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Wedding Dress Shopping: Guest Etiquette

Congratulations! You are one of the lucky ones the bride has decided to bring dress shopping with her. As dramatic as this may sound, it is an honor when the bride includes you as a guest in her dress shopping process. This means that you are a trusted loved one whose feedback is important to her!

You may think that your job is just to go and tell the bride what you think of each dress, but there is much more to your job than that. We are here to give you tips and tricks to be the best guest with constructive feedback!

Let the Bride Speak First

This may be the most important piece of advice we can offer. You may be very eager to tell the bride exactly what you think of each dress, and why wouldn’t you? That’s why she brought you, right? That is correct to an extent, but picture this:

The bride puts on a dress and it is love at first sight. She tells her consultant in the dressing room that it is everything she wants and she can see herself walking down the aisle in it. She thinks this could be the one, she’s got that feeling, and she can’t wait to show you! She walks onto the platform and a guest says “I don’t like that one at all!” before she even has a chance to tell you she loves it.

We know you didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, she is someone you deeply care about. But you just told her the dress she loves and thinks is “the one” couldn’t possibly be it. We have seen this exact scenario play out in front of us.

Once the bride admits her feelings, the recovery can be extremely awkward and she is then insecure about herself and her dress vision. Let the bride tell you what she thinks first before you give your opinion. If the bride tells you she doesn’t like it, by all means, share your feelings with her! But keep it centered on the dress itself rather than the dress on her. Keep her happiness and vision in mind as you formulate your feedback.

Be Gentle With Your Words

This falls hand in hand with the last tip. Know your bride and how she responds to criticism before you go into appointments with her! If you have a bride who is a bit more sensitive, saying things like “that’s ugly” or “that looks awful” can make her shut down and even question if you will be chosen to accompany her at any future appointments. There are ways to say what you want to say that are delicate and constructive without hurting feelings!

You may not realize that what you want to say would be something that she would take personally, but comments about body shape or features that the bride cannot change should be thought about prior to being spoken.

If you have a self conscious bride, focusing comments on the dress rather than how the dress looks on her is typically a great way to avoid any hurt feelings. For example, “that dress is cut boxy” rather than “that dress makes you look boxy” is a very easy way to tell her that there are dresses that are more flattering without her feeling insecure about her shape.

Some brides are very direct and genuinely want feedback like that. This is absolutely fine to say if that is the type of comment the bride really wants to hear. There is nothing wrong with brutal honesty ONLY if the bride asks for it and is proven to handle criticism well. Being gentle with your words is really personal to each bride and the dynamic you have with her. Stay in tune to her attitude and emotions during the appointment and adjust your feedback from there!

The Bride Guides the Appointment

Bridal gown shopping is an extremely exciting time and we love when the bride’s guests are equally as excited for her! Sometimes this well-meaning excitement can lead to a little bit of overstepping and the appointment stops being directed by the bride. The bride and her consultant should be the ones who determine what styles she wants to try, what dresses fall within her budget, and other details of her dress.

Every so often, we will have an excited guest who will pull a dress for her to try that is over budget or completely out of the realm of what she is looking for without the bride’s consent. There are also guests who want to take part in dressing her up with veils and belts, even after she has expressed “I don’t want to wear a veil”, is not looking for a belt, or doesn’t even like the dress she has on. If there is something you think the bride should consider, ask her first.

Most suggestions can be formulated into questions to plant the idea you have but to give the bride control over it. For example, rather than saying “try on a mermaid dress just for fun!”, ask her “have you considered trying on a mermaid dress to be sure that isn’t what you want?” This shows the bride that you are interested in helping her find “the one” rather than overwhelming her with the idea that she needs to try on dresses that she didn’t ask for.

As far as pulling something over budget goes, we recommend steering clear of that unless you discuss with the bride. We do not suggest trying on a dress that is out of budget because if she falls in love with it, the dress can be hard to forget about or she will end up spending outside of her means.

This doesn’t mean to hold back from suggestions that may help her, just be aware if she is overwhelmed. Dress shopping, along with every step of the wedding planning process, can be extremely stressful for the bride. Be receptive to see if the bride is looking for guidance or just some extra feedback to support what she feels.  Let her make the decisions and evaluate what she needs from there! Remember to frame all suggestions and feedback in a way where the bride keeps the control of her appointment. This is her time.

Important: Sizes of Wedding Dresses Are Not Like Regular Dresses

Wedding dresses run small, usually 1-2 sizes smaller than normal size. For example, if a bride’s regular size is a 12, her wedding dress could easily be a 14 or 16 depending on the designer and the style. Our dress samples are in sizes from 4-32 so there is a great selection in all size ranges for brides to try on. And really, the size doesn’t matter, until guests get involved pulling dresses that won’t fit.

