Moving past The Dress: Let’s ask different questions of engaged couples

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I am wearing a dress to my wedding. Why? Because my amazing future partner in life likes the traditional clothing (although we have given the axe to just about every other tradition on the prescribed list of wedding rituals). I do care about him, and I don’t care that much about what I wear. So sure, it’ll be a dress (with boots), probably purchased off the sale rack somewhere a month or two before the wedding.

But the deluge of wedding magazines, Facebook pages, well-meaning friends, and other sources of wedding dress angst, ALL seem to indicate that a future bride should be consumed with the cut and style of the garment she wears on her wedding day.

I am here to say, proudly, that I don’t. And it’s okay if you don’t either. And if you do, that’s okay, too.

I would not look down on anyone who has dreamt of their ideal wedding dress since the day they were born. We are all different. Every one of us goes through life with different conceptualizations of dress, gender roles, and different things that make us happy. But what fascinates me is how weddings often turn even people who normally accept diversity of interests into people who express concerns only about a standard of accepted appearance. Because from day one of my engagement, the question that I have heard most frequently has been, “Have you decided on a dress?”

As someone who has been 100% guilty of asking this same Dress Question in the past, I would like to propose the idea that maybe we should stop asking this question. Because, quite honestly, it is stressful and frustrating to explain and defend, over and over again, to others that I really just don’t care about make-up or dresses, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care immensely about my partner. Trying to express that without sounding rude or ungrateful is also incredibly challenging. At times the pressure to conform to the expectations of others regarding appearances (and the feeling that I am every bit justified in resisting that pressure) has left me in tears.

Maybe, instead of encouraging a focus on the materialistic aspects of weddings, we should commit to raising the discourse by asking different questions of engaged couples:

  • Instead of asking about particulars, we could ask if a couple has certain elements of their wedding day that they are looking forward to. Some couples would love to have the input or ideas of others on parts of the event, but it would be be polite for us to ask permission before providing our own suggestions and interpretations.
  • Maybe we could ask more generally about what a couple hopes their wedding day will be like.
  • We could inquire as to how the wedding planning process is going.
  • If we don’t know the person’s partner, maybe we could ask more about what makes them tick — their unique qualities, their dreams, their passions; why is this human that we care about willing to make a huge commitment to share their life with this other person that we don’t yet know?

In short, there are so many things that we can ask about to bring us closer to our friends and family who are going through the wedding planning process. Let the couple bring their clothing choices up themselves if they’re excited about them. Many couples do invest a lot of energy in making aspects of the wedding day artistic and meaningful, and they would like to share that… but by focusing on other questions, we can avoid assumptions that everyone wants to talk about The Dress. (Or that there even IS a “The Dress.”)

What questions do you wish people asked you about YOUR wedding planning?

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Comments on Moving past The Dress: Let’s ask different questions of engaged couples

  1. Oh my gosh, YES!! People keep asking me whether I’ve gotten my dress yet and what it looks like, and honestly I just don’t want to talk about it. At. All.

    I love the alternative question suggestions!

  2. Thank you! I never even went dress shopping. ModCloth had a ‘30% off dresses’ sale around Christmas, and I was just perusing the website. I saw one I liked, and bought it. The dress to me is not a big deal. Why people make the biggest deal about something you wear for about 8 hours is beyond me. Let’s talk about the awesome party we’re going to have instead (and how it doesn’t matter if I spill red wine on my $80 wedding dress haha)!

  3. When I was planning my park wedding, I wish people would have asked if I needed any help or suggestions on getting things I needed for the wedding. I pretty much planned it all out on my own and sometimes wished I just went to the court house and gone to a restaurant to have a nice meal. The day did not turn out the way it was suppose to happen because I forgot so many things and had to either forget it or replace it. I also wished I had listen to some people when they did say that only 3 percent of the invited guest will show up. I ignored that because the invited people said they would come when I asked them so I ended up taking food home before heading to our weekend away at a nearby amusement park. Now I asked any engaged couple if they needed any help with anything and that makes me feel good asking knowing that I could help someone else make their important day better. I just wore a simple red wedding dress and glad I did because it made it feel like the vows was more important than the dress itself…..

  4. Ugh, yes. When I got engaged, I had every intention of wearing a $50 white sun dress that I found on a clearance rack at Macy’s. But people seemed very freaked out about it, and I ended up getting something more traditional from David’s Bridal. I’m going to wear the original for my rehearsal, but there’s still a little part of me that’s kind of sad that I gave in to pressure.

    • I totally understand where you’re coming from, Jessica. The pressure is incredibly intense.

