On “Say Yes to the Dress”

Say-Yes-to-the-Dress-350x230I’ve watched almost no reality TV. I watched the finals of the first four seasons of American Idol, some scenes from the two Survivor seasons my niece’s husband was on, and the episodes of The Voice when a kid who went to school with my twins performed. I’ve never seen a cooking show, a home show, or a this family is completely crazy show.

Today, as part of an assignment for a journalism class I’m taking, I’m going watch two episodes of Say Yes to the Dress and live blog as I do. (Live blogging means I’ll be writing in real time as the show runs.) I picked this show because a wedding is so often part of the HEA we love in romance. I’ve read descriptions of hundreds of wedding dresses in the books but other than planning my own (I wore an altered version of my grandmother’s dress.) and going with my sister when she picked out hers, I’ve never been privy to the process.

As I began to prepare for this blog, I tried to recall memorable romance novel dresses. Do any come to mind to you? (published at 2:45)

While waiting for the show to start, I searched our site for wedding dress. Lots of hits came up but none were in reviews. My most recent memory of a wedding dress in a book was in Sonali Dev’s The Bollywood Bride. (Sonali and I talked about the fabulous saris in the book in this interview.) (published at 2:58)

And, OK, the show has begun. I can tell that the show’s set in Manhattan because they just showed a shot of a sign for 42nd Street and of course there’s only one of those in the US, right?

Today’s show is about Melissa who has worked at the boutique for the past year. I’m a little confused why she’d have a show about choosing a dress–hasn’t she figured that out by now? She plans to spend 10K or more on her dress. She says she wants a dress by Panina. (That turned out to be Pnina Tornai.)

Melissa apparently has an “incredible body” and so she looks great–they say–in the first dress. That dress looked very very puffy to me and had a huge–the size of a toddler–bow on the side.

OK, so maybe the show follows two brides? Now’s there’s a woman named Stella whose Greek family is there with her. Her dad wants her to wear a dress that makes her look like a Greek god. Athena? 2ac20ca2-956a-4efb-a248-b96872838879_560_420

This confuses me. (published at 3:07)

I wonder who watches this show? Women of all ages? The ads have been for the Peanuts movie, Sketchers shoes, The Mattress Store, and a slim line of Depends.  (published at 3:12)

Dress Two for Melissa looks great on her but she says it’s not how she pictured herself as a bride.

Switch to Stella, the Greek bride, who is now wearing “an avant garde wedding dress” that has a crazy crazy back. Her sister said it looked like a mullet: Work in the front and party at the back. The dress was rejected quickly. Stella now loves Dress Three and now there is a theme. Stella’s family and the bridal consultant differ in opinions. And, for whatever reason, Stella can’t pick a dress she likes unless her rather bitchy sister likes it too. Poor Stella. If she were a romance heroine, she’d straighten her shoulders and tell her sister, “Sis, this is my day and I need to pick my own dress.” and the sister would realized she was just jealous and the wedding would happen and the sister would drown her sorrows and end up sleeping with the groom’s best friend–he’s a fireman?–and a new romance would begin. (published at 3:18)

Melissa is trying on her third dress which cost 26K. 26K!!!!! It’s quite a dress–very fitted through the hips and then a huge skirt made up of a bunch of roses. Melissa loves this dress and, despite that it’s 16K more than her budget (if I were her groom to-be, I’d worry about this). Melissa can, however, get the employee discount which they don’t tell us what it is. If it’s 50% off, which I doubt, it would be 13K which is, I guess, better.

Now there’s a third bride who is marrying a guy named Ralph in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale I used to drive by when I went to work.

And, we’re back to Stella. So, the wedding consultant has decided the answer to the family/Stella problem is to let the family pick Stella’s dress. I now feel really sorry for Stella. (published 3:23)

I had no idea there were so many reality shows. This is the TLC channel. I’ve seen ads for a show about a very overweight woman’s love life, a show about a family with seven kids, a show called Sister Wives–is this about sisters who marry brothers?– and a show about a coach.

And we’re back with Carly, the bride who is there just for her fitting. This is another dress with a huge bottom. Is that the look this year? Carly and her mom are in an argument over whether or not Carly should wear a veil. Again, it seems weird to me that the bride isn’t the decider.

