Health risks of wedding inspiration

I’m usually pretty good with so-called wedding inspiration. Though there are occasional exceptions, generally my eye passes over inspirational pictures of centerpieces and flags with “yay!” on them without sticking. I don’t eat my heart out wishing to look like model-beautiful white ladies on wedding blogs because I realise I am not a white lady, much less a model-beautiful one.

(Of course there are sometimes model-beautiful East Asian ladies on wedding blogs also, but they are easy to dismiss. I wave my hand and say, “Aha, but I don’t live in California” or “But I was born with a differently shaped face.” Sorted!)

But today I saw something which made me sit up and stretch my eyes. It is the sort of thing for which my Things you’d only have at a wedding tag was created.

 Via Clockwork Events

It’s an elephant made of flowers. Had you ever imagined anything so beautiful in your life? I want one desperately. This really truly is the first time I have seriously considered that 9 months’ conscientious DIYing might be worth doing. Alternatively, I suppose, I could ask a florist to provide a quote for how much it would cost for them to do it, but I can do the quote myself: THREE BAZILLION.

If you would like to do an absurd, completely pointless elephant topiary DIY for your wedding, you can buy an elephant topiary frame here. You are meant to weight the legs and use floral foam to stick the flowers in.

You are wondering whether I am actually going to rush off and construct an elephant made of flowers for my wedding. Of course not. I shall discuss it with my fiance first.


On the same subject of “what the hell why would you even spend money on that”, here are a couple of things from the Monsoon sale that you can purchase if you are planning a vintage shabby chic event.

LOVE letters, £29.99

You can put them somewhere in one of your venues! They are probably more relevant than the one that says HOME. The fact that I am actually considering buying them says a lot about my state of mind at the moment. Mostly it says, “Stop looking at Style Me Pretty.”

There’s also bunting, if you’d like some. They have cute print bunting (above) and plain multi-coloured bunting. You get 350cm for £10.50. I think bunting is nice, but feel, as with fruitcake, that you probably have to have grown up with it to care much.


Dress sighting

Woohoo, reading wedding magazines was useful for once! (Well, for a given, extremely minimal value of “useful” …) I was flipping through a copy of Brides at a friend’s place when I spotted a dress that looks like the dress I bought. \o/

After reading the Weddingbee boards and seeing people share pictures of real brides in the wedding dresses they had chosen, I’d started to feel somewhat left out. I could see how it would be useful to see a style you’d chosen on a real person and have an idea of what it looks like on an ordinary person, rather than on a model in a professional photograph.

So it was quite cool to see something so similar on a real (albeit model-beautiful) bride! It was a vintage dress, of course, probably from the same era (late ’30s/early ’40s). It differed slightly in that it looks whiter in the photos than my dress is (though my dress will undergo a serious cleaning — bleach might be involved — and may or may not come out whiter), there’s more embroidery on the bodice of hers, and the collar and sleeves are lace.

But the basic idea and silhouette of the dress are the same. And she looked very pretty! Perhaps I will look pretty too. :O My current concern is that I will look like a kid playing dress-up in my dress, and she certainly didn’t look like a kid, though that’s not to say I won’t.

The magazine described her look as “elegant”. “Elegant” seems to denote a certain amount of demureness, whereas “glamorous” usually has an element of sexiness. Do you think that’s the case? Maybe I have just made that up.

Seeing the pictures has made me lean towards keeping the collar — after all, it’s part of the look — and lean away from wearing a veil, as the bride in the magazine went for a casual windswept ponytail and looked very nice. My initial thought when I first bought the dress was that the very most I’d wear in my hair was a flower, because anything else might make it too fussy/costumey. But maybe I will not wear anything at all in my hair. It would be one less thing to worry about.

Whatever will bee will bee

I’ve been lurking on the Wedding Bee boards of late, just as something to do. It’s interesting! It’s very American and much less ~alternative~ than most of the wedding literature I pickle my brain in. And it’s interesting to see what sort of wedding dresses people choose who aren’t obsessed with ’30s bias cut, ’50s poof, ’60s mod or ’70s hippie. A quick survey of the pictures posted turn up the following trends

– Strapless (but of course)

– Pick-ups. I’ve seen more pick-ups on this forum than I’d ever seen previously IN MY LIFE.

– General giganticness

Ball gowns or mermaid/trumpet gowns seem the most popular silhouettes. This isn’t to say they aren’t very nice dresses – they are! I just hadn’t realised that most of the stuff I look at was so outside the mainstream. What I like is seeing gowns on real people, rather than on professionally styled and made-up models in advertising material, but pictures of vintage wedding dresses are quite rare on Weddingbee.

I did manage to find a thread on vintage dresses in which one bride had bought a very nice ’70s-style wedding dress with a Queen Anne collar and lopped off the long sleeves, leaving the lace detailing as cap sleeves. It made me start wondering whether I ought to implement more drastic alterations to the vintage dress I bought.

