Bad Day For A White Wedding: My Bridal Show Hell

bridal-636018_1280I recently plunged head-first into the world of wedding shows, having ignored adverts for years until now. I’m engaged, there’s a wedding to organise, and I thought I’d go along and see what was out there, having never planned such an event before. Intrigued by the whole process, I ended up going to not one, but two wedding shows. The plan was to only go to one, but I ended up adding myself to various mailing lists and was sent free tickets for the second one, so why the hell not? Marketed as an afternoon of girly fun where everyone sips champagne and tries out cake samples, it would be an experience, if nothing else.

If the shows confirmed one thing to me, it’s that I don’t want a typical “big white wedding”. However, I was also rather taken aback by the whole wedding industry in general. So much unnecessary stuff that I don’t want to buy. So much insistence on what a wedding should be like. So many eyebrows raised at anyone who does anything different from the norm.

The dresses were the worst part. Apparently, I’m a little strange for not wanting to wear white on my wedding day, receiving several confused comments of “really?” when I asked to try on coloured dresses that were apparently bridesmaid’s dresses, hadn’t I noticed? This was completely at odds with my experience of other people’s weddings. In the past ten years I’ve seen five friends get married, and only one of them wore white. The others wore black, green, purple, and blue/turquoise respectively. Is this because I hang around with slightly “alternative” people, or because more and more people are moving away from white? Either way, I got some funny looks.

Unlike high street shops, the wedding industry hasn’t given in to vanity sizing, so while I would often buy size 12 skirts on the high street, I tried several size 14 and 16 dresses for wedding purposes. I’m not usually one to care about size labels – if a dress fits, then it fits – but it felt like the whole thing was set up to make people feel awful about their bodies. One company only had samples in sizes 8 and 10, with anyone above a size 10 being banned from trying anything on. They said they could make them to order in any size, but I was totally put off by their attitude. Why would I place an order with a company who had nothing at all for me to try on?

lesbians-839875_1280I then watched a catwalk show featuring exclusively tall, slim models with small chests, with no indication of which sizes each dress was available in. This was followed by a motivational speaker telling us that being a bride is “like being a supermodel for the day”. The audience was made up of women of all shapes and sizes, and I couldn’t help wondering if they shared my suspicions. Most of us are never going to look like supermodels. I got bored of the nonsense and walked off to listen to a string quartet, starting a clichéd conversation with them about how music is for everyone and transcends body size.

The second show I attended was clearly styled as more upmarket and aimed at wealthier people, with lots of fashion industry types swanning about. This time, the catwalk show was by a well-known high fashion designer, with models even thinner than I’d seen the previous week. What was the point of it all? How many of the attendees could really afford these dresses, or even fit into them in the first place?

After investigating some venues and caterers that were way beyond budget, I got talking to a photographer. I asked if she could just turn up at the ceremony itself, since I didn’t see the point of “getting ready” photos – no, I’m not wearing makeup, not even on my wedding day. No, I don’t need a hairdresser. I own my very own hairbrush. (Admittedly, I plan to get some highlights done a few days beforehand, but I don’t need anyone to come along on the morning of the wedding for any kind of complicated up-do). “Well, perhaps we could film you in the car on the way there”, she helpfully offered. When I said I’d probably be taking public transport, she looked puzzled for a second, then assumed I was doing it for hipster reasons and remarked how edgy and cool it would be to take the tube. Erm, no. Sorry to disappoint, but I’ll be taking the tube or bus because that’s just how most Londoners get around town.

However much these shows annoyed me, I was brought back to reality when I jokingly asked another photographer about the strangest wedding she’d ever worked at, expecting a typical story about someone’s best man getting into a drunken fight. She told me she’d spent several years living in another country where arranged marriages were common, and had photographed numerous weddings where the couple clearly weren’t interested in each other. I feel extremely lucky and grateful to have been brought up in a country and culture where I have the freedom to marry the man I truly love.

By Karen Gould

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