5 Things Say Yes to the Dress Gets Wrong
What the popular wedding dress reality series does—and doesn’t—get right about dress shopping.
There’s an undeniable appeal to Say Yes to the Dress, from the beautiful gowns, to the dramatic tensions between members of the entourage, to the final triumphant moment when the bride sees herself in her perfect wedding gown. You’ve probably seen plenty of episodes and clips over the years, and if you’re like many brides-to-be, you’ve probably indulged a SYTTD binge since your fiancé popped the question.
The show gets some things very right: the need to have a vision for your dress but also be open to new possibilities, the way a dress changes once you put on the veil, the many ways you can customize a dress to meet your vision, etc.
However, it’s also responsible for a number of increasingly common misconceptions. If you’ve picked these ideas up from SYTTD, you will probably need to reset expectations before your first bridal appointment. Here are some of the most common.
1. Expect to try on more than three dresses.
In the format of the show, brides usually try on about three dresses which they show their entourage. This is because the show can only spend so much time on each dress, and they want to edit the story to present the most interesting narrative. The bride probably tried on much more than the three dresses you saw in the show, and she may even have tried them on in a different order. But after watching so many brides find “the one” by their third dress, many brides are becoming discouraged when they don’t find their own dress within a similar timeframe.
At our bridal boutique, the average bride tries on about twelve to fifteen dresses before she settles on the perfect one. She may spend the first five or six just trying to find the silhouette she likes best. And she may try on as many dresses in two or three boutiques before coming to us.
Of course, you may find your dress in the first one you try on. If that’s the case, you’re one lucky bride! But if it takes you longer—don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal to try on a couple dozen dresses before making your decision.
2. Don’t bring a huge entourage.
The number of people brides bring with them on SYTTD is simply overwhelming. It’s typical to see at least three or four friends and family members arrive with the bride (usually some combination of her mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, maid of honor, and sister), but this crowd can quickly balloon to include all the bridesmaids, male friends and family members, or even bridal consultants and stylists. It’s amazing they all fit into the room.
Of course, with so many people present, it’s no wonder things get dramatic. Personalities collide, and it’s impossible to please everyone. It may make for good TV, but it’s a stressful and draining experience for the bride.
Instead of bringing with you everyone who wants to come, bring only those people whom you most trust, whose input you can’t do without, and who will make the day special for you. Keep your group small—only one or two people—and if you have other friends or family who want to be part of the experience, consider inviting them for another occasion, such as an appointment in which you play with accessories and celebrate finding “the one”.
3. Your budget has to cover more than the dress.
Speaking of fittings, these can be a major expense—especially if you’re having alterations done. Add in other budget items, such as the veil, shoes, and accessories, and the total may surprise you.
This aspect of budget planning is often glossed over in the show. Brides come in with a budget, buy a dress that’s nearly exactly that price, and then celebrate because they’re $100 “under budget.” It’s true that sometimes we see the consultants cautioning the bride about the cost of alterations—especially significant ones—but it’s rare anyone mentions the cost of a veil. (Side note: The veils at TWD range from $50 – $500.)
Obviously, the finer points of budgeting are not of particular interest to the show or the viewers, but they are very important for you, the bride. Don’t be taken by surprise. When you plan for your budget, include room for these extra expenses, and talk about your expectations with the bridal assistant at your boutique.
4. Brides have a right to be “picky.”
The montage of a bride turning down a series of dresses without trying them on is a staple of SYTTD. When a bride says “no” a dozen times in a row, it’s easy to get the impression that she’s simply too hard to please.
However, there are two problems with the portrayal that the bride is “too picky”. The first is that your bridal assistant does need feedback about what you do or do not like to see in a dress in order to truly help you. If you can be specific about what it is you like or dislike, they will be able to find a dress to match your dreams more quickly. We like opinions!
And, of course, the second problem with the idea that the bride is “too picky”, is that your bridal gown is a big purchase, and one you should feel absolutely certain about. If you don’t like a dress, it’s fine to turn it down and keep looking. When you find “the one,” you’ll be glad you held out.
That said, if you do turn a dress down, avoid saying you hate it—especially if you’re in the boutique, showing it off to your friends and family. It may not be your style, or you may not like how it looks on you, but the bride in the next fitting room may be dying to try it on.
Furthermore, dresses often look very different on your body than they do on the hanger. This is one thing SYTTD gets right: if you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to put the dress on. After all, you have nothing to lose.
5. Walking out of the store without a dress isn’t a failure.
Finally, the goal of any good bridal boutique is to help you come to a decision you’re happy with. The idea that leaving a boutique without a dress is a failure—punishment, perhaps, for being overly choosy in your dress—is one that puts the bridal store’s need to sell dresses above the bride’s need to find one she loves.
And there is no need to feel the pressure to buy on your first visit just to save some money either! We know that there are bridal shops who have added incentives for buying on your first visit. If you need time to think about it, do so! You should never feel like you have to say yes just to save a few hundred dollars.
There are any number of reasons why you may need to walk out the door without a dress. Maybe you didn’t find the one you were looking for. Maybe the pressure has become overwhelming, and you need to step away to make up your mind. Or maybe you need your mother, or your grandmother, or your best friend to be in the room with you when you make the decision.
Side note: We always recommend shopping with all of your VIPs for this very reason. It’s impossible to recreate that moment when you know its “the one,” so even if you need to utilize a video call, it is best to go shopping with the mindset that you could find your dream dress.
Whatever the reason, you shouldn’t feel pressured into signing anything if you’re not ready. In fact, if you do feel the pressure, that’s as good a reason as any to leave.
Shopping for your dress should be a fun, memorable, and relaxing experience.
Watching the drama is one of the most entertaining parts of Say Yes to the Dress. But your own experience should be as drama-free as possible. You should enjoy yourself, and it’s hard to do that if you’re not relaxed. Furthermore, it’s hard to know you’ve made the right decision if you’re under a lot of pressure from your entourage or your bridal assistants.
Because we know that when you feel your best, you can say “yes” with your whole heart and no regrets.