I suspect that one of the very first things that newly engaged Bride to Be’s do is start dress shopping. Or at least start wedding dress research.
I probably had a bit of a head start on this. Let’s be honest, I’ve seen a lot. What I haven’t seen is a lot of dresses on the more mature bride and I wasn’t really sure what might work.
I knew that I didn’t want traditional ivory or white and was quite keen to have a colour, but that in itself raised more questions than it answered. Since my chemo started I have lost all of the colour in my hair and my skin and I had no idea what would actually suit me. I’ve always loved blush, but was starting to think a steely grey could be the way to go.
I started with a Pinterest board. It’s amazing how quickly your style starts to emerge as you pin things that you like. It was obvious that I was really drawn to 1920’s / 1930’s styling, beading and sequins. My bridal designer’s of choice were basically champagne taste and ginger beer income –Eliza Jane Howell and Jenny Packham . However there was a particular designer appearing over and over, not bridal and surprisingly affordable, Adrianna Papell, who just happened to be stocked by John Lewis. A research trip to Bluewater was booked with my sister Tracy and my best friend from childhood, Jo.
It was a huge let down. Just in case you ever need to know, John Lewis Bluewater does not have an evening gown section. You have to go to London. I tried on a few dresses in a variety of shops, most of which looked pretty hideous and decided quite quickly that a very large online ordering spree and a new credit card were in order.
Two years ago I was lucky enough to be Best Woman for one of my very best friends, Mark. For his wedding I knew immediately where I wanted to get my dress from. I have always coveted practically every dress that has ever made it into the window of a tiny little boutique dress shop local to me, A Touch Too Wild in Leigh on Sea. For Mark’s wedding I simply walked in, picked up a dress, tried it on and bought it. I didn’t look anywhere else or try anything else on, it was instantly perfect.
A week after my disastrous trip to Bluewater, Jo and I happened to be on Leigh Broadway with half an hour to kill, so I thought a cursory glance in the window of ATTW wouldn’t go a miss.
We wandered over — and there she was, right in the centre of the floor, beading and sequins and blush and beautiful — and an almighty v neck down to the naval.
I am 48. And I was going to be a bride. But hey – I’m a Geordie Essex girl, so maybe a v neck to the naval was ok?
I wasn’t actually planning on trying anything on. My hair wasn’t right, my make-up nowhere to be seen and I think most brides at least try to look half decent when they’re trying on dresses. But Jo persuaded me it was a good idea and two minutes later I was transformed into a shimmering, white blonde, bridal goddess with a cleavage I didn’t know I owned on full display and Tony, the owner of ATTW comparing me to Marilyn Monroe. Sold. (I’m so gullible!)
Tony talked me through the alterations that could be made to the neckline (I’m just not that brave) and was kind enough to offer to put it aside for me when I decided that I should come back with my sister and my Mam just to get a second opinion. I took a sneaky photo to send to Mark and Tracy (sorry Tony) before taking it off. That actually turned out to nearly be a mistake. My lovely Mark shed a tear, my sister decided she was coming over to talk me out of it!
We returned a week later, my sister, Mam, Luke my son and my nieces Emma and Amy all in tow.
I’d made an effort with hair and makeup, (though looking back at the photos now I’m not so sure) and wore the right knickers (critically important) so trying it on for a second time felt even better. I emerged all sparkly and radiant and looked at my youngest niece, who loves sparkles and sequins expecting to see a huge smile and saw wide eyed horror. She was at breast level.
After reassuring her (and my sister) that the girls would be adequately covered, the smiles returned and the unanimous decision to buy my wedding dress was made.
In my last blog I mentioned the cost of engagement rings and how the cost doesn’t equate to the value. I’m going to say the same thing about my wedding dress. I had the most beautiful (I think) dress, with alterations and some additional hand beading by the fabulous Faye at Stitch in Time Leigh, included for considerably less than £1000. So much less that I was actually able to buy handmade shoes, a handmade handbag, handmade jewellery designed for me and a bespoke hair piece and still had change from my £1000 for a celebratory G&T!
Weddings are expensive, there’s no doubt about it, but if you’re prepared to keep an open mind and steer away from the straight and narrow, there are some amazing gems just waiting to be found!
And finally just a tiny taster from our day, getting ready, the reveal and the buying team, with enormous thanks to one of our fabulously talented photographers, our amazing friend Kerry Morgan.