Some of the Stylist team are getting married. Here’s what they have to say about everything bridal.
Picture credit: Rex Features
It's the final countdown
In a desperate attempt to feel “wedding-ready” in the final days this week I’m upping the fitness regime (who am I kidding, I’m eating my fourth ‘just a half’ piece of chocolate brownie) and hitting 10 Pilates pre-work. Pilates doesn’t really feel like exercise (you get to lie down for starters) but you get amazing toned (read: NOT skinny) results from doing erm, not much.
If, like me, you have not many hours in the day between everything you have to do pre-wedding to hit the gym, then the below will be a God-send. Luke Meessmann at 10 Pilates devised me a work out plan I can do at work. Thought I’d share with you. It works the arms, abs and waist – the bits on show in a brides dress. You WILL feel stupid but trust me, for brides with not much time on their hands – this works! NB: You might want to wait until everyone is out at lunch! Or alternatively do it at home.
For this you will need: Your office chair and 2x 500ml water bottles (preferably full).
Works: Legs, bum, upper back, front and back of the arms, shoulders.
Stand in front of your chair, feet hip width apart and parallel, holding the water bottles by your sides with your arms in an L shape ( elbows tucked into your waist).
Now squat down so your bum is hovering 1-2 inches away from your seat. Your back should be straight, with your body weight into the heels and sides of your feet to work your glutes (bum). Hold here for 30 seconds and perform a rowing action with your arms ( extend your arms forward towards the floor and then squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring them back to the start position).
Roll back with oblique twists:
For this you will need : a sturdy chair and 2x 500ml water bottles (preferably full).
Works: Abdominals ( 6 pack muscles, waist and deep abdominals), arms and shoulders.
Sit on the side of your chair, (back straight and feet firmly planted on the floor) holding the water bottles by your sides with your arms in an L shape ( elbows tucked into your waist). Now tilt your pelvic backwards slightly ( tuck your tailbone under) and then lean backwards until you feel your abdominals tense. Hold here and make sure you pulling your ribcage into your body and your chest is open and proud (this will ensure your back is straight).
Now, add in the twists:
Whilst holding the roll back punch your right arm out and across your body, rotating at the waist without twisting your hips ( keep both butt cheeks firmly planted into your chair). Return this arm to the start position and then repeat with the left. Do 2 punches on each side and then roll back up top start position.
Repeat until you feel your abdominals burning ( shaking is also a good sign that you are working correctly by the way) and then hold for a final 10 seconds punching the weights continuously during the final hold.
Last week at work
It’s my final week in the office before I get married on 25 May. It has mostly been spent worrying about all the stuff I still need to sort out and wondering if there is any small hope that Hackney Town Hall will remove the scaffolding that obscures the entire building.
One nice thing though: we finalised the flowers for our wedding. I went to Gingerlily in Islington – it’s run by Ruth Freeman who is a friend of ours. Most importantly, she has good taste and is refreshingly honest. You can read her blog here.
Gingerlilly in north London is doing the flowers for Mollie and Tony's wedding
We have a vague colour scheme of white and gold, with a little bit of pink. My bouquet will be made up of avalanche roses, pale pink alstroemeria, pink lisianthus, cream double lisianthus, heather and a little eucalyptus around the edge. My three bridesmaids will carry smaller versions of my bouquet.
To keep the costs down, we bought milk bottle-type vessels from Ikea and Ruth will fill them with flowers such as roses, alstroemeria, heather, peonies, eucalyptus, stocks, lisianthus and silver thistles. These will sit on each table. At the end of the night, we’ll give them all away to guests as we’re off to Cornwall straight after.
So, I now have one week off. Unfortunately we won’t be lying in bed watching Arrested Development re-runs as planned. Instead we’ll be making 40 meters of paper tassels (yep, the bunting is starting to seem more appealing. No, I won’t go back on the ban. No, I won’t say if I do) and making a playlist for the day and delivering decorations to the venue. Also, I need to get my eyelashes spruced up at Blink, a gel manicure at Paul Edmonds (they do Jessica GELeration nails which are the BEST gel nails) and a spray-tan home-visit from Perfect 10 (only £35. Amazing!). We also need to do a walk-through at the Town Hall with my dad and wrap the wedding favours. Oh, and I need to get a belt made for my dress and pick up my headpiece after failing to pick it up last weekend.
Once all that is done, we’re going to spend the weekend at Malmaison London – it’s big enough to fit my family in and it’s near the ceremony venue and my hairdressers (in the end, we went with Jason and Rachel King at Lily Maila in Clerkenwell. They are ACE). So that’s it. I’ll report back after the wedding and be completely honest about how snotty I get during the ceremony and whether I trip up while walking down the aisle. Both very likely.
My headpiece is ready
This weekend is my hen-do (it’s a secret, I have no idea what’s happening) and along with dancing, drinking, dancing, dancing, drinking some more, I’ll be taking possession of my wedding headpiece from my friend and milliner Jane Taylor. Headpiece makes it sounds exotic and tropical (a stack of pineapples, maybe?) but it’s actually a glittering, gold Art Deco band that will sit close to the side of my head, just in front of my veil.
I went to university with Jane and she’s turned into a bit of millinery star (she makes hats for the royal family, no less). I could describe all the wonderful bridal pieces she makes, or I could show you lots of photos. I think photos will do her work much better justice. She’s based in south west London and takes commissions – or you can buy directly through her site. All her bridal millinery can be viewed on her site.
White Lines, anyone?
Last year we went to a fashion party and there was a band playing. Actually, it was just a man on an organ and a man on drums – does that constitute a band? Not sure. Anyway, they were playing instrumental versions of modern and classic songs. They were brilliant. So good, all the hipsters were jiving around and waving their hands in the air and looking all knowing, until they realised the TUUUNE they were dancing to was, actually, Jessie J’s Price Tag.
The highlight of their set was their version of White Lines. It was aces and the whole party stopped what they were doing to watch, dance and chime in on the chorus. If an organ and drums can get the fashionistas to lose their inhibitions then imagine what they could do to a gaggle of our most nearest, dearest and drunkest friends and family?
We found the band on Myspace. They’re called The Royal Organ Duo (they’re not royal, it’s part of their persona, as are the natty Seventies outfits) and they’re based in London. We’ve booked them for our wedding welcome drinks – it should be just long enough to get guests in the mood and see my mum bopping around to a song about cocaine abuse while shouting “Oooh! This is a jazzy number!”
I had my hen this weekend which means I am officially on countdown!
When I say I had my hen, I mean I had my final hen party. I’ve had three. Who’s counting?!
The first one was with my school friends, the second one was organised by two fabulous PR’s and attended by all my friends in the industry and just as I was recovering from that one, hen #3 hit. It involved a trip back to Leeds (my Uni town) with 18 of my girls, a too-cringey-to-remember stripper, a LOT of shots and too much fun. And to top it off my incredible hen committee made me THE BEST hen book EVER!
Four weeks to go…!
What do you think to hen parties? Yay or nay? Stripper or not? Classy or drunken debaucheries? Let me know below…
Dress shopping #2
This weekend I headed for Luella’s Boudoir in Wimbledon Village, spurred on by my co-blogging bride Mollie who raved about the place when she visited there a few months back (scroll down to read about her experience).
Ten years ago, this kind of high-end but relaxed boutique just didn’t exist and owner Rachel set it up with a clear idea of providing a separate space to the world of traditional wedding stores with their formal meringues and sweetheart necklines.
Her shop is an Aladdin’s Cave of gorgeous designs (plus shoes and accessories), many of which are exclusive within the UK and with enough variety to suit a range of budgets and tastes.
Above all, I loved the chilled atmosphere. Wedding dress shopping can make you feel self-conscious at the best of times and there’s nothing worse than flailing about semi-dressed in some stuffy shop where you’re terrified of touching the dresses, let alone trying them on.
But Rachel was more than happy for me and the bride I went with to grab a cup of tea and take turns picking out as many pieces as we wanted. Plus, she is refreshingly honest and has a great eye for what works and what doesn’t.
Here's how I got on:
Jessica Fontaine - Lalani dress, £3000 at Luella's Boudoir
Predictably, I inadvertently picked out one of the most expensive dresses in the shop and it was also my favourite. This Lalani dress, above, with a lace high neck retails at £3,000. I'm just 5'1'', so I was looking for something that elongated rather than swamped me or made me look even shorter. If I could customise it a bit, I would probably replace the bow with a simple silk band.