I like my dress, but my main concern with it is that it might look too fussy. The dresses I’ve been drawn to the most and can imagine myself wearing are quite simple, with maybe a couple of quirky details. The dress I got has puff sleeves, a collar, covered buttons down the bodice and a sort of peplum made of petals at the hips – perhaps a few details too many?
So far I’ve only asked the seamstress to repair tears in the netting and to alter the fit, but I wonder whether I could/should get rid of the collar. What stopped me asking earlier was that the collar is attached to netting, and it seemed to me that it might be trickier to change the neckline with such delicate fabric. In ordinary life I tend to prefer scoop and boat necks to collars, and I might like a lower neckline better on the dress … but on the other hand, it’s pretty as it is, and changing the collar might dilute the idea of the bodice — currently it looks like a blouse on top of a tulle skirt. Pretty cute!

Hmm. I might just see how I feel the next time I try it on. The seamstress has got it at the moment and I’m not likely to meet up with her until January or February, but I’ve got loads of time to make up my mind – or dither, as the case may be!

Book weddings: Miss Lavendar

The next wedding in my Weddings by L. M. Montgomery series is the one between Miss Lavendar and Stephen Irving. Childhood friends and (the early 20th century Canada equivalent of) high school sweethearts, Miss Lavendar and Mr. Irving had a “foolish argument” in their youth, after which the dude stomped off in a huff and Miss Lavendar lived by herself in a cottage pretending the clouds were the fairies’ handkerchiefs for the next decade or two.

Anne meets Miss Lavendar in Anne of Avonlea and they hit it off because they’re both the kind of people who like anthropomorphising scenery.

Miss Lavendar and Stephen Irving have a tiny, charming backyard wedding: “in the garden under the honeysuckle trellis … where Mr. Irving proposed to her twenty-five years ago.

There was no formality about the marriage. Miss Lavendar came down the stairs to meet her bridegroom at the foot, and as he took her hand she lifted her big brown eyes to his with a look that made Charlotta the Fourth, who intercepted it, feel queerer than ever. They went out to the honeysuckle arbor, where Mr. Allan was awaiting them. The guests grouped themselves as they pleased. Anne and Diana stood by the old stone bench, with Charlotta the Fourth between them, desperately clutching their hands in her cold, tremulous little paws.

Mr. Allan opened his blue book and the ceremony proceeded. Just as Miss Lavendar and Stephen Irving were pronounced man and wife a very beautiful and symbolic thing happened. The sun suddenly burst through the gray and poured a flood of radiance on the happy bride. Instantly the garden was alive with dancing shadows and flickering lights.

“What a lovely omen,” thought Anne, as she ran to kiss the bride. Then the three girls left the rest of the guests laughing around the bridal pair while they flew into the house to see that all was in readiness for the feast.

“Thanks be to goodness, it’s over, Miss Shirley, ma’am,” breathed Charlotta the Fourth, “and they’re married safe and sound, no matter what happens now. The bags of rice are in the pantry, ma’am, and the old shoes are behind the door, and the cream for whipping is on the sullar steps.”

At half past two Mr. and Mrs. Irving left, and everybody went to Bright River to see them off on the afternoon train. As Miss Lavendar … I beg her pardon, Mrs. Irving … stepped from the door of her old home Gilbert and the girls threw the rice and Charlotta the Fourth hurled an old shoe with such excellent aim that she struck Mr. Allan squarely on the head. But it was reserved for Paul to give the prettiest send-off. He popped out of the porch ringing furiously a huge old brass dinner bell which had adorned the dining room mantel. Paul’s only motive was to make a joyful noise; but as the clangor died away, from point and curve and hill across the river came the chime of “fairy wedding bells,” ringing clearly, sweetly, faintly and more faint, as if Miss Lavendar’s beloved echoes were bidding her greeting and farewell. And so, amid this benediction of sweet sounds, Miss Lavendar drove away from the old life of dreams and make-believes to a fuller life of realities in the busy world beyond.

People seem to have done away with the ancient tradition of hurling old shoes at the newlyweds.

So far as fantasy weddings go, I think this is a very charming one. Not counting the minister, there are only five guests, all of whom know and love the couple. Gilbert is kind of a random addition – as far as I can recall, he wasn’t that close to Miss Lavendar – but he was probably included because everyone in Avonlea ships Anne and Gilbert. They have a home-cooked meal and in a couple of hours the new family is off to begin their new life together. The way this is set up is especially convenient because Mr. and Mrs. Irving don’t have to do any of the cleaning up, or even pay for it – Charlotta the Fourth, Anne and Diana are left to do it.

What’s interesting about this is the implication in the last line that Miss Lavendar’s single life was not, in some sense, a real life; she needed to get married for her real life to begin. Montgomery was probably not intending to suggest that Miss Lavendar was going to stop daydreaming once she got married, so the idea is probably more that Miss Lavendar’s life plan or career was aborted when she failed to marry at an early age, and that all is set right and things can get going again.

