The Story Of My Wedding Dress

Shopping for wedding dresses is traditionally seen as one of the most treasured and special moments of the whole planning process; an event that will run seamlessly and leave you overspilling with joy and anticipation. If the movies are to be believed you’ll try on all number of satin, silk, tulle and lace numbers and ‘just know’ when it’s the one: it’ll fit perfectly, be everything you dreamed of and make you and your accompanying loved ones shed a tear or two. The reality though can, on the whole, be very different. Finding that one amazing outfit that will forever be remembered via the beauty of photography can be somewhat stressful, and as a bride you’re under immense amounts of pressure to find the one that makes you look and feel your absolute best. Unless you benefit from the frame and metabolism of a super model, trying on wedding dresses can be a somewhat uncomfortable and ‘unlike the movies’ experience – to the point when many of my friends and acquaintances have shared stories of leaving boutiques in tears and wondering what the hell they were going to do as that special day steps ever closer. Having had a rather stressful experience with my dress, I wanted to share the story behind this expensive purchase to hopefully share the realities while letting those of you who’ve also had a less than perfect experience know it’s absolutely the norm. Warning: it’s a long one!

When I first got engaged I can honestly say I was more excited about the
decor, food and entertainment than I was about my dress. I’m a curvy UK
size 16 and have 36G boobs, meaning it’s troublesome for me to find
outfits that fit and look good at the best of times; I have my go-to
stores and my go-to looks, which helps on a day-to-day basis but isn’t
necessarily that helpful when you’re looking for your ‘dress of dreams’.
Having been told by fellow engaged ladies of my size and stature that
they’d been made to feel less than worthy of bridal attention and
actually left local boutiques in tears, I was incredibly anxious about
having to squeeze my backside into a sample size gown I know I’d
probably hate. I’ve never been one to like overly bridal looks, and I
knew I didn’t want anything strapless (those 36G boobs are not made for
strapless bras!) which limited my options significantly. Having had a
brief rummage though a bridal store next to my flat, I started to feel
that I was really going to struggle finding a simple and flattering
style that fitted me in all the right places; however, thanks to a
friend recommending a trip to David’s Bridal the journey was set to be
easier than anticipated. (In some areas at least.)

David’s
Bridal is an American concept store located in a few UK locations, of
which one is in Birmingham. It made sense to have my first stab at dress
shopping in the biggest store there was, knowing they
specialised in plus size brides too, so I booked an appointment with my
mum to go and have a look. What I loved about David’s is that they take
the time to walk you around the store and get you to fill in a
questionnaire which covers the kind of things you like and dislike;
they’re armed with so much knowledge they can literally whip you around
the store and pull out a handful of dresses to try. Knowing I went in
with a specification of “no frill, no poof, no lace, no strapless, no
bling” it wasn’t the easiest task for them, but I tried on a few different styles to
get to grips with what I thought worked and didn’t. They also ask you to
rate every dress out of ten, getting you to specify what would improve
your score, so you can go away with a much clearer idea of what you want
– even if you don’t find it in that store or on that day.

Back to the shopping
experience, and something was about to happen that I never anticipated.
While waiting for my stylist to go and find my next dress, a fellow
bride-to-be was trying on the most extravagant dresses there were; after
rocking every style she could, she came out in a much more conservative
number that instantly I had my eye on. There was something about it
that I loved, no matter the fact it was quite poofy, had tonnes of bling
and lace and was the complete opposite of everything I thought I
wanted. After waiting for her to finish with it, I jumped in and asked
if I could try it myself ‘just for the lolz’; before my stylist had even
finished doing up the reverse I started to feel a bit teary. As I
looked at myself in the mirror she asked if she could tell me a secret:
“When you walked in, this was the exact dress from all the store I had
in mind for you – but as it was everything you said you didn’t’ want, I
didn’t pick it up.” By the time I opened up the door to the changing
room to show my mum, she’d said she adored it and I burst into tears. It
was the fifth dress I tried in on the first day and in the first store,
but I knew there was no point in looking any more. That was it. This
was the dress I was going to get married in.

It made me feel
like a princess and I didn’t want to take it off; it felt completely
different to the other dresses I’d tried but was just ‘me’. Designed by
Oleg Cassini (and just my luck, the most expensive dress in the whole
shop!) it was exquisite and timeless. Simple, but intricately stunning;
classic with a modern twist (POCKETS!); plus it made my boobs look amazing and my
waist look tiny! I’d tried on a S14 and there were a few
buttons around the reverse that didn’t do up (thanks to my giant boobs
again,) so we ordered a S16 knowing that we could just adjust it to fit
perfectly. I handed over my card without a hint of apprehension and it was a done deal – just
eight weeks to wait until my own dress arrived in the store. If this all
sounds simple and closer to what you see in the movies than not, I was about to get
my own taste of bridal stress!

