How To Help Shop For A Wedding Dress

say-yes-to-the-dressWhen 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.

9 thoughts on “How To Help Shop For A Wedding Dress

  1. Pingback: Unbelievable | Conscious Elegance

  2. Thanks for the advice Jaya – you really can’t underestimate the importance of honest advice (delivered nicely) when choosing your wedding dress.
    If you have people who love you and want the best for you then they should feel comfortable in giving a true opinion, and you should respect them enough to listen to it.
    We wish some of the brides in our article on worst wedding dresses had people helping them choose – hopefully it’ll give your readers something to smile about:

  3. My wife and I are getting married in just over a month here, but she is so particular about her wedding dress that we have yet to find the right one! I think her girlfriends will need to start going shopping with her to help her narrow things down. They probably already have their own plans to help her, but perhaps they can find something of use from these tips. I am not sure if the gift applies here, as she wanted to pay for it all herself, but I think they can at least take note about following her lead during the shopping process. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Hola Jaya Saxena, I was going bonkers over helping in my elder sister’s wedding. I am charged with the responsibility to finding the perfect wedding dress and I was severely failing till I accidently stumbled upon your blog. Thank you for all the advice. It really did help a lot.

  5. Hey Jayne I appreciate the tips on how to HELP shop for a wedding dress, I think a lot of times that fact that it is not specifically an outing for you is something too often forgotten, so thank you for addressing that. And thank you for reminding me to talk about things before the shopping, that is a helpful reminder to keep everything in order when you get to the actual dress lineup! Do you have any recommendations on wedding dress providers in the victoria area in British Columbia?

  6. My cousin is getting married soon but she’s been having a hard time finding a dress that she likes. My wife is going out with her to look but isn’t sure where to start. I like that you suggest giving your opinion in the nicest way possible by asking what they think instead of bombarding them with what you think. It is her wedding after all so having a dress that makes her happy is the most important part. Thanks for the tips!

  7. My wife has been named maid of honor for her friends wedding. I like how you point out that when she goes to help with the wedding dress shopping, she should consider her friend’s tastes over her own. I’m sure that doing so would help ensure that my wife gives helpful feedback to her friend since she’d be thinking about what her friend would want versus what she would choose.

  8. Looking for a wedding dress is one of the happiest moments of a young lady’s life since she’s leaving the world of being single and is slowly transitioning to a married life soon. When it comes to looking for wedding dresses, the most important thing to keep in mind is that even if you go shopping with your family and friends for ‘that one dress’ the end decision would still be up to you since it’s going to be your dress, and nobody else’s! If I had the chance to help my sister shop for her wedding dress, I would–but at the same time I might accidentally turn into a Godzilla and give my honest, blunt opinion on her…tacky sense of style.

  9. Thanks for pointing out that we should forget about our own tastes when helping someone shop for a wedding dress. My coworker is getting married and asked if I’d like to go wedding dress shopping with her. Your tips should help the shopping go smoothly!

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