I’d previously dismissed veils as being too formal and traditional for the kind of wedding I want – but I was immediately won over by this Intrigue veil of Italian tulle (above and below), priced at £96. This is a longer version of the Phoenix design Mollie has chosen for her wedding. I liked the fact that it brought a dramatic, wedding-y feel to the look and really made me feel like a bride.
The Lelani dress and Intrigue veil, and far right, the back of the Jessica Fontaine - Delilah dress, £2450 at Luella's Boudoir
The fitting opened my eyes to the fact that a back of a dress can be just as important as the front: I loved the lace keyhole detail of this chiffon and lace Delilah dress (above, right) for £2450.
The belt detail from the Eva dress by Charlotte Casadejus, £2200 at Luella's Boudoir
And you can’t go wrong with a bit of bling: this silver belt on the Eva dress by Charlotte Casadejus, above, for £2200, does the job masterfully.
Finally, why have one dress when you can have two (I can see my credit card lurching in horror)…. ? This knee-length belle tulle dress, below, for £250 is the perfect piece to slip into when I’m called on to strip the willow in our post-dinner ceilidh:
The Phase Eight Belle tulle dress, £250, at Luella's Boudoir
Wedding lingerie deserves a store trip
Today I’m talking about wedding lingerie. Not the creepy crotchless stuff – I’m talking structured discrete underwear that will infinitely improve the shape of my dress and prevent muffin top/ back fat/ whale-tale lines/ four boobs and so on. (If you still want to channel your inner porn star later in the evening then pack your wares and go for it. Warning: after boozing all day and giddy with love there is a strong possibility you will end up with you red lace teddy inside out and your fiddly suspender belt the wrong way round.)
For my lingerie, I went to the Mayfair branch of Rigby & Peller – I’ve shopped there in the past (there are branches nationwide), the fitting rooms are big enough to try on your wedding dress with your underwear (essential) and they have a large selection of styles including Simone Perele and Andres Sarda, plus their own range. While I advocate online shopping for just about everything in life, for wedding lingerie, I think you should go in-store. Proper bra-fitting services are informative and a good shop – like Rigby & Peller for example – will offer a range of styles and price points, and give you plenty of time to try on and choose without being pushy.
According to Kelly, my fitter: 80% of women wear the wrong bra size; your bra strap should sit on a parallel line around your body (if it's higher at the back it means it's pulling on your chest); brides should consider their underwear before they buy a dress (for example, a scoop-back dress, where a visible bra looks naff, isn't going to work for women who need structure).
I've picked out a couple of the sets Kelly showed me. In the end, I went for a plunge bra, which makes my boobs appear bigger and my waist smaller, and a pair of fine French knickers, which sit against my skin rather than cutting into it. The best thing about the underwear is it's invisible underneath my dress - there’s just a soft continuous outline. The basics aside, Rigby & Peller also have garters, silk nightwear and swimwear. A nice touch in-store: they have their own monogrammed black silk dressing gowns in every fitting room and a version of them can be bought in-store, too. @MollieMcGuigan
Give it up for camper vans!
If you ask me, there aren’t enough retro caravans at weddings – but I’ve found two that fit the bill perfectly. The first is this bijous Cocktail Caravan featured on Emerald Street recently. For as little as £200 you can get this lil’ beauty to rock up at your wedding and serve a bespoke cocktail menu to guests. You can pretty much choose whatever drinks you’d like but I love the sound of The Mockingbird with raspberries and elderflower and the Clover Club with lemon, gin and a splash of egg white.
This nifty bar on wheels is great for anyone like me, who’s planning a country do with laid-back, alfresco street food. I can imagine it arriving at around 10pm alongside a pizza van to give people a second wave and keep the party going through to the early hours. Or perhaps it could be there from the beginning of the day, as a base for guests to mill around when they come in and out of the main tent.
Check out the quirky jam jars and spotty straws; way more fun than your average champagne flute...
You can see more on The Cocktail Caravan here.
The second caravan I like the look of is this unabashedly 70s set-up, below. It’s one of a fleet of classic VW vans you can rent out for your honeymoon, courtesy of husband and wife team WeDubYou, based in South West France. Each van comes with its own distinct personality and psychedelic design. You can choose from Pucci, Jardi, Fleur, Gary and Hippy (yes really), each of which come with iPhone/iPod music and phone systems as well as iPads pre-loaded with films, games and guides.
Prices start from £375 per week with an option to throw in some newlywed bling via a welcome hamper of champagne, local breads and cheeses and a pair of electric bikes. It’s cosy and romantic - a lovely (and fairly cheap) way of winding down post-wedding.
You can see more on WeDubYou here.
We’re having a staycation honeymoon
'Where are you going on your honeymoon?' This is what I get asked the most, after “Can I have a cup of tea?” and “Do you know the way to the Tube?”
The answer: we're going to Cornwall - just for a week, straight after our wedding. We went to Cornwall on one of our first holidays and we loved it; our honeymoon feels like a sweet point at which to revisit. But I’ve felt the need to justify our destination. I’m yet to meet a couple who’ve been on a UK honeymoon. The Maldives, yes. The Seychelles, of course. Mauritius, oh delightful. But Cornwall? There’s been a lot of head tilting, sad faces, arm patting. It gave me a stab of honeymoon insecurity. We should be spending £4,000 going long-haul! We need to go trekking in Thailand! This is our only honeymoon – live for the moment!
But then I realised something: after planning a wedding and training for a marathon in the same five months (cheer us on if you’re in Brighton this Sunday), all I want to do on our honeymoon is get to a fancy hotel as quickly as possible, climb into a fluffy robe, order room service and drink champagne. Straight from the bottle. And perhaps have the odd jaunt out for tea and cake.
So we’re doing exactly that. And I cannot wait. The first hotel we’re staying at is The Lugger in Portloe. We’ve never been to this part of Cornwall (if you have, offer us some tips, will you?) but it's the hotel we’re more interested in: it's small, overlooks a tiny harbour and has a restaurant. The hotel can also arrange for a local therapist to come and give treatments during your stay. Oh, and they hold weddings here, which I think would be rather lovely.
The Lugger: who need Mauritius when you can stay at this pretty spot?
The tiny town of Portloe, with The Lugger overlooking it
For the second half of our honeymoon, were going to The Scarlet. It was actually recommended to me by fellow blogging bride Anna (*waves*). She stayed here a few years ago and told me she spent most of it sitting in the outdoor hot tub drinking champagne. That sold it to me. It overlooks the beach in Mawgan Porth near Newquay and is a short drive from where we spent our first holiday.
The Scarlet near Newquay
Swim in The Scarlet's pool, then wander off to the spa
I like to think we’ll go kayaking (which I LOVE) and coasteering (which I’ve always wanted to do) but the way I feel now, I think I will be happy just immersed in the hot tub with a glass of champagne and swinging about in the spa’s cocoon pods. Check them out – we all need one of these in our living room. @MollieMcGuigan
“Ahh, bridesmaids dresses. This was an unexpected minefield”
The bridesmaids: I have one brother, no sisters, a cousin who lives in Australia and 12 best friends split across three friendship groups. Kudos to those who are brave enough to pick one from each but that was one can of worms I was NOT willing to open. Luckily for me, Nick has a sister (aged 25) and two little cousins (9 and 13) who fitted the bill perfectly.
The plan: Kill three birds with one stone. This is me on the phone to my friend Jaymie (who’s already married):
Jaymie: "So....(excited tone) when are you going dress shopping?"
Me: "On Saturday. My mum’s coming down and we’re all going to this shop I've seen online."
Jaymie: (Cautious tone) "Who's we?"
Me: "Me, my mum, Nick’s sister and her mum, his two cousins and their mums."
Jaymie: (Worried tone) "So eight of you?"
Me: " Yeah were going to make a day of it and go for lunch afterwards."
Jaymie: (Silence) "Oh, right."
WRONG. I can't even tell you just how wrong I was. Even my mood board couldn't save me.
Mistake number 1: Going en masse
If you have similarly aged bridesmaids of similar shapes, good for you. If you are looking for three different dresses for different ages then set aside the time to do three separate trips.
Mistake number 2: Thinking it would all be done and dusted by 1pm.
A nine year old, a 13 year old and 25 year old were NEVER going to get their dresses from the same shop. It took me approximately 30 seconds to work this out when there was nothing suitable for a nine year old, the over-excited 13 year old was eyeing up full-length, sweetheart neckline shocking pink atrocities and the 25 year old didn’t want an audience watch her try on unflattering, too-large sample sizes.
Mistake number 3: Losing control.
