Disclaimer: Written 16 days after our wedding. (We had a Covid-free wedding, thankfully!)
It feels very apt, given that we finally got married in 2020, that I sit down to write this whilst awaiting my COVID-19 test results. Such a dramatic statement works well for an opening, but in reality, my husband and I (oh that is a first!) have the smallest tickly cough and thought “best to be on the safe side.” So, I have been self-isolating (and bingeing on the whole season one of Bridgerton and slogging through my tax return).
And I thought I’d share the journey of my very own wedding dress with you all too.
Jenny’s 2020 wedding: the tears, tests and the dress
Being a bridal seamstress and yet to have tied the knot, the words I so often heard were “surely you will know exactly what to do when it comes to your dress?” My truthful answer always remained “oh I’ve had my wedding dress designed for years…”
It seems such a cliché but looking back to my school years I hated drawing figures. My friend Alice used to do them for me, and I would overlay with my ‘amazing’ designs. (‘Amazing’ is the operative word here to save my teenage self-esteem!) From here on, I was always designing what my wedding dress would look like. Still, ‘teenage me’ had some interesting ideas of what that might be.
It was a classic development from ‘let’s throw everything at it in duchess satin!’ to ‘let’s add a halter neck!’ I think we can call this the My Best Friend’s Wedding stage.
Then onto the Vivienne Westwood inspiration: pleat it, gather it, ruche it and ‘do you know what, let’s just dye it pink’. That magnificent Gwen Stefani look… I aimed for them all.
Eventually, my muse landed on this; the iconic Green Dress, worn by Keira Knightly in Atonement. It is still one of the most stunning dresses I have seen in any film. This was what I wanted.
We were engaged in June 2019 and planned our big day for 2020. To quote my best friend Jess on New Year’s Eve (as so many other brides-to-be must have thought) “2020 is going to be our year!”
It didn’t take long for the realisation to sink in.
This is the day I had thought about for so many years (you can’t not when you are surrounded by weddings 24-7).
Yet suddenly I didn’t want to focus on my dress at all.
My job is dressing other people – that’s just what I am used to – so that’s what I did. I asked (deep breath!) nine bridesmaids, two maids of honour and three flower girls to be my bridal party. And I found far more enjoyment working on their dresses than even thinking about my own.
At university, I was lucky enough to gain work experience with the lovely Jenny Lessin, a fantastic wedding dress designer in London. I absolutely love her work and continued friendship, and I realised that I wanted her to make my wedding dress for me. As silly as it sounds for a seamstress to ask someone else to make their wedding dress for them, I couldn’t wait. In all honesty, I would have happily picked up my dress the day before the wedding, and that be it. Tick, sorted. I trust her completely!
But as we all know, 2020 had other plans in store for us.
2020: Planning a wedding during the pandemic
Through many months of endless wedding planning, everything changed and kept changing. I’ll fast forward to mid-summer 2020 and wedding plan No.3: a 30-person wedding in my gran’s garden. And finally facing the task of making my own dress.
With the wedding day potentially only a month away and the country falling in and out of lockdown, going to see Jenny and my big bridal party wasn’t really an option anymore. We had downsized dramatically, and I felt now more than ever, that I really wanted to ‘dress to the part’ so I wrote a list.
What did I want from my dress?
- No train. Ironic being a bridal seamstress I know, but I have always preferred dresses without a train. Now don’t get me wrong, they are stunning, but personally, I love the fabric movement when it flows naturally.
- Comfort. We were planning an almost ‘family picnic’ wedding style in the garden, and I wanted a dress I could play with the kids in and just relax.
- Simple and timeless. I wanted a gown to look back in 20 years and feel just as confident and special as I did on the day.
So, after buying a ridiculously expensive pair of shoes (that was a ‘F*** it 2020 I’m doing it’ kind of purchase!) I made my dress.
It was almost finished, and no one other than my team (I needed someone to fit it to me!) had seen the dress. Perhaps, given the year, I didn’t want to get too emotionally attached to it. Plans might have to be changed again, or maybe I was just too nervous. Eventually, I showed it to my maids of honour and my mum.
From bridal seamstress to bride
Imagine. I am standing in a studio of a bridal seamstress business that I have built from the ground up. I am wearing a wedding dress of which every detail I have made myself. My mum and my sister are with me, all of us so grateful we could be there at that moment. I will not hide it from you, I cried so much that evening because I was just so happy.
Through all the ups and downs of the year, not even knowing if we could even have the wedding, I had achieved that moment. The moment that turned the dress into my wedding dress.
It didn’t matter that it wasn’t The Green Dress, nor covered in diamonds or made of the finest materials. I wasn’t going to wear anything else now. This was it.
Consequently, another handful of wedding plans down, we found ourselves in late December (unless Boris Johnson decided to change his mind again). This was the week of our wedding.
Last minute dress doubts
Now trust me on this, you will doubt yourselves!
In this week I will admit I spent a lot of money. I questioned whether all the dress buttons were right and, as a result, buying pearl ones. I bought meters of very expensive lace in the middle of the night. I doubted everything. Put it this way, it would have been dangerous to leave me alone with the dress and a pair of scissors for too long! But thanks to my team giving me ‘don’t do it’ looks, I held back.
48 hours to go: Tier changes are looming, and we brought the date of the wedding forward 24 hours.
30 hours to go: We had to change our guest list and subsequently our suppliers too. Then manically packed everything into the car.
12 hours to go: Driving up to the Cotswolds with the news on to hear if we could actually have our wedding the very next day.
But on Friday 18th December, we did it.
If it matters to you, it matters
I started writing this not really knowing what words of wisdom I would impart at the conclusion. My journey, like so many 2020 brides, wasn’t quite as planned. But please take from it what you will, even if this blog just something else to read other than the BBC news.
Maybe you are searching for the wedding dress that you have always dreamed of, but you find yourself with something different. Perhaps you are having last-minute doubts, or maybe you just don’t want to focus on your dress at all. From someone who supposedly should know precisely what they are doing, I hope it might be of some comfort that I was ‘there’ too.
But at the end of all it all, my dress was perfect.
I don’t want to be cheesy and conclude this blog post with “that feeling” of seeing my other half at the top of the aisle. In truth though, at that very moment my dress didn’t matter at all. No, it was the perfect dress as I felt it encompassed everything of the journey to the wedding and told our story. It is the journey ladies, enjoy it. Through the ups and the downs.
I do wonder though what my husband would have said to the original designs… #90’s goals
PS the Covid test came back negative.