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Thursday, August 19, 2010

#67: 10 Tips for Building Your Wedding Dress Shopping Dream Team

There are 2 reasons why I like to watch brides go wedding dress shopping on TLC's hit reality tv show Say Yes To The Dress:
  • I smile and squeal when I see happy brides find "the one". It's like finding my dress all over again.
  • The fam-and-friend drama that unfolds as brides make their dress selection is equally intriguing as it is heart-wrenching.
What kind of fam-and-friend drama can happen in a fitting room, you may ask? Here are some loosely quoted exchanges I've seen on the show:

Bride: I LOVE this one, Ma. The pickups in the skirt are great.
Mom: I'd love it, too, if I wanted to look like a giant white artichoke. You should have just eloped.

Bride: I can't decide between these 2 gowns.
Twin sister: Well, we're all stuck here until you do so...hurry it up.

Bride: I was thinking of going with a mermaid style dress.
Cousin: But don't those only look good on, like, thin people?

Uh, right.

But there's good news. Reality tv isn't merely cyanide for the soul; we can actually learn something here, people. I've compiled 10 tips for selecting the perfect crew to take with you to the bridal boutique (or vintage clothing store, or basement in which designer knock-offs are sold. Whatev.).

Here we go...

1. The smaller the entourage, the better. Ten bridesmaids with ten different style preferences and ten million conflicting opinions can make for a very overwhelming shopping experience for you.

2. Don't worry, you are not obligated to bring any friend or family member whose presence you could do without. This includes Loud Mouth Lucy, Debbie Downer, and Type-A Theresa.

3. Consider bringing someone whose style you love. This person will make a terrific sounding board and will hopefully steer you away from the see-through corset top dress with the poofy ballgown skirt. (No offense to those of you who like the princess prostitute look.)

When I went dress shopping I was sure to bring my stylish sister, without whom I might not have gone with this lovely little number:

                                         My Dream Team: Mom & Sis

Note: I'm not necessarily advising you to bring your biggest fashionista friend. On SYTTD, trendy friends often can't help but envision their engaged gal pal in fashion-forward frocks that they themselves would love to rock. Instead, bring someone who will help you look like your best version of YOU.

4. If the one person you want to share the dress shopping experience with can't come unless you reschedule for next weekend, you'd better reschedule for next weekend. I've seen many women on SYTTD arrive at the store without their mother, only to leave empty-handed because they could not make a decision without Mom by their side. Understandable. For many women, there's something comforting and fulfilling about this tradition. And for many other women, this special someone is definitely NOT Mom. Who is your special someone?

5. If an important (but overbearing) family member wants to come along for the fun, ask her to join you for the dress fitting appointment instead. From what I've seen on SYTTD, the dress selecting appointment is a sensitive time; brides are trying to figure out who they are and how they'd like to feel in the dress, so there's no time for drama like having to defend your personal style. But to keep this relative in the loop (because after all, you love them), invite her/ him them to an appointment where their strong opinions have less of an affect on you.

6. Invite that unconditionally loving and inspiring friend of yours- you know, the one who loves Oprah and self-help books. This person will keep you feeling hopeful and supported, even after you've tried on 50 dresses.

7. Consider going alone. Hey, you were alone when you shopped for most of your wardrobe, right? Going alone can keep your head clear, focused, and calm. It's sort of like going to the movies or eating at a restaurant by yourself, both of which I've done in the past; things feel both surreal and serene. You might dig it.

8. Sometimes a camera will give you a more honest, trustworthy and unbiased opinion about a dress than any loved one can. So bring one. When you put on a beautiful gown you might feel beautiful by way of osmosis, but you won't necessarily look your best. A photo taken 10 ft. or so away will allow you to go home, review the shot, and assess its awesomeness minus the trick mirrors in the store that make you look 10 lbs. lighter. A camera is also free from the pressure of saying (in a high pitched voice) "Awww!" every time you walk out in an unflattering white mess of a dress.

9. You can bring your fiance if you want. I've seen this on many episodes of SYTTD, and so far none of these brides had 7 years of bad luck or whatever just because their hubster-to-be saw them in the gown before the wedding. My guy saw me in my dress countless times (to hold up mirrors, to take photos, to tell me whether the jumbo flower sewn close to my butt looks a bunny tail). Brian gives me good advice, he's honest, and he doesn't pressure me. Why not get his opinion on the dress?

(Note: If you want to surprise your guy at the altar with your dress choice, that's cool, too. But if, like me, you're confident that your guy will still find you gorgeous in something he's seen you in before - get ready for a lifetime of this, by the way - then feel free to take the handsome dude shopping!)

10. Shopping for a dress is not just about shopping for a dress. It's a ritual. It's an opportunity to bond with a relative, future in-law, or old friend. It's the packing of one final suitcase as your loved ones send you off to start a crazy adventure with your partner in crime. So...there are certain circumstances when you should scrap the 9 previous pointers and just go ahead and bring the whole damn posse.

But remember this: Now is the time to practice (because we ALL need practice), being brave. This means setting healthy boundaries, being able to say no, being a good listener, being firm yet kind, and understanding that half the junk your peeps say have less to do with you and more to do with t their own personality, interpersonal skills, and personal issues. So just get the dress you love and that's that. ;)

And that's the best I've got, folks. If you have anything to add please leave a comment below. Thanks!


  1. this was great!!! and #6 is totally Stephanie BTW :) haha I havent gotten that far yet and only went once to try on dresses but mostly cause I wanted my best friend, who lives in Boston, to be there so we went while I was visiting her :) makes me more content knowing shes seen me try on dresses so even if she isnt at the next trip I still know what her opinion would be about certain ones. :)

  2. I'm definitely going to point this one out to my fiancee. Her entourage is getting bigger by the day, and an exploratory dress-shopping expedition looms on the horizon, and she's getting a bit nervous about all the different voices (even though she loves them all dearly).

  3. This is great advice. For my dress shopping, I brought my mother and one of my bridesmaids.

    My mother tends to be the type of person who, once she decides it's what she wants, she wants to buy it ASAP. The Dress was on, and she kept insisting I should just get that one ... I DID end up getting it, and now that it's in and has been altered to my liking (most notably, the train was shortened from semi-cathedral to sweep), I am happy with it, but I did feel a bit of pressure because my mom was tired of shopping. The bottom is a bit poufier than I would have liked, and had she not been so pushy I would have gone to one more store that I knew sold the particular dresses I was looking for.

    There was one dress my mom wanted me to buy - the first one I tried on - and I did like it, but I was skeptical for a number of reasons. She was pretty pushy about it and I put my foot down and am glad that I did, because that style was not really what I wanted.

  4. @Holly. Awww, I feel so loved!
    Kim this is great advice. I had 10 bridesmaids but when it came time to pick out my dress I knew I wanted my mom for the sentimentality, my Bff to tie up my corset (and for the sentimentality) and my aunt Debbie to actually help me find the dress (we are a similar build, she has great taste, and she helped me find me prom dress).

  5. @Holly - Yes, Steph is SO #6. Ha! Sounds like you have a great dream team.

    @ Bret - I've seen some large shopping entourages do quite well, but most of the time the bride gets confused and overwhelmed, wishing that the group approved of the gown she liked best. Best of luck to fiancee. Let me know how it goes!

    @ irisira - I see that kind of situation on the show all the time. But I'm glad that you were able to put your foot down and find a dress that you both like.

    @ Steph - Awesome! So much of it is about bonding. Glad it was a good experience for you.


Babbling about weddings is so much more fun when people babble back. :)

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