I am not, at the moment, in the market for a wedding dress. (Certainly not until I lose this Easter weight. Hello, Jelly Beans!) However, I AM currently in the market for crying, consternation, and calamity at the hands of a single article of clothing — which is why I spend a lot of time watching Wedding Dress television. For those of you who don’t know/have lives/value your dignity, Wedding Dress TV is a burgeoning new genre, featuring shows like: Say Yes to the Dress; Something Borrowed, Something New; Four Weddings; I Found the Gown; and Randy to the Rescue. Most of them are on TLC, which used to stand for The Learning Channel but now means The Lunatic Collective. Each show follows a woman or group of women as they decide what to wear on their wedding day, and then, inevitably, cry. Every program has its own wrinkle, perhaps the bride is seeking approval for her dress from her family and friends, or she’s deciding between a new gown and a redesigned version of her mom’s dress from years before, or she has to wrestle an angry grizzly bear to the death for a chance to win the most beautiful gown ever made. OK, I made the last one up, but give it a week and I promise Bridal Bear Battle Blastoff will be on TV somewhere.
The one thing all of these shows have in common is the pursuit of a wedding dress, and the unbelievable realities it reveals about the human spirit. Usually that reality is, like I said, crying. But also anger, jealousy, unbelievable joy, and tons and tons of snarky gay dudes. I started watching these shows at the request of my girlfriend, but soon fell in love with them all on my own. They have taught me a lot about dresses, but even more about life.
Here is a brief list of all I learned from Wedding Dress TV.
1. When it Comes to Weddings, Moms Don’t Fuck Around. In my personal favorite dress show, Something Borrowed, Something New, a young bride must chose between a sparkling new gown, or the one her mother wore on her wedding day, which gets updated by a fashion designer with excessive cleavage. Now, what you’re expecting to happen is that mom will politely say, “I just want my baby to choose a dress that makes her happy!” and then encourage her daughter to make up her own mind. But what really happens is mom says, “That little bitch better pick my fucking dress!”
OK, not exactly, because you can’t swear on The Lunatic Collective, but that’s what she’s thinking. And most times, she openly lobbies for her dress in surprisingly manipulative fashion. “Oh, I don’t know, that one looks a little tacky, don’t you think?” “You’d look better in something classic, like…my dress!” “Sure, you can pick that one, if you’re comfortable looking like something I’d find floating in a toilet.” The final decision is often tense, and full of emotion. It’s like the last scene of A Few Good Men, except instead of arguing about Code Red, Jack Nicholson yells “You’re God Damn Right I Prefer My 1973 Lace-Sleeved JC Penney Number!” And then everyone starts to cry. It’s fantastic.
2. “Looking Fine” Has Somehow Become a Wedding Priority. Don’t get me wrong, as a young, virile man lying on a couch watching TLC, I’ll take the sex appeal where I can get it. (OK, would you buy semi-virile?) But the first thing most of the brides say to the designers is “I wanna look sexy!” And then when the dress doesn’t show enough boobs and/or butts, they throw it back. Isn’t your grandma gonna be there? Is nip slip really something you wanna worry about on your wedding day?
3. Women Innately Know What Princess, A-Line, Empire, Mermaid, Trumpet, and Fit ‘n Flare mean. Men Have No Clue. You ask a three year-old girl what an Empire Dress is, she’ll tell you in a heartbeat. I’ve been watching these shows for six months and I still have no idea. To me, Fit ‘n Flare sounds like a place to buy sensible ladies’ footwear.
4. Wanna Trick a Bride Into Buying Something Stupid? Throw a Veil on Her Head. In Say Yes To The Dress Atlanta, this is called “Jacking Her Up.” Basically, they chuck a bunch of dresses at a chick and hope that she’ll pick one. If she resists, the bridal staff will grimace to the camera, put her in the dress she liked most, and say “Time to jack her up!” That means they’ll give her some earrings, put a $75 veil on her head, and inevitably, on cue, the girl starts crying and says YES to the dress. If the families were smart, they’d just buy her a veil, then go grab some jeans at Sears to fill out the outfit. Clearly the veil is all that counts.
5. “Now I Finally Realize This Wedding is Real!” You would be genuinely alarmed at the amount of women who say “The marriage didn’t seem real until I put on this dress!!” Like alarm alarmed, as in “Holy crap, somebody pull the fire alarm because these people are insane.” You’re just realizing that you’re getting married NOW?! What has it been before, a crazy booking party where you just make tons of reservations and throw money out the window? “Will you marry me?” “Sure, I mean, it’s not actually a real thing, right?” “ Well, you will eventually have to buy a dress.” “Oh crap! I better really think about this!”
6. Everybody Has a Snarky Gay Cousin. There is not a single Wedding Dress TV decision that is made without the assistance of a snarky gay cousin. They are always there, and they always have opinions. Usually they sound something like “That dress makes you look a fat Urkel.” On the rare instance when the bride is not related to a gay men, one always appears as a friend. If she doesn’t have any close gay pals, presumably she just calls up the best option. “Hey, Larry. It’s Michelle. We met at the mall last week. No. In the Food Court. Anyway…I know we’re not close, but I’m picking out my wedding dress next week, and I think I’m supposed to have a gay person there. Do you think you could make it? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s a law…”