Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Q & A: Judgy People

Reader Question: Although my fiancé and I are not going to be having a $2000 wedding (so awesome!) we are definitely trying to cut costs as well as keep things meaningful to us. After my sister (Maid of honour extraordinaire!) sent me some information, I decided to try to find a dress at The Bride's Project. I love the idea of all of that dress money going towards a good cause, and am also planning to re-donate the dress after I buy it. My issue is that most people I have mentioned buying a used dress to end up looking like they smelled limburger cheese! I know I am doing the right thing for me but I can't help feeling upset and self-conscious when people react this way. What is so disgusting about buying a dress that was worn once? Or for that matter, more than once? I know you went a non-traditional route with many things. How did you get over the reactions of other people?

And this is why I continue to write about weddings, even though I got married over a year ago. They are such a microcosm for the rest of our lives. All the problems, joys, complexities, and possibilities wrapped up in weddings are the same things we face in life.

How do we make choices that align with our authentic selves and have the courage to follow those choices, despite judgment from other people?

I think the first question to tackle is why we care. Why does it make us "upset and self-conscious" when people respond negatively to decisions we've made, even when we know we've done "the right thing" for us?

I'm guessing it's because we're social beings. We thrive within communities. We want to be valued, loved, and appreciated by those around us. That's why it hurts so much when we receive criticism rather than support. It's natural. It's okay.

However, we ultimately have no good choice but to live the life that is most aligned with our deepest, most authentic selves. If we don't, we risk living someone else's ideal life, which is likely to leave us feeling empty and unsatisfied. Also, it's impossible to please everyone. There are so many diverse opinions out there. We'll end up running around like chickens with their [you know the rest].

I always get my deepest joy from following what feels most right for me, regardless with what others say. It doesn't stop me from feeling hurt or despondent when someone judges me, but it helps give me the courage I need to forge my own path.

It also helps to find a community of like-minded folks who do support your alternative decisions.

Spending less money on a dress you'll wear once in a way that is better for the environment (less production) and the world (money goes toward a good cause and then you re-donate it) is awesome. Hands-down. There are a whole lot of us out there who not only support your decision but celebrate it!

Best wishes to you for an authentic wedding and an authentic life!

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megan said...

props to you! i think it's awesome. i just bought my dress and my sister said it lacked a wow factor and that it's cute but she wouldn't have chosen it. that sucked to hear. although i know she's crazy bc it's absolutely beautiful and makes me feel like a bride.

also, i was talking to my mom last night because our pastor up and quit on us, so i told her i'm thinking of having a friend officiate. her response? "oh, you don't want to do that. i thought you wanted a real wedding with a preacher." so, naturally, i had to explain to her that a marriage performed by a pastor or a judge is a marriage nonetheless, and why on God's green earth would i want to get married by someone who doesn't know me or my fiance? she kept trying to suggest people and pastors- who still don't know me- so i finally told her it's my decision and she can support it or not. it felt good to stand up for myself. i suggest you stand up for your good decisions and take pride in that stance.

SingColleen said...

I shop almost exclusively in second-hand stores (for casual clothes, why buy new? and for formal stuff, why pay full price?). I get the same disgusted look from people when they ask where I got whatever I'm wearing and I tell them.

It's hard not to feel self-conscious when people judge you for something. But remember that they probably haven't given much thought to why you would make such a choice. If you have the time and the inclination, use their reaction as an opportunity to educate them about The Brides Project or the slave labor practices and carbon footprint that results from buying everything new. You can do this without sounding preachy by prefacing it with something like, "as you know, I (and FH) are very concerned about issues such as.....and our wedding is a perfect opportunity to use our money to honor those values."

However you handle it, know that you're doing the right thing for you, and there is a rich online community that supports the same values as you do.

Sarah said...

Shock 'em with a fabulous used dress! I think part of it is perception-- they're thinking horrible poofy heavy ugly old dresses, I'm sure.

stee said...

why does it matter what other people say or think?

can't you be quietly and anonymously charitable and not announce it? or are you secretly hoping people think you are an even better bride than the others out there because of what you did?