These four strong women I love and admire each had a different opinion. I defy even the strongest willed bride to remain resolute in a situation like this. After an internal melt-down I pulled myself together. All was not lost. I called for a coffee break, dropped half the crew and formulated a new game plan. Three separate shopping trips.
Here’s where I went:
Charlotte has a figure to die for but the complete opposite to mine. Where she has boobs, I do not and with no experience of dressing a shape that’s not mine, I did my research checking out Facebook pictures of her to work out which shapes that suited her. We went to Reflections in Chiswick where they stocked a brand called Dessy. As close to bespoke as is possible: pick any of the 300+ styles in any of the 90 shades available and have it made to measure.
Summoning my inner 13 year old, I reminded myself what it was like to be that age and focused on finding a dress to suit that tricky transitional time. Thank god for Coast which has shaken-off its naff knee-length satin skirt image and had a revamp. We found an off-white, chiffon dress that suited both of our requirements: grown up enough for Phoebe but not too long/ short/ low-cut/ sexy for me.
By far the easiest. Lucie never tired of stomping the streets of central London, she looked gorgeous in everything she tried on and what's more, she LOVED everything she tried on. After hitting John Lewis (too Communion-like) Monsoon (too coloured) and M&S (not enough choice) we walked past BHS. And that's where we found it.
Bridesmaids dresses: 3:0 to me.
For more bridesmaid dress inspiration, click here to see Stylist's 30 Cool Bridesmaid Dress
Weddings: how will you decorate yours?
I didn’t see the need for excessive reception decorations – it seemed expensive and since our venue is a worn-in pub, there’s already a lot of frippery in the room. Then I typed ‘wedding decorations’ into Google Image and spent hours hunched over my laptop furiously scrolling through images of crafted wedding schemes. It became my crack. We need pom-poms! Ombre paper chains! Illuminated umbrellas suspended from ceilings! In a hungover state I bought 60 Art Deco napkins at a bargain price, only to open them and find one-ply paper serviettes. You get what you pay for.
Mollie has hired lanterns for her wedding
Making everything ourselves wouldn’t be much cheaper – and it would cost in time and space – so we’ve hired the bigger decorations and will make some small details to go around the room. It’s a good compromise: we get to create a space that reflects our personality, without having to pay full-price for decorations or find space to store them. We’ve hired a selection of indoor lanterns from Perfect Details; they will also supply tiny battery-operated lights that will sit inside them and illuminate them without setting fire to anyone’s fascinator. Prices start at £1 per lantern. Perfect Details actually hires out all sorts: vases, birdcages, jugs, tea lights, blackboards. It delivers to your chosen address and collects up to one week later. If you have some nifty decoration advice, tweet me @MollieMcGuigan
We’ve done a 180
Originally, we were going to ask our wedding guests to make a £20 contribution - we were struggling to afford the wedding but we didn’t want to leave it open and put pressure on guests to gauge how much they should contribute. We definitely didn’t want a wedding gift list because we’ve lived together for years. It was a divisive subject: some people took to the comment boards and applauded it, others criticised me for being cheap and tacky.
But then it became complicated IRL: a few guests told us they wanted to contribute more, other guests asked if they could buy us presents instead, a couple of people wanted to take us out for an ‘experience’ wedding gift. We fielded a lot of questions about it – way more than we expected and it became stressful. So much so, we did a 180 on the whole idea and sent out our wedding invites and omitted any mention of gifts or contributions. If friends and family have asked about gifts and money, we've told them to do what they want.
Would you ask guests to contribute to your wedding day?
However, I stand by the concept: asking for a contribution to the wedding day itself is no different to asking for a contribution to a honeymoon, or a wedding list. It’s about time there was some transparency over the costs and funding of a wedding. For most people, eloping or having a tiny wedding, isn’t realistic or, most importantly, what they want. Likewise – everyone wants to attend their friends’ and family’s weddings. If asking for a contribution to the wedding day allows the wedding to take place in a format that suits the couple and their guests, then I think it’s a fair request. Just remember: it is not OK to ask guests to contribute to your wedding day, then serve them Wotsits and jelly and bugger off to the Seychelles for three weeks...
Wedding planning: the unsung heroes
Whenever anyone asks me how the wedding planning is going at the moment, I reply with a slight eye roll or a sheepish admission that we haven’t really progressed much. But I’ve noticed that there are a few advantages in our gradualist approach to getting wed.
Yes, we haven’t set a date yet (the plan is to get hitched some time next summer), but amid all the stress and panic that most people associate with wedding planning – and that we’ll no doubt experience at some point further down the road – there are a few smaller things about the whole process that I just LOVE and frankly, deserve a bit more credit. Behold my unsung heroes:
The celebration drinks
A toast to the happy couple!
I love the fact that every stage of wedding planning seems to involve a celebratory beverage, of the guilt-free variety. We’re not talking a sly pint of Bulmers when you should be at the gym. Wedding drinking is expected and encouraged. It's drinking for a reason.
First you crack open the Cava when you get engaged and this stage can last several months, with many different people. Then there’s the wedding dress shopping, which everyone knows is best done with a covert bottle of bubbly to share round in purloined Starbucks cups. And let’s not forget wine tasting (we haven’t got to this bit yet and I have a sneaking suspicion my parents might try to sabotage it - let them try). And then there’s the wedding itself. Ours will take place in a field and frankly, what field doesn’t look better after a glass or two of rosé?
The Pinterest addiction
Who knew of the time-wasting delights of Pinterest? Not me, until I was off sick last month. After one too many episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride, I ended up feverishly cruising the internet in search of coral flower arrangements (something, in my slightly giddy state, I decided I had to have). Pinterest opened up a brave new world of inspiration. I found not only the flowers I liked (peach and blush peonies with a genius coral rose called Miss Piggy) but bridesmaid dresses in watermelon pink, salmon-coloured paper lanterns and light blue mason jars for wild flowers. Do I really need any of this? Probably not, but it's moreish and satisfies all my wedding design cravings.
The random venue spotting
Behold the perfect wedding venue
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve said, ‘Oh look, wouldn’t that be BRILLIANT for a wedding?!’ since getting engaged. Suddenly everywhere and everything is a potential venue. Long car journeys have become punctuated by excitable sightings where I spot a gorgeous outhouse or barn from the A419 and insist on having a quick look. Half the time these places are totally unsuitable or rather more decrepit than they looked from afar. But that’s all part of the adventure.
The YouTube element
I’m ashamed to admit that since putting a ring on it, I’ve looked up wedding music on YouTube while knocking back wine on more than one occasion. This drunken DJing is not big or clever and it’s definitely not sophisticated. It’s involved Etta James, The Temptations, the theme tune to Beaches, even Mariah Carey. It’s cringe-worthy and has made Chris look at me with new eyes. But it’s so much fun.
The name-change debate
Our brides recently discussed whether they will change their name when they marry. Two said no; one said maybe. Here, freelance writer Zoe Pearson (née Martin) explains why she wanted to take her husband’s surname when they married in June 2011...
I never thought I would change my name – but then I was also completely convinced that marriage was not for me. But here’s the thing, people change. I changed. Something that I once couldn’t see the point of suddenly made more sense than anything else.
Zoe Martin and her husband Neil. Photography: Lillian and Leonard
That’s how it was with getting married... it went from not mattering to meaning more than I ever could have anticipated. But changing my name, well, that was a more difficult decision.
I come from a big family. Were you to see my aunts, my little cousins, my sister, you’d see the family resemblance right away – not just in our smiles and cheekbones, but our laughs and up-to-mischief eyes. We’re all Martins. And unmistakably so. Then there’s my papa. He’s the original Martin. (Or he is to me.) He’s also one of the best men I know. Even at 90, he’s quick with a smile, witty, patient, smart, brilliant... so many of the qualities of the people that I love come from him.
But then there was my new family to consider. My now husband didn’t want me to ‘take’ his surname. He wanted us to share the same surname. To be a team, a unit, a pack. Our very own little family of two.
As fiercely proud as I was of being a Martin, I hadn’t expected him to be the same of his family name. He comes from a much smaller family than I do. And the more I thought about why my surname meant so much to me, the more I understood why it meant so much to change mine.
In the end, I changed my name. Sort of. In fact, I cheated. I kept my original surname and legally made it my middle name. And then I gained a new surname. It’s maybe not the most conventional thing to do (and certainly comes with a lot more forms and fuss) but my new name seems to suit me to a tee. It's best of both worlds... a name that truly says who I am.
