I mostly enjoyed Trainwreck and not just because I suspect LeBron James shall be our tallest Best Supporting Oscar winner (your reign nears an end, Tim Robbins). Like Amy Schumer, for much of my life settling down seemed absurd. Indeed, for years it seemed downright impossible; I am a man who has heard the question: “Are you wearing a T-shirt with a robot fighting a dinosaur on our first date?”

(Answer: Only because the one with the bear fighting a tractor was dirty.)

Then a friend set me up with a friend and by our second date I had so thoroughly turned on the charm that, by the end of the night, she told me we should not see each other romantically ever again.

I offered a deal: We could have a wedding… or she could get that particular gown and hang around the apartment looking gorgeous, because there wouldn’t be money for anything else. (Also, we would have to sell the apartment.)

Yet Shin-pei and I wound up going on another date and another after that and before we knew it, we were engaged and, yes, married.

We even wound up going wedding dress shopping together. (I did not seek out this mission: I’ve never intentionally gotten involved in any clothes shopping by a significant other.) That said, when my fiancée’s friend unexpectedly couldn’t accompany her to an appointment at New York’s Bridal Garden, someone needed to step up.

I was that someone.

Here’s what I discovered: Pay attention, because you may unexpectedly find yourself making a lifetime commitment/discussing waist styles and train lengths.

1. Wedding dresses are expensive.
This seems obvious, but I had no idea just how pricey until I noticed Shin-pei researching potential dresses on her iPad and casually said: “That looks nice. Do they give a price for it?”

Turned out it was a Valentino and cost as a much a down payment on a starter home, only you couldn’t live in it because it’s a dress. (More specifically, a dress to be worn once.)

I offered a deal: We could have a wedding… or she could get that particular gown and hang around the apartment looking gorgeous, because there wouldn’t be money for anything else. (Also, we would have to sell the apartment.)

2. There are ways to save money.
As noted, my fiancée and I went to the Bridal Garden, a not-for-profit offering dresses donated by designers. Besides helping a worthy cause (education for disadvantaged children), the dresses are highly discounted, to the point that the garment once unimaginably costly becomes merely cripplingly expensive. 

3. Society still believes the “Don’t see your wife in her dress before the wedding!” thing.
When I told friends about accompanying her to buy a dress, they reacted as if I said, “We’re having the wedding at the Port Authority men’s room: the actual ceremony takes place in Stall #4. Remember, that’s Stall 4: You don’t want to know what’s happening in Stall 5.” Which is funny because…

4. Even by tradition standards, it’s an awful one.
Ever uttered an adorably folksy saying, only to have someone tell you, “That’s actually a reference to how the British royal family used Catholic children as kindling”? This custom started because, during the time of arranged marriages and dowry payments, a husband seeing his wife and thinking, “Even during an era where everyone dies of cholera by 28, she’s too wretched to bear” could have serious financial implications for the families. So denying the groom time to escape—veils were similarly implemented to hide her appearance until the last possible second—allowed the loveless union to proceed as planned. (I know: how romantic!)

5. The gown industry frowns on guys in general.
We did not know that the Bridal Garden actually bans men. The result: After many dirty looks from other patrons, someone told us the policy and I had to hide around a corner. Periodically my fiancée would wander over in a dress, at which point I’d take some pictures—photos spare you trying to remember which of the seven sleeveless gowns with a scalloped hemline was the one that worked—and she’d go back to the dressing room. The ban was made all the more surreal because the Bridal Garden is located in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, home to countless stylish gay gentlemen who live to ensure their female friends look fabulous! (Disclaimer: My knowledge of Chelsea comes entirely from Sex and the City re-runs.)

6. If you find a dress, don’t let it go.
After trying on many gowns—including at least a dozen she deemed unworthy of even being worn out of the dressing room to show me—we headed home. While on the subway platform, we started reviewing photos and one Vera Wang offering stood out for both of us. (My love for it only deepened when my fiancée mentioned it was on a special sale.) And by “one”, we meant just that: Since the designer donated it, it was the only one of that dress they would get.

We sprinted back and I plunked down my Amex, because to realize we’d found the perfect dress and somehow let it slip through our fingers would have pushed the wedding planning over that fine line between “stressful” and “soul-crushing.”

7. It’s hard being a woman.
Once we’d purchased the dress, Shin-pei had her fitting, during which time she was repeatedly warned about not gaining weight before the wedding. (Good advice, because we were both thinking: “A day we’ll be endlessly photographed and remember for the rest of our lives? Let the porking up begin!”)

When she went back to pick the dress up, she was yelled at… for losing weight.

Meanwhile everyone was delighted with me for getting a haircut that cost more than 12 bucks.

8. Even with the dress, there’s doubt.
Say Yes to the Dress. I Found the Gown. Let’s Sing a Carol About My Apparel. (Note: I made one of these up.) TV is filled with reality shows about finding the perfect gown and if we happened to stumble upon one while flipping channels, my fiancée would grow visibly nervous, as if the program would reveal the dress she really wanted. (At which point I would become terrified, for the Bridal Garden doesn’t have a return policy.)

Only after our wedding was done could she watch these shows again. (Incidentally, this made me curious if first-time mothers find reality programs about maternity similarly stressful, which would be tragic because 16 & Pregnant should be enjoyed by all.)

9. Seriously, get the dress right.

There will be many photos taken on your wedding day—beyond the thousands snapped by the official photographer, all your friends and family will use their phones to get their own shots they’ll tag and post online, possibly during the actual ceremony.

Imagine your wife looking at these pictures and, every time she sees them for the rest of both of your lives, thinking, I look like I’m wearing a trash bag.

Preventing that is well worth no longer having a roof over your head.

10. I’m a lucky bastard.
See for yourself.

Photo by Jenny MacFarlane, Stylish & Hip Weddings