Monday, August 23, 2010


I should be worried, I guess, that one of The Kiddo's favorite shows is SAY YES TO THE DRESS. I don't let her watch it much -- mainly because I'm worried about the message it's beaming into an unformed young mind.

No offense, but what is that show (or its southern cousin, SAY YES TO THE DRESS ATLANTA) really saying? Spend tens of thousand of buckaroos on a dress you'll wear for a half-hour service? My stingy bone just can't wrap itself around that.

But we Southerners are weird enough about weddings without a show like SYTTD. I do declare, Southern girls are obsessed about THE Day from the time they're old enough to loop a towel through a headband and hum Here Comes The Bride. If we could skip the getting-hitched part and just do the wedding ceremony, I know a bunch of Southern women who'd get married a dozen times over, different dresses every time.

It is a rite of passage, complete with an arcane set of rules that are just now beginning to relax. But here are a few that are still around:

1) The bride (at least the Southern bride) wears a tiara and a white dress. Period. I don't care if she was married three times.

2) Bridesmaid dresses must, absolutely, without fail, be the ugliest thing that you as a friend of the bride will be forced to pay the earth for and never ever wear again. And they must come with dyed-to-match shoes.

3) It ain't a Southern wedding without a bolt of tulle. Or maybe two bolts.

4) People will talk and your mama will be shamed if you let your Maid of Honor talk you into letting your bridesmaids wear black. Or red. So don't go there.

5) You can get cutesy all you want with the shower invitations, but the wedding invitations better be white linen with black script.

6) Rule #5 will be waived for all graduates of SCAD -- the Savannah College of Art & Design. But then, so few of those artist types even bother with tying the knot -- wait. That sounds just a bit gossipy, no?

7) Grandma will faint in the church pew if you wear a strapless dress. But she'll get over it and be fine for the reception.

8) Wedding albums are required by southern law to include the entire newly-grafted-together clan, complete with fake grins of congenial familial love, even though most of this bunch of in-laws never met before that day and won't see each other again.

9) You should spend just slightly less on the cake than you do on the dress. And as long as it's pretty, who cares if it's edible?

10) See rule # 3.

I'd thought weddings were pretty much universal in their method of torture -- until I was writing a book about an Oregonian bridesmaid. Tawna Fenske had no clue what I meant when my Oregonian bridesmaid/heroine was griping about tulle. Tawna took me under wing and shared with me that we Southerners are a bit ... fixed in our ways when it comes to hitching people.

Now, when I see a wedding announcement that runs half a page (just about every Southern girl's lifelong ambition), going on and on about the gown featuring embellishments of embroidered lace, a sweetheart neckline and yards of heavy satin, why, I just grin and say, "Bless 'er heart," and then ... say a quick prayer that The Kiddo won't be so fixated.


Jessica Lemmon said...

Ah, tulle. I had the tulle. TONS of it. My bridesmaids' dresses were burgandy & navy, but still, I think, adorable. And my invite was white with an embossed Cinderella carriage and horses on the bottom with, I'm afriad, blue script.

I love the list of Southern brides, isn't it funny how traditions are different even a few states away???

Kelly Breakey said...

My husband and I got married while living over seas. There really was a method to the madness. No family was present. That sounds mean? Okay, I can live with that.

We spend exactly $235.00 on our wedding and reception. $35.00 of that was for the license and the rest was for the food and drinks we served at our house warming party the same evening. We didn't tell anyone we were getting married so no one would feel the need to bring a gift.

We rung in our new married life with thirty of our closest friends over BBQ ribs and coolers full of cold beer. It was one of the best parties I ever hosted.

Summer said...

Aw, now I feel left out. I was a Southern bride, but I bucked every single tradition. I got married in champagne (the color, not the drink), not a lick of tulle to be found (it was actually a bridesmaid dress). My maid of honor was the only attendant, and I let her wear one of her own cute dresses. We had a very small, private wedding in my in-laws' backyard with immediate family only, so I guess that's the difference. :)

I can't stand to watch SYTTD--when one girl's veil costs more than my entire wedding did...just makes me sick. :)

Lydia Kang said...

This was so funny to read. I've never been to a Southern wedding, so I was fascinated by what you wrote!

Tawna Fenske said...

I thought about you the other day when I realized the number of weddings I've been to where the bride was either barefoot or in flip-flops/sneakers faaaaaar exceeds the number I've been to where she wore heels. Even the frou-frou formal brides seem to like to make a statement with their footwear (or lack thereof). Perhaps this is a uniquely Oregon thing.

I'm with grandma on the aversion to strapless wedding dresses, since I think that style is so unflattering on most women, but I haven't seen a wedding dress that WASN'T strapless for ages. It seems that's all you see in bridal stores these days.

Since we got married at halftime at a Portland Trailblazer game, I can hardly comment on "traditional" wedding ceremonies and attire!


out of the wordwork said...

I love the show but make sure I watch it with my girls so I can reinforce that if, should they decide to take the plunge, there is no freaking way in heaven that their mother will spend five thousand dollars on a dress for them!@!!

And I'm with Tawna - what is it with the strapless gowns everywhere? Some women should just keep their upper arms hidden from the world.

Cynthia Reese said...

Jessica, at least you had the tulle! But my, my, I know a few folks who would have tsked over any picture on the invite. I say, if it floats your boat, and you liked it, that's fine by me!

Kelly, I KNEW there was a reason I liked you! I got married in a tablecloth -- yeah. That's right. A tablecloth ... my mom made my dress out of satin and appliques cut from a lace tablecloth.

Summer, we must be of like-minded sorts! I applaud your frugality!

Lydia, we Southerners are a piece of work. If you think we do weddings up, you should see how we do funerals!

Tawna, the inspiration for this column was a snippet of a SYTTD episode where the bride wore blue stilettos ... GASP! Horrors! (Oh, and a strapless dress!)

Nelsa and Tawna, y'all are gonna have to take The Kiddo in hand ... she wants a strapless dress. Alas, I think her Asian heritage is going to make her flat as a flitter on top, which is not a good body type for a strapless. In fact, who DOES look good in a strapless dress??

Anonymous said...

Haha! I like this post.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of the strapless dress. My friend is a wedding photographer and every bride for the last eight-ten years is wearing a strapless dress. If you have any flesh in the upper body at all, this just showcases it and looks awful from all angles. And the emphasis on showing cleavage???!! Yikes, tasteless and tacky. I can't imagine shoving my boobs in every relative's face. Corset style? Ugly. I have a guilty fascination with SYTTD but have it recorded so I can zip through all the useless parts, which is 90%. That show teaches women NOTHING about how to pick a dress and what to look for in terms of quality construction and flattering style. But it's fun to laugh at.