Even though shopping for a wedding dress is usually one of the most exciting items on a bride’s to-do list, it can also be one of the most stressful. Between deciding who to bring to the boutique, navigating different opinions, grappling with a wedding vision, and sticking to a budget, there’s a lot to consider, placing a lot of pressure on the bride-to-be.
According to Blessing Kaden, a lead stylist at Estelle Bridal, many brides experience the most anxiety when headed to the boutique. “Some just want the perfect wedding dress, some have a picture they created in their heads that they’re not finding, and some brides are just generally anxious,” she explains.
Meet the Expert
- Landis Bejar is a licensed mental health counselor and the founder of AisleTalk, a boutique therapy practice that specializes in helping engaged couples navigate the stresses of wedding planning.
- Blessing Kaden is a lead stylist at Houston-based boutique, Estelle Bridal.
Additionally, shopping with an opinionated mother is another source of anxiety when it comes to wedding dress shopping. Landis Bejar, LMHC, the founder of a wedding-focused therapy practice called AisleTalk, says it’s very common for brides to butt heads with their moms when looking for “the one” gown. Between conflicting visions for the wedding and facing a changing family dynamic when you say “I do,” there are a lot of emotions on the line that can cause even the most level-headed bride to feel anxious.
If you’re trying to figure out how to navigate your feelings as you head to the bridal salon, you’ve come to the right place. From why these anxious feelings happen to tips on how to manage even the most opinionated mom, here’s what to keep in mind when wedding dress shopping starts to feel overwhelming.
Why Do Brides Experience Wedding Dress Shopping Anxiety?
In general, wedding dress shopping anxiety can stem from a lot of different factors. “The main sources of anxiety are concerns about body image, body size, attention on one’s body during the wedding and/or the shopping experience, and being the ‘right’ size or shape for the wedding,” explains Bejar. “As social media and shows like Say Yes to the Dress have ritualized the shopping experience of a wedding dress, more brides face anxiety about the opinions of family members or individuals they feel obligated to include.”
Beyond aesthetics, though, weddings mark a significant transition from singlehood to official couplehood. “Therapists call this ‘individuation,’ also known as the process of separating from our parents while also staying close to them,” Bejar explains. “With this shift comes lots of feelings and transitions of power which can often result in power struggles. That can sometimes be what’s at the heart of a difficult conversation in a wedding dress shop.”
How to Handle General Wedding Dress Shopping Anxiety
If you’re a bit apprehensive about wedding dress shopping, or you know you get anxious when trying on clothes, it can be hard to envision your “say yes to the dress” moment as a positive one. Luckily, Bejar provides a few tactics to help navigate these thoughts and feelings, and hopefully, help ease your mind when searching for your dream gown.
Stay True to Yourself
No matter what, your wedding day is your day, and what you choose to wear should be a reflection of your personal style. If you’ve always envisioned wearing a ball gown, only try on ball gown silhouettes if that will help you navigate this experience. And while many brides choose to keep up with the latest trends, don’t let popular culture, or friends and family, sway your opinion of what you know to be your dream bridal look.
Control What You Can
According to Bejar, focusing on what you can control, like mentally preparing yourself for the experience, is a great way to help minimize anxiety. Try getting a good workout or meditation session in before shopping to feel relaxed, then schedule a fun dinner or drinks with friends afterward so you can vent.
Additionally, if in-person shopping just seems too stressful, skip it altogether and consider buying your dress online. Many designers have e-commerce platforms, allowing brides to order their looks without ever visiting a bridal salon. You’ll have the opportunity to choose a dress from the comfort of your home, and try it on at a time that feels best for you.
Reframe Your Mindset
With different opinions and visions, there’s a very real possibility you might love a dress that your inner circle doesn’t love. Instead of feeling like your friends and family have to have the same vision as you, Bejar suggests reframing your mindset.
“Think of a time you bought another garment of clothing. Did you need every important person in your life’s stamp of approval before you bought it? Likely not,” Bejar says. “I get that shopping for this garment is a little different than all your other shopping experiences, but we want to try to invite a little flexibility when it comes to these ‘rules’ we place on ourselves.”
How to Handle Wedding Dress Shopping Anxiety With an Opinionated Mother
For most brides, the mother-daughter dynamic is usually tested and heightened while wedding dress shopping. Many moms have been dreaming about this day, oftentimes, longer than the bride herself, and it makes sense that anxieties would magnify when differing visions clash. Nonetheless, there are ways to manage these potential conflicts and decrease your overall stress.
Don’t Invite Her
Bejar says it might sound a little controversial, but the best way to avoid judgment from your mother is to not invite her to the boutique. But since going dress shopping with friends and family is a trend, Bejar suggests telling your mom you want to keep the experience lowkey or that you just stumbled upon a sample sale with a friend. “Part of good wedding planning is doing what works for you,” she shares.
It’s important to note that it’s not a requirement for the mother of the bride to be included in wedding dress shopping. Though, to figure out whether or not you can get away with not inviting her, Bejar advises that you do a little cost-benefit analysis. “The bride should ask herself which scenario is easier to deal with: mom at the bridal salon or mom’s reaction to not being there?”
Ultimately, the people you take to the boutique will greatly influence your time. “The company/support system a bride brings dress shopping could make or break her experience,” explains Kaden. “If it’s [the mother of the bride’s] way or no way, then bringing her could do more harm. At the end of the day, the brides know best.”
If you know having your mom at the boutique is a must, this is the time to work on your communication skills. Bejar suggests addressing your concerns head-on and making your needs known. “Whenever talking about communication strategies, I advise clients to start with an I-statement,” she explains. “You’ll want to format your comment like this: ‘When you do X (behavior), I feel Y (emotion). Can you do Z instead?’”
Here’s what that would look like in action: “When you say something doesn’t flatter me, I feel self-conscious and discouraged while shopping. I really don’t want this to happen when I try on wedding dresses, so could you please hold off on sharing your opinions?”
Pay for Your Own Dress
Traditionally, the bride’s parents pay for the big day, and when a financial investment is involved, the mother of the bride often feels that she can make more decisions, including what gown the bride wears. If the matter of finances is causing an unbalanced feeling of control, it might be time to take the wedding dress budget into your own hands.
Bejar suggests first, telling your mother how much you appreciate her financial help, then relaying that you would prefer to purchase your own gown. “This way, even if she’s helping with a lot of the wedding, this one thing can be yours to ‘own’ both figuratively and literally,” Bejar says. “There is the possibility this means working within a different budget than what your mom would be able to sponsor, but when thinking of that cost-benefit analysis, it might be a worthwhile sacrifice.”
Additional Coping Mechanisms
As you’re navigating your mental health in regard to wedding dress shopping, here are a few more tips to help you manage anxiety as you search for your dream gown.
- Both Bejar and Kaden agree that the best way to ease shopping anxiety is to only bring people to the bridal boutique who are supportive of you and your vision.
- If opinionated people must attend, let them know exactly what you need (honest feedback, support, or just hyping up), and ask them to wait to give their opinions until after you’ve had your say.
- Bring snacks and take a lunch break to keep the energy up. Hunger and wedding dress shopping never mix.
- Kaden says brides should keep an open mind when shopping, and try to take all feedback with a grain of salt. See the person’s perspective but concentrate more on your own reaction to each gown.
- Lastly, instead of stressing ahead of time, try going into bridal salons with the mindset that you’re going to have a great time. “Do your best to enjoy the process and make it a fun experience for yourself,” urges Kaden. “Remember: It’s all about you.”