Will you change your surname if you marry? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Why you need wedding beauty trials
I’ve spent the last week having wedding-day trials. Apparently you must do this to avoid arriving at the altar with orange hair, or false lashes extending to your hairline, or a hairstyle so tight you get a headache. Here are a few of the things I’ve been trialling. (It’s a long post but, hopefully, useful.)
Bye-bye two-tone hair
First up: hair. My natural colour is dark blonde and I’ve been growing out highlights for the last six months. But now I’m getting hitched, I want to conceal the three-inch roots. I booked into Rush Strand, which was recommended by a friend. Well, HELLO, my new regular salon. Yes it’s a chain but I care not. It’s a lovely salon with some great additional services (massage, conditioning masks, champagne) and the man who coloured my hair (Peter Russell – call and book him, right now) was a gem. He managed to take my Lego hair and turn it into a sleek, consistently coloured long bob. Peter recommends having your hair coloured one to two weeks before your wedding day or, if you’re having a big change, visit your colourist as soon as possible. Rush Strand A half head of highlights at Rush on The Strand starts at £88.
I don’t want a make-up artist on my wedding day because my best woman and I are both confident in doing it, but I do want new products and some advice on how to update my every day make-up (which usually involves liquid liner and pink lipstick). I went to MAC Soho for a makeover with senior artist Debbie Finnegan. The shop has a private room – request this when booking or you could be on the shop floor – and a little bench for friends to sit on and watch.
She made subtle changes: instead of my usual bright-pink lips, she gave me coral-hued Vegas Volt. She took my liquid-liner flick and developed it into a smudgy eye, introducing soft-brown eye shadows and dots of gold liquid liner. She also did an brilliant job on my eyebrows (see below for her guide). Tips from Debbie: continue your foundation onto your ears (they often go pink when you’re emotional), don’t put foundation on your eyes as it encourages product build-up and apply everything with brushes to ensure durable coverage.
Above: Mollie before and after her MAC makeover
I made notes throughout the makeover and recreated it at home. If you’re not confident with make-up, book an artist to come to you on your wedding day. But, if you are – or one of your friends is – I’d recommend this. It’s fun, you learn new techniques and you maintain control over your make-up. All MAC stores offer a 90-minute bridal make-up service (£50, redeemable against purchase).
Debbie’s guide to eyebrows
“Ensure your eyebrow begins, arches and ends in the correct place. A brow that is too short can make the eyes appear smaller. Hold a pencil along the side of the nostril to extend vertically and reach past the inner eye (see diagram) this is the correct starting point. Then move the pencil diagonally from the side of the nostril to the pupil of the eye – this is where the highest point of the brow arch should fall. Lastly, move the pencil to the side of the nostril to the outer corner of the eye to guide you where the brow should end.
"A brow that is too short can make the eyes appear smaller," says MAC senior artist Debbie Finnegan
"Next look at the 'underneath' of the eyebrow (where the brow runs parallel with the lash line). For a classic eyebrow shape, create a straight line that runs from the inner corner to the arch of the brow (see diagram 2) and then from the highest point of the arch down.
"Finally, colour: unless your brows are very fair, choose a colour that is a shade lighter than your natural hair/brow hair colour, this will allow you to add depth and density with out making the feature appear heavy.”
So far, I’ve had one hair-up trial – with Tullulah at Daniel Galvin. It’s an AMAZING salon. Properly fancy, with a bar, café and waiter service. Tullulah was a judge on Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model and worked my hair so quickly and effortlessly, you’d think she has 20 years experience in the industry. She’s actually only 24. I’m going for a vaguely Thirties hair-do but that’s all I will say. Tullulah was a whiz and her editorial experience means she’d clued up on trends and new techniques. Daniel Galvin offers bridal packages, starting at £150 for a trial. The stylists can also come to you on your wedding day, which starts at £100 per hour. Pricey, but since I am incapable of putting my own hair up, I think it’s well worth it
Occasionally I have lash extensions in an attempt to make my small weasel eyes appear bigger. They really work – and they stand out in photos. Also, you don’t need mascara with them (good if you think you’re going to be a weepy bride). I go to Blink in Harvey Nichols, London but they have branches all over the country. Individual lashes are 8mm-14mm, in either natural curl or dramatic curl. For 40 lashes on each eye, it takes about an hour of application and costs £80. They can last up to a month if you look after them carefully: wear goggles in the shower, delicately remove your eye make-up, don’t rub your eyes and use a little brush to style them. If you’ve never had them applied before, have a trial a month or so before your wedding day so you know which length you want and how they will work with your make-up. Have them reapplied a few days before your wedding to allow them to settle. Tips: tint your lashes before you go to make them appear fuller and help them blend in (Blink can also do this for you for £18).
Why are hen nights such a drama?
“It’s become such a nightmare” – is a refrain I’ve heard more than once from those tasked with organising a hen do. It might sound ungrateful coming from a bridesmaid/best woman but I’ve got a lot of empathy. Gone are the days that a night in the local boozer counts as a send-off. Today's hen “do” has evolved into an undertaking of near-military proportions, involving endless planning, negotiations and underhand tactics. Knocking back shots amid a game of Mr. and Mrs. will no longer suffice. Instead, it’s all about upping the game, finding something different, something glamorous, something that will somehow ensure the bride is having the best time ever (or melting into a pot of embarrassment, depending on your approach).
Hen dos are now big business, with an ever-more sensational chorus line of options to choose from. A life drawing weekend in Tuscany? No problem! A surfing and yoga retreat in Morocco? It’s yours in a click. Or how about taking inspiration from Prince Harry and going down the Vegas route? Debaucherous fun guaranteed.
My own hen repertoire is varied and messy, from cavorting round Paris with a pair of inflatable breasts to dressing up as Madonna in Zambia, making rafts in a cold lake in Wales (something I’m spectacularly bad at, I discovered) and running drunkenly round a quiet village in the Cotswolds. I’ve had a complete laugh on each of them and I wouldn’t change a thing. However, I do wonder when the whole concept became so epic. And also, how we can avoid the same old issues cropping up.
One major headache is money. £250 on a hen weekend is a lot, but you can do it if it’s a one-off with a close mate. Not so if you’ve got four weddings in one summer, with a hen do for each, plus money for gifts and accommodation. Suddenly, the costs escalate out of all control and you’re faced with the prospect of reliving your student days and eating baked beans for a month just to afford it all.
Should we bring hen dos back to basics?
Then there’s the guest list: do you invite your mum? And your mother-in-law? I’d like both to be involved (if they’re game) but this will naturally affect the group dynamic. Which brings us onto another major hen do minefield – to sleaze or not to sleaze. For some women, the concept of naked lotharios or Butlers In The Buff is cringe worthy, a one-way ticket to humiliation that is right up there with L plates and bunny ears in terms of tack factor. For others, it’s basically a rite of passage.
My own view stands somewhere in-between; I feel like there should be a willy straw or two in the mix, along with novelty sunglasses and all that shebang. But this shouldn’t rule out doing something more tasteful or sophisticated as well. It’s not an either/or situation, rather a balance that ensures everyone’s happy, especially the bride. And I think that’s the crux. If the bride has a complete aversion to customised thongs or vetoes strippers, it’s important her voice is heard. We’re past that stage of embarrassing people for the sake of it and if the bride has caveats, so be it. It’s her night.
As for all the other issues, I have no idea how to solve them but I’ll soon get a chance to find out. One of my bridesmaids is also getting married, so we’ll have a shot at sorting one another’s hen dos. All I want is something original and fun that will make her happy and that all her guests can afford. Oh, and preferably based somewhere glamorous too. Easy, right?
When did hen dos become such a hassle? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments below.
Stylish wedding shoes: are you out there?
Type wedding shoe into Google image and the first photo is of a white satin stiletto with a faux-diamond cluster on the toe. The next photo has the same MO but an even higher heel, with the addition of a platform. But I don't want to wear shoes like that. I want a wedding shoe that is stylish and has a sense of personality. I also want a shoe that I can walk in, that won’t have me shuffling about like Tina Turner in her Simply The Best video.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching wedding shoes and I’ve finally found mine – they’re simple, pale gold numbers, with a small heel. My research showed me a whole world beyond the traditional wedding shoe – here are some of the brands that really stood out...
Dessine-moi un soulier
I love this French company. It’s run by two friends and they got in touch with me through Twitter. They specialise in customisation: the site has lots of different styles, which can then be customised by changing the colour, embellishments and heel size. It takes up to six weeks for customised shoes to be delivered. Prices from €166 (£140).
