When I first saw a TV show about the Running of the Brides I thought to myself, that has got to be the coolest event ever. So this past Friday I gathered up my bridesmaids and traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the Running of the Brides at Filene’s Basement.
Transport yourself to Pamplona, Spain. The streets are filled with people, there is a mixture of sweat, anxiety and anticipation in the air. The gates open. The crowd gasps and at the sounding of the horn the running begins. There’s pushing and shoving and screaming and chanting as the crowd runs madly in the street.
Well…it was kind of like that, but crazier.
I mean, honestly, women are scarier than bulls. And do NOT get in between a woman and her discount wedding dress.
Well first let us flash back to when I first brought up the subject of the Running of the Brides to my girlfriends.
“What is it?” Was the first question I received.
The Running of the Brides, an event sponsored by Wedding Wire and Filene’s Basement, was started in Boston, Mass. in 1947. Filene’s Basement, a discount retail store, gathered designer wedding dresses from around the globe and once a year would open its doors to sell these dresses at an incredibly discount rate. The Running of the Brides soon garnered media attention as women scrambled through the doors to get their hands on THE perfect dress at THE perfect cost. Soon the insanity had spread to a number of Filene’s Basement locations including Atlanta, LA, Washington DC and New York City.
So when I first told my girls about this event they were not too excited. Well, certainly not as excited as I was. But with a little encouragement they soon signed on for the wicked ride.
My friend Jess offered her house to lay our heads and we headed down on Thursday night ready for a bright and early wake up call to head to the event.
Oh wine. What a horrible idea.
Upon arriving at Jess’s we thought it would be a brilliant idea to have a few glasses of wine and champagne to celebrate the soon-to-be-found-dress of my dreams. One drink turned into three or four and when we finally went to bed at midnight (knowing we were going to be waking up at 3) I had a feeling it was going to be a rough start.
My alarm went off at 3 and I gathered the troops. We had strategized the night before and knew we needed all the energy we could muster. Bagels were a must.
By 4:30 a.m. we arrived at Filene’s Basement in D.C. to find a line of women (and some brave men) wrapped around the building. Some women were sleeping on the street in sleeping bags while other women were already rearing to go screaming and yelling and fist bumping.
Our team was Team Sookton (an affectionate term my other half calls me).
The fabulous team consisted of Erin, Jem, Jess, Alexis, Natalie and yours truly. Each member brought their own unique qualities to the group. Jess is filled with positivity and determination. Alexis has the “bitch I will F you up” mentality that is so needed at one of these events. Jem does not take no for an answer. Erin is organized and helped to keep the group together and Natalie came out of her shell through this experience and jumped on my dresses to make sure they were protected.
The Running of the Brides provoked the FULL range of emotions. We laughed together, we cried together, we endured immense stress together, and we made it through…all in one piece!
When the doors opened at 8 a.m. we were all incredibly tired but we had our running shoes on and we were ready to go.
My strategy was to make friends with the girls in front of me and the girls behind me (which I did and they were awesome). My second strategy was to prepare my loving bridesmaids as best I could.
“When you get in to Filene’s basement you have to grab as many dresses as you can,” I told the girls. “The dresses will clear off the racks in literally 60 seconds, so get as many as you can. Once we try on the dresses if we need to go find more we can use the dresses we have as bartering chips.”
Each of my girls had a designated role:
- Jess & Jem – Barterers
- Alexis – Defender (lays on the dresses to protect them)
- Natalie & Erin- Help Me Try On the Dresses
As it turns out we didn’t even need to barter for dresses but our roles worked out perfectly.
When the horn blew at 8 a.m. a mad rush began (imagine bulls again, but women, crazy, crazy women). We all grabbed each others hands and started to make our way through the crowd. Somewhere along the line we lost Jess. But not to worry she was not falling behind. Oh no, she was running ahead….what did I tell you, the girl is determined.
Jess must have been one of the first few hundred through the door. The Mall door is the first barrier we have to go through. The second barrier is the store which opened a little later. Once Jess was in Alexis and Jem made their way in the door without hesitation. This left me, Erin and Natalie holding on to each other for dear life as the crowd began to take on an uglier side.
Here is the part they begin to treat us like the bulls instead of the crowd.
The security guard had some dumb idea that by asking us to line up in single file we would be able to get in with more ease.
Um..there were over 1000 girls pushing up against me, I don’t think that is going to happen.
He continues to refuse to let us in and the crowd starts getting angrier and angrier. Anticipation is now turning to pure unBRIDled anxiety as we start to get pushed from side to side. Women are yelling and screaming and I have an old lady next to me who’s boob is literally resting on my shoulder (several times I wanted to say to her “Listen lady you gotta do something with this stuff right here because resting it upon me is really not cool.”) I look over at Erin, who has been anxious this whole time, and she is looking worse for wear. Natalie does not look that much better either. That is when my Mama Bearness come out and I realize we gotta get us in and we gotta get us in NOW. As the door begins to open I get rid of Senorita Sagging Boob and grab Natalie to push her in as much as I can. Meanwhile I somehow lose Erin in the crowd as I get shoved in the mall door. Erin is crying by this point at the girls around her are being nothing but sympathetic and sweet. “Let her in!” They are yelling to the incompetent security guard. “She’s crying.” Finally they let her in. I grab her and calm her down and we run down to Filene’s Basement to connect with the rest of our crew.
So I missed the actual Running…though I don’t know if I would have had the energy to do what my crazy girlfriends did. But check them out in this video as they dashed their way through the doors. They appear right after the girl that falls down and they are wearing my Team Sookton shirts.
When I get into the store Erin helps me spot Jess, Jem, Alexis and Natalie. Alexis is sitting on a pile of dresses that they had all grabbed for me when the mad rush began. Before I know it they are stripping me down and unzipping some beautiful gowns. We try on number one: too poofy. Number two: not right. Number three: beautiful keep it aside. Number four: no way. Number five: wait…hold on…why is everyone stopping to stare?
This was it.
This was THE gown.
And it only took me 15 minutes.
As soon as I had it on, it fit like it was made for me. My frazzled bridesmaids started with the oohs and aahs and I KNEW it. It had to be it. Even complete strangers were stopping to stare.
“Oh my God girls,” I said still out of breath. “I think this is the dress!”
Everyone- I mean literally all the girls around me – burst into applause.
I was the first girl to find her dress and the third girl to check out at the counter. The excitement, caffeine, adrenaline and anxiety were pumping so hard I felt a little light headed.
It couldn’t have gone any better if I had it all planned and I got the dress for DIRT cheap too!
We check out and are interviewed by a German TV show, the Washingtonian, a radio station and another magazine.
I couldn’t believe we were out of there at 8:30 with the dress of my dreams.
And I really couldn’t have done it without these fabulous girlfriends of mine…who turned into bulls for me.
As we walked to the car we were all still reeling from the rush of the day. We had survived. We had accomplished our mission.
It was an experience we will not easily forget, and one that brought us closer together, helping us learn about one another.
And if you asked me tomorrow would I do it all again? The answer would be: