We had travelled two hours from home to visit the bridal store. My eldest daughter and her younger sisters were very excited to be beginning preparations for her upcoming big day. Preparations for this big event were beginning, with the choice of “The Dress”.
In the first tiny store, we squeezed onto the narrow bench to spectate, interrogate and discuss each new dress that Kayla tried on. She would open the big curtain and before us would be a new vision of this beautiful first-born child of ours. On the rack all the dresses were stunning, but on the body some were too poufy, reminiscent of a dessert meringue, and some were too bland and plain, more like tofu without the marinade. It was becoming apparent that this process of choosing might last forever and I, as Mum, was not in the least upset—the process was delightful. Each new dress opened the vistas of my imagination and gave me a chance to share my thoughts. The general family excitement grew.
Our daughter, for whom the dress-trying-on process was a little more physically taxing, was starting to lose the edge on her excitement levels as more practical concerns began to emerge.
“I don’t know if I should be spending so much on a dress,” she said cautiously. “I’d like to try that simpler dress on.”
I had my doubts as to whether she would come out looking as plain as the dress—when all I wanted was for my daughter to shine brightly—but I waited patiently on the bench for the curtain to be pulled.
The simple dress, and more importantly less pricey one, was sweet. The bridal shop attendant told us this dress was often chosen by bridesmaids rather than the bride, but that it could go for either. Kayla was torn between her desire to be a resplendent bride, her quiet and demure personality that is content with blending in with the crowd, and her need to be able to afford the price tag. These later concerns began to override her sense of excitement about being “The bride of the day”. She began convincing herself that the simple dress was good enough—but the onlooking family weren’t so easily swayed.
The next wedding garment store was spacious and lavish, with thick carpets and plush chairs for the audience to sit on. The dresses slid easily onto Kayla’s slender body, with the help of a personalised assistant and one by one we oohed and aahed and questioned each new offering of lace and grace and style.
But the gown was not chosen and the hopes of this day, out amongst the dresses, just a little tinged with disappointment.
Yet the sun was shining once again a few weeks later as we headed two hours in the opposite direction, to a new town, a new shop and towards new hopes of finding the perfect style.
The next shop was promising. The tall racks held amazing styles and many of the garments were marked down to clearance prices—aah, now there were more options! The change room was large and had mirrors on both sides, providing the best view of the stunning creations of bead and bodice, lace and length. Kayla had gone in with a plan and wanted to try on the close fitting, slimline styles that she had seen displayed and adorned her Pinterest “Wedding” board. Her sisters and I were encouraged to help ourselves to the racks, on her behalf, and so we did, choosing some dresses in styles different to the bride-to-be’s imagination.
And then we saw her. She agreed to try on a princess-style dress with a slim waist and covered in heavy ivory-coloured lace and a larger skirt fanned out with delicate organza. Everyone says “When you see it you’ll know”, and this dress and moment in time didn’t disappoint. We loved it, she loved it and it loved us! This dress, this wedding garment, this gown, this robe, was certainly not the cheapest in the store, but it was “The Dress”.
But . . . with women’s minds and their prerogative to change them engaged, we needed one more excursion into the world of bridal dress shopping, just to be sure. So, off we headed—four hours from home this time—to a city with a full range of bridal stores and options.
The day started well and our spirits were high again. A huge store, with rack upon rack of very similar styled gowns. Each one, whether slimline or with larger skirts that swept the floor, were dripping with embellishments that shimmered and . . . reflected the growing horror on our girl’s face. She wasn’t one for the bedazzled look and her sisters agreed. We enjoyed the experience but found no joy in any dresses there. The weather then began to sour and with growing exhaustion and confusion, so did the young bride and her assistants’ moods. As we drove around this large city aimlessly, this mother’s desperate optimism spotted a tiny store nestled on a side street and I called out “Just one more!”.
Kayla and her sisters were low on energy. Dad didn’t mind either way but was beginning to tire, taking directions all day and driving on unfamiliar roads. The car was stopped and the reluctant bride and her assistants peeled from their soft car seats and marched across the road. The mood lightened once inside the small warm shop and the few racks of beautiful dresses beckoned to be looked at, handled and ultimately tried on for size.
And there it was. The same ivory-coloured princess dress, in a size too big and a price smaller than before, hanging there resplendent and hopeful. “Just put on the dress, please Kayla,” we begged. It had to be done. Dad hadn’t seen this dress on his daughter, and all were keen to see if it still held the bespoke charm that it had when we first set eyes on this bride in this gown.
It did. The wedding garment was found. It was perfect and ordered to fit and be collected.
This was the robe that was needed to begin the wedding planning and celebrations to come. Everything else about the wedding day hinged on getting this step right.
It is not this dress that Kayla will be taking to the heavenly wedding feast, as the dress has already served its purpose and done so beautifully and proudly. No, God will be providing a new gown for this wedding feast we are all invited to, and we need not stress over the price of this gown, and need to give no input as to what it should look like. Its name is “The Robe of Righteousness”. God has chosen it and is giving one to all who want to come to the wedding—it is His, not ours, yet given freely. What your life looks like now will be covered by a “life robe” so pure white and sparkling, that you won’t for one minute miss the choices you have made for your own garments.
Making plans for a wedding can be both exciting and taxing, but the one thing we can be certain of with this wedding is that our travelling days will be over as will our searching, our weighing up options, and both our high days and low ones that come along the journey. When we make the choice to attend this wedding as a “bride”, the options of what we are to wear have been sorted out long ago. His righteousness will fit you like a glove and highlight all of your best features. The place in which this garment was displayed in the past was often obscure, and the rack upon which this garment was held for a time was not a pretty one, but a cruel one and came with an exorbitant price.
The process of providing this garment was a taxing mission and for us to get to the place of accepting this garment requires us to step back from our own struggles—letting go and letting God. The garment we get to put on however, both now and until the end of the road, will go on easily and will be the shining centrepiece of the entire wedding and banquet. If we get the right robe, we get everything. We can be assured that making the choice to put this garment on, is the best one we will ever make. It’s a choice worth celebrating and in our joy we will want to send out invites to everyone we know. This type of shopping is fun for all—free “virtual righteousness” robes for all who sign up. “Save the date” cards for the banquet to follow the wedding are in the mail.
Just put on the dress. “When you know, you know.”
*Image used is from Elesha Kaye photography, an Adventist photographer in New Zealand.
Lynelle Laws coordinates Women’s Ministry and Partners in Ministry in North NZ. She is married and a mum to three adult daughters.