I tried on a few pairs of Rachel’s shoes when I was at Luella’s Boudoir in Wimbledon but you can also buy online. She offers read-to-wear shoes from £85 and you can browse by heel height (they range from 5cm to 10cm). Also – she makes satin shoes that are actually nice.
I went through a phase of wanting a statement wedding shoe, until I realised it would look ridiculous with my dress. Reiss does some real knock-out shoes, especially for hip and colourful brides.
Oh Asos, you really comes up trumps, again and again. Asos has a huge selection of shoes at reasonable prices - here are a couple of my favourites.
My-Wardrobe has properly snazzy shoes and fine designers: (Marc by Marc Jacons, Sam Edelman, Bionda Castana). Prices are high but these are shoes you can wear again (think cost-per-wear).
At the top-end of bridal shoes, I'm impressed by Emmy Scarterfield, the designer behind Emmy. She offers ready-to-wear from £260 for a simple court shoe, and bespoke shoes from at £360, which take 14 weeks to make.
Raise a glass to drunk brides
The morning after our engagement party, I woke up fully clothed, with the taste of vinegar in my mouth and a vague, clawing memory of falling in a bush. “You cannot get that drunk on our wedding day” was my boyfriend’s thoughts on the matter.
I remember a few things from that night: I lined up three glasses of red wine and slurred “They’re ALL mine.” I had to take 10 minutes out from the party to go and sit on the loo and focus on the toilet roll dispenser. And I fell asleep on my cousin’s shoulder on the night bus home. This would all be alright on a normal Saturday night. It’s even alright at our engagement party (I was nervous, OK?) but it’s not, I gather, OK on my wedding day.
Friends and family have all echoed the same sentiment: brides shouldn’t get drunk on their wedding day. Have a couple, sure. But don’t appear under the influence. Don’t tearfully tell your best woman that she’s the most amazing friend you’ve ever had. And then tell her again. Do not kick-off your shoes, hoik up your dress and holler "GIMME THAT TOOT TOOT! LEMME GIVE YOU THAT BEEP BEEP!" to Ignition Remix while knocking back Blossom Hill cab sav straight from the bottle.
But this is what makes weddings such fun - letting go with your nearest and dearest; behaving like wallies and telling everyone you love them; watching Mum jiving to The Rolling Stones and Dad, with his tie round his head, doing the turn-the-key dance (an old family favourite that looks exactly as it sounds).
Of course, getting completely trashed will mean I won’t remember any of this. With that in mind, moderation is worthwhile. But there’s more to bridal sobriety than preserving your memory. It’s linked to old fashioned ideas of what it is to be a woman: we should have decorum, we should remain calm, we should be a beautiful, glowing accessory on our man’s arm. My partner hasn’t been offered the same advice and he’s as much of a liability as me – his drunken antics usually include doing the chicken dance.
We’ll go easy on the drinks so we can remember the finer details of our wedding day but we like to party and I hope our wedding to be the finest one yet. If I end up in my trainers, grinding to Chaka Demus & Pliers while making sexy eyes with my new husband, then so be it. On our wedding day we will be nothing but ourselves.
How much is too much for a wedding dress?
I tried on wedding dresses for the first time this weekend and it was like entering a whole new world. For some reason, I had envisaged bridal viewings as being a bit awkward and intimidating, with stand-offish assistants and dresses you had to squeeze in and out of while trying desperately not to smear your make-up. Or worse, a kind of Pretty Woman scenario (minus Julia Roberts and in erm, Brighton rather than Beverly Hills).
The reality couldn’t be more different. We headed to the White Leaf Boutique in the Lanes area of Brighton, run by Blanka. Blanka is endlessly patient and was more than happy for five girls to cram into the changing room armed with Cava and plastic cups. She also has a brilliant eye and was able to interpret my vague “I’d like a 50s-inspired gown for a summer wedding” into a series of very workable options. What became clear to me during our session is that dress-making really is an art. It sounds obvious, but I was amazed that we were able to customise a 50s-style blank canvas outline with lace, chiffon and silk to create entirely different dresses. We spent two hours trying on silk tulles with chiffon and lace overlays, lace sleeves (my favourites!), keyhole motifs at the back, V-necks versus boat necks, crystal motifs, silk flowers and lace trim sashes. We even tried on a Birdcage veil, which added a jaunty, playful edge to the look.
We weren’t able to take photos but the whole process was an eye-opener. Who knew trying on dresses could be such a laugh? Or that styles I’d previously completely dismissed in my head (like a full-length lace fishtail gown – on the basis of me being just over 5ft tall) would actually work well? For the first time in this whole wedding thing, I felt like I was actually getting married for real and it was exciting.
The only slight problem is money; at White Leaf, I was looking in the £900-£1,200 range. From what everyone says, this is pretty reasonable for bespoke, custom-made dresses but I had previously set a limit of around £300-£500 (this was supposed to be a fantasy shopping expedition).
My attitude has always been, why spend loads of money on something you only wear for one day? But now I see how it can happen. It seems wrong to bust my budget on the very first hurdle although I have now found something that I love and the temptation is to go for it. I want to feel good on my wedding day, after all. But does that mean I’ll be short-changing guests when it comes to canapés or drinks further down the line? It's a tough one - and while I decide, I may very well try on some more dresses...
What do you think? Are there any great bridal boutiques you’ve visited? And where do you stand on the whole wedding dress/money issue? Is hiring dresses a good alternative? Or is it even worth dying your dress afterwards so you can wear it again? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @annabrech.
Last month I went to a very exciting fragrance launch where I met Frederic Malle. After we discussed his new, beyond beautiful fragrant creation I couldn't resist picking his brains about wedding fragrances. His advice? "Don't smell like anyone else. Use scent to make you stand out. Be exclusive; it's your day. Find your true love and it will live with you forever."
Confession time: I don't have a signature scent *shock horror*. I've tried borrowing (read: stealing) various other people's but they aren't me. I want to find 'the one'. A scent I can spritz one evening in fifty years' time when playing dress-up with my (future) grand-daughter and be instantly transported back to May 26 2013. Like my Grandma used to do with me when we would dress up in her evening gowns and spritz ourselves with Joy by Jean Patou.
I did some market research over Sunday lunch recently:
- My Mum wore Charlie Red by Revlon. It was new and fashionable in July 1981 but she hated it three years later.
- Grandma Joyce (Dad's mum) got married in 1951 and wore Chanel No 5 because it was popular. She didn't particularly love it.
- Grandma Maureen (Mum's mum) has remained faithful to Joy since 1954.
(At this point my Mum changed her mind and thought she might have worn Guerlain Nahema. Too late, Charlie girl.)
- Jill (Nick's Mum) wore Molinard de Molinard, a niche French fragrance given to her by a friend in 1978 that she still loves.
Pop market research this may be but Frederic, my grandma and Jill have all persuaded me that definitely don't want to wear something just because it's popular. I want something I'll love forever. But how do I go about finding it?
I spoke to Michael Donovan, all round scent guru about bridal fragrances. Here's what he had to say:
"Think about the season. Summer brides should remember that the heat affects scent; clean and refreshing rather than overpowering is key. Think citrus, light greens and floral notes. If you choose a winter wedding a more potent scent can work as perfume doesn't travel in cold weather. In spring, white flowers are in blossom so lilacs, magnolia, narcissus and hyacinth work nicely and as the leaves turn in autumn, something slightly spicier can be nice.
Imagine the mood you are you creating. Brides get caught up matching the bouquet to their perfume. Think further; are you aiming for a romantic theme or something more sensual? Maybe you want it to be very simple or you want to make a statement. The fragrance choice must reinforce the visual.
The most important point is the most obvious. It must suit YOU. What smells nice on a scent strip, in store or on someone else may not suit your skin. Ask for a small phial to take home and try it in your own surroundings. Make sure that the perfume you love loves you right back."
What kind of bride are you?
Une Rose, £130, Frederic Malle (lessenteurs.com)
A full blown, iconic blossom with a hint of truffle oil to make it pop. Sophisticated.
''Fleurissimo, £149, Creed (Harrods)
Bursting with lilies, iris and tuberose this is fit for a princess. It was created for Grace Kelly to wear on her wedding day.
Narcotic Venus, £108, Nasomatto (averyfineperfumeries.com)
A soft, sensuous tuberose. A thoughtful scent.
Muguet du Bonheur, £69.50, Caron (Fortnum and Mason)
Lily of the Valley is delicate and feminine. This is perfect for spring weddings.
