"It Only Happens Once!" // Sales Tactics Used to Get You to Say "Yes" to the Dress

A phrase I heard repeatedly when I worked as a bridal consultant was, “it only happens once!” Bridal consultants and guests frequently used this phrase when a bride thought twice about a purchase.

For example, let’s say a bride was trying to decide whether or not she should wear a veil. A bridal consultant could then reply with, “It’s your wedding, it only happens once! You’ll only be wearing the veil a short time, and it’ll make such an impact.” In this case, the bridal consultant is appealing to a bride's emotional desire to both look fantastic on her wedding day and to plan a successful and memorable party. This sales tactic is often times effective, as the desire to plan the perfect wedding is the fuel that keeps the wedding industry alive.

Although this may be true, I refused to say any iteration of “it only happens once!” because it could potentially ostracize any divorcés. Additionally, and most importantly, the phrase contributes to the idea that marriage as an aspirational goal.

Whenever I overheard that phrase used, I internally cringed and wondered if this could possibly be the bride's second, or third, wedding. It’s important to realize that the bride’s guests could as well be divorced. The bride's stepmother may be present, or her newly divorced aunt may be the one purchasing her wedding dress. Similarly, the phrase also made me uncomfortable because my parents, and my partner’s parents, are divorced.

Divorce happens, and it needs to be discussed frankly. Pretending divorce doesn't exist outside the walls of a bridal boutique is disingenuous, and unrealistic.

Marriage does not only happen once. Some folks marry a second or third time, or they don’t remarry after their first divorce. Expecting bridal boutiques to be marital bliss purveyors is an unrealistic expectation. Inclusivity cannot exist in a vacuum, so we must acknowledge divorce and let it take up space in the wedding industry, including bridal boutiques.

Now, I don’t encourage striking up a conversation on divorce rate statistics the next time a bride inquires about wedding dress materials. Instead, a better approach would be to no longer reply to brides with “it only happens once.” This phrase idealizes marriage, and furthermore perpetuates it as an intrinsic goal for women to achieve.

Divorce happens, and it needs to be discussed frankly. Pretending divorce doesn't exist outside the walls of a bridal boutique is disingenuous, and unrealistic.

Once wedding professionals stop romanticizing the wedding industry, we will be one step closer toward creating a genuinely authentic environment for our consumers. Women, no matter their marital histories, deserve to feel unashamed of and comfortable with their relationship status. There are already enough societal pressures women combat on a daily basis regarding their choice to marry. As wedding professionals, we have the ability to create more inclusive businesses that do not need to profit off of women’s insecurities. Instead of remaining stagnant with what feels comfortable for us as wedding professionals, let's instead use our words to disrupt preconceived notions about marriage, instead of reinforcing them.

Michelle Avitia

Michelle Avitia works in Los Angeles as a bridal stylist at both The Blushing Bird in Toluca Lake, and Bride Boutique LA in Echo Park. Besides styling, Michelle is a freelance writer who writes about the wedding industry from the perspective of an intersectional feminist. She also may, or may not run an anonymous twitter account that critiques the bridal industry.