Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In which I want to punch a shopgirl in the face

We went bridesmaid dress shopping back in mid-March. We went to two shops. One was Columbia Bridal Boutique, and one was Betsy Robinson's.

When we showed up at Columbia Bridal Boutique, the shop girl immediately began to pepper me with questions. Like "what style do you want?" "what are your colors?" "what length were you thinking?" Beginning with "what style do you want?" when I have already told you that this is our first stop on the Bridesmaid Express Train will get me wanting to punch you. I very tensely told the girl that I didn't know what style we wanted and that's why we were here and she should talk to my girls while I sat over in that chair. Bridal Shopgirl pushed me to go look at the dresses and pick out ones I liked. I dragged my girls along, feeling irritable. I'm not sure if this particular shopgirl is just very bad at her job, or what, but another girl whose appointment was late jumped in and helped us out as we stood there, surrounded by taffeta and looking clueless.

"How about I just pull some that are kind of universally flattering that everybody likes?" She suggested. I felt immediately relieved. This is how the conversation should have started when I said "I have no idea what we want." We then pulled some more, and once everybody had 4-5 dresses, they started trying on. The great thing about CBB is they let you take pictures, but out of respect for my unshowered friends who were willing to drive 2 hours to meet us at the bridal shop at 10:00am, I'm not going to show any of them.

It is not entirely the shopgirl's fault that I didn't know what I was doing as far as "how to speak bridesmaid dress shopping". It had been awhile since I'd gone on an intentional bridesmaid dress shopping trip (as opposed to playing with the bridesmaid dresses while we waited for my sister to try on dresses). So I present to you Ellie's Guide To Bridesmaid Dress Shopping:

1.) Have an idea of style in mind. Here, let me give you the key words, "I think we're looking for something long, preferably A-line, and not too formal, in navy or cranberry, preferably under or around $200."
2.) Pull a bunch of dresses. Anything that suits your fancy. You have no idea what will or won't look good, so just grab a lot.
3.) Once your girls have tried on dresses, and all tried on the same ones that look good, you need to know two more key phrases, "do you have the swatch-card for this dress?" and once you have found the color you like, ask if they have a full length dress in that color - swatches are very hard to tell what the dress will really look like.
4.) Once you have found a dress that works for some of your girls, ask the salespeople to pull other dresses from that same line that will come in the same material and color and have the other girls try them on.

I really thought we could go in there and I could say "I think I want them to wear all different dresses by the same designer in the same fabric." That so did not work. I tried to express that and the salesgirl just looked at me blankly, and it worked much better to find a dress that looked good on 1-2 girls and then look for dresses from that same line.

Did anybody else have the problem that bridesmaids shopgirls do not, apparently, read wedding blogs and understand that non-matching dresses are de rigeur these days?

[ed note: I went to Bella Bridesmaid in Federal Hill and had a much less overwhelming experience.  It was nice.  Highly recommend.]  


  1. I had a bad experience at CBB when shopping for my sister's wedding a few years back. I went to the Alfred Angelo store in Glen Burnie. The service was okay. I am ordering the dresses thru Niko's Bridal in Baltimore. They're awesome (especially Jean!) and their prices for Alfred Angelo dresses were LOWER than the actual AA store!

    I have a large bridal party of 8 with girls of all different body types. I picked 4 AA dresses in the same length, same color. Two are strapless, one is a halter, and one is a high neck. I'm even *gasp* using different materials---two of the dresses are satin and two are chiffon. A lot of people think that I'm nuts and I don't care. I want my girls to look their best and I love the look of non-matchy bridesmaids.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Although I had a decent time communicating the mismatched dress concept to the place we ordered the girls' dresses from, the concept that I don't care what they're wearing never sunk in. I told the saleslady that the girls were picking their own dresses, I only cared that they be in the same color, many times but every time she pulled a new dress she would immediately come to me and ask what I thought. It's just like the guy at the suit store who assumed I would be the one to choose my fiance's suit. My fiance was standing right there, in the suit, but the salesman kept asking me first. Um, hello, I'm not the one wearing any of this clothing. I think it's proof that the whole concept of a bride who genuinely doesn't care about some aspects of her wedding is entirely lost on people who work in the wedding industry.

  4. Weird, we bought my bridesmaid dress at Columbia Bridal and had a great experience. Granted, we were only looking for one dress, and I already had my wedding dress picked out so I was looking for something to complement that.

  5. I also used Columbia Bridal and had an awesome experience. I went there the first time I looked at wedding dresses. I had no idea what I wanted. Ashley was amazing with selecting dresses for me to try on and working through my complete ignorance of which style I wanted. I ended up buying my dress from the Running of the Brides, but Columbia Bridal cleaned the dress and did all the alterations. They did not even give me a hassel for having not purchased my dress from them.

    I also ordered all my bridesmaids dresses from them. They gave great service through the whole process. I loved the fact that they have sample dresses for brides and bridesmaids that are not a size 4. You can be a normal person and try on dresses there.

  6. Maybe this isn't true everywhere, but at a lot of the bridal salons I went to, I definitely got the sense that the new-ish saleswomen are put on bridesmaids' dresses, and that you have to work your way up to selling wedding gowns. Which is to say that the women selling bridesmaids' dresses were often less knowledgeable and less professional than the bridal consultants.

    Also, I echo CW's point that a lot of popular blog trends don't seem to have made their way into the real world! I have still never seen a candy buffet in person, even though they're everywhere on the blogs.

  7. This is why I'm totally avoiding bridesmaids dresses altogether. But those sound like good rules for ladies going that route.

  8. We are having non-matching dresses too. (and a candy buffet)I picked out 3 dresses at David's and my 6 ladies will pick the dress they like the best. I think on the blogs we are able to see hundreds of weddings a day as opposed to the few we attend a year. Which is why the trends are not overdone or overwhelming in "real life".

  9. These are good things to know! My four bridesmaids are picking their own dresses. I told them, "yellow." Now that I think about it, probably not the most helpful thing to say. I sent them some pictures and links to what I thought would be appropriate, but I always ended by saying, "wear what makes you feel comfortable and beautiful." I guess I didn't realize how everyone (even the girl at CBB) turns to the bride for instruction. (Guess I need to become more comfortable with that.) I'll definitely use your tips to talk with my bridesmaids when providing them some direction.

  10. I actually had a really good experience at the Alfred Angelo store in Glen Burnie. Granted I only went in there with the MOH and MOB. I picked a color and a length from AA's line and was using my MOH as the base line. I told this to the saleslady and that I wanted the bridesmaids to have whatever dress suited their body type within those parameters and she seemed to understand. My sister, the MOH, actually asked me what I thought repeatedly whereas the saleslady didn't. She even worked with my mom to find her a dress.

  11. I bought my girls dresses from a chain store for $100 each - thus avoiding this nightmare. But I had plenty of nightmare with my wedding dress - so I can totally sympathize with wanting to punch shopgirl!