Jessica said...

I would just tell people that you saw the dresses and thought they were beautiful. Anyone who wants to argue with someone over their wedding dress or anything else for that matter, in my opinion, are just looking for something to be indignant about.

@stee - hundreds of people ask about the dress first when they find out a woman is engaged (which is messed up in itself). Do you want her to lie at the risk of sounding charitable?

A Los Angeles Love said...

Another major issue with wedding situations like this is that people have expectations about "the way things are done" that they've never really questioned. And most people are generally really uncomfortable when they step out of their known world. This all leads to a lot of reactionary judgement when they first hear new ideas about the way you want a wedding - a used dress, a picnic wedding, a non-religious ceremony, etc etc etc. Sometimes it's a matter of you being the bigger person and letting them get used to the idea until they like it. For example, everyone loves my non-diamond ring (now that they see it) and my mother is finally coming around to seeing the nice sides of my casual wedding ideas. It takes time and patience, and photos of your vision help. Many times, they just can't picture it, and you have a great "teaching opportunity" if you show them pictures from Once Wed or preownedweddingdresses and they can shift their perceptions of what's done and what's "appropriate."

And for the people who still judge... F what they think. hold on tight with your partner, knowing what's right for you, and knowing that on your wedding day all the judgey people will forget their criticisms when they're basking in your joy.

Brittany said...

Not all of life's problems have simple solutions, but I think this one's pretty easy. Don't tell another soul where you are getting your dress or what you plan on doing with it afterward. Just say you found the perfect dress at a unique shop, and that you hope to put the dress to good use in the future. It's vague, but not an untruth. I'm sorry you've already run into these reactions, but this sort of thing happens with dresses whether you spend too little or too much, new or used, white or blue. Everyone has different ideas of what a dress should cost and what you should do with it, so be vague! And tell those snotty people that 1) it's not their dress, so why do they care? and 2) if they'd like you to buy something brand new, you'd gladly let them pay for it! But you are otherwise not interested in spending more on a dress than one would on rent or food or some other necessity.

Best of luck!

turtlebird said...

GREAT advice, Sara. It always helps to look at the root of things - in this case why it hurts to feel our ideas are rejected by others. I especially love what you said about weddings being a microcosm of our lives - it's so true that in planning my wedding I've had to battle demons that previously had been hidden behind some curtain in my brain. It has helped me clarify what is important to me, but more significantly, it has helped me feel strong in my convictions, and more properly equipped to handle criticism.
Stay strong ladies (and gentlemen!!)!!

meag said...

I got the same reaction from some people whom I am really close to. It's really discouraging and hurts my feelings. Lesson learned: don't mock any elements of other weddings - some things are just too special for others' opinions.

Marina said...

Honestly? You get used to it.

It wouldn't work at all for me to try and hide something like that, unless it's with, like, someone at the grocery store who I'll never see again. It just doesn't make sense to me to hide something that makes me happy and is about my values.

Plus, it's an opportunity for personal growth. ;) During the wedding process I got really used to ignoring the shocked/disgusted looks and just being really enthusiastic and happy about whatever I was talking about. There's a big difference between how people respond to "Oh... I'm buying a used dress online..." and "Oh, I found the most amazing dress on the awesomest website! It's so beautiful, and plus I know the money is going towards a great cause! Isn't that fabulous?"

And even if they do continue to be rude and question your decisions (as closer friends and family tend to do) I feel like that's a good opportunity to non-defensively open up the topic of how weddings can be an expression of your values in day-to-day life. Why do they think you should have a new dress? Why is the bride supposed to be a princess? Why are you supposed to spend a lot of money on this event? Those are all questions I like thinking and talking about.

heather said...

The funny thing is if you call the dress "used" people judge negatively, but call it "vintage" and suddenly it's cool.