Stella is trying on a dress her family picked out for her. Stella loves it because it makes her family so happy.  The bridal consultant just said “Family knows best.” And Stella said “Yes.” This one only costs 2600. That seems wildly reasonable. The dress makes Stella look a big dumpy if you ask me, but Stella says she’s happy. I want to send her Jill Shalvis books.

Carly overruled her mom about the veil, though. So, that’s one sane bride out of three.

And that’s the first show. The appeal of this is still escaping me. (published at 3:29)

We’re in the bridal salon on 42nd Street. There are three bride here who don’t have an opinion on what they want. The first girl named Farrah who has brought five women to help her. She wants to look as perfect as possible. Her friends say Farrah is very picky. Farrah says her price range in 2K. She’s marrying groom Jose who she loves because “he can put up with me.” The bridal consultants find Farrah a challenge because all she says is what she doesn’t like.

So, we’re now with Stephanie who knows just what she wants. Stephanie has brought her mother and her mother in law to be. Brave woman. Stephanie’s price point is between 3K and 5K. She’s paying for her own dress. She wants to look “vintage glam.” Stephanie is first trying on a dress she loves parts of but just doesn’t know. Apparently Stephanie has a dream dress but isn’t sure it’s right for her so she’s trying on other dresses. If this theme of helplessness in the face of the dress choice is a constant on the show, the show would drive me crazy. (published 3:37)

Stephanie is now trying on what she hopes was is the dress of her dreams. It’s not. She says it makes her feel matronly. It’s not the dress.

Farrah is decisive–she’s yet to try on a single dress because she hates them all. She’s a tough candidate. They talk her into trying on a dress she dislikes. She says it looks too wedding like. I like Farrah. She shows her friends Dress One just because why? She tries on Dress Two which she doesn’t think is “ugly.” Her friends like it sorta.

Stephanie is now trying on other dresses. Dress Three has a skirt made of feathers with a very embellished bodice. First Stephanie loves it. Then, she wonders if it’s too much and starts crying. Crying! I think I misunderstood the point of this show. I thought it would be to show viewers brides they’d be happy for. Now I think it’s to show brides we can feel superior to. Not only are most of these women unable to think for themselves, they’re spending a small fortune to do so.  (published 3:48)

We’re back to Stephanie and her tears. Her friends tell her it’s the perfect dress for her. Stephanie says yes to the dress which is 5300. We’re done with her which makes me glad.

Now we have a bride with Leila who is from Alaska. She’s gay! There are two brides. Stephanie says they’ve come to NYC to marry because they can’t in Alaska. (This show must be from several years ago.) Only Leila is trying on wedding dresses. Leila’s first dress was hideous and rejected by all. Dress Two is also a no-go.

And here’s Farrah whose look the wedding consultant feels he’s gotten. Will Farrah agree? The camera pans away. And it’s an ad for Sister Wives which is apparently a show about a polygamist family. Isn’t that illegal? How can there be a show? (published 3:54)

Farrah likes this dress somewhat. Her lack of enthusiasm is noticeable. Her friends are thrilled–they are ready to move on. Farrah is buying this dress because it will be easy to accessorize. Huh.

Leila still doesn’t have a dress. (Is it weird that Leila is a bride but not Stephanie?) Leila finds a dress she loves. They show her and Stephanie getting married at the Empire State Building. Stephanie looks glam in a tux. Out of all the brides I watched today, Leila, the is the only one who picked her dress without significant input from others. Maybe it’s more a right of passage for straight brides to have an entourage who weigh in? (published at 4:03)

And I’m done. Say Yes to the Dress didn’t do a thing for me. I’m all for marriage and happy brides but on this show the emphasis on an expensive dress makes getting married seem so commercial. Is there a reality show that is genuinely romantic?

I did go back and find the pictures of some of the brides. These two episodes were from Season Eight in 2012.

(I spelled Lela’s name wrong!)

Lela and Stephanie.


Stephanie (of the feathered dress)


Farrah (without her accessories)


Stella (Would Athena wear this?)say-yes-802-stella-aronis-1

Melissa (this is the dress but not her)


I think all the brides would have been better served by Jenny, the wedding dress designer in Kristan Higgin’s latest If You Only Knew. Certainly I enjoyed reading that book more than I enjoyed this show!


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Jane Dormen
Jane Dormen
05/19/2016 10:19 am

I found episodes of Say yes to Dress on dailymotion to share you girls !

here is the channel to watch episodes ; dailymotion.com/phy-her2015

Enjoy it :)

10/29/2015 2:08 pm

I have watched this show off and on for years but recently gave up on it. When it first started it was truly about women who just came in to Kleinfelds to buy a dress. Many were local women from NY whose mother and grandmother had also bought theirs there over the years. As it became well known, it turned into the crazy show and an ad for certain designers. They started culling either the nuttiest brides with the largest budgets, wildest entourages or women with very sad stories like cancer survivors or ones whose future husbands were soldiers or injured. Celebrity guests from other shows on the network like the crazy, obnoxious Michelle Duggar and crew showed up looking for a””modern modest”” dress, *gag*. Now unless you are looking for a crazy themed dress, a dress that costs $20k or more, you have a “”story”” or you are celeb related you don’t make it on the show. I have also noticed the same few dresses chosen over the whole season by the same designers. It’s a shame that they turned a fun little show into a circus, but that must be what the audience wants.

10/26/2015 4:57 am

Actually this program is broadcasted in Europe, too. And I’ve watched it and its related program based in Atlanta a few times.
Good to know, that real American woman are probably not like that.
What struck me as odd (maybe it would be interesting to have international comments for your studies?)
– The brides shown are really very young. Especially the Atlanta ones are most likely under 25, some are barely 20
– most if the budgets are to my mind rather large. What is especially mind boggling to me is the fact that you have to fork out the money for brides maid dresses as well. That’s so not done in Germany or Switzerland (at least not yet, might change with all these TV shows)
– the amount of people present at a lot of these dress searches is immense. When I chose a dress for my wedding I took my mother and one friend along. That’s it. (But then I didn’t have a dozen bridesmaids ;). And I have been to a few dress searches with friends. Usually there was the bride and 2 more people.
– the wedding dresses themselves look rather more elaborate than what is the norm here. And there is definitely far more choice, they seem to have 100s if not 1000s on dresses on offer. The shops I’ve been to maybe had up to 100.
– I actually like some of the choices that are made on these shows by the aassistants. It may not always the “”best dress”” which is chosen, but they usually manage to find one, that is flattering. Even if the bride in question is somewhat challenging figurewise. Watching this has actually helped me to figure our what kind of evening dress would work for me (I have a challenging figure myself).

Dabney Grinnan
Dabney Grinnan
Reply to  Kat
10/26/2015 8:51 am

Americans who can afford to do so often spend crazy amounts on weddings. They’re a huge business here.

10/26/2015 4:49 am

I don’t do reality shows either and I’m not sure we have one like thus over here. I’d be screaming at the TV at the absolutely INSANE amounts of money these women are prepared to spend on a dress they will wear for ONE day!

10/26/2015 12:45 am

Eek! I think I was happier not knowing that this show even existed.

Sheri Cobb South
Sheri Cobb South
10/26/2015 12:05 am

Dabney, you might want to contact historical author Valerie Bowman. She was featured on the Atlanta edition of this show–apparently the folks who select the brides liked the idea of a romance writer getting married. From what I recall from her Facebook posts, she and her family were dismayed to see that the segments were edited to make her sister appear the “”bad guy.”” So yes, these shows thrive on discord, and if they don’t get enough, they’re not above manufacturing it themselves.

Dabney Grinnan
Dabney Grinnan
Reply to  Sheri Cobb South
10/26/2015 8:52 am

I would be curious to know what’s in it for the bride’s and their families. Do they get a discount?

Sheri Cobb South
Sheri Cobb South
Reply to  Dabney Grinnan
10/26/2015 10:25 am

I don’t think Valerie ever mentioned it; if she did, I don’t remember. I’m sure she thought the exposure would boost her book sales, and I believe she did see an increase, at least after the first show.

10/25/2015 9:32 pm

I’ve seen this show several times and it really makes me cringe more often than not.

maggie b.
maggie b.
10/25/2015 7:16 pm

I think it’s pretty obvious the only one with taste is Lela. :-) Maybe that’s why it was so easy for her to choose a dress? She’s obviously clothed herself before. I don’t think Stella’s dress is very flattering. I like Stephanie’s feathered dress too but she will have to be very careful with how she accessorizes. The rose dress is lovely in itself I’m just not sure how flattering it would be on most people.

I don’t watch much reality TV either but based on what I’ve read the drama (can’t pick a dress, fighting with family etc.) is par for the course.