Wedding Dress Shopping

April 2013
A primer for the father-of-the-bride

For most fathers of the bride, wedding preparations are easy: just call your bank and get a second mortgage for your home and write checks with your eyes closed while sucking down massive quantities of Maalox.

But . . . there are a few of us who learn from our daughter/bride-to-be that our presence is required for wedding dress shopping because our "opinion is valued."

For those of you who fall into this category, I have collected a few notes that may be of interest.

First of all, wedding dress shopping is not something that begins and ends in some store or stores - it is an event! Therefore, in most cases it begins with all the attendees (mother of the bride, sister(s) of the bride, sister(s) of the groom, girl friends of the bride, casual acquaintences of the bride who have nothing better to do) gathering in advance to quell their appetites in preparation for this experience. I can only conclude that they are worried that they might faint from hunger right in the middle of a fitting. And, for fathers, this is also good because it warms them up for pulling out the wallet and handling expenses. It also trains them for the after-shopping restaurant run; evidently looking for wedding dresses makes one famished.

To start with, wedding dress shopping is not for the faint of heart. Especially for men. Just pick a gigantic number for what you think a dress will cost and multiply that number by four. Then add some additional staggering amount for what you will learn are the mandatory accoutrements.

But before you get the sticker shock of a lifetime, you have to have the dress. This leads us to the next aspect, actually going to the store, which is normally called a boutique because you can charge more at a boutique than at a store. The boutiques serve both walk-ins and those with appointments. Funny, I never needed an appointment to buy something at JCPenney's. But, appointment or not, the shopping party will soon be introduced to their attendant, known by her much more expensive name as a bridal consultant.

At this point you need to find some way to entertain yourself while the women attack the racks of wedding dresses and pull a few that might work. (Most boutiques will have a number of current and back issues of Brides magazine for you to thumb through.) Once some candidate dresses are selected, they are taken into a fitting room to be tried on one at a time.

This is now the occasion where you are going to get some real insights on dress fitting. The way I understand it, for regular dress shopping ladies go to a department store, tell the attendant their size, go to that size on the rack, pick something they like, and then - if necessary - pay a small amount for alterations. The fitted dress is ready in a week. But not so at wedding dress shops. Brides-to-be tell the bridal consultants their size and then go through racks and racks of samples - none of which are even close to the announced size. Then the bride-to-be begins trying on numbers of these selected dresses, all of which fit only by using what seem to be hundreds of clips, wedges, straps, and other devices that are only found in large machine shops.

Once thoroughly hitched up, the bride-to-be steps from the fitting room to supportive exclamations from all, as in, "That dress really shows off your (whatever)." Fathers, you need to be prepared for these showings, as your opinion will be sought. You can't say, "It looks fine," because this is a time when your daughter will be seeking some truly insightful advice. I recommend making a secret list of prepared statements before you go into the store, so you can have something enlightening to say at every query. Here are some examples, but you are going to need your own:

    "It is really nice and seems to make you look even thinner."

    "That dress really highlights your skin coloring."

    "I like the way the dress compliments your figure."

    "You look like just the princess you are in that dress."

At some point - figure for planning purposes it will be well past the time all your financial willpower has been drained from you through exhaustion - a final dress will be selected. (Note: Don't get upset because you can't remember the difference between this dress and the 25 others she has tried on.) Then the bridal consultant pulls out a calendar, and announces that for the selected style and designer, the dress will take eight weeks to deliver - if it is ordered that day in the next 12 minutes and put on rush, otherwise it will be longer.

Of course in this and all cases, the term "rush" is a synonym for "this is going to cost even more."

And, in case you have any doubts, there is a direct mathematical relationship between how much everyone likes a particular dress and how much it costs.

And once your daughter has a dress you learn she doesn't actually have a dress. You see there are the acce$$orie$: Sashes, hair combs, veils, shoes . . . the list goes on.     And - be prepared for this one - get ready for your wife to note that she doesn't have anything in her 150 dress wardrobe that will work for the wedding so soon she'll also be in the dress-buying act.

However, once you think your daughter has something, you then learn that once the wedding dress is delivered there is a whole new industry that comes into play, as bridal dresses need numerous fittings that might also be rushed into less than the normal 30 days. For men who had their pant cuffs raised at the local tailor shop for eight bucks, hold onto your seat. It appears to me that alterations people make more than neurosurgeons.

Summary: After having visited three wedding dress boutiques my only advice is actually for the wedding shops: Get a liquor license; you'll make a ton more of money from any men than find themselves at your place of business. ~ Jay Braden