Everyone knows that the most important decision a woman will ever make is picking her wedding dress, or at least that’s what the wedding-industrial complex and half the shows on TLC and WE TV would have you believe. As someone who until relatively recently had gotten most of my wedding experience vicariously through reality TV, I had a period of time where I sort of bought into this. As I’ve now been through my second time as a helper in the selection of a wedding gown, I thought I’d help others in my predicament separate fact from “reality” fact from fiction.
Fiction: You will have an awesomely sassy man to help you select your dress.
Whether it’s Anthony on Sex and the City or Randy from Say Yes To The Dress, we’d all love for someone fabulous and hilarious to help you pick out a dress. If you already know someone like this, great! Bring them along. If you don’t, the reality is that a very sweet girl dressed in black will be the person walking you through the dress selection process. If by some lucky coincidence the store from which you selected your dress did have a Randy-equivalent, please let me know where that was so I can file that information away for future use.
Fiction: There will be champagne.
I went with a friend once to Vera Wang with the promise we’d get to drink champagne while she tried on dresses. The reality was that there were no drinks, just very, very expensive dresses.
Fiction: The dress should cost as much as a car.
Yes, some people can afford to, and want to, spend upwards of $10,000 on a dress they’re going to wear once. Just because it happens on TV is not a reason it needs to happen in real life. There are many, many beautiful dresses to be had for perfectly reasonable price points, so know what your budget is and stay within it.
Fiction: The dress must be purchased from a fabulously glamorous salon.
Yes, you can totally road trip to Kleinfeld’s or Vera Wang or the other fancy dress store of your dreams. In fact, I recommend it if it’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing. But the reality is your dress might actually come from a non-descript store in a strip mall in Michigan and that’s 100% okay! Not everyone will select their wedding dress via a fashion shoot for Vogue. Frankly, my biggest takeaway from watching a friend try on dresses at Vera Wang was that I didn’t really like any of them that much. Where the dress comes from is far less important than how the bride feels in it.
Fiction: You should be part of an entourage of every woman the bride has ever known.
Some people really want their mother, mother in law, sisters, cousins, and every sorority sister to be present for their dress shopping. Other people want one trusted friend. Both of these options, and everywhere in between, are acceptable. If the bride wants to pull a Miranda and go shopping for a dress by herself on her lunch break, good for her!
Fiction: It’s not the dress if there aren’t tears.
According to reality TV, you know a dress is the one if someone, be it bride, mother, or grandmother of the bride starts tearing up. As a bridesmaid, I have watched perfectly lovely dresses be selected without anyone having to break out the tissues. If you cry, great! If you don’t, that doesn’t mean you haven’t found the dress of your dreams.
Fiction: Everyone’s opinion matters.
You know those episodes of Say Yes To The Dress where no one can agree on anything and the bride ends up in tears? That should never happen. If you are not the bride, you are there to be supportive, not to really have anything to do with dress selection. Yes, you should talk someone out of really egregious errors, like picking white when their skin tone would look better with ivory, or when she really doesn’t have the body type to pull off a mermaid silhouette. Aside from that, all you’re there to do is wait for the dress that gives her a glowing look on her face, and telling her she looks like the most beautiful bride in the world. Because she does.
Fact: It’s important you show up.
You may have gathered that the wedding dress selection process doesn’t much resemble the one shown on TV, but there is one thing TV gets right – it is a really important moment for many women. While picking a wedding dress really isn’t the biggest decision ever, it is a pretty big deal to a lot of people, so if you’re invited to help a bride pick her dress, you should show up. If she’s asked you, it means she values your input and she wants you to be a part of this experience. Whether you’re thrilled to be looking at wedding dresses or disgruntled that there won’t be champagne, you need to put on your game face and spend a few hours being the best friend/sister/bridesmaid/whatever you can be.
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