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.