Five weeks later my dress arrived earlier than expected and I quickly arranged an appointment for it to be
fitted. (Side note: David’s Bridal make you pick up your dress within a
couple of days of it arriving, meaning you have to be pretty prepared to
drop everything with little notice. It took a lot of arguing from me
saying I was two hours away, due to go on holiday and no my fiancé
couldn’t have it delivered to his workshop, for them to agree to hold it in
store until my fitting.) I was so very excited to put on this beautiful
dress once more, waiting for that moment when I looked in the mirror and
had to again stifle back tears, but when it was buttoned up I
looked in the mirror and felt almost nothing. I stepped out to an
emotional mum and mother-in-law, but deep down I knew something wasn’t
right; I couldn’t remember the neckline being sweetheart and it didn’t
cinch in my waist the way I thought, but I was assured by the dressmaker
that it would feel more like mine once the adjustments were made. Over
two hours of pinning and tucking later it did feel better, but I still
wasn’t convinced that this provided me with the magical moment I was
anticipating. 

Once I was home and discussing the day with my mum
and sister, we started looking at photos that were taken. Something
made me take out my own phone and look at photos taken on the day I
chose and bought the dress, and when I compared the two I started to
feel sick. It wasn’t the same dress. The neckline and waist were
completely different; I looked frumpy, compared to the amazing
‘I feel like a princes’ moment I’d had initially. I couldn’t possibly
get married in this dress and we had to do something as a matter of
urgency to fix it. As soon as the store reopened the next morning I was
straight on the phone, explaining that the dress I’d bought was not the
dress I’d been fitted in to and that they needed to halt any alterations
immediately (as this meant the dress couldn’t be returned and I’d have
wasted a few grand in the process.) The manager was incredibly helpful
and apologetic, immediately starting an investigation into what could
have happened and how we could get me the dress I wanted – it turns out
that because David’s Bridal is an American brand, their ‘plus sizes’
start at UK16, which means this is a different style and design to
account for the added room required to make women up to a UK30 feel
fabulous. Like there’s a petite, regular and curve range in most high
street stores, I’d inadvertently tried on a dress from the standard
range but ordered a different plus size version that made me
feel like a frump. Gah! 

To cut a long story short, I made an
appointment to go back and try on both dresses (the sample in the store
and the one that had been made specifically for me) and to come to a
resolution. As soon as I tried on the original dress I felt like a
million dollars again; it was exactly what I remembered and more,
pinching me in and flattering my body shape in all the right places. So
the only option we had was to order the S14 and attempt to make it fit,
even though there were about eight buttons on the reverse that didn’t do
up. Those next few weeks were an anxious waiting game as I’d taken a
complete gamble on a dress I didn’t know would fit until we cut the
seams open (making it non returnable) and saw what could be done. When my new dress arrived I
breathed a sigh of relief. It fit, almost perfectly. Although they’d
let out a couple of inches from the side, everything else was
practically perfect – they just needed to properly finish the hems and
sew up the seams to ensure the detailing was consistent. Another few
weeks were to pass until I could finally try on and pick up my dress and
the anxiety around it fell away. Or so I thought. 

Skip forward
to July when my dress was completed and I was due for a final fitting,
before taking it home to await the big event. I could hardly contain my
glee, stepping into it wishing our wedding was closer than the three
months I had to wear it for the full day. I stood there in my slip and
basque, waiting for the dressers to do me up so I could step out to
‘oooohs’ and ‘ahhhhs’ from my bridesmaids, when the words “we can’t get
it done up” filled me with dread. After all this stress, after so many
trips back and forth to Birmingham, after so many fittings (six in total by the end,) don’t tell
me it won’t bloody do up! They scuffled about and went to find some
help, before I was pulled about and squeezed in so much (removing my
basque in the process) I could hardly breathe – but they did it! It
turns out that during the finishing process they actually sewed the
seams much tighter than anticipated to ensure the lace and beading
flowed well, meaning it was a real squeeze to get me in.

I’m not going
to lie, it was bloody uncomfortable standing there in this giant dress
with hardly enough room to consume a canapé let alone all the food we
had planned, but I didn’t care: I’d come too far to let anything stop me
walking down the aisle in this white number! Although I’d never
intended to go on a wedding diet, I did make a promise to eat healthily
and go to the gym more in the run up to the wedding to hopefully make it
a slightly more comfortable experience. I started to wish I’d just bought another dress, but then I’d remember how amazing I felt and how the day was about so much more than what I was wearing. Those couple of months were anxious and lead to many sleepless nights, but as the day dawned I realised I really didn’t care about the dress at all – as long as I could walk in and marry the man I wanted to spend my life with. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that during the lengthy and stressful process.

