictures of our past only tell part of our stories.
Weddings and high school dances — certain life events feel more like scrapbook pages in the making than actual experiences. The excitement builds with the planning, like a movie score playing in the background leading up to these special days.
While the vision of perfection varies widely from bride to bride, almost every woman I’ve ever known (myself included) has a dream of the perfect wedding. There’s the cake, the flowers, the bridesmaids, the groom (a mere supporting player), and then there’s the dress.
To my knowledge, I am the only person in the universe ever to have bought the very first wedding dress I tried on.
I had to try on another 3,781 dresses to verify that the first one was perfect, but that’s beside the point. I knew exactly how I wanted to look on my wedding day (like myself, only perfect) and would have gone to the ends of the Earth to find the dress that would magically play up my assets while hiding my imperfections. My mom, my sister and I went to all 347 bridal salons between Santa Barbara and Orange County before buying that very first dress back at Rumours right here in town. I recently re-experienced some of that “finding-the-perfect-wedding-dress frenzy” with our art director, Andrea Harbour, who is getting married in the Bahamas this weekend. After staking out every bridal boutique between San Diego and San Francisco (and a few in her hometown of Dallas), Andrea finally found the Monique Lhuillier gown of her dreams and was able to order it from Rumours.
I think all of us at the Beacon got a lump in our throats when she had her final fitting last Wednesday. The fitting occurred in our conference room. On deadline.
By the way, if you found her garter belt in your paper, could you please return it? Thanks.
I know Andrea will remember the dress, and the fact that her original destination was taken out by Hurricane Ivan. I hope she’ll also remember the way the skirt felt swirling around her feet, the sound of the ocean in the background, the pink sand in her toes, and the way her soon-to-be husband Rich looks the first time he sees her in that once-in-a-lifetime white confection.
Shopping for the perfect dress is part of the buildup to those big days, the ones we take all the pictures of. Pictures that we stuff into boxes and swear we’ll put into albums real soon.
While Andrea’s walking down the aisle a continent away, the San Marcos High homecoming princesses will be showing off their own dresses as they’re escorted onto the field Friday night. My first homecoming dress was a horror in dusty rose taffeta, but still a step up from the emerald green Quiana number in my junior year.
Have you seen what high school girls wear to homecoming lately? It’s appalling. Classic black cocktail dresses. Tasteful designer sheathes. What kind of embarrassment-free memories are these poor girls creating for themselves?
If they can’t share my tortured fashion memories of crimped hair and day-glow eye shadow, then hopefully Carmel Aguirre-Kolb, Kaitland Ely, Alma Flores, Katie Levien and Sarah McGinnis will remember the sounds of their classmates cheering, the October nip in the air, and those looks of awe and pride on their fathers’ faces as they escort them to the 50-yard line.
And when they get to the homecoming dance, I hope they remember the details. The music, the room decorations, how beautiful their friends look in their too-grown-up dresses and the look in mom’s eyes when you introduce her to your date. In short, all the stuff you can’t see in the cheesy photos in front of the fireplace and the even cheesier photos in front of that fake sunset background at the dance.
It’s the story behind the pictures that make the real memories.
And I promise to get it all in my album tomorrow. No, really.
Having caught nostalgia fever, loyal Royal Leslie Dinaberg will be spending time with her yearbooks this homecoming weekend.
She can be contacted at email
Originally published in South Coast Beacon on October 7, 2004.