Forget bridezillas, it’s the entourage that can turn up the heat on Asia’s version of Say Yes to the Dress

Fashion and bridal wear designer Jovian Mandagie and TV host Daphne Iking on an episode of Say Yes to the Dress Asia.
TLC Asia

No matter where you live in the world, wedding planning is a stressful affair – and not just for the bride and groom involved.

Anyone who has ever been involved in the planning of a big day will know how nerve wracking it is to have to please everyone from mothers-in-law to flower girls, on top of making sure everything goes according to a couple’s plans.

Because of that, we’ve really got to give it to fashion designer Jovian Mandagie and TV host Daphne Iking for taking up the very noble task of helping brides find their dream dresses on TLC Asia’s Say Yes to the Dress Asia series.

The reality show follows a bride-to-be as she picks a wedding gown with the help of the show’s emcees, as well as a group of friends and family whose job is to evaluate each of the dresses she tries on.

When we caught up with Mandagie, 31, and Iking, 38, last month, the longtime friends told us that often, the most dramatic parts of the show are caused not by bridezillas, but by their families and friends instead.

Jovian Mandagie and Daphne Iking are longtime friends and the hosts of Say Yes to the Dress Asia.
TLC Asia

“I know there were one or two difficult brides, but we also had one or two difficult entourages, and that was a little bit difficult because we had to manage both, but the same time, keep the bride happy and doing what we do,” Iking told us.

“If you get, like, one really, really opinionated and outspoken entourage (member), one – just one person – and that is enough to just, like… The show’s tension just goes ‘whoa’,” she said.

And when you throw in family and cultural dynamics, the tension can sometimes go all the way through the roof.

According to Mandagie, who is also a bridal wear designer, one of his favourite tapings involved a bride who arrived to the fitting with her mother-in-law. The elder woman then surprised the bride by presenting two dresses she had made for the bride to try on.

“That was pretty awkward… And of course, the pressure was on the bride to decide if she was going to say yes to her mother-in-law’s dress, or continue trying on dresses with us,” he said.

While intense, that incident served to highlight an issue common among many Asian brides. As Asian culture is heavily centred on respect for the elderly, brides often have trouble asserting their point of view. “Asian brides are a little bit more reserved, Iking said, “so they don’t want to offend their family members.”

It isn’t uncommon for many brides who come on the show to keep silent in front of their entourage, and say what they truly feel only when they are behind closed doors.

“So it’s interesting how these Asian brides try not to offend, but at the same time, try to get their suggestions across (so they can make sure) that they find a wedding dress that they personally like,” Iking said.

Unlike the US and UK iterations of the popular show, Say Yes to the Dress Asia’s brides will be looking not just at white wedding gowns, but a myriad of styles, colours and designs which represent the local mix of cultures and traditions in the region.

TLC Asia

With such a wide range of wedding attire to choose from, the danger of getting a difficult bride is sky-high as brides are usually seen as being difficult when they are indecisive.

Mandagie said: “There were a few brides that came in with no clue of what they want, or no clue of what would suit them.”

But with the amount of money and effort that goes into pulling off a successful wedding, the hosts said they understood that it’s normal for brides to be fickle and emotional even with something as simple as a dress.

“It’s your big day, and everyone tends to be a bit fickle and a little bit emotional,” Iking said.

Having seen it all, Mandagie said it’s very important for a bride to do research on dresses and traditions, as well as decide on the theme of her wedding before walking into a bridal boutique.

“I think what also matters is that the photo – I mean, the memory that really lasts is the photo, and if you are wearing the wrong dress you will regret it for the rest of your life,” he added.

Say Yes To The Dress Asia will premiere at 9pm on Friday, November 24, on TLC Southeast Asia.