Romantina, £79, Juliette Has A Gun (Selfridges)
Jasmine, rose, a dash of vanilla and flirty patchouli - for a passionate bride.
After My Own Heart, £80, Ineke (roulierwhite.com)
One for the romantics - lilac blossoms, heliotrope, peony and angels trumpet - achingly beautiful.
For something that most people barely consider there seems to be an awful lot to think about. I'm happy to take the time rather than live to regret my choice. As Malle points out, "Choosing a fragrance seems very much like a marriage - it has to be a true love affair if it's going to work."
Let me know how you discovered your wedding scent @Sam__Flowers
How to enjoy a wedding fair
ABOVE: The London Wedding Emporium
I’ve been to wedding fairs with friends and always ended up feeling a bit like I do when I’m in a shopping centre: claustrophobic, irritable and a bit aggressive. All the bonhomie we felt on arrival (“Ahhhh! A heart made from peonies!” “Oooh! A macaron wedding cake!”) slowly dissolved as we were jostled out the way by bridezillas high on wedding consumerism. But now I’m getting married, I can see the value in wedding fairs. They are a place where I can talk about weddings non-stop without worrying I’m boring others. They are a place where no-one is going to sarcastically shoot me down when I ask “How can I make a paper lantern more romantic?” They can also be very inspirational providing you do the following:
Turn up early, without a hangover.
Go alone or take a friend who is excited about weddings. (This is not the place for grumpy sneering.)
You have money to spend.
You have comfortable shoes on.
There are big-hitter fairs, such as The National Wedding Show, but I’m more interested in smaller set-ups, which have a variety of price points and a contemporary take on trends and ideas. Here are the London ones I think look promising. I’d love to hear about other wedding fairs – especially those out of London. Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @MollieMcGuigan
24 February; 11am-4pm; £6 on the door; Chiswick Town Hall, W4
Yes, yes, this will be filled with cupcakes and bunting and people dressed up like they are extras in Goodnight Sweetheart BUT I like the idea of a few small old-school touches at our wedding and people who are into the retro scene understand the importance of colour and vibrancy – two things that are very important for our wedding. Also, you can have a proper cup of tea and scone at the event.
2 and 3 March, from 11am; £3 adv; Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1
I know about this fair because it’s run by Kat Hill – the photographer we’ve booked for our wedding. She’s organising the two-day event with fellow wedding photographer Caro Hutchings. They promise “no hard sales, no flashy shows”, with an emphasis on smaller suppliers such as The Photo Emporium and The Sugared Saffron Cake Company. I know it will be good because Kat has ruddy good taste, a sense of humour and she calls bunting, funting.
1 April, £6 adv, times vary, 22 Clerkenwell Green, The Old Session House, EC1R and 14 April; Bloomsbury Ballroom, Victoria House, 37-63 Southampton Row, WC1B
These fairs are run by stylist Zoe Lem and take a more contemporary approach. Check out Zoe’s dresses, which mix vintage-inspired frocks with bursts of colourful accessories. Both fairs will have a fashion show, demonstrations, lots of suppliers and a champagne bar. Zoe likes her fairs to be “less aprons and teacakes and more Hollywood glamour”.
19-21 April, £3 adv, Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, E1
This fair is from the lovely team behind A Most Curious Party, which hires out party supplies. It used to be all about vintage styling but it’s become a more design-led affair now (the press shots for the next fair are very fashion). Expect it to be bright, fun and friendly, with an emphasis on creative and flexible suppliers, including dresses, props, catering,
We've set the date and set the budget
On Boxing Day, after a few hours of manic list-making, my boyfriend and I set our wedding budget. We think (read: hope) that £7,000 will cover everything except the hen-do, stag-do and honeymoon. That’s a lot of exclusions but the first two will be low-key and the third expense has been put on hold – we want to celebrate with our friends and family more than we want to go on holiday.
We want to hold our ceremony at Hackney Town Hall, a short walk from where we live, and we want to hire a nearby pub for the reception. We looked at a few east London reception venues, including Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch (too small); London Fields Brewery (not cosy enough) and The Crown in Victoria Park (too familiar – we go there all the time).
Then we went to The Londesborough [above] in Stoke Newington. It felt right for us: it’s relaxed and trad-pub, but also has a sweet, private garden, a DJ booth and decent space for dancing, eating and live music and we can have exclusive hire on a Saturday. They had availability on the day we want, 25 May, as did Hackney Town Hall (it will be covered in scaffolding and there will be some building work inside, but hopefully we’ll all be drunk and emotional enough not to notice). We booked our wedding two weeks after we got engaged.
The Londesborough, where Mollie will hold her wedding reception this summer
It was – despite what everyone warned us – easy. I think that’s because we made a few compromises: the date is slightly earlier than we want but any later and certain friends couldn’t make the day, we’ll do a lot of the extras ourselves to save money. But I think that’s important – we want our wedding day to be an informal celebration and being relaxed about the some of the details will, hopefully, allow room for spontaneity and character. Still, anyone got any ideas how we can make the scaffolding look whimsical?
Wedding day fears
It’s the night before your wedding day. Are you worrying about A) bad weather B) spilling red wine down your gown or C) your vintage Morgan breaking down on the way to the venue? A survey by hair product specialist Fabriah.com found all three made it into a shortlist of top wedding nightmares. We asked our brides-to-be what they are most nervous of and how they plan to tackle it…
I’m nervous about walking into the ceremony. It’s a strange situation (Quick! Put on my song! I’m about to bust through the door in a totally over-the-top frock!). And it’s made weirder by walking in to find every one of our friends and family there. Who must not crack up. Or make me crack up. And there will be my boyfriend, who I won’t have seen for 24 hours and who I must not bound over to and excitedly scream “Tooone!” before blathering on about how uncomfortable my Spanx are. And I must not give into the type of crying that can only end in snot bubbles and hiccups.
Oh, and I better make sure my dad doesn’t go the wrong way around the aisle, which skirts the room and comes in at a diagonal instead of just slicing through the room like every other venue. To help me on this, I’ve decided to have three bridesmaids who will go in just ahead of me and keep us on track. The music will be fun and upbeat, which should minimise the blubbering, and I’m going to wear a blusher – that’s a veil that goes over your face but should actually be called a snotter, because that’s what it will help disguise.
Seems I am a complete bridal cliché as my biggest wedding fear (along with 27% of brides in the survey, above) is that the weather will make my wedding a total wash out.
Having chosen a venue in the depths of the countryside, I want my guests to see it in all its glory. The evening part is taking place inside a marquee so that’s fine but it’s the ceremony and reception that are pretty much reliant on the sun gods looking out for me. Actually scrap that, I don’t need sun. I just need dry. DRY. Please don’t rain. Pretty much all that I can do is keep everything crossed, buy a load of white umbrellas and hope that at worst, it makes a good photo op.
Actually, I just had another thought. Food rates quite highly too. Argh.
If there’s anything watching Don’t Tell The Bride has taught me, it’s that lots of things can go wrong at weddings. LOTS. Drunken brides, awkward first dances, caterers not showing up. The possibilities are endless. Yet the couples all end up more or less content (for that one sound bite anyway). So my approach to weddings – scientifically based on reality TV – is that come what may, it will all come good on the day. As long as everyone’s happy and the booze keeps flowing, the job’s a good ‘un, right?
I’m trying to stick to this Zen approach because otherwise everything would scare me. That’s why weddings become so stressful, especially with the kind of event we're planning. From the random field to the makeshift marquee and general alfresco element, disasters are just waiting to happen. I may as well resolve myself to a few things going wrong and then if they don’t, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
That said, although practical stuff doesn't faze me (and perhaps it should), I am daunted by the general sense of formality of a wedding - and the expectation that comes with this. My main concern for the day is that everyone has a good time. But I don’t want to become so hung up on this that I forget to enjoy myself. There’s nothing worse than stressed newlyweds, after all. So Chris and I are taking a single-minded approach: we’re reducing or getting rid of stuff that stresses us out. We won’t be having a first dance and we’ll keep speeches to a minimum, with a joint toast from us both. We will our utmost not to be drawn into any politics or discussions on the way things should be done, as opposed to what we want to do. We’ll lay on a good supply of food, drink and music and hopefully everything else will fall into place.
This is all very easy to say and our laid-back attitude will surely wane as the wedding date draws near, but I’m hoping it will help me keep a lid on any anxieties. And if I do end up stumbling drunkenly in my dress or Chris forgets his vows or the flowers don’t turn up or it rains so hard that everyone ends up trudging through the mud: hey, it’s nothing that hasn’t happened on DTTB.
