How to spot and deal with characters in the group

When I started in bridal in the 90s it was so easy. With more brides (331,500 – down by almost a third to 239,000 in 2015) and fewer suppliers, shows, shops, magazines (only 2) and no social media it was much easier to be in bridal. All you had to do was visit Harrogate once a year, buy a few dresses (with no minimums), find premises, install a phone line, attend a few bridal fairs and wait for the brides to turn up and the money to roll in. Oh and most of them just came with Mum or close family members and bought first time!!

Thanks to the worldwide web, social media and the appeal of TV programmes with BRIDE in the title the days of a bride saying “Yes to the Dress” on her first visit accompanied only by Mum are long gone.
What is the norm is that our research driven Millennial bride has invested as much time on Pinterest and Insta as a PhD student writing their thesis!! She enjoys shopping as a pastime and 25% of Millennials (more than the 20% of Baby Boomers and 19% of Gen Xers) like to shop with friends and family according to a report from analytics firm Euclid.

So it’s not surprising that today’s bride often books numerous appointments and the objective of “Round 1” is to “just get ideas” (game face needed here for me) and “Round 2” is “the elimination stage” where she brings along hordes of friends and family to vet, video and photo her final “favourites” in your shop and several others and “Round 3” is when she finally buys!! To maximise the chance of her buying from your boutique you need to get over your ulcerated desire to sell on the first visit as for many of today’s brides it just isn’t going to happen and you need to learn to play the long game and deal with her bridal tribe then arrives en masse in your boutique.

In a previous life as a professional trainer we had to learn to deal with the different delegates eg the argumentative one, the know-it-all, the gobby one, the naughty one etc. If you can identify the colourful characters in your bride’s posse and have different strategies to deal with them then you’re one step closer to getting her to commit

So let’s look at the “Likely Lasses” you’ll often meet, how to spot them, strategies for dealing with them without losing them and maximising yoru chance of winning the sale.

The Bossy Bestie

It’s a good bet that the pushy friend will start pushing your buttons early on.

How to spot her. It’s more than likely that she made the appointment. She ignores and often deliberately disagrees with everything you say and loves to tell you which shapes and styles suit the bride best. (Hey, she binge-watched Say Yes to the Dress, so now she’s an expert!).

How to deal with her. Tempting as it is to hire Villanelle (the psychopathic assassin from Killing Eve) to kill her or a taser gun to shut her up there’s a good chance you’ll end up in prison rather than with a sale! Better to humour her initially and get her to select some gowns for the bride which you make look shocking (come on we can all do a poor pinning job, forget the shoes or to put her on the podium). Next praise her choices and give her a way of saving face and gaining her trust (so she doesn’t turn against you) by saying “These gowns can be deceptive on the hangar. Let’s try this one as it’s not such a fishtail, so low cut etc and is very similar to what you’re thinking for her. That way you’re letting her think that she’s still in charge when you know that you are.


The Selfish Sister

It’s guaranteed that the drama will have started even before your bride has set foot in the boutique and has been ongoing for all of their family life.

How to spot her. She’ll arrive late squawking like a scarecrow about some catastrophe, stating that she has to take numerous voicecalls (because she’s so…ooo important) and, of course, demands to see all of the gowns on that she’s going to miss. She constantly moves the conversation to her and her life and her goal is to be the centre of attention.

How to deal with her. Like a fire she needs oxygen so you slowly starve her of it. Initially acknowledge her and whatever drama is happening in HER life and then say “This is your sister’s appointment you really want it to be special for her don’t you?” Do the “Positive No” to her request for her sister to re-try the gowns she’s missed when she’s out taking those “so…ooo important/can’t possibly wait calls” and say “We’ll do a review at the end of the favourites”.

Be polite but don’t back down—the appointment isn’t about her, it’s about her sister!



The Band of Bridesmaids

If she didn’t get the memo that even Taylor Swift is more Sqaud Lite these days then you’re just going to have to raise your energy levels to match #squad and lower your expectations of a sale today.

How to spot them. Not difficult as when you open the door they just keep coming like the cast of the 2011 comedy Bridesmaids with the same level of rivalry and, hopefully, not the same level of need to go to the bathroom!

How to deal with them. Stay upbeat and remind yourself that this is “Round 1” and your outcome is to impress the group as much as the bride and find her a couple of favourite gowns so you can make it to “Round 2”. Oh and resist the urge to employ Villanelle again when one of them pulls your most delicate and expensive £3k gown and carelessly throws the hangar around her neck demanding to “ Try this on for fun!”


The Mumsy MIL and/or Mother

This traditional woman doesn’t understand the bride of today and that “anything goes”. She has fixed ideas on what a bride should and shouldn’t be wearing.

How to spot her. She’ll open with “What did you think of Meghans’s gown?” and, without waiting for an answer, “I thought Kate’s and Eugenie’s were timeless and elegant”.

How to deal with her. Referee’s whistle and red & yellow cards would come in very handy here!! Why not mention “the Elephant in the Room” ie that she and the bride may have different ideas on what constitutes a wedding gown just as the recent Royals did. Ask my favourite question to elicit the bride’s criteria for her gown ie “What do you want in a gown?” or “What’s important to you about your gown?” and remind Mrs Traditionalist that it’s the bride’s day. You need to find out from the bride how much she wants to please MIL or her Mother and possibly reach a compromise with a cathedral length lace veil or a detachable overskirt for the ceremony or even two dresses for day and evening – now we’re talking!


The Flower Girl or (worse still) The Troublesome Toddler

Our 6 year old is super excited about the bride wearing a “princess” gown and wants to see her play dress up all day. At slight odds with your outcome to sell her a dress.

How to spot her. Our 6 year old has her favourite Disney Princess dress on (keep her away from your candles or get the instruction manual out for your fire extinguisher) and The Toddler totters in with I pad blasting out the instantly recognisable discordant tune of Peppa Pig on max volume and Peppa’s intro “I’m Peppa Pig (loud snort) and This is my Little Brother George”. Joy oh bloody joy!

How to deal with them. Resist your urge to kill them and instead kill them with kindness, find out their names, let Little Princess try on some tiaras, find the headphones to drown out Peppa Pig and let the bride come to the quick conclusion that next time she’ll come without the kindergarden.


The Know-it-all Newly Wed


If she bought from you she will be a great advocate and will Fan Girl you and encourage her friend to buy from you. If she didn’t she’s the worst combo of the Bossy Bestie and the Selfish Sister.

How to spot her. Every sentence begins with “When I” or “When we” followed by her re-living her wedding planning and day detail by bloody dreary detail. Yawn, yawn!

How to deal with her. Deploy all of the strategies mentioned above and one more …… ask her questions about her wedding that will work for you eg who was the most helpful of her shopping squad and why? You’re hoping that she answers something about being objective and listened to. This way you allow her to talk about her wedding and then you close her down. She can bore everyone rigid while you’re in the fitting room until the bride comes out in her dress. Announce the bride every time with a catch phrase like “Are you ready for dress number x?” This repetition will encourage them to be quiet and focus. If Mrs “When I” starts her reminiscing again simply say Fab or Great or Well and turn away from her and say “This gown does a, b or c for our bride”.

Winning that group over is critical to winning the sale. If you lose the group or even one member then you’ll need to work hard to win them over later or you’ll lose the sale. Managing yourself is key to managing that group so I often remeind myself to “Make my words sweet as I may need to swallow them later that day”.


One final thought – does anyone have Villanelle’s number as I think she could do a roaring trade if she offered discounts for multiple murders but we’re not going there are we?

Here’s to successful selling.

You can view this article on the Bridal Buyer’s magazine website – click here

Contact Maria on to get more information on sales training courses and a sales manual or join the Facebook group Bridal Business Owner or contact her on +44(0) 7768 297 290