  5. I thought I would be soooo into the dress. I’m pretty girly and love all that bling and swooshy-ness associated with wedding dresses. Apparently this is only in theory however. Now that I have to actually put one on myself I am just horribly intimidated by the whole thing. I usually a pretty confident person these days, who generally feels fabulous and like I can rock anything I choose, having put early body angst issues behind me. But oh poofy white dress you are giving me all sort weird body shaming thoughts 🙁 This is not how I want to approach anything to do with my wedding. Fortunately we are having a long engagement, so I can work on getting back to feel beautiful and confident as me for when I do walk into that dressing room! In the meantime bring on those alternative questions thanks 😉

  6. I wish people would remember that you still have life going on. It amazes me how when you get engaged, it’s like your whole life is supposed to be about the wedding. I wish people would have said something along the lines of, “I’m so excited for y’all and would love to hear about the wedding planning anytime you want to talk about it, but I also want to know about X that is also happening in your life.”

    • Amen, Kendra! And I like the way you found a way to phrase that in such a positive way.

    • I know what you mean. My future SIL is having a bit of an emotional crisis, and she told me that she doesn’t want to talk to me about it because now is supposed to be “my time”. Everyone has way too much going on in their life for everything to be about me and my wedding, including me. It’s really not that big a priority.

  7. My Wife and I got married January 26th. I know its weird on a monday ! We did so because she is chinese and it was a lucky number for her.

    We got married in our house ( civil wedding) and are planning for a bigger more official wedding once we have more budget to do what we want.

    Our wedding was VERY Me , her, my mom dad , brother and notary. I felt guilty initially for doing such a small affair but realised through the ceremony that what really matter is the that WE love each other and it’s our day no matter what.

    Dress or no dress flower girl or no flower girl …. and you know what we are the happiest couple we know.

    Love is love and does not need to be dressed in a $10,000 dress. It is nice when it is but it doe not NEED to.

  8. Yes! This! While I am in the camp of “caring a lot about what I wear,” I wish people would stop asking this question regardless. I have to explain, over and over, that no, I am not wearing white, I am wearing green. Because I like green and it looks good on me. That usually shocks people enough by itself. Then I tell them that I actually drew up the designs for my fiance’s and my wedding attire… Renaissance/Fantasy style. We wanted something we would wear again, and since we both love Ren Faires and neither of us has a good Faire outfit, we thought, hey! Perfect opportunity for the most awesome Ren/Fantasy getup ever! For some people the idea of a green, personally designed, fantasy dress is some sort of sacrilegious affront to their sensibilities. :/ And some people think it’s awesome. The stressful part is that it is impossible to tell how any given person will react. So it would be nice if people would stop asking this question as small-talk.

    • ERin, I completely understand. When I started telling people I wanted to wear a floral print, I was absolutely flabbergasted at the number of people that expressed true horror about the idea! Not a single person said anything positive. And to be honest with you, over the last few months, I resigned myself to wearing ivory or blush because so many people actually seemed UPSET about the idea of a print. I have tried on at least 50 ivory dresses, and none of them grabbed me at all.

      I am having my dress custom made, and the woman who is making my dress keeps telling me to stick with my original vision. I have an appointment with her next weekend, so we’ll see.

      I will never understand why this is such a controversial choice. I thought I would escape scrutiny and criticism since I am in a same-sex couple, and my partner is wearing a very traditional white dress, but it seems that I can’t escape tradition.

      I’m sure you’re going to look amazing. I hope you post photos of your beautiful dress in the Tribe or on the main blog. :O)

  9. Ha! Yes to this times a hundred, and make it two hundred for me, because I’m half of a same-sex couple, so the questions I get are more along the lines of:

    “Congratulations! That’s so great to hear… Are you wearing a dress?… What about her? Is she wearing a dress?”

    A few things about this- first, that’s the most intelligent question you could think to ask me and/or the most interesting thing you thought to say after I just told you I was finally marrying my partner of over sixteen years?

    Secondly, I feel like if I were a straight woman, I’d never be asked *if* I was wearing a dress, but the assumption would be in place that *of course* I would be wearing a dress. Assumptions are a problem in and of themselves, of course, and do nobody any sort of good. But when I am asked if I am wearing a dress, the implication is I’m somehow less of a woman because I am a lesbian. The subtext is “Are you wearing a dress, or are you going to wear combat boots, a leather tuxedo, get a face full of piercings, and shave your head while you’re at it?” And it’s a thousand times stranger coming from family and close friends who have seen me wear dresses to weddings, funerals, showers, Christmas, Easter, and so on! I find it laughable that besides being dress-obsessed, most people still cannot imagine what a gay wedding will look and feel like, here and now in 2015. Hint: they will look and feel however the couple wants them too, and this may or may not dovetail with what your idea of a “wedding” is! But odds are good that there will be elements of my gay wedding that will be very familiar to you, Aunt Tracy/Cousin Rob/College Friend Alison! Maybe even downright boring. 😉 I have already been met with some disappointment (as if my friends/family expected me to wear a neon rainbow-colored veil).

