Hey lovely wedding belle, do I have a fantastic treat for you! Real-life bride Claire has very kindly agreed to let us tag along as she navigates the tricky path that is Wedding Planning. In a 3 part series she will give us a very non-sugar coated view of life as a bride-to-be, honest wedding planning at it’s best!
In part 1 she shares with us her initial bridal shopping experiences, not for the faint hearted I promise you, grab a cuppa and have a read….
“As a student I used to work in the Bridalwear department of a high street department store. Regularly at the weekends my housemates would come over and try on the dresses, parading around with veils and tiaras and pretending to throw each other the bouquet of faux flowers we kept on display.
“Come on” they’d tell me, “you should try them on” and I always used the excuse that I’d probably be fired if I was caught (which is probably true).
However, the actual reason I declined was that I wanted the first time I tried on a wedding dress to be for real. I wanted my mum there to cry and tell me I look beautiful, I wanted it to be because I was actually a bride. So I held out…
Last November, when I was proposed to, one of my first thoughts was “yes, I actually get to try on dresses!”. I was constantly asked by my friends and family, from about a week after we got engaged, “have you found a dress yet?”. I was bugged by almost every stall holder at wedding fayres “oh you’ve only got 18 months ‘til the wedding? You had better start looking quickly!” and it was pretty annoying to be honest.
I wanted to take my time and find the right place to start looking. I had no idea what dress style I wanted, no idea what would even suit me and knew, from previous brides I’d known, that you never end up with the dress you thought you’d imagined. The first time I actually did try on dresses was probably one of the worst days I’ve had since becoming a bride-to-be.
My Gran booked an appointment at a local bridal/dress shop in her village. She’d seen them on TV, some Mary Portas show about improving customer service, which in hindsight was a big red flag which we chose to ignore. I’m the first Grandchild getting married and I didn’t want to hurt my Gran’s feelings so I decided to go. My mum and my sister, who is one of my bridesmaids, came too and I was really looking forward to actually being the one who’s the centre of attention for the day.
We arrived at the shop and met with the shop assistant. She informed us our appointment was 2 hours and we would be the only people in the store at the time. She said
“When we have a bride, we are only open for that bride.” I was pretty chuffed to have the shop to ourselves, I didn’t know that was a “thing” as in the department store we used to just let anyone in to browse, but have since realised that’s pretty much the norm in the bridal boutiques. The assistant asked what dress I was looking for.
“Not a clue” I said, “it’s my first time”.
We then went through every dress in the store, turning round the hangers of the one’s I liked. There were about 30 dresses to choose from and I didn’t say “no” to many of them!
“Come on then” she said, taking the first dress into the fitting area, “let’s start with this one”.
I should add at this point that my fiancé, who is in the British Army, had been sent away to Canada. And as soon as he left on New Year’s Day I’d gone on a massive healthy eating kick to lose that extra Christmas weight and by the time of the dress appointment I hadn’t eaten carbs for about a month and a half.
The first dress she made me try on barely made it past my thighs.
“What size is this?” I asked her, already red face and feeling like the fattest bride in the world.
“A 14” she said. 14?! I’m normally a high street 12 and had worked hard for the last month to lose weight. “Nope it’s not gonna go” she said matter of factly, whilst stopping attempting to tug it vigorously. “Next dress?”
The next one didn’t fit either. This one at least got up but she couldn’t get the back together to even get the hook and eye closed. She made me go out and show my family anyway. I shuffled out, holding this dress up so I didn’t flash the entire village high street through the windows.
This was NOT how I imagined my mum would first see me in a wedding dress. I was red and sweaty, clinging to a dress that was clearly designed for Kate Moss, slightly tearful and frankly humiliated.
“it’s nice” my Gran said politely. My sister was shaking her head.
The next dress I tried on was a bigger size.
“We have to cater for all sizes” the assistant said, which I completely understand. However this one was a sack. So huge that the skirt pushed the waistline up to pretty much on my collarbone when I stood on the floor. I looked like Alice in wonderland as she was shrinking through her clothes.
Although they catered for “all sizes” there was not one dress in the store that fit me at all and I don’t mean, needed taking in slightly in certain places, it was one extreme to the other. And as I am, what I assume to be, a “normal” sized person this dress shop didn’t seem to have anything that looked even vaguely decent. “We do have to cater for all sizes though” the shop assistant kept saying as I tried to squeeze into a few more dresses sized above my normal dress size. After an hour of this, still trying to find a dress that made me look even slightly like an actual bride and not a child playing dress-up, a lady walked in to the shop with 2 teenage girls and asked the assistant if they could look at prom dresses. The assistant looked at her watch and told them to come back in 10 mins. 10 mins? As far as we were aware we still had an hour of “bride time” left. She then said to me “that’s ok isn’t it?” in front of the new customers, whilst I was stood in a hideous cap sleeved princess dress, pinned to me with large clothes pegs. What could I do? I said I didn’t mind and went back in to try on the remaining few dresses.
The shop assistant then behaved like someone had pressed fast forward on a remote. I’d never seen anyone move so fast! She was rushing me, pulling out dresses one after the other, shouting, “next one!” pretty much as soon as I’d seen myself in a mirror. The other lady and the girls had come back by now and were browsing through the prom dresses in the main shop where the mirror was. I really didn’t really want them to see me squeezed in a dress like fat in a sausage skin so I told her that it was ok and started putting on my jeans ready to leave.
As we were leaving she asked me how my experience was in the shop and if I could put it in writing on their facebook page feedback section. As a British person whose mum was present, I smiled as nicely as I could and took her card saying I would do it later, but in all honesty I wanted to get out of there and go to the pub.
Since then I have read an article which explains that wedding dress sizes are usually on the smaller side and you shouldn’t worry about the size marked on it and just find the one that is right for you. I wish I had known that at the time as it would have saved a lot of time and stress for me, thinking I was some huge abnormal person, questioning myself the whole time “ why have I not eaten carbs for a month to still not fit in a dress?!” I have no idea why the assistant didn’t tell me that at the time, it would have made me feel a lot better!
Luckily I have had better experiences since! Every other bridal boutique has had assistants who bend over backwards to make you feel pretty and special, and I have not yet tried on another Barbie-sized dress that made me feel awful. I clearly just got unlucky with that one appointment! But like other things in life, the first time is always the most memorable!
The search for “the one” still continues…
If you would like some insider tips on dress shopping then have a read of this top 10 checklist as written for you by Huffington Post.
Claire will be back in a few weeks with her next diary entry of how she’s coping with the ups and downs of wedding planning.
Visit http://www.isabellaweddings.co.uk for all your wedding expert inspiration 💕