It's your choice and I personally think it's a great one! Good luck!

love-v said...

I think that as long as you are happy the looks on people's faces will fade away. I also agree that telling people is all about the delivery. I bought my dress on Craigslist from a happily married bride and was so excited about the amazing deal I got. I told people and bragged about being able to afford a wonderful dress. I also bragged about paying it forward and helping another bride afford her dream dress.

Some people have the silly notion that things are better if they cost more.

krisTimon said...

I think as becoming brides we are also becoming and defining our own character, by doing "the right thing". Something I realized lately is, "Why am I seeking approval from others for MY+my FH's day?" In getting wed, we are creating a new bond, building our own family upon the foundations we were raised on. It would be great if my loved ones agreed with my choices of dress, food, etc., but ultimately this wedding is a celebration of a new couple sharing their joy with those around them- no matter what form that joy may take!

CRR said...

Heather is totally right - if you want approval you need to phrase your decision in terms that people understand. 'Second hand' sounds bad for most people. But 'vintage', 'from ebay', 'from the oxfam bridal shop' (a charity bridal in the UK) or even 'preloved' (or 'prelucked' for wedding dresses?) sounds much better.
It's all the same thing, but it softens the blow a bit. As Sarah says, we all want approval, but also to stay true to who and what we are.
If all else fails, tell them it was half the price of a store bought, most people understand that.
But don't give up on your principles!!! It's awesome to have a preloved dress - I did too - and am going to sell it on again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone, this was my e-mail. I appreciate the advice! I've been working hard to ignore the negative and focus on the positive.

Stee, I haven't been "announcing" this to people. I've had many people ask what I am doing or where I am getting the dress, and after mentioning that I was considering this to a few people I got poor reactions. Recently I've been sticking with just telling people I have an appointment to look at dresses and avoiding saying where it's from. Though, I kind of hate that too, because I want to spread the word about such a great place!

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean...I'm doing something considered pretty unconventional and borrowing my sister-in-laws wedding dress. The Pros definitely outweigh the Cons: I love the dress, it fits perfectly, she was ecstatic to see it worn again, it's free and I'm not stuck with a dress that I paid a ton of money for that I only got to wear once. If anything, it becomes a family heirloom.

However, most people don't see it that way. The reactions I get are mostly, "Ohhh, well...that's nice and different..."

At first it worried me a little, and I tried to avoid talking about it. (I made my fiance promise not to tell his Mom at first!) But the more I thought about it, the more I love my decision and it just doesn't matter what other people think. Plus, if you tell them about it like you're really excited about it, they usually start to see it that way too.

It means Grace said...

I plan to buy my dress from the Brides Against Breast Cancer gown sale and have received many of the same reactions. But it isn't about what everyone else thinks, this will make me happy and be meaningful. I lost my grandmother to breast cancer and would love to honour her memory this way.

It is also a practical move for me. I love it because it is green, it fits my budget, I can get more dress for my money, and it is a donation to a worthy cause.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand how you feel...but I have come to learn that it is actually kind of fun to see the stunned expression on people's faces when you tell them...for example...that you bought your wedding dress on Ebay for $300.

Sometimes I feel the need to tell them that I tried on an identical dress in a shop that cost over $14,000...sometimes I don't think I need to explain myself at all.

In the end, I know (and I hope you feel the same way) that my wedding day will perfectly reflect the love and life that my fiance and I have (and we won't go broke doing it either!).

JazzWhispers said...

Used dresses are great! I'm in the middle of trying to locate me a wonderful used dress, but I have a quirky style so it's not easy! If you can do it, all the props to you!

Kristy said...

I also bought a gorgeous dress from the Bride's Project for my wedding in August :) i will be donating it back I think!!!

gee said...

Hi-- I am also in the non-profit bridal gown resale business ! Check Brides Revisited.org. We have some beautiful dresses-- One original price at $3000-- It is georgeous! Why does anyone need to know where you purchased ? You know you are supporting a great cause.

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