In honor of Parents’ Weekend, I would like to share a charming anecdote about my own parents, who faithfully read everything I ever write. (Hi, Mom!)
Over the summer, I essentially became a housewife in terms of television taste. My channel surfing consisted of flipping between the Food Network and TLC, between which I saw every commercial for a Swiffer cleaning product currently in existence about a hundred times. My parents generally accepted my Food Network kick. But when it came to my newfound obsession with the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress,” they teased me mercilessly.
“Say Yes to the Dress” introduced me to the fairytale world that is the Kleinfeld bridal salon, a wedding dress boutique located in Manhattan. To me, Kleinfeld provides the ultimate princess treatment: you show up, adoring family and friends in tow, and the cheery staff dresses you up in ornate, glamorous gowns while your fan club oohs and ahhs about how lovely you look in just about everything.
Of course, on “Say Yes to the Dress” there are more meltdowns than fairytale moments. It is reality TV, after all. More often than not, the support system the bride brings with her criticizes everything she tries on, including her dream dress, or the elusive style she imagines in her head turns out to be nonexistent in reality. As Randy, the show’s stereotypical flamboyantly gay fashion director always says, if you can’t find a dress at Kleinfeld, you can’t find one anywhere. Unfortunately, many of the brides who enter Kleinfeld filled with high hopes walk away empty handed.
Still, I couldn’t stop myself from allowing wedding day fantasies to dance in my head whenever I watched the show. I’ve never dreamt of starring in a reality show. But I started imagining what it would be like to have my favorite Kleinfeld consultant, Keisha, dress me up in ball gowns as my parents tearfully expressed their joy at my impending nuptials in a confessional.
“Oh god, you’re watching that stupid wedding show again?” My mother’s disapproving voice cut through my blissful reverie. “I’ve seen you watch this one before. Haven’t you seen all the episodes already?” This is my mother’s favorite tactic when she sees me watching a show she doesn’t approve of. To this day she will insist that she has seen me watch every episode of The Simpsons in existence, all 484 of them.
I tried to insist that the show was simple, mindless fun and that I liked looking at all the dresses and imagining what my wedding gown would look like when she cut me off. “You’re not going to have a wedding dress!” she said. Um, what? “I didn’t have a wedding dress at my wedding, so you’re not going to have one at your wedding,” she continued. To me, this logic essentially amounted to “My parents made my life miserable, so I will make your life miserable.”
She then brought up the disproportionate expense of wedding dresses. “I mean, that girl is spending $2,000 on her dress! Can you believe that? That’s ridiculous!” I decided not to point out that the price point for Kleinfeld dresses starts at $1,800, making the dress in question relatively cheap. “You know what I did with the money I would have spent on a wedding dress? I invested it in a house!” she continued. On screen, a mother was sobbing at how beautiful her baby girl looked in her wedding dress.
As my mother continued her tirade, I slunk off to my room to continue watching “Say Yes to the Dress” in peace. But when I emerged 30 minutes later for a glass of water, my mother was still sitting on the couch, transfixed by the bewitching beauty of the dresses. “I think the a-line looks much better on Katie’s body type than the mermaid style. Not that many girls can pull off a look like that. But still, that beading is to die for!” she was telling my sister.
Aha! I knew the show had sunk its hooks into her. I don’t know exactly what is it about “Say Yes to the Dress” that appeals so much to me, my mom, my sister, and many of my friends. Maybe it harkens back to the Cinderella tales of our youth, where everyday girls can be transformed into princesses with the help of a fabulous gown, if only for a day. Clearly we’re not the only ones who find the message attractive though. “Say Yes to the Dress” is so popular that it has spawned a spin-off show, “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” which is essentially the exact same show with charming Southern metaphors thrown in (i.e. “She has champagne tastes but a beer pocketbook!”).
Still, my mom’s insistence that I would not have a wedding dress of my very own bothered me. I decided to appeal to my dad that night at dinner. Surely he would understand. My dad is our household’s resident fashionista. Unlike my mother, he’s willing to take me shopping for expensive clothes and provides advice on what “my colors” are: according to him, no colors look good on me, except maybe brown.
Unfortunately, my dad’s response was not at all what I was hoping for. “You don’t need a wedding dress. Why would you spend that much money for something you’re only going to wear once? Your mom didn’t have a wedding dress, and that was just fine. Have you been watching that idiotic show again? It’s just the same exact thing every time, you know.”
Damn. I should’ve known better than to expect wedding sentiment from my parents; after all, they eloped. On that last point, however, I have to admit that my dad was right: every episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” does follow a set formula. One girl’s friends and family hate everything she tries on, one girl tries on and falls in love with a dress she can’t afford, one girl easily finds the dress of her dreams, and one girl comes in for her final fitting and the episode ends with joyful shots from her perfect wedding.
But that isn’t the point! The point is the dresses! Theoretically, you only get married once, meaning you only have one occasion to put on a white dress covered in jewels and tulle with a train 15 feet long and have everyone tell you how gorgeous you look. Some people might not find that a necessary rite of a passage, but we romantics can take pleasure in watching others find that happiness on “Say Yes to the Dress.” And when it comes to my own wedding, I know my parents will be just as happy as those emotional wrecks on the show. But I’ll buy my own damn dress.