The week of the wedding
my mum brought the steamed and fluffed dress down to me and I tried it on one last time to
make sure it did up and that there weren’t any last minute disasters
waiting to happen. There were still a couple of troublesome buttons, but between her and the bridesmaids we would sort it on the day, but the thing that started to worry me was that the lace edges around my arms were starting to rub me raw. They’d re-shaped this area to make it fit my small frame (big boobs and small shoulders are not a great combo,) but the stitching had left the material as sharp as a blade – and there was no way I’d survive all day with it rubbing my skin so badly. (Another thing of note is that you could be so focused on the overall look, or in my case worrying about it doing up, that you don’t notice other things until later on.) So the day before the wedding we took a trip to the haberdashers and my mum had to cut sections of material away to relieve the discomfort; yep, actually cut my wedding dress! It helped that she spent my childhood making costumes for my endless shows and dance competitions, but still – quite a daunting task for us both. She sat on my sofa stitching up my dress as best she could and all I could think was ‘I just hope it lasts the few hours I need it to until the photos are done!

On the morning of the wedding I was incredibly chilled, preferring to take it all in and get to the venue as a bundle of excitement rather than stress. I put on my dress at the very last minute and there are some quite comical photos of my bridesmaids working together to do it up… But do up it did and I felt fabulous, even if a couple of the buttons aren’t as smooth and consistent in the photos. I couldn’t stop smiling as I made my final checks in the mirror, picked up my bouquet and walked out of our hotel and into my car. As soon as I arrived I felt a wave of emotion and couldn’t wait to see Josh’s face at the end of the aisle. All those worries, issues, anxieties and moments of panic slipped away and all I cared about was getting into that room and saying my vows – although I didn’t anticipate the fact that the width of the aisle space we’d left was far too tight for me to walk accompanied by another person, but it was quite funny!

So what did the whole process of buying a wedding dress teach me? That it’s never straightforward and that something will inevitably go wrong, but on the day you really will forget all about it. As brides the pressure is there to find the perfect dress and have the perfect moment, that the fittings will be dreamy and filled with champagne, and that you’ll walk away without a care in the world – but rarely does that happen. Most of us are intimidated and stressed out by the whole process, crippled by anxiety as to whether or not it will actually fit (how often do you buy an outfit a year in advance?) and all sanity goes out the window when it doesn’t go to plan. To be honest it doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you feel on top of the world, and the dress is only meant to last a few hours before it gets trashed… By the evening I’d got fed up of trying to manoevre the huge skirt and whipped off my slip so I could dance, while the bustle broke and my train got trodden on anyway (that was a waste of £70!) But the best thing? All the pictures of me during the band look like I’m having the time of my life – the dress is just the bonus.

It may be the part of the process that’s both the most exciting and the most disconcerting, but it’s not the be all and end all. It’s just a dress. A rather expensive and delicate dress, but it’s just a dress that you wear for a singular day and then pack away for your future generations to enjoy. The only thing that matters is the memories you make while wearing it.

Would I change a thing? Nope, in retrospect it was all part of the process.

THESE IMAGES ARE NOT TO BE USED OR SHARED ANYWHERE, WITHOUT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT, BY ANY SUPPLIER.

|  Photographer: Hannah McClune  |  Venue: Lillibrooke Manor  |
|  Bride’s Dress: Oleg Cassini at David’s Bridal  |  Hair: Headmasters Windsor  |  Makeup: Bobbi Brown  |
|  Bridesmaids Dresses: Biba at House of Fraser  |  Flowergirl Dresses: Monsoon  |  Men’s Suits: Moss Bros  |

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18 Comments

  1. SheerBeauty (Kayla)
    December 10, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    Love that your wedding dress has pockets :)KaylaSheer Beauty Blog

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:13 am

      Haha everyone was obsessed with that on the day!

  2. Jodie Melissa
    December 10, 2017 / 9:50 pm

    The funny this is you would never know this story looking at the photos, I remember when you posted your dress on social media for the first time and I thought it was made for you! 🙂 I'm having my dress fitting in January so fingers crossed everything will go ok. I completely agree that the experience isn't as you would imagine, I'm more excited about my wedding hair and makeup, the venue and food than I am anything else hahajodiemelissa.com x

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:14 am

      Awww thank you! I hope you have a great fitting and that your dress is everything you want it to be; there's so much pressure, but it's all about the day and not the dress really. x

  3. Leanne Marie
    December 10, 2017 / 11:26 pm

    I loved reading about the whole story, it's so interesting to hear about the behind the scenes. You would never believe you had so many upsets and problems when finding the dress from the beautiful pictures in this post! I'm so happy you found 'the one' in the end and you look incredible. xwww.thedressdiaries.co.uk

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:15 am

      Thanks Leanne! x

  4. Aimee-Jane Carpenter
    December 11, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    I bought my wedding dress on Friday and I agree. I didn’t cry and neither did my Mum. We hadn’t planned to go shopping it was very spontaneous. However, I didn’t want to take the dress off and when I got home it was all I could think about and I got no sleep. So in I went the next day and put down a deposit. It isn’t quite the fairytale I had imagined but I fell in love.

