Psychology and wedding dresses

Why?

I bought my wedding dress this weekend! I thought it would be an anxiety-ridden, tempestuous, stressful occasion, but the 5th dress I tried on was simply the one. It was the exact opposite of what I had in mind, but as soon as you start trying on those frilly frocks something switches in your head. I knew I found the right dress when I impulsively held my hands up for a bridal bouquet as soon as my consultant zipped up the dress.

You might ask why didn’t I try on more dresses? I’m sure if I tried on every single dress in every bridal shop in Manhattan I could have found one I liked more, but would that make me more happy about my final decision?

Psychologist Barry Shwartz argues that more choices don’t make us happier it only leads to indecision and anxiety. Here are some of the reasons:

Opportunity cost: whenever you make a choice you’re giving up all the potential options that you had before making that choice. Instead of gaining something you’re losing the perceived “freedom” of indecision. The more options, the more you’re giving up by making a decision.

Escalation of expectation:  the more choices you have, the more you expect to find exactly what you want or need. This is where Barry makes his famous quote, “the secret of happiness is low expectations.” We expect that if we find exactly what we’re looking for it will make us happy, but if we’re not already happy nothing we find will meet our expectations.

Responsibility of failure: if you only have one option, and it doesn’t satisfy you, you can blame the store, or the world or whatever. But if you have every possible option right in front of you, and you choose one that doesn’t satisfy you 100% you have no one to blame but yourself. That’s a lot of pressure.

I knew that trying on a thousand dresses would only make me more critical and more stressed out. I’m very happy with my decision, and even more happy that the decision-making process was easy and fun.

Now here’s some practical advice for brides to be. If you are going to try on dresses any time soon, here are some tips:

  1. Try on multiple styles (princess, mermaid, column, etc.). You’re going to go in thinking you want one thing but seeing the effect of a different style of dress might completely change your mind.
  2. Don’t go with a lot of people. I went with my friend and my mom. The more people you have, the less they’ll have in common – just try to get six people to agree on a restaurant.
  3. Get feedback on your personality. When I was choosing between two dresses, my mom and friend described how they saw me – romantic and whimsical. Once I heard that and agreed with it, I knew that the other dress was gorgeous, but it wasn’t me.

14 comments

  1. Very good advise. I remember when I was looking for a dress I had my heart set on a sheath dress but when I look at myself it one it just didn’t feel completely me. Can’t wait for your guys wedding, have decided on a date?

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    1. Thanks! I’m sorry you don’t get to work with that many level-headed women, but I’m sure it must be rewarding to have people wearing your creations on their most important day!

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  2. I’ve been away so I probably missed out on congratulating you on your engagement. So “Congrats!” and may God bless you both with a life long and happy. I think you have just the right mind set. This whole wedding thing should be fun. Go for the fun and avoid the stress. Better to have fond memories than to say the whole thing went by as a blur of activity.

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