The Unconventional Bride: The Wedding Dress Minefield

Lizzy Dening didn’t spend her childhood fantasising about getting married. Now she’s engaged and navigating the weird world of weddings. Send help.

When we first got engaged, people were naturally curious about what I’d wear. As more family members and friends enquired about my ‘dress hunt’ and offered to accompany me to chic bridal boutiques (namely for the prosecco) I felt my hands go clammy and my face turn a shade of white I believe wedding designers refer to as ‘Caspar’.

I hasten to add, I’m far from a wimp. The last year alone has seen me running two half marathons, walking across hot coals and abseiling off Peterborough Cathedral. I’ve been bitten by a cheetah, scratched by a lion and held every kind of creepy crawly. I’ve flown a plane, interviewed celebrities I really admire and travelled out to the African bush alone as a teenager. On my next holiday I’m planning to dive with manta rays. In the dark.

It’s funny how different people’s fears are. I positively relish public speaking, and am fizzing over with excitement about giving a speech on my wedding day, yet the thought of going into a chintzy boutique makes my knees knock.

I’ve been trying to work out exactly what it is that makes me nervous, and I think it comes down to several factors:

  1. Not being a waif. I notice that pretty much every wedding dress firm uses matchstick models who look like they could blow away in a particularly voluminous veil, on whom dresses hang romantically in luxuriant drapes. My figure, especially after Christmas and a bout of flu which put paid to my gym-going resolutions, does not currently allow for draping. It requires more artful covering. Stapling, perhaps.

  2. Not being loaded. My current bugbear is shops where prices aren’t included on the website. Really, what is the point in my traipsing into London, getting past my phobia, and actually finding The One…only to realise it costs more than my mortgage? It’s just a waste of everyone’s time, especially when my budget is distinctly on the Lilliputian side.

  3. All eyes being on me. Don’t get me wrong, I have an extrovert streak to rival Kanye West’s (and I don’t require an entourage to back it up) but I’m only really comfortable when the attention isn’t solely based on my looks. I’ll give a poetry reading, or tell an anecdote at a party (whether you want to hear it or not) but strip me of my voice and make it all about looks and I clam up.

  4. The (probably irrational) fear of shop assistants. I worry they will either be a) terrible snobs whose eyebrows retract into their skulls after a single view of my paltry budget; or, perhaps worse, b) that they are oh-so-lovely but rather pushy and ‘oh of course you need this one dear, and it must come with a veil and sequinned Converse, and what do you mean you don’t plan to change at 6pm, it’s what all the brides do these days, it’s like you want your marriage to fail…’ As, while my mum possesses many strengths, lovely middle-class ladies trying to sell her something are her Kryptonite. She’ll be at the till, adding: ‘oh yes, I’ll just pop out and buy a trolley for all this.’

I know it’s ridiculous. Every bride I know, from the ultra-girly to the unconventional, has found a shop to suit them, and really enjoyed the ritual of taking friends and family along for a day of shopping. I just need to bite the bridal bullet. Wish me luck.

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