“The tracking says it was left on your porch September 14,” James, the employee in charge of shipping at my hometown David’s Bridal, informed me over the phone, a hint of question in his voice. It was pretty much the last thing a bride-to-be wants to hear when it’s October 2 and the package in question contains your wedding dress.

That’s right: Through a major confluence of minor errors, David’s Bridal and UPS lost my wedding gown.

I had visited the David’s Bridal in my Southern hometown during our transition from Korea to the States, when Mr. Kim and I stopped there for a week or two so he could meet my family for the first time. I chose David’s because I wanted to spend my limited time in my hometown eating as much fried okra and catfish as possible rather than shopping, and I figured it would be straightforward, with a large selection of styles and prices. Plus, I knew they would also have branches up here in Yankee-land where we were moving. Thankfully, the saleswoman was lovely, I found something that looked great, and we put in an order for the dress and a sash to go with it, to be shipped to our new address in late September. My mom later went and ordered a bustier, which we’d forgotten at the time.

Unfortunately, by October 2, the dress still hadn’t arrived. I had actually called to check on it on September 17, about a week after I’d gotten e-mails to say the dress and sash had come into the store. “No,” the lady assured me, “it hasn’t shipped yet, it’ll all ship together when the bustier comes in.” So, I didn’t think about it again for a couple of weeks.

…Until September 28, when Mr. Kim signed for a UPS delivery that contained my sash and bustier, but no dress. “Oh, well,” I thought, “I guess the dress is probably in a bigger box, maybe it’ll take an extra couple of days.” I waited the rest of the week, but when nothing showed up by Friday–October 2–I called the hometown David’s to check.

The lady who answered the phones transferred me to James, who found a tracking number and read it aloud to me. “Um, well, that’s the tracking number that’s on the sash and bustier thing’s package,” I said, feeling somewhat awkward saying “bustiers” to a strange man. “Hold on, lemme check again and call you back,” he answered.

Maybe 20 minutes later, I got a call from James with the new tracking number and the information that the dress had been delivered two weeks before. I checked the number myself; “Left on porch,” it said.

“So… What should we do?” I asked James hesitantly. “I mean it’s my wedding dress, so I’m pretty worried about it.” I didn’t want to give the impression that I would let it go easily, in case it was lost permanently, but I also didn’t want to be rude.

I’m pretty sure James thought I was about to cry. I mean, men are pretty scared of women sometimes, especially brides, and I’m sure the people at David’s deal with a lot of raw emotion and frayed nerves. “Don’t worry, it’ll all get taken care of. You’ll have your dress,” he said soothingly. “I’ll put out a notice and start a missing package investigation right now.” He also suggested that I ask the people in my building if they’d gotten it by mistake–although I didn’t have high hopes, since it had been delivered so long before. Wouldn’t a neighbor have knocked on my door by now? But, it was Friday evening, so I posted a joke about my situation on facebook and chucked at the suggestions my friends made that we just forget the dress and have a Betazoid wedding.

The next day a Saturday, we were hanging out watching football with a friend of Mr. Kim’s who was visiting town, and I resolved to go knock on some doors. We live in an old house that’s subdivided into four units, so it’s not like it was a big job, and anyway, the occupant of #2 had had a package sitting in front of our door for several days. I would try to give it to her, I decided, and ask around at the same time. Parcel in arms (it was big), I opened my front door to find a girl I’d never seen before checking the mailbox for #4.

“Oh! Excuse me… Do you live in number 4? Could I ask you a question? I’m looking for a package… I mean, I had a package that was left on the porch a couple of weeks ago apparently, but I never saw it… Do you… I mean, did you happen to see it?” I asked, stumbling over my words in an effort to not sound like I was accusing my neighbor of stealing. She was starting to shake her head when I added, “It was my wedding dress, so–”

“Oh, was it from David’s Bridal? I saw it on the porch over there…” She gestured to a neighboring building.

“Oh my gosh, thank you so much!”

We introduced ourselves, and I delivered #2’s package and hurried to the house next door, which was also subdivided, with two doors in the front. Through the window of the right-hand entryway door, there it was, leaning against a wall: A white box, big enough but smaller than I’d expected, with “David’s Bridal” written in large script on the side.

My dress! I can see it!
My dress! I can see it!