My only experience of a wedding boutique was at Luella’s Boudoir in Wimbledon. It was recommended to me by a friend and it’s a great find. It’s set up a like a bedroom, with a day bed and lots of soft furnishings and a wardrobe full of beautiful wedding gowns. And I do mean gowns: proper intricate, beaded numbers and silk dresses with Royal-worthy trains. This is not the place for a structured meringue dress. It’s the boutique to come to for a modern dress, with a soft outline. Rachel is a star – she’s friendly without being pushy, she’s full of ideas, she's honest and she made me feel comfortable (important when, arms in the air, arse hanging out, I got stuck in a dress and needed assistance). The boutique shares the space with a tailor and together, he and Rachel will make and source anything wedding related: shoes, belts, sashes, dresses, shrugs, veils and jewellery. She also allows brides to bring in their dresses to match with accessories, which is unusual for a wedding boutique. I didn’t come out with a wedding dress but I did try on a few absolute beauties and ordered a belt and a pair of snazzy dancing shoes. @MollieMcGuigan
I've found my wedding dress
I found my wedding dress three days after my boyfriend and I got engaged. I was poorly and feeling sorry for myself. To cheer myself up, I looked online at wedding dresses. I saw a dress I liked and was within my budget and ordered it. It arrived the next day and it felt right – it’s embroidered without being fussy, it has sleeves (essential for me as I am self conscious of my arms) and it flatters my figure. But who wants to waste a good opportunity for dressing up in beautiful frocks and wafting about a room saying “Swoosh! Swoosh!”? Not me. So I sent back The Dress and ordered several more. I did all this online. It seemed logical to me – I work online, I have a busy job that doesn’t allow much time for appointments at boutiques and I like trying on clothes in my own home, with a couple of opinionated friends for guidance.
My dress budget was £500 and all the dresses I have tried on have been from high street retailers – except for one trip to the very lovely, and not at all stressful, Luella’s Boudoir in Wimbledon, London, which was recommended by a friend. I tried on roughly 10 dresses from the high street between £299-£750, plus three dresses in Luella’s, which ranged from £1,500-£2,600. Yes, some these were wildly out of my budget but I wanted to experience high-end bridal wear just once and if I had fallen for a dress slightly over my budget, I might have called on my credit card (very irresponsible, don’t do it).
Bar a few horrors and The Dress (which I want to keep a surprise and was, by the way, within budget), the high-street dresses I tried on feature below. I will post about Luella's Boudoir later in the week. I was impressed by the high-street wedding ranges - especially at Phase Eight. The quality across all brands was impressive and most of them didn't require any alterations to the fit.
Things to know about me: I’m 5”9, size 10-12. I don’t like showing off my body (I might get my legs out in summer but never legs and arms. Definitely never cleavage.) The final caveats on my wedding dress search were: it should make me feel wonderful, it should have movement and a bit of give and, very importantly, it should be suitable for wearing while shacking out to R Kelly’s Vibe.
Name changing: yes or no?
It's a subject that poses a dilemma for many people. Would you change your name when you marry, or have you already? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter. Here's what Stylist brides Mollie, Sam and Anna have to say...
Mollie says no
When I marry my boyfriend this May, I won't be changing my name. It's partly influenced by my family - my mum and my sister-in-law kept their maiden names when they married. And it's hugely linked to my professional identity – my work has been published under Mollie McGuigan for six years. Also, I'm being petulant: if my boyfriend won’t consider it, neither will I.
Of course, British convention is for women to take their husbands name and there's an expectation from some of our friends and family that I will too. I find myself explaining my reasons for keeping my surname when I don't see why it needs qualifying. What a woman does with her surname when she marries should be a discussion not an assumption.
Now, before the traditionalists get on the defensive, I don't think women are letting down the sisterhood by taking their partner's name. I think it's a personal decision with complex reasoning - perhaps you’ve always been embarrassed by your surname, maybe you want to distance yourself from your paternal family. But, I do think it’s a decision women should make with a bit of passion, a bit of fire – not just because its convention. Exercise your right to choose and be thankful you're not faced with the sexist expectations my mum was: in 1975, pregnant and teaching in a London secondary school, she was taken aside and asked to change her name to my dad's "to set a good example".
It’s not only surnames that are a conundrum – there’s also the issue of honorifics. Women can choose from miss, mrs or ms and oh what a choice! Do we want to A) have people assume we’re single; B) inform everyone we meet we’re married or C) provoke surprised looks from Vivian at the doctors surgery. I’ve always quite enjoyed the latter so I am happy to remain Ms Mollie McGuigan in all aspects of my life.
My partner and I won’t be joined in name but that’s not where our unity and partnership is found – that's in supporting one another, being kind to each other and working as part of a team. Happy, healthy relationships should be built on compromises, but my name won’t be one of them.
Sam says maybe
I’ve been thinking more and more about this for the last few months but I’m still on the fence. I don’t feel hugely passionate about preserving the line of Flowers – my brother can do that for me – but neither do I feel like you must have the same name as your husband to make it official.
Just to make it clear, my married name is going to be Silver. Here-in lie my issues:
- I can’t double barrel. Silver-Flowers? Only my mum and my future-mother-in-law think it’s funny.
- Sam Silver sounds like a cowboy
- Samantha Silver sounds like a porn star (or a sex toy when said in a South African accent)
So for these reasons I decided I was going to keep my name for work and change it in my personal life. I’ve spent the last six years building a name and identity for myself as a writer and don’t really want to change that but here is what’s bothering me:
- I am rubbish at paperwork and will no doubt get everything confused. Or not do it properly.
- If I’m going through the hassle of the paperwork why not do it completely.
-For work, other people tend to book travel arrangements for me – what if the ticket and passport don’t match – I could be stranded at an airport
- If I want to have the same surname as my (future) family, wouldn’t it just be easier now? People will be used to it in a few weeks.
I haven’t consulted Nick about any of this and I don’t really think he would be that bothered either way. He knows that a name doesn’t make any difference to our relationship. I am also completely aware that when the time comes (not in the immediate future) that we have a family, I will want us all to have the same name. So, I am on the fence. Do I change it partially or completely?
After all, my surname will always be with me – I had it tattooed on me (very small, very private) in Thailand six years ago for this very reason.
Anna says no
There are a lot of things I need to sort before getting married but one issue I’ve always been clear on is that I won’t be changing my name. I’m not opposed to the principle – I think changing your name to match your partner can be quite romantic and combining surnames is also a nice compromise – but for me, my name is so bound with my identity that the idea of changing it freaks me out.
Brech (rhymes with neck) is hardly a beautiful surname: it’s harsh-sounding and open to any number of playground jokes and mispronunciations. Yet it’s an integral part of me and my family history. It’s actually Austro-Hungarian in origin: my great-grandpa Franz Josef Brech came to London from Vienna in the early 1900s in pursuit of the woman he loved (and later married). He managed a restaurant on Bond Street but was interned as an enemy alien during the 1st World War, in a devastating turn of events that threw his family into turmoil. His son, my wonderful grandpa, fought his way out of a poverty-stricken immigrant background to become a well-known economist who worked in military intelligence during WW2.
I’m aware this is starting to sound like a dubious episode of Who Do You Think You Are? but to cut a long story short, it seems to me that their struggle in the face of adversity is central to the Brech name. It’s also the name I struggled to write in large, loopy letters aged four, the name emblazoned on my highly glamorous pink and grey PE knickers as a teen and the name that echoed over the Tannoy system when I was stranded overnight at Bangkok airport aged 18. It’s part of me and I’m not willing to renounce it in the name of tradition alone.
Changing your name is no longer a given and it’s not necessary to prove a point. As far as I can see, it has no obvious practical benefits either. So unless you want to change your surname, there’s no reason to. My decision is helped by the fact that Chris doesn’t feel strongly about it and will support me whatever I do. When and if we have children, it’s an issue we’ll re-visit: but for now this lady’s not for turning.
Mollie McGuigan is Emerald Street’s deputy editor. She has just four months to plan a city centre wedding that fits with her feminist standards.
How can I have a wedding that doesn’t compromise my values? That’s a question I’ve asked for years. Five years, actually. That’s how long I’ve been with my boyfriend Tony. A wonderful man, who’s been such an exciting addition to my life, and who has made me a calmer, kinder, much less angry woman. I’d like to celebrate our relationship and make a formal commitment to the long game.
We have always had firm ideas about how our wedding day would roll: we’d like it to happen quickly so the planning doesn’t consume us for too long, and we’d like it to take place near where we live in Hackney in east London, a place that has been our playground, a backdrop for some of our happiest moments.
