03/11/2013 11:58 am ET Updated May 11, 2013

How to Deal When Your Entourage Takes Over Your Bridal Appointment

Shopping for a wedding gown is one of the most fun, most exciting parts of planning your special day. And you'll likely want to share the moment with your nearest and dearest. But even the best-intentioned friends and family members can turn totally judgmental and bossy once they're with you in the salon. So, to ensure your appointment stays positive and focused on you, here are nine tips that will help manage your entourage and avoid some of the more common problems before you even start trying on gowns.

1. Choose your entourage wisely.
The best way to avoid an unruly entourage is to keep the group intimate. The fewer the better: Only invite close family members and friends that you really care about. On the fence about someone? If you think you could still enjoy yourself without that certain person there, don't invite her. Large groups are complicated because not everyone you bring shopping will focus on what is best for you, rather they may project their own tastes and end up confusing you altogether. Plus, if you do fall in love and fee compelled to purchase a dress it can be awkward with an entourage watching.

2. Think in advance about who might be an issue.
Quite often it is the person least close to the bride who voices the loudest opinions. Disgruntled brides often share their dismay in the dressing suite away from the ears of the entourage and complain bitterly to their stylists that they felt "compelled" to ask that person to accompany them. So, if you felt like you needed to ask your opinionated mother-in-law or aunt along, be prepared for the worst so you're not disappointed.

3. Talk to the group before the appointment starts.
I suggest the bride be firm before the salon trip starts and let her entire party know that, although their opinion is appreciated, it may be different from her own. There is no harm in reminding the group that you invited them for camaraderie's sake and for the joy of sharing in the experience.

4. Give each member a of larger entourage a task.
Just recently I had a group from Newport Beach drive up. They ran loose in the salon pulling all different silhouettes and price points. The bride acquiesced and tried all the gowns on for them, often making faces and grimacing at the gowns she didn't like. After an hour, the bride was exhausted and confused and needed to schedule another appointment with just her mother to see the gowns she actually did like. That meant another hour each way from their home, not to mention another day off from work.

It would have been better had she given each member of the group a particular task: one to write down the elements of each dress she loved, another to keep track of her theme and what her original vision was, another to make sure everyone's keeping the budget in mind and yet another to ease her through transitions as she changed her mind.

5. Appoint a group leader.
Give your mother or your maid of honor the task of keeping the entourage in line so you don't have to. This person will be specifically assigned the task of keeping unhelpful negative comments at bay and helping the appointment stay on track. So, if your great aunt starts pulling dresses herself, this person will be there to reign her in.

6. Make sure you're paired with an experienced stylist.
An experienced stylist will know to work with the bride and the bride only. If he or she allows the group to take over the appointment, you are shopping in the wrong salon.

7. Try to give a too-vocal person another task.
If the experience starts to go south and there is real tension brewing, the bride should gently but firmly ask the specific person causing the problems to go and look at bridesmaid dresses elsewhere in the salon.

8. Talk to the group if you're feeling overwhelmed.
If the group leader isn't keeping the group in check, address the group yourself and ask them to work with you, not against you. They may not even realize you feel ganged-up-on and will likely change their tunes. If someone specific is upsetting you, talk to her in private and relay that you find it more advantageous to your relationship and the shopping experience if she says nothing at all than to hear her be negative.

9. End the appointment and come back another day.
There are some specific cases in which, no matter what, it's better to come back another day without the entourage in tow. These situations are: when negative comments are made regarding your weight, when there is total disregard for parameters such as price point and when there is an obvious disconnect between aesthetics. These factors will make it much harder to choose a gown you love, plus they can really do a number on your self-esteem and your happiness during the experience.