    For the terminally curious, I set out to find a white and black or white and grey dress, and fell in love with a traditional big old poofy white gown. My fiancée is on the hunt for a white suit… but I have a feeling she’ll end up in grey, her favorite color.

    • I admit I ask everyone “What are you going to to wear?” Just like that, though, no assumptions about dresses or tuxes or suits.

      I don’t think asking about fashion should be totally off limits–someone is always going to be sensitive about something. Just be mindful of how you ask.

    • THIS!!!! I am also half of a same-sex couple, and several of our close friends (in addition to many people we don’t know all that well) have asked, “Which one of you is wearing pants?” They behave as if it is NOT A WEDDING if one half of the couple is not wearing pants. We are both very feminine; we both wear dresses at least five days a week. I seriously do not understand why anyone would ask us that question. My partner is perceived as the less-feminine half of the relationship because she doesn’t wear much makeup, so people assume that she will be “the one wearing pants.” They seem surprised when I tell them she bought her dress first.

  10. For those who want a white dress – fantastic. But folks, this is not that old of a tradition. It began after Queen Victoria selected a white dress for her wedding in 1854. Before that people wore whatever color they wanted. Usually they simply wore the best outfit they owned or bought a nice new outfit – not a special dress just for the wedding. My advice: Pick the outfit you like in the color you like.

  11. But … but … but … but I LOVE talking about fashion. And when you know someone is wedding planning is one of the few times it is socially acceptable to just be like “Hey, lets spend twenty minutes talking about necklaces and necklines!” I mean if the other person doesn’t care, I’m not gonna judge them for not caring, but I’m asking because *I* am interested. And if you aren’t going the white dress route all the better because it means we get to talk about ALL of fashion instead of just wedding fashion!

    • Hahah. I understand your point, Anie. But I think the trick is trying to remember that part of friendship and showing concern for others is trying to think about what *they* want and not just what you want. Unfortunately, what’s socially acceptable doesn’t always correlate well with what is meaningful or considerate. Maybe your buddy will want to talk about all the energy they’re putting into fashion for their wedding day. But why not give people a chance to bring that up themselves if they care about it, rather than making your interests the priority?

    • I think some people use it as a conversation starter. I do. I understand where you are coming from, being one of those brides who did envision her dress since she was young. One good question to ask that was mentioned in the article was the couple’s vision for the day. I have also asked that before and if the bride is wearing a dress that correlates to the theme. If I’m corrected that its not a dress, then cool. I don’t think talking about fashion is bad, I think its our reaction to it. No matter the fashion or the wedding itself, I don’t think its ever right to discourage someone’s dream for their day.

  12. This is how I feel about everything about our wedding. I am sick of being asked vapid questions that just make me feel crap that I haven’t got the same level of enthusiasm for my own wedding than those asking.
    I got my dress almost two years ago, and started getting it altered last month. It’s not going to be the same beast when it comes back, so unless the person asking is one of my sewing-savvy friends my eyes glaze over a bit before answering that set of questions yet again.

    I just want it all to be over and have a nice burgundy tea dress hanging in my wardrobe – that I may be able to mock-up into something more steampunk…

  13. Man, this. Also, be aware many people at the end of the process (like myself) would like to talk about anything BUT wedding if at all possible. We are humans. We are getting married because we love one another. There are lots of wedding-centric things my FH and I are over-the-moon about. Many of them are also not wedding related. Ask us about our new brewing setup. Ask us about our bikes. Ask us about our new place. ANYTHING BUT WEDDING right now.

    Today, I am having a huge, important meeting about my dissertation so I can move forward and submit a draft and become a doctor. It’s kind of important to me. Kind of WAY more important to me than my wedding. Likewise, I have a big job interview on Wednesday. Also WAY more important than the wedding still 60 days out. But no one wants to talk about that. NO ONE.

    • I am 100% with you, surlygirl! I work at a hospital in East Africa without adequate supplies or often even electricity and my life is consumed either with my medical students or my patients. I am so, so passionate about all the new ways I’m trying to excite and engage my students and the health care worker trainings I’ve been developing. So, honestly, I am NOT putting any time into wedding planning beyond that which is absolutely necessary, nor do I feel inspired to talk about it. Not that I’m not looking forward to it, of course, but there are more important things in life! It’s so nice to hear from another person who empathizes with the passion for so many different things and would so love to be talking about THOSE things instead of table linens 😛

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