However, I have several reservations about weddings and the conventions that surround them. Mainly, I think traditional weddings are out of touch. Why should Tony ask my dad for my hand in marriage? Why should I have to change my surname? Why are there so few female voices when it comes to wedding speeches? Why should our families pay for it? And how are wedding lists still A Thing? We don’t need a butter dish. No-one needs a butter dish.
Tony and I spent a lot of time thinking of ways to make our wedding more equal and inclusive but it always felt like we were compromising, so we shelved it – until November last year. That’s when we went on holiday to Jamaica and spent every night drinking Red Stripe and watching balmy sunsets. The marriage topic came up almost every night (twinkling waters and Damian Marley, it’s your fault) and one night towards the end of our holiday we drank far too much and boisterously mapped out exactly how we wanted to get married, in a way we felt would sit comfortably with our values. Then I slurred, “I wuv you. Lesh do thish.” Two weeks later, on Christmas Day (and without asking my dad’s permission), Tony asked me to marry him. It was a surprise – we’ve had a lot of drunken wedding chat since we met and I thought this was no different. I did a little cry and then said yes – on the agreement that we stick to the list we hastily made on holiday.
It went something like this (I’ve removed the swear words):
- I won’t change my name.
- We’ll have a best man and a best woman and they’ll both give speeches.
- There will be no wedding list but we will ask guests for a £20 contribution to help towards the cost of the day. We’ll pay the rest.
- We’ll do it quickly.
- Hipster factors will be kept to a minimum. We live in Hackney, we both work in the media and we’re getting married in east London. Fine. But I won't be arriving on a penny farthing and Tony won’t be wearing a pocket watch.
- We’ll look like we’re getting married in 2013, not like we’re on our way to a Blitz party.
- Cupcakes and bunting are banned.
So far, we’ve set our date for 25 May 2013 and we’ve agreed it will take place in Hackney. I thought four-and-a-half months was plenty of time to plan a wedding. Everyone else’s reactions suggest this is a bit naive. We’ll see. Until the big W day, I’ll blog about everything – from dress shopping and bridal make-up, to the politics of speeches and the thorny issue of surnames. I’d love to hear your thoughts – either in the comments section below or on twitter @molliemcguigan.
Samantha Flowers is Stylist's deputy beauty editor. She is getting married in four months.
Nick proposed while we were on holiday in December 2011. I’m warning you – if you don’t like cheesy romanticism look away now.
During a walk along the beach at the end of a hard day's sunbathing, Nick pointed to something in the sand. That something was a message that said ‘Marry Me Sam?’ I cried. He was shaking. I warned you. Anyway, fast forward over a year later and we have been engaged for AGES. Or what feels like ages. But now suddenly the wedding is soon. Really soon.
By the time Nick and I actually make it down the aisle we’ll have been engaged for 18 months. We had various reasons for this: we wanted a spring wedding and thought five months wasn’t long enough to plan one (sorry Mollie!), I started a new job at Stylist two weeks before he proposed so I couldn’t even face starting to think about weddings for a good few months, and planning a Northern wedding whilst living in London takes time. And lots of train journeys. Now, with four months to go, pretty much everything is now planned and in place mostly thanks to the amazing organisational skills of my mother. Seriously, she could have a second career as a wedding planner. I’m genuinely not sure what she’s going to talk about once the weddings over. In fact, if it wasn’t for her telling everyone at her hairdressers about the latest wedding instalments (“Sam and Nick still can’t agree on a wedding venue”) we still wouldn’t have a venue. That was the hardest task for us – Nick is from Manchester, I’m from Sheffield and we wanted to get married somewhere in the middle. We also had our hearts set on a countryside venue. It was during a googling session in the hairdressers that she came across Brookfield Manor in the village of Hathersage – and that was it.
So I have a venue, a dress and my shoes. The bridesmaids dresses are done, I’ve chosen the flowers, the food and designed the invitations. Everything is now planned and in place. Everything that is, except everything that you would expect me to have had in place since day one. I HAVE FORGOTTEN THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS….
I need to plan how I’m going to have my hair. Decide if I’m going to do my own makeup or find someone to do it for me. I need to work out what colour I want to wear on my nails and what scent I’m going to wear. I have to decide how many days I’m going to have a tan before the wedding (I can’t carry off white without some colour) and I REALLY need to start toning up my arms. So every now and again I’ll be popping up with bits of health and beauty advice that I’ve picked up on my journey. If you have any advice for me tweet me @Sam__Flowers or leave a comment below…
Wedding list v requesting money: what’s the difference?
I was going to post about booking my wedding reception and venue (which is all booked) but, before that, I’d like to talk about wedding gifts. It’s a subject that has generated a huge amount of feedback, both in our comments section and on Twitter. Some of you are outraged that my partner and I will ask our guests for money; others see it as a fair request.
As outlined in my first post (below), we will ask our guests to contribute £20 each. This is instead of buying us a gift, instead of contributing to a honeymoon fund (we’re not having a honeymoon as we can’t afford it) and instead of giving us vouchers – all things we’ve been asked to contribute at recent weddings.
We talked to our friends and family about the £20 contribution concept, they all thought it was fair. About 95% of our wedding party live in London, so there will be very few people staying in hotels or paying for expensive transport. If we were getting married outside of London, we wouldn’t have asked for a contribution (or presents or vouchers) because we agree that weddings can be expensive events for guests and it’s our choice to get married. We won’t ask for a contribution from those who are helping us with our wedding (for example: my friend Jane who is making me a headpiece, my cousin Bonnie who is baking us a cake).
Tony and I discussed eloping – avoid the cost of a wedding entirely – but our friends and family said they would be upset to be excluded, and we, likewise, would feel upset to not have them there. This is our compromise, one that was done with a lot of thought and inclusion of the key players in our wedding day (which, actually, is pretty much everyone). And let’s be clear: if our guests can’t afford it, they will still be coming to our wedding. It’s a polite request, which has been offered with transparency about where the money will go and why we are asking for it, not a deciding factor on whether they can attend.
We’re taking the traditional concept of wedding gifts and giving it a structure that best fits our lifestyle and the expectations of our guests. Hopefully, it will make for a less stressful wedding day and reduce our credit card payments slightly. It will definitely mean we won’t wake up on 26 May with an engraved carriage clock or three gravy jugs.
Anna Brech is the senior writer on Stylist.co.uk. She would like to get married in the country and hasn't set a wedding date yet. Or found a dress. Or a venue. Or…
Chris and I got engaged last February during a semi-drunken walk on Hampstead Heath. I blame the snow: it was the first of the year and by night, it was beautiful and we suddenly decided to go for it. Since then, we’ve celebrated with mountains of cards and cava, celebrated again and deliberated over the benefits of wood fired pizza versus fish ‘n’ chips for late night wedding snacking. At no point in nearly a year have we made any concrete plans.
In fact the idea of arranging a wedding scares me a bit. In an ideal world I would probably stay engaged forever but that defeats the point and besides, I do want to be married. It’s just the doing of it that’s daunting.
Like Mollie, I am on a budget; no way can I afford to spend thousands on just one day. Unlike Mollie, I am heading out to the sticks to say my vows. Chris and I both grew up in the West Country so it makes sense to marry there. Also, we want something very relaxed with an outdoor, festival feel. Our idea is to have a field or farm somewhere in Gloucestershire with a hired tent, a bonfire, street style food and a ceilidh. There will be cider rather than champagne, hot dogs rather than formal dining and, at the end of the night, there will be an option to camp for those who are up for it.
In my head, this translates as a lovely, rustic wedding with a distinctly hippie ambiance and sun-dappled views over the Cotswold valleys, laughing guests and an all-night party under the stars. In reality, it could easily descend into a chaotic, wet camping trip from hell with a despondent crowd of very hungry, drunk people and a mud-flecked wedding dress.
This blog will track my progress as I attempt to pull together a wedding of some sort, for our due date of spring/summer 2014. So far we have: two possible fields, eight bridesmaids, one potential ceilidh band, countless ideas for food and drink (Homemade damson gin! Meze! Crêpes!) and even more ideas for where to go on honeymoon.
We’re still in search of: wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, in fact any kind of dress code, an exact date, a place or structure of some kind to hold our ceremony and reception in, flowers, transport, invites, a guest list. Basically, everything involved in an actual wedding…
I'd love to hear your thoughts on all things wedding-related on twitter @annabrech or in the comments section below.