Recently Sara and I went to NYC to officially launch our Quest for her Dress, which included an appointment at Kleinfelds followed by a search for lace and other goodies. Imagine my angst when our friendly weather man predicted a blizzard! Our first NY trip was cancelled when Sara was called into work. Although I dealt with that in a reasonably mature fashion, I knew I was going to pitch a major tantrum if our second trip was also postponed.

Of course it was snowing when I woke up and thanks to the record-breaking cold, it was not only sticking to the roads, it was also turning to ice. Since I was dying for the games to begin and I drive an Expedition, I decided we should forge ahead. At 8:30, Sara and I headed off to the Southeast train station to catch the 9:13 train. Thanks to the non-Expedition owners on the road, it took us 1 1/2 hours to get there. We missed the first train and barely caught the second one, but luckily made it to the Holy Land of Bridalwear in the nick of time.

The “Kleinfeld Experience”—as they call it—was wonderful. The salon is tastefully decorated with an amazingly tranquil atmosphere, in spite of the horde of gown-hungry brides packed in the waiting room. I was particularly impressed with their lighting designer. Everyone looked like they’d just had a spa treatment complete with hair and makeup. Even I didn’t grimace when I caught a glance of myself in the mirror. The staff was impeccably turned out, cordial and attentive, and the management team was vigilant without being obtrusive. No one was hiding behind their computers checking out FB or dozing at their desk. Kleinfelds hasn’t earned its reputation by accident; they’ve worked hard to become world-famous and continue to do so.

We saw all the stars of “Say Yes to the Dress” including Randi. I don’t know why I was so excited to meet him and shake his hand; although it’s probably because he has my dream job. He brought in a few dresses for Sara to try on and even put a veil and headpiece on her. How fun is that?

Despite their extensive inventory, we didn’t see one dress that tempted either Sara or me. There were plenty of stunning mermaids—which isn’t her style—and there were a few over-the-top numbers that were definitely fab, but outrageously priced. One of the mannequins was decked out in a beautiful tulle, lace and crystal dress that carried a $24,000 price tag! Can you imagine dropping that much on a dress you’ll wear once – or twice – or even a hundred times?

One of the dresses Sara tried on was a Randi pick. I recognized it right away because it’s been featured multiple times on “Say Yes to the Dress”. Those of you who are fans of the show, may know the one I’m talking about. It’s a strapless silk satin ball gown with a pleated bodice and a massive amount of rhinestone beading at the neckline and waist. (Of course “strapless” doesn’t help narrow down the style since that describes 99% of their inventory.)

It was beautifully constructed out of a top-quality silk satin, but the style didn’t require couture sewing skills; no crazy draping, tucking, poufing or swirling. The beading was stunning; packed with real Swarovski crystals; and these weren’t dainty little numbers. No, no. These oversized beauties frolicked across the bodice in all shapes and sizes: ovals, rounds, teardrop, marquis and square. Loved it!! The flaw? They were GLUED ON! Glue on a $10,000 dress? What! What! I never glued stones on any dress I ever made; not on an $800 wedding gown or even a bridesmaid dress.

We weren’t really expecting to find The Dress at Kleinfelds, but it was worth a shot. Of course I would have been crushed, but at least I wouldn’t be attending her wedding with my arm in a cast, aided by a Seeing Eye dog after sewing on thousands of beads!

We left Kleinfelds and headed off to the fabric district to find at least one of the laces we’ll use on her gown. As a lace connoisseur I had my heart set on a gorgeous French Lyon. Sara wasn’t sure what she wanted but as soon as she saw Lyon lace, she knew it wasn’t that. Even I can’t believe how readily I bid a silent adieu to my visions of that lovely stuff gracing my daughter. Luckily for both of us I’m still repeating my daily mantra: “It’s not my dress.” Won’t it be a miracle if I can keep this up until October?

It didn’t take long for her to spy something she did find appealing. (I refuse to name it or describe it, but eventually the finished gown will make its website debut.) We draped it on her as she posed in front of the mirror. She loved it; I liked it; we bought it. Wow, that was simple. (Did you notice the “I liked it”? Forgive me: it took a while for it to worm its way into my heart and fill the empty spot left by the banished Lyon. Now that I’ve been able to drape it over my mannequin and play with it, I love it too.)

We also saw some gorgeous beaded trims that were just as blingful as the stuff gracing the $10,000 dress. Guess what? Each glistening stone was sewn on by hand; not a drop of glue to be found. I’m not implying these goodies weren’t expensive—I put a serious hurtin’ on my credit card—but we could have stuffed our shopping bags with sparkling trims and not come anywhere near racking up a $10,000 bill.

The majority of women won’t have all the options that Sara does. However, they will have the opportunity to carefully inspect a gown before ordering it. Regardless of your budget, please make sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. It’s not realistic to expect fine silks, hand-beading or couture designs if your budget is $500, but you’re still entitled to proper construction, quality synthetics and a good fit. Follow your heart, but make sure your brain is coming along for the ride.