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CHICAGO — Surely, Boriana Tchernookova thought after her 2016 engagement, it couldn’t be that hard to find a wedding dress. After all, she didn’t need a lavish ensemble.

But Tchernookova soon became entrenched in a machine familiar to many: wedding planning.

Thus began years of dress searching for this would-be bride. Tchernookova didn’t want wedding dress shopping to take this long; she didn’t want to keep postponing nuptials for a fashion item she wasn’t even that particular about. But she felt stymied at every step.

“I didn’t realize a dress takes so long to make,” she said. “I thought you just go to a store.”

Not in Chicago, where at every store she said someone told her that ordering a dress – any dress — would take months. That eliminated a quick wedding. By the time they began perusing venues, they learned those, too, required booking a year in advance.

Frustrated after months without finding anything she liked, she considered simplifying to a basic sheath and City Hall. She thought about a destination wedding in the Bahamas. But ultimately, she and her fiancé, Bill Sianis, agreed to get married in Chicago.

After all, his relatives are all in Chicago. And the family itself is nearly royalty here. Cheezborgers. Chips.

Sianis is the co-owner of Billy Goat Tavern, known for its role in an alleged curse of the Cubs as well as a “Saturday Night Live” skit spotlight. The restaurant will likely be incorporated into the big day, too.

“We might do the after-dinner burgers or something like that,” Sianis said.

The two met in 2004 when Tchernookova, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was a bartender at the Billy Goat restaurant at Navy Pier. She’d see him standing around with a dishtowel.

“I thought he was the laziest busboy I’d ever seen,” she said. Eventually, she realized he was one of the owners. “He’s very humble,” she said. “He’s very low-key.”

Sianis invited her to his birthday party, and they became friends. They remained that way until one night out at a nightclub downtown, when she kissed him. “I initiated that,” she said. “It might have been that kiss that started things.”

Days later, he flew to Washington, D.C., for a restaurant opening. When he returned, he called. They’ve been together ever since.

She moved into his River North apartment in 2013. Cohabitating included a few tweaks. She made sure they had a couch instead of his two loveseats. She added bookshelves.

She loves to cook; she makes some dishes from her home country of Bulgaria, which are similar to the Greek dishes he grew up with. But she also loves to experiment; usually when she cooks something, it’s a six-hour affair.

“I could cook on a grill,” Sianis said. “She’s the professional cook in the kitchen.”

He proposed in late 2016. They were traveling to San Diego for a neuroscience conference, and he suggested they pass through Las Vegas along the way. In the front of fountains at the Bellagio, he pulled out the ring. She said yes. Shortly after began the doldrums of wedding planning. One might say it almost seemed like the festivities were under some type of a spell — perhaps a curse?

She is not a picky person; she does not consider herself a fashionista. She often wears pants. Even to fancier occasions where everyone wears flirty dresses, she wears pants.

But at every stop she found roadblocks.

One shop had only lace options. Lace seemed to be a trend, she noted, but lace reminded her of the drapes in her childhood living room. She thought about taffeta. But then she searched and she found no taffeta, even after marathon afternoons dedicated to multiple shops. Her maid of honor flew in for four days to help her look.

She found dresses that needed so many alterations she feared she would lose the shape. She brought photos from Pinterest. She went to Macy’s but tried only four or five dresses in her hour time slot, nowhere near the hundreds of dresses they stock. She went to Nordstrom with dozens of printed-out dresses from the website to find they had only one or two at the store.

“My mind was blown,” she said. Who knew that finding a dress would be so difficult?

She emailed designers herself, asking about designs she liked. One told her they had only a sample size, and that although it would not fit they were happy to sell and mail it to her.

Did she need an expensive dress that took months? She did not. But she also asked herself, did wanting to find a dress that felt good seem like too much? It did not. “I refuse to buy a dress that I don’t want just because it’s the trend,” she said.

After all, she noted, she will be standing in front of hundreds of people, some friends or colleagues of her husband who she might not even know well.

And he supports her quest for a dress, even as he, too, is surprised by the complications. “There’s so many dresses,” he said. “There’s a lot of different aspects of the dress I guess I didn’t know about.”

Wedding planning is supposed to be fun but inevitably becomes a chore. A bride doesn’t want to spend her retirement savings on a dress for one day but nor does she want to settle for something ill-fitting.

For now, Tchernookova’s cycle of dress buying has transitioned from excitement to frustration to dread.

“I got so frustrated that I stopped going,” she said.

But recently she returned to the arena. This past spring, Tchernookova found herself at stores like Glamour Closet and Ultimate Bride and David’s Bridal. After a breather from looping herself in strange fabrics, she made an afternoon appointment in late June at Vwidon, a downtown boutique. There, she even found taffeta.

“I really loved this one,” she said. “I actually have six or seven that I can’t make up my mind about, that are equally gorgeous.”

Recently, the couple have been calling venues, like Galleria Marchetti and Adler Planetarium, inquiring about the fall. Tchernookova knows she may need to have a dress by then.

 

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