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:15 am

      That's your own little story though and that's the important thing – it never happens like in the movies, because movies aren't real! Wishing you the very best engagement and hope you have a fab wedding day x

  5. last year's girl
    December 11, 2017 / 5:10 pm

    Bizarrely, my wedding dress was probably the least stressful aspect of the whole production. I did attempt one visit to a bridal boutique, but pretty much walked straight out again on realising that I wasn't that kind of girl – I didn't want to get married in white anyway, so I ended up just buying the dress online and getting it taken in. I did love reading about David's Bridal though, I love the ethos of the place and it sounds as though you were treated like the queen that you are – well, until the first disaster, anyway, and at least they did what they could to sort it.Seconding what everybody said above about how perfect the dress looks in your photographs, your mum did a fantastic job! But I loved this little behind the scenes story, and I think people who don't have the "wedding diet figure" (so, everyone then) will find it really useful and comforting to read.Lis / last year's girl x

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:17 am

      Bridal boutiques are so scary! But thank you – too much of the bridal industry is focused on blonde, 6ft, size 8 models and that's not what the majority of us look like. Thank you for your kind words 🙂 xx

  6. Jane O'Sullivan
    December 12, 2017 / 9:05 am

    When I bought my wedding dress some 15+ years ago I didn't enjoy the process at all. I only went to one store and although I was treated nicely I just wasn't happy or comfortable, mainly I think because the 'sample' dresses to try on were all size 10/12 and I was a 14/16 so nothing did up or sat right. Eventually I found a dress that I liked (and made my Mum cry) but in hindsight I think I just rushed and bought the first dress that I felt ok in. I loved your dress, it really looks like it was made for you and your figure looks amazing in it. xx

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:17 am

      Thanks Jane! Thankfully the industry has moved on a little, accommodating all shapes and sizes, but most boutiques are still very stuffy and don't know how to deal with anyone over a size 10! x

  7. Pam Scalfi
    December 12, 2017 / 9:16 am

    My dress was also from David's Bridal and I loved the whole experience. I lost a bit of weight from my first fitting so they ended up having to make adjustments one week before the wedding which was a little stressful. The adjustments came up to £500 I kid you not, so that's the only drawback from buying from them but they did a fab job and I wouldn't have trusted anyone else with my dress. So glad you enjoyed your dress and you looked absolutely amazing! Are you keeping your dress? I am…maybe my daughter can one wear it one day :)Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

    • Hayley Hall
      December 12, 2017 / 10:19 am

      Oh my goodness, yes the price of the adjustments! I paid about £500 too – including £70 for the bustle that broke after an hour! I'm going to get my dress cleaned and wrapped and store it away; I hate the idea of trashing it or giving it away, when I had so many memories in it. x

  8. Merkitty Blog
    December 12, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    You looked absolutely stunning in it and I'm sorry to read you had a bit of a drama though.. definitely worth it considering how amazing you looked in it.

  9. Rachael Styles
    December 15, 2017 / 3:34 pm

    Oh how similar your experience sounded to mine. I'm also size 16, with size 36G boobs and I had no intention of buying a strapless dress, yet that's what I ended up with. I wanted lace and bling and ended a pretty plain tulle dress that was kinda poofy – and like you my stylist had it in mind for me and only tried it once I'd ruled out that everything I wanted, I actually hated! After alterations it fitted perfectly and really flattered my figure, but we got married in June and it was H.O.T.Signing the register my photographer had to signal to me that my tits were starting to hang out thanks to the dress starting to slip in the heat in the church as the structure underneath started to fail and collapse, ending up in the exact situation I didn't want to be in all day – uncomfortable and constantly hoisting my tits up!I'm still yet to have mine cleaned just over six months on!Helpless Whilst Drying

  10. Celebsleatherjackets
    December 29, 2017 / 7:01 am

    I cherished perusing about the entire story, it's so intriguing to catch wind of the in the background. You could never trust you had such a large number of bombshells and issues when finding the dress from the excellent pictures in this post! I'm so cheerful you found 'the one' at last and you look unbelievable. Defiance Julie Benz Amanda Jacket

  11. Jess | The Indigo Hours
    February 6, 2018 / 8:46 pm

    You look fabulous! And a wedding dress with pockets is pretty much life goals for me 😀 xo

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