So it finally happened.
Brides, mothers, grannies and aunties I am proud to reveal I have found my dress. I have to admit I was skeptical at best when I heard tales from brides past of finding the dress, and just knowing it is the one. Well, for me they were completely correct, there might as well have been little blue tweety birds singing along with me in true Disney style and a 10 piece brass band marching around doing a little dance number. Remember in Mary Poppins where she is spinning and dancing around in the land entered through the pavement painting? That was me once I put it on. I felt jubilant, excited, proud and beautiful and I couldn’t wait to try it on again the second the dress was off my back.
I think the underlying factor of why I loved it so much was I felt confident in it. I looked in the mirror and I loved what I saw in its mystical reflection. In this dress I didn’t need to diet, change my hair style or wear extravagant jewellery; I looked great right thee and then and really that is the most important thing. Matt is marrying ME not an idealistic impression of what I perceive to be the “right” look. Messy hair, no make up, winter woollen pyjamas, huge pink duvet (I get cold waaaaay too easily!) is the real Dom that Matt is privy to see so why change myself for the big day? I want to be me on our wedding day and if that means I lose no weight, wear minimal make up and leave my hair down then that’s what I will do.
Don’t get me wrong (without giving too much away!) the dress isn’t understated but neither am I and also being a wedding photographer I wanted a style of dress that I hadn’t photographed before as I didn’t want my mind to click back to another wedding (which I have a huge bad habit of doing). I love my brides and I will always associate THAT dress with THAT bride, taking pride of place imprinted in my memory forever.
So back to the choosing… After procrastinating for approximately FOREVER, I decided one day to just go for it. My mum and I (alright mostly my mum) picked a day and booked appointments for bridal shops all across York. Why York? My friend who is getting married just before me (and is way more organised!) suggested York to be a brilliant place for bridal wear and I’m a huge fan of York anyway. I love the history of the streets and I felt what better place to find THE Dress. We decided on three appointments as I didn’t want to have too many and utterly confuse myself! After all, we agreed we could always go another day.
So one crisp winters day off I trotted with Mum in tow, ready to find the dress of my dreams at, let’s face it, as reasonable price as humanly possible! The thing that surprised me about the bridal boutiques more than anything was just how differently I was treated in each one. Not badly, just differently. In the interest of fairness I am not going to name the bridal shops as I want to be able to be honest in my critique, but although all offered perfectly adequate service and a good range of dresses, some definitely went the extra mile more than others!
Bridal Shop A
I was treated impeccably. I was advised to try different styles of dress to find out which was really me. I tried on floaty, tea length, lace, traditional, funky… so many different kinds! My head was spinning from the choice! It was a great idea though and I would highly recommend it. If you go in with a set idea in mind then you are missing out on all the choices that are available and you might just surprise yourself! I was adamant that corsets were definitely not my cup of tea but actually the shapelessness and the fact that it made me look one size smaller than I actually am was very appealing!
I was changed from one dress to another with great ease, I simply stepped in and out of the dresses and the two bridal shop owners did the rest! They were helpful in making the decisions and never did I feel like they were offering false praise and pretending I looked amazing when actually I looked uncomfortable and had an unflattering shape in the dress. The dress that felt right was actually the third gown I tried on but even though it ticked all the right boxes for me I didn’t want to stop there (and besides I had loads of other appointments booked!) So I ploughed on and tried on more and more dresses. Once I had decided on the style that suited me best we concentrated on just trying variations on a theme with the same basic style until we were sure we’d found the right one.
I was also given a lovely pair of shoes to try them on with which makes such a huge difference to the look, the shoes change your whole posture and having the complete ensemble there is so much better than just trying a sample pair! I was also presented with various options of traditional veils, birdcage veils or tiaras to really refine the dress and put my own stamp on it. It was a great experience, I felt completely at ease… until, that is, I saw the price! They slip you the price on the way out of the bridal boutique (which highly amused me!) and as we walked out and lifted the crisp paper that they had carefully folded over, the cost was finally revealed. And well, let’s just say it is a wonder my Mum didn’t faint right there and then! 😉
Bridal Shop B
So, as I picked my mum up off the floor we ventured into the next Bridal shop. I was fascinated by this bridal boutique because I honestly couldn’t have picked a more contrasting outlet if I tried! The dresses were on racks as you came in, the prices were on display(!) and having just left a store with a 6 month waiting list I was a little taken aback when a woman came in and asked for a dress for a wedding this month! I really liked the store though and the assistant couldn’t have been more friendly, honest or sweet to me. She helped me choose dresses that she thought would suit me and seemed genuinely touched when I found a dress that I liked; in fact she said that she would love to have me in her window display! Now for all I know she probably says it to all her customers, but it felt genuine and heartfelt and that was good enough for me! Because I had already decided on the style that suited me, the appointment was much quicker and I was far more cutthroat in the choices. The way they assisted in dressing me greatly amused me too… it was straight up over my head whilst I balanced precariously and nearly fell over a few times! But it was very funny and overall a good experience, plus my Mum was in fits of laughter in the corner… what a sight I must have looked! The prices were much cheaper than the first shop and I really, really wanted to find a dress I liked as much. But, I just didn’t! I guess the heart wants what the heart wants!
Bridal Shop C
Weirdly enough Bridal Shop C was a bit of a mixture of my two previous experiences: turns out I really couldn’t have planned it better! It didn’t start off brilliantly though as despite having made an appointment we were left waiting for 10 minutes and completely ignored. I’m not entirely sure what happened but it must be said that once they did realise who we were they were as nice as pie. Once we got settled in one thing became clear: the system for choosing dresses was the strangest yet!
We were given 10 red plastic rings and we were asked to “ring” the dresses I wanted to try on! It certainly had the fun factor but it was lucky that we already knew which kind of dresses suited me by this point as lots of white dresses on racks do look rather similar and if you don’t know what you’re looking for it would be very difficult and not really the most useful system for a bride-to-be! The dressing procedure was not quite as elegant as the first shop but then not quite as haphazard as the second! One thing that did bug me though was there was no shoes to try the dresses on with so it was difficult at times to judge exactly how the whole ensemble would feel on the day. Plus the mirror was on the other side of the store so if you can imagine me sliding along mermaid style with no shoes and in dresses that didn’t quite fit … I wasn’t exactly feeling like the elegant Princess I’d always imagined I’d be on my wedding day! The other problem I had was that the dresses were in much smaller sizes than in the other shops, seemingly favouring size 8 as their standard and let’s be honest I’m no size 8! So it was a little bit problematic for me and when I asked if I could try a bigger size I was informed that I would need to buy the dress first! Bearing in mind that this is probably the most important (and definitely the most expensive!) dress I will ever buy I didn’t really think was realistic! I’m sorry ladies, but whilst the one leg I could get into it did look good that’s not going to convince me to part with potentially over a thousand pounds.
When we left the final shop Mum and I agreed we should both shout out the name of our favourite to see whether we agreed… We did and, you guessed it, the inevitable happened: the dress from Bridal Shop A won hands down. Oops! Now I just need to inform Matt…
Hmmmm, I will need whiskey, the godfather trilogy and a pot of tea : The perfect combination for my gormless groom! Actually I might need a plate of fish n chips on standby as well come to think of it!
Stay tuned next week, as I give my top tips for choosing your dress and the pitfalls to avoid!
Until next time Bride Vs Groom readers..