It’s an interesting question how much Miss Lavendar will enjoy the “realities” of the world outside her cottage. She did live in stasis before Anne arrived in her life, Anne serving as a kind of catalyst (as she does for many other characters throughout the series – the prime example is, of course, Marilla, the woman who adopted her). But to an extent it seems to have been a stasis Miss Lavendar wanted – see e.g. her closest friend and servant, who is the last in a series of sisters, all of whom worked for Miss Lavendar and were called Charlotta by her, regardless of their actual name.

Of course, the idea is that she deliberately kept out of society in part because her life’s hopes were invested in Stephen Irving, and maybe that stasis is a way for her to deal with losing him. So now that he’s back she can get going again. But you wonder whether she’ll miss being alone.

Miss Manners on weddings

I’ve had a couple of days off work, and as an indulgence I purchased Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding. I’ve been reading it all day. It’s a less vicious indulgence than wedding blogs because it’s very funny and sharp, enough that I might actually have enjoyed reading this before I got interested in weddings.

I agree with Miss Manners on most issues, allowing for cultural differences — she writes for an American audience, and a very particular one, at that (surely it can’t be normal in all parts of US society for the engaged couple to enjoy the benefit of multiple showers all involving gifts from the guests). So far I’ve only seriously disagreed with one letter (on arguing with a future mother-in-law about surname-changing — I think the default Western position on this needs to be changed). She’s super mean and funny, but also sensible:

A truly proper, festive, and enjoyable wedding is not the financial and social burden you seem to suppose. … Few people can ahndle with equanimity being propelled inot unfamiliar territory, taxed with designing a ceremony and a large formal party that show case their personalities and taste, and directed to produce a complicated day that is perfect.

Instead, you could exhibit truly good taste. That would mean following the time-honored civic or religious ritual in which you believe and then having a gala celebration that favors conviviality over pretentiousness and incidentally stays within your means.

Now that is sense. I have decided Miss Manners is the semi-real life version of Flora Poste, the pragmatic, civilised, modern young woman who sorts out the romantic dysfunction of her relatives’ lives in Cold Comfort Farm.

Reading the book nerved me to the task of informing a friend that it will not be possible for me to attend her wedding — Miss Manners says that an invitation does not require anything of the invited except a prompt response, and that you do not have to give reasons for a refusal. I have given reasons and have offered to buy the happy couple a dinner to make up for it, but I don’t think Miss Manners would fault me in doing either of those things.

I find the things that work her up quite funny. Miss Manners doesn’t like response cards being provided to guests with invitations because it implies that the inviters believe the invited are not polite enough to dig up pen, paper and postage wherewith to respond. And you’re allowed in Miss Manners’ world to register for a list of wedding gifts at a department store, but you’re not allowed to tell anyone about it unless they ask. And ideally they shouldn’t ask you, but your relatives, the idea being that you should be pleasantly surprised by any gifts guests choose to present you with. She also absolutely loathes the idea of the wedding couple soliciting for cash in lieu of gifts.

I can see the point of all this, but I probably will provide pre-addressed response cards for guests who aren’t family, just so it’s easier to keep track of them. (It’s not as important to keep track of family — for one thing our parents can probably be trusted to chase them, and for another if they turn up we kind of have to have them whether they’ve warned us in advance or not). We are going to have a wedding registry because P thinks his family would strongly prefer it. And I’m not gonna tell people not to give angpow at the Malaysian wedding because it would just confuse everyone!

Also I disagree that you shouldn’t cut down the guest list on the ground that you can’t afford to feed them properly, and that more guests + a cake & punch reception is preferable to fewer guests + steak for dinner. If I couldn’t feed my guests a proper meal I’d feel it was rude to invite them — false advertising. Obviously this view depends on your idea of a wedding, though. I definitely come from a culture where it means “multiple-course meal”, whether that takes place in a school hall or a fancy hotel ballroom.

It is useful to have read the book, though! It clears the mind a bit to think about the etiquette of it, and to consider why one disagrees (if one does). It confirms me in my belief that feelings are the most important thing in a wedding, but feelings can go too far is a pretty good guiding principle in wedding planning.

Book weddings: Diana Barry

If there was ever a writer who understood the importance and interest of weddings, it was L. M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books and innumerable short stories set in Canadian small towns and villages.

I’ve always thought Montgomery would make a great women’s magazine writer because she has such a deep interest in the minutiae of women’s lives – all the details considered traditionally feminine, which are commonly treated of in such magazines – home décor, fashion, cooking, jewellery.

She was also keen on weddings, so I’m going to do a series of posts about the weddings which occur in her books and short stories. First up, an important one in Anne Shirley’s life: Diana Barry’s wedding.

One evening Marilla, coming in from the orchard with a basket of apples, found Anne sitting along by the east window in the twilight, crying bitterly.

“Whatever’s the matter now, Anne?” she asked.

“It’s about Diana,” sobbed Anne luxuriously. “I love Diana so, Marilla. I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do? I hate her husband—I just hate him furiously. I’ve been imagining it all out—the wedding and everything—Diana dressed in snowy garments, with a veil, and looking as beautiful and regal as a queen; and me the bridesmaid, with a lovely dress too, and puