Unplanned babies, embarrassing families, unwelcome style advice and mum’s appointed herself lead planner. Jade Beer, editor of Conde Nast Brides and author of The Almost Wife (click here for the UK version) has seen it all. Here she shares some wisdom to ease you through the wedding day countdown.
‘It was all these scenarios and many more that inspired my debut novel, The Almost Wife. Women are amazingly resourceful and impressive, but perhaps never more so than when they are on full wedding planning mode. I’ve been floored and moved to tears by the stories I’ve heard. It wasn’t long before I realised there would be a great novel in it one day!’
‘Everything MUST be perfect’
One bride I worked with hated the fact her couture blush pink gown clashed with the church’s orange aisle carpet. So she had it ripped up. Other brides will fly to Paris or New York to have gowns made, some will spend five figures on the cake. One had every rose bush in her parent’s garden pulled up and replaced in the precise colour of her wedding palette. Another grew all her own wedding flowers from a window box at her London flat and a borrowed allotment.
This devotion is wonderful to watch. But consider tempering it with an acceptance that something may go wrong on the day. I personally spent months worrying about falling over down the aisle when the only thing falling over was our wedding cake when my new husband clattered into it. There’s no planning for that!
‘I’m engaged and . . . oh, pregnant’
The fact there will be two of you in the dress can cause some unnecessary style stress. If having something made bespoke isn’t an option, here are some recommendations from my fashion desk: Check out Minna.co.uk for lovely loose, vintage-inspired dresses. If you’re on a budget Tiffanyrose.com specialise in affordable pregnancy gowns for the bride, her maids and guests. Pregnancy specialists Seraphine.com have full-length lace styles and a large collection of occasion wear for anyone wanting to embrace colour while bridal designers Alice Temperley and Jenny Packham both have loose empire line dresses in light fabrics that will move with you and your bump.
‘My dad isn’t here to walk me up the aisle’
Perhaps the question is, how will you honour him? One bride placed a beautiful bouquet of flowers where her late mother would have sat. Another had embroidered flowers from her mother’s wedding dress sewn into her own gown, another had her bouquet secured by her father’s wristwatch while one had one of her father’s Saville Row suits tailored to fit her. Think about your choice of readings, the speeches or by using their birth flowers.
Every week I see weddings where couples do the aisle walk differently – sometimes together, or the bride with her mother, or alone, occasionally as a group with her maids and flower girls. Never once has it been less of a wedding for the lack of a father figure. Always embrace whatever makes this uniquely your day, even if the reasons are more poignant.
‘Everyone wants to come dress shopping’
There are a few simple rules that seem to ring consistently true when it comes to wedding dress shopping.
1) Only take someone whose views you trust or who you know will have your best interests at heart. 2) Remember you can always walk away. Just pull out the ‘I’ll sleep on it’ card. 3) The stylist fitting you knows what looks good on different body shapes. Listen to her. 4) Your partner's view counts as little – or as much – as you want it to. Some brides will have a full discussion with their partner about the kind of dress they might like to see her in. For others, it’s a total surprise. 5) Don’t be swayed by your uber-fashionable friend.
Unlike every other dress you might buy, this one can’t be dictated by trends. It has a much bigger job to do. To flatter you, move well, photograph well. It needs to make you feel a hundred times yourself.
‘No one understands my vision!’
Whether you are briefing a hairdresser, a florist, a dress designer or a cake maker, it’s easier when you have images to work with so your ideas aren’t lost in translation. What’s understated to you, might be gloriously over-the-top for someone else.
If you are marrying abroad where different cultures, traditions, styles and trends are at play, multiple this advice ten-fold. Even when I am commissioning stylists and photographers I have worked with for many years, every conversation starts with a mood board of images that clearly define my overall vision.
‘I don’t know what suits me’
Anyone who has ever got dressed in the morning, then re-dressed before leaving the house (i.e. most of us) knows how hard this can be. It can take years to understand what looks good on you. Then comes the tricky job of translating that into a wedding dress (or skirt, bodice, tux, jumpsuit). Maybe this in part explains why women are having more than one wedding dress. I’ve just interviewed a bride who had eight. That’s seven more chances to get it right.
Take a look at the dresses hanging in your wardrobe – are they mostly sharply tailored, pretty and romantic or more form-fitting? Use this as a starting point and then push yourself to elevate this dress to new, more worthy heights. Add some volume, a touch of sparkle, a more darling neckline, until what you are looking at is undeniably special but still indisputably you.
‘Mum’s appointed herself my wedding planner’
Part of me just wants to say, let her! But the safest thing is to assign her one big meaty task you know she’ll love. It needs to be something time consuming to keep her occupied – growing all the herbs for your guests’ favours; compiling a list of all local hotels and B&Bs that she can personally recommend or interviewing a long-list of caterers and presenting you with a shortlist of her top three. Better still, all of the above.