I tried the door–locked, wisely–and started ringing the doorbells, one by one: #4, #5, #2. I had just rang #1 when I saw Mr. Kim’s friend come out of our place and called her name. “I found the dress!” I said, excited. As she hurried up the porch steps to see, two girls answered the other door on the porch, the one without the box. I apologized and explained that my dress had been delivered to their address and I was trying to find someone who lived on the other side of the building. They were about to go back inside when Mr. Kim’s friend added, “We can see it, right there!” Surprise! The girls had access to that side of the building! Thirty second later, the box was in my hand, and I was thanking the girls and running home to show Mr. Kim.

Why did the box get lost? Why didn’t I get it sooner? Several factors converged here, but basically it was the result of a two small errors, one on the part of David’s and one on the part of UPS–and some lack of common sense among various parties.

UPS had delivered the dress to the wrong building–e.g., 553 instead of the 555 written on the box–and apparently there was no signature required, so they just left it there. I’m not saying they made a procedural mistake by leaving it on a porch, by the way, but it does seem ridiculous that wedding dresses would be shipped without requiring anyone to sign for them.

However, David’s Bridal had also made a mistake: On that package (but not on the other), they had written the wrong unit number (e.g., 3 instead of 1). That means that even if the occupants of 553 (not our real street numbers here!) had realized the package was misdelivered, and even if they had tried to sort it out, they probably couldn’t have, because #3 wouldn’t have known anything about it.

In any case, most of our neighbors are undergraduates living in subdivided houses with common entrances. I doubt any of the residents of 553 even looked at the box longer than it took to move it from porch to entryway, since none of them had ordered a wedding dress recently, and even if they had, they might not have gotten around to figuring out the situation for a while.

All’s well that ends well, or whatever; I’m not the first bride to lose a wedding dress in the mail; and also, during my anxiety-fueled online search for “UPS lost my wedding dress,” I did read things that suggested David’s Bridal replaces dresses in such circumstances, but here is what I learned from the thankfully brief ordeal of losing my wedding dress:

  1. Buy your wedding dress early.
    Actually, I bought mine as early as I reasonably could have, since I was out of the country. Anyway, I probably had enough time to order a new one and get it altered. But it’s definitely better to order it (and anything else) as far in advance as possible so that there’s plenty of time to handle unexpected problems like lost mail.
  2. Don’t mail your wedding dress unless you have to.
    Again, for us, it couldn’t really be helped–my hometown is a thousand miles away and kind of expensive to fly to–but if we hadn’t had to mail it, we never would have had this problem.
  3. If you do mail it, make sure the address is right…
    …If you can. David’s Bridal had our address correct on a different package, so it was obviously a matter of human error, but it’s definitely important to have the right address.
  4. Go online early.
    Again, this wouldn’t have helped me, since the woman I’d talked to on the 17th insisted that the dress hadn’t shipped yet, so there was no way I could have had the tracking number. But if I had had the tracking number, I could have gone to the UPS website and changed the preferences on the shipment to make sure that it required a signature for delivery–they have that option. Frankly, I don’t know why that’s not the default option for shipments from David’s, but apparently it’s not, so I guess this is the best we can do.
  5. Know your neighbors.
    They might be able to help you out!
  6. If your dress does get lost, try to stay calm.
    You might find it in a neighbor’s house, UPS might find it in a corner of a truck or warehouse, and if all else fails, being polite but insistent with your bridal shop salespeople will probably get you a replacement. (In fact, although I’m usually all for local businesses, this is something that I think makes a large, nationwide chain like David’s Bridal a good choice for brides in my situation: They have a big reputation to uphold and presumably systems in place–and hopefully insurance–to deal with these kinds of situations, whereas a smaller bridal shop might not. But they should limit their promotional e-mails to one a day.)

Besides, people are okay. Today, after I’d written most of this entry, I got a call from a lady at the regional UPS distribution center who said she’d called me the moment she saw that my lost package was a wedding dress. I was happy to tell her the good news. (I guess David’s didn’t call and cancel the lost package report after I told them I’d found it!)

Anyway, I now have my lovely dress hanging on the back of the door to our bedroom (not superstitious, Mr. Kim’s already seen it). Soon, I’ll try it on and then probably make an appointment for any alterations with the David’s Bridal up here in Midwestern College Town. I hope my experience is useful to any future brides ordering a dress to be shipped, especially the inevitable unlucky few who have a package go missing. Take action, but try not to worry, ladies!