This happens all too frequently: a curvy size bride is trying on dresses in the 18+ range and looks great! She has a few 16s on that are snug and is being clipped down to size in others. She’s having a great experience and has a few favorites when someone gets up and starts hanging dresses on the rack… in size 6.

Please do not choose dresses that are not even close to the bride’s size, or worse, insisting that she try them on. The bride goes from feeling happy and confident to awful in a matter of minutes. Ask if there is a similar style in a size will allow her to envision a final look. The stylist knows the inventory.

A smiling bride at Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo holding the "I said yes to the dress" sign over her head and wearing a Darianna Bride sash after choosing her wedding dress
An I Said Yes Moment!

Do Not Be the One To Steal Her Moment From Her

After an amazing appointment where the bride has successfully narrowed down styles, she is now standing in her favorite dress and is head over heels in love! She feels confident, beautiful, and ready to say “yes!” to the most meaningful dress she will ever wear. Everyone is telling her that this is her dress, but before she can soak up her moment, one well-meaning guest says, “You can’t say yes now, you have to sleep on it!”

Nothing pops a bride’s balloon like this.

There are few moments in life like this one. A memory of saying yes to her wedding dress is huge. She has the group that she loves around her and she wants to be celebrated. She is so ready to make that memory and savor it forever …

“You have to sleep on it” makes the bride feels as though it’s the wrong dress and that she should second guess the dress she is in love with. Her “yes” moment is gone, replaced with confusion and stress because she feels she’s incapable of choosing. She wanted validation but got the opposite.

What the bride can expect after saying “yes” to her dress is basically exactly what you see on TV. The excitement of her family and friends, maybe some tears, all kinds of goodies, and pictures so she can post on Instagram to tell the world that she said yes to the most perfect dress! Now she can finally envision herself in her dress at her venue – everything falls easily into place after these two major factors are set in stone. She will be over the moon excited and have another check mark on her wedding planning checklist! But now that moment is gone.

Could she come back later to say “yes”? Absolutely! But it’s not the same. The excitement of finding the dress after a great appointment of narrowing down isn’t there. Her reward after a day of uncertainty and hard decisions was prolonged. She will still love the dress and get all of the goodies and pictures, but the entire energy from the initial appointment is different. She brought you there to celebrate with her, but now there is a return trip involved and it’s never the same as saying yes in her moment.

Now I’m not saying that the bride should not sleep on it if she wants to. Every bride is different and some need the time to process! But that is not a guest’s decision to make for her. You may be someone who needs to sleep on things, but this bride might be ready to commit and start celebrating. Most brides know what they want and are not afraid to commit to it when they see it! Don’t take the moment from her, celebrate with her.

A smiling bride with her guest holding the I said yes to the dress sign and wearing her Dariana bride sash after saying yes to her wedding dress
A forever memory

Phrases to Avoid

After doing nine years worth of bridal appointments, we have heard so many beautiful statements of love and encouragement said to brides! The guest support can be amazing, positive, and helpful. We have also heard statements that have hurt brides more than they have helped. Here are some phrases/comments we recommend staying away from:

“You look fat/pregnant”
“That looks horrible on you”
“I don’t like anything you have tried on”
“I always pictured you in a _____ dress so it’s hard for me to like anything else”
“I am paying for the dress so I get a say in what you pick”
“You will need to lose weight to wear that”
“Are you serious? You like that one?”
“Why would you want to wear THAT?”
“(Fiancee) will hate that”

Helpful Phrases To Use

You are almost ready to be the best guest of all the rest!  Here are some great phrases to support your bride through her dress shopping process:

“How do you like/How do you feel in this one compared to some of the other ones you have tried?”
“You look beautiful in this dress! I think some of your other favorites flatter your body better, though”
“Out of your favorites, my personal favorite is _____, but you will be a beautiful bride in any of the ones you have picked!”
“I think the other dress would really fit your venue/theme/color pallet, too!”
“I want you to be happy in whatever dress you choose, and (fiancee) will love whatever you pick!”
“I can see you getting married in that dress!”

Now you know how to be the best guest ever and can share in one of the most magical and memorable moments in a bride’s life!

About the author: Daria Capaldi is the manager of Darianna Bridal & Tuxedo and one-half of its namesake. On the cusp of the Millennial/Gen Z divide, she is uniquely suited for understanding the wedding industry both from a business perspective and a bride’s planning perspective. A graduate of James Madison University and a participant in the Disney Internship Program, Ms. Capaldi upholds the customer experience as key. A Warrington, Bucks County native, she resides in Huntingdon Valley with her boyfriend Jeff and her adorable pup Eva.

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