When I asked my mom and stepsister to go wedding dress shopping with me I specified that they should absolutely be honest with their opinions, but refrain from calling me ugly or anything of that nature. They looked at me like I had two heads, because obviously, normal people do not need to be told not to call someone ugly. However, I had been spending most of my Sunday mornings watching Say Yes To The Dress (I still do), so I was under the impression that “normal people” morph into heinous bat creatures upon entering a wedding dress store.
There is something about shopping for that dress that brings out weird things in people. It’s held up as this “moment” that should be savored and remembered, the pressure of which automatically sets everyone on edge, and the stakes are somehow seen as higher. This isn’t just a flattering dress, it’s THE dress, which will be immortalized on film and passed down through generations so why on EARTH would you want to buy that one when it makes your hips look so huge? (Thankfully, a lot of people are realizing that no, you do not have to spend $5k on a dress if you don’t want to, and it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it doesn’t even have to be from a bridal store. You can just wear something that makes you feel pretty and happy and that’s it.)
There’s also a lot of pressure because if someone chooses you to help them pick out their outfit, they’re saying they trust you, they want you to like it, and they want your honest opinion. But too often people mistake “honest” for “mean,” so here are a few tips on how to make sure you don’t end up on SYTTD’s “10 Worst Bridal Entourages” reel.
1. Talk About It Before: Talk to your friend/daughter/sister/whoever about their tastes before you go shopping, just so you don’t spend the entire time pulling stuff they hate. Ask them how they see themselves, what they want to highlight or hide, or just how they want to feel in it. That way, while shopping you can ask them these questions in return to help them see how they feel.
2. Forget About Your Own Tastes: It should not have to be said that you are not the one wearing this outfit but, you know, YOU ARE NOT THE ONE WEARING THIS OUTFIT. Thus, it does not matter if you would not personally choose to purchase it, or if you hate lace, or you think tea-length dresses are “tacky.” If the dress is five sizes too small then yes, that’s an issue, but it not being something that would match your closet is not. This also goes for general expectations. While wedding planning, I always heard the argument that parents had been dreaming of their children’s weddings longer than their children had. Which, yes, I guess my mother had the capacity to think about my wedding before I did, but that doesn’t mean her opinions trump mine. It doesn’t matter if you’ve always envisioned your daughter/niece/cousin in a satin ballgown if that’s not how they envision themselves.
3. Give Your Opinion…Nicely: My grandpa had this saying: “Eat what you want to eat, but wear what other people want you to wear.” I don’t entirely believe that’s true, but I do believe in getting a second opinion. That’s why you’re there in the first place, right? So what if you think there is a problem with the outfit that the bride just doesn’t see? Try to go about it in the nicest way possible. A good strategy is to ask some questions and let them decide.Your first question should always be “What do you think?” instead of throwing all your opinions out there. Then, based on their answer, you can help them figure out if they’ll be happy or not. Are they comfortable in a corset? Do they think they’ll spend all night pulling up a strapless dress? Will those sleeves and satin make them hot? While shopping, I tried on one dress that was beautiful, but my mom mentioned that it probably wouldn’t match with the jewelry I was planning on wearing, which was something I honestly hadn’t considered!
Also, take a moment to figure out if your judgments are about the bride or about the dress. If you think the bride looks bad in everything because she’s not a size 2, that’s on you, not them.
4. Take The Bride’s Lead: Presumably, this is someone you know well, so you know what they look like when they’re excited, confused, upset, etc. Pay attention to that. If they look uncomfortable, tell them they look uncomfortable. If they look puzzled, ask them what they’re thinking about. And if they look overjoyed and say this is the prettiest and happiest they’ve ever felt, for god’s sake, tell them they look beautiful.
5. A GIFT IS A GIFT, OMG: You may be in a situation where you’ve offered to pay for all or part of the dress as a gift to the bride. All too often, on TV shows and in real life, I’ve heard of people using this as a threat, saying they have ultimate power over choosing the dress and that they won’t pay for something they don’t love. I’ve never understood this, especially here. Do you want your loved one spending the entire wedding hating how they look but grin and bearing it because they wanted to make you happy? Because that certainly wouldn’t make me happy.