Let’s just get it out in the open — television isn’t my thing. I watch an hour a week — Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel, every Wednesday — and then the TV sits there, alone and unloved, unless the kids are home. So, needless to say, I’ve never seen an episode of “Say Yes to the Dress.” In fact, the only way I’d probably watch “Say Yes to the Dress” is if the Mythbusters were setting one on fire, or perhaps using it as a parachute, or, worst-case scenario, blowing one up.
My media ignorance left me unprepared for the experience of wedding-dress-shopping, which was a lot less painful than I had first thought. I imagined hours of wrestling with mysterious ties, fasteners, and undergarments, while the Oldest Daughter (O.D.) got gradually more and more stressed until finally a dress burst into flame, Mythbusters or no.
It wasn’t anything like that.
The first thing that happened was that the O.D. filled out a form. This form asks basic wedding information, like where, what time of day, indoors or out, size of the wedding party, and then it delves into the bride’s preferences vis-à-vis straps, waistlines, beading, and so on. Naturally, this takes some time, so while the bride is explaining her personal philosophy on bodices, her entourage entertains themselves with a huge notebook containing the bridal shop’s inventory of gowns.
Since the O.D.’s entourage consisted of her sister, mother, aunt, and paternal grandmother, and since she is used to the way most of us behave, she was impervious to our hoots and giggles. She scribbled away while we, with the exception of her grandmother, disgraced ourselves.
It’s not too surprising that brides can, if their fantasies tend that way, dress like Cinderella. They can wear something that looks like a comforter, complete with pillows, depending on the bodice and the size of the bride. The O.D. announced coldly that she did not intend to look like an unmade bed and went back to note-taking.
We decided, therefore, that since the basic Disney princess was out, perhaps she could go for the Cruella de Ville look. This involves a lot of black lace over white gowns. One gown was either a bare midriff or a had a wide black band in the middle, and our hooting caused the O.D. to actually turn her back on us for a moment.
She was also not interested in the Nehru collar, the corset-on-the-outside, or the thing that looked like Miss Kitty should have worn it on Gunsmoke. She rejected the dress with nearly 30 pounds of beads, on the grounds that she plans to get married, not be crowned queen. Plus, she wants to be able to move.
The happy thing we discovered was that Brooke, our wedding consultant, was able to handle wrangling the dresses, so the O.D. showed up in our mirror-lined parlor looking completely pulled together. When Brooke was out of earshot, the O.D. demonstrated the amazing structural integrity of the dresses, which could probably stand up on their own, a real benefit in a receiving line. We wondered idly if any of them came with a built-in stool under the bustle to allow the bride to take a load off during the ceremony. They certainly came with a vast array of complicated infrastructure, and we hope, a manual for how to put it all together.
When we had gone through the book, pointing out all the bits the O.D. wouldn’t be caught dead in, we noticed that the dresses all seemed to run together. There’s only so much differentiation between white and ivory. We found that beads, seed pearls, medallions, and feathers start blur after a bit, too, not to mention the structural elements, like trains, bustles, and the slightly frightening “mermaid” look.
But here’s the thing I learned. Dresses are kinda the same — variations on the wedding theme — at least until the O.D. put them on, after which they all became Beautiful. Reality television will never capture the feeling one has looking at one’s own child standing in the the mirror-lined parlor, with her eyes sparkling, looking amazing, and yes, dadgummit, saying yes to the dress.