Say Yes to the Dress is an 18-season American reality TV series on TLC that follows the bridal appointments at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan. It profiles individual brides as they go about choosing their dream dress with the help of consultants. The show’s widespread popularity has encouraged a variety of regional spinoffs, such as Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta and Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids, to name a few. Although from the outside it may seem like a trivial concept for a show, Say Yes to the Dress holds far more nuance if you look a bit closer. The show transformed my perception of brides and gave me a newfound respect for the work that goes into preparing to get married.
People often criticize reality TV shows as trash, and the genre of television often inspires visceral and polarized reactions. I, however, am of the opinion that reality TV does have its merits. Although occasionally trashy, these shows can also showcase genuine moments and offer good entertainment.
Say Yes to the Dress highlights how important and powerful choosing a wedding dress can actually be. This experience often reveals a bride’s desires for her wedding and her future, as well as her insecurities and doubts. Themes of body image issues, family strife, and difficulties with working with a budget show the underlying intricacies of wedding planning. Overall, choosing a wedding dress serves as a poignant moment of reflection for both the bride and her bridal party.
Going beyond the dress
One of my favorite aspects of SYTTD is that, even though it focuses primarily on bridal fashion, it goes on to explore issues and feelings that lie beneath the surface of the show’s premise. The show looks at the emotional states of the brides, and the consultants ensure that finding a dress is a cathartic and transformative experience for the bride that goes beyond just looking good. It’s about having an emotional connection to the dress, feeling confident and sexy, and leaving feeling excited about walking down the aisle. In many ways, the show is a mixture of life coaching, therapy, and wedding styling.
Granted, there are some episodes that seem a bit more superficially-motivated. Yes, there are some bridezillas. There are family disagreements and friend drama. However, on the whole, the show creates complex portraits of brides preparing for their wedding days. Even the most difficult brides have some reasoning behind their pickiness and struggle to choose a dress. Often, the underlying causes are more complex than they appear on the surface.
The show maps the path of each bride’s respective journey to better understand herself, her wants, and her needs. Often brides come in with very specific ideas of the dress they want, only to realize over the course of their appointment that they may need to open their up their minds to other options. SYTTD highlights the value of trying on and testing out new styles and well as being flexible and receptive to experimentation. In the end, SYTTD isn’t as much about fashion as it is about personal growth.
Brides discover their inner confidence and come to realize that the dress is ultimately their decision. I’ve found myself deeply moved and even close to crying at times while watching this show. To see their families’ and friends’ reactions to brides finding their perfect dress is such a wholesome moment to witness. The show feels like a window into an intimate moment of a person’s life, and deserves a lot more credit than it is given. It shows us, time and time again, that fashion and style are about far more than what’s on the outside.