You might remember Rick from his own giant sci-fi rock ‘n' roll offbeat wedding. This is an excerpt from his book Man Nup: A Groom's Guide to Heroic Wedding Planning.
The interplay between men planning weddings and the selection of the bride's wedding dress isn't fully explored. It's undiscovered country. In reading traditional, female-focused wedding planning books, there's not a lot of discussion about the men when choosing the wedding dress. But as you are planning the wedding, you'll need to figure out how to be useful, and keep things on track, without being too controlling about a topic that, by nature, is only peripherally related to you.
The wedding dress isn't a thing you can go and buy for your bride. At best, you can gamely accompany your betrothed on a journey fraught with emotional peril as they grapple with their hopes, dreams, long-dormant childhood fantasies, existential questions about femininity and the meaning of the color white (blame Queen Victoria – she's the one who popularized the color. Before her, wedding dresses were all sorts of colors). And that's the best of cases. I'm really not trying to imply that women are neurotic. I don't blame them. The whole concept is, prima facie, kinda screwy. First off, it's expensive as hell — needlessly so. You pay an arm and a leg for something you're only going to use once. Then there are all the very real concerns about being judged solely on your looks, which — let's face it — sucks. Any right-thinking person would find the whole situation somewhat appalling. “Oh, let me go spend potentially thousands of dollars on a thing that will only get me judged, then head to the waste bin.” Yeah, sign me up.
Any person who loves their significant other would rightly feel an urge to help someone out when they're confronted when faced with such ghastly circumstances. Thus it will hurt to hear that there's only so much you can do.
The good news is that there are some things you can do. Should she need it, you can help in the same manner that you do when the two of you are out shopping, or when she's getting ready for a cocktail party. You can sit patiently and say you like this part of that dress. You can take part in long conversations about whether it's appropriate to wear white to weddings in this day and age, and how cool it is that the Chinese get to wear red. We can also tell our bride that they don't need to spend a bunch of money. We can reassure them that we love them as they are, they are beautiful, and you are totally okay with it if they want to spend $10 on a dress off of eBay and be done with it. Never bat an eye. Never deviate from this message. It will probably only help 10 or 20 percent, but it's absolutely worth saying. It should have the added benefit of being true, because, honestly, what's wrong with you if it's not?
If you're blessed with wealth, be warned: open-ended budgets on wedding dress shopping can be tyranny. It can seem like it would be quite helpful not being bound by fiduciary constraints, yet in fact quite the opposite turns out to be true. Like all things wedding planning related, you'll probably go over your budget a smidge (remember the 5% guideline in making your overall budget). But knowing that you absolutely cannot go over, for example, $1,000 puts whole groups of dresses and whole designer lines out of your spouse's reach, and shuts down whole lines of paranoid inquiry. She might buy an $1100 dress, but having a budget number will keep her from looking too hard at the ten thousand dollar dresses. There is freedom in constraints.
Have a frank conversation with your future spouse about how much you both feel comfortable spending — and stick to it. And above all, remember that that number can be as low as you want. There is no shame.
There will be times she will freak out. This is to be expected. When this happens, offer emotional support, and try not to escalate the situation. There are probably going to be times where some incomprehensible fashion accessory or dress part is causing massive emotional distress and it will literally make no sense to you. You might not even understand the actual physics of the problem. Be supportive. Be understanding. It's a monumentally stressful situation. Some women find the idea of getting up in front of everyone they know and being judged on their looks as rather terrifying. Honestly, that seems perfectly understandable. Beyond these things, you can but get out of the way. If you are artful and talented at offering sartorial advice, you can venture to do so to the level you're traditionally comfortable commenting on your mate's fashion choices. Unfortunately, even this is only mildly useful.
Do remember that luckily there's a good chance she won't need your help at all. Unlike when the two of you are at home getting ready for a big night out, in this situation she has at least one other person — her maid of honor — and potentially several others, who are all too willing to help.
This was an excerpt from Rick's new book! Read more from Man Nup: A Groom's Guide to Heroic Wedding Planning.