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

Guest post by Madaline
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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?

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

  1. 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.

  2. 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…

  3. 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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