For some girls, purchasing a wedding dress is all they have dreamt of since they were old enough to know what a bride was. For others, it’s just another thing to check off the bridal to-do list. I fell somewhere in the middle of that range. Either way, the hype and pressure of actually finding “The One” can actually be super overwhelming. Some gals thrive on that. Some break out in hives. The truth is, it’s not for everyone. Here are my top 7 reasons why wedding dress shopping is the worst.
1// The Pressure
I’m not referring to pressure from a salesperson, I mean internal pressure (and media pressure) to find the perfect dress, the dress that will make your mother weep tears of joy, the dress you see yourself walking down the aisle in, the dress that makes your husband weep tears of joy, the dress you just knew was right the moment you stepped into it…. etc. etc. blah blah blah.
I mean, holy shit! How are we supposed to meet all that criteria with one dress? It is an important piece of your wedding, yes. But, in the end, it is just that: a dress. Your dress doesn’t represent your entire wedding. Your dress is not your marriage. No one tells you that it’s perfectly fine if you find one that is just “okay” and doesn’t make you tear up in front of the mirror. But, that’s not what women are fed by the industry.
An initial consultant appointment should really be called: Let’s see how many dresses can you try on in an hour before you and your entourage self destruct.
I tried on 9 dresses in my first appointment, which was mostly self-serve at the boutique I visited. I only brought my mom and my mother-in-law with me. I went there to look at a specific designer and knew 3 dresses I wanted to try on, but of course, once you’re in there it’s kind of overwhelming. So, I tried on 10 of them in 60 minutes – an average of 6 minutes per dress which includes putting it on, modeling it and taking it off. For the record, I do NOT recommend that. The consultant was continuously asking me how I felt in each one while encouraging me to try on another. At the end of the night, I couldn’t remember half of the ones I tried on, even the ones I had gone there to see.
I thought it would be easy. Here are my 3 choices. Boom, let’s go. Nope, not even close. One salon was so rude to me after I told them we hadn’t booked our venue yet or picked out colors because to them that was imperative to selecting a dress. I told them that I was going to wear what I wanted, regardless of the venue. It was such an unenjoyable experience for me I waited 2 weeks before bothering to book another appointment.
2// Apathetic or Fake Consultants.
I had both. During one appointment, the consultant didn’t say more than five words to me and sat at the front desk on her cell phone. I picked out my own dresses, my mom did them up, and we kind of did our own thing. Weirdly, the gal seemed disappointed when we didn’t buy anything.
Another time, I had a girl who was so over the top in her interactions it was uncomfortable. There is a fine line between offering support in their decision-making of a major purchase and straight up sales-suffocation.
Having someone constantly OMGing and telling you a dress is sooooo pretty, or telling you totally look like a bride strangely does not help. I hope I look like a damn bride, I’m wearing an effing wedding dress.
I find that your appointment time makes a difference. I had the most genuine interactions at boutiques early in the day, versus an evening slot when people either needed to make a last-minute sale or had already mentally checked out.
3// Pushy Salespeople
I watched a ton of Say Yes to the Dress before I got married, actually, before I was ever engaged. I can’t explain this one because I despise reality TV and yet I was
totally kind of obsessed with this show. However, watching it when I was engaged was not the same. Instead of lighthearted fun, I was in research mode but ended up seeing the same gowns get sold week after week.
I developed a major aversion to ball gowns or anything poofy. Also, the word bling. I hate that word.
Yet, somehow, I got sucked into trying a big cake-topper gown and a bedazzled mermaid dress. The sales person made a huge deal out of these dresses it got to the point where even my mom was kind of buying into it. Yes, they were beautiful dresses in their own way, they looked good, and are some girls’ dream dresses, but was it what I wanted or discussed? Nope, not even close.
I was by no means a bridezilla (my girlfriends actually nicknamed me bridechilla) but one day I had had enough and I snapped at one dude for wasting our time (they are pretty strict about that 60-minute appointment window) by bringing me a “blinged-out” ball gown $2000 outside my budget. Not okay.
4// Unrealistic Expectations
I started following designer Reem Acra a few years ago after seeing one of her fashion shows. She makes unbelievably gorgeous wedding dresses…that start at $7000 US. (Insert dry heave here.) Most of us don’t have a budget like that, and if you do, congratulations. To own something that couture would be unreal, even though I would probably feel too guilty about spending that kind of money to actually enjoy it.
After a serious amount of Instagram research that happened during a layover in the San Francisco airport, I knew I was drawn to flowy, bohemian style dresses. A-line, lots of movement, and very little poof. I was pumped when I found popular stores like BHLDN and JCrew carried boho gowns that seemed within budget, but because our Canadian dollar sucks big time, those prices go up and up and up with the exchange, tax, duties, shipping, and alterations. And, you can’t even try them on first. These factors can catapult a respectable $1000-$1500 dress into the $2500-$3500 range. Le sigh.
5// The Price Tag
Is a wedding dress really worth a small fortune? This one does have pockets… but, I mean, honestly. You could buy a below average used car with that money. This one was tough for me because I grew up in a very money-conscious household and paid for most of my own things when I was younger thanks to awesome parenting from my financial advisor mom. (That’s not sarcasm.)
The problem with this is I like nice things, and nice things are often expensive. Bridal gowns being no joke, are rarely if ever on the cheap side with the exception of a few sample sales and something in Toronto called the Bride Project (where brides donate their used gowns and they are sold at 50-75% off, and all the proceeds go to cancer research.)
It doesn’t help that once you place your order, it’s essentially a blood pact that no amount of phone calls or pleading can change – trust me, I tried.
So, like any respectable bride with a budget, I started looking at knock-offs wedding dresses on the internet. I became so obsessed with finding something under budget, I nearly bought something from China off of Etsy and was very close to experiencing a serious bridal Pinterest #fail. So close.
6-// Why is the Lighting So Bad????
This one I just don’t understand. It’s like Sephora – bridal boutiques, how do you get away with such bad lighting in your stores? If boutiques were smart, they would invest in the Bentley of light installments and mirrors.
Your customers are about to buy something that cannot be returned or revised once the order goes through, and if we make that decision based on fun house mirrors and questionable levels of darkroom-inspired lighting, the answer is probably going to be a strong, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Yes, we get you are trying to set your mood in the shop. Well, maybe do that in the reception area and not where the pedestal is? The wedding dress I ended up buying was an almond chiffon, aka not white. It looked like a different color in every area of the showroom. I was told, “Wait until you see it in the light.” No, I want to see what it looks like right now, before I buy it.
Turns out in the light it looks white (not what I wanted) and inside it looked dark pink (very much not what I wanted). In the end, I loved it and it looked exactly like I wanted, but I could have done without the stress.
7// You Want Me to Wait How Long Until I See It Again?
I ordered my dress on March 7th. My wedding was October 10th. I got my dress on September 20th. That’s 6 months of constantly second-guessing yourself which is exhausting. Some ladies wait over a year. I know for a fact I couldn’t have handled that.
Two weeks after I ordered my wedding dress, I had a total panic attack about the color (the almond chiffon vs. traditional white) and tried to change my order 3 times. I even called the designer and asked them if they had started my dress. This was ridiculous of course, especially because I knew from the beginning that I never wanted a true white dress.
They were lovely and sent me samples of each material used (the chiffon, the lace, the ribbon etc.) so I could keep those on hand. I also had a photo of my gown on my phone and looked at it at least once a day, but it was still a long wait.
People tell you to stop looking, to ignore everything else, and while you may be able to stop looking – you can’t avoid everything else if you are still planning your wedding because the wedding industry throws it all in your damn face.
Even with all that It took me about 4 months to feel 100% confident I had made the right choice in my dress, which I definitely did.
If you have purchased a wedding dress or are on the hunt for one, what have your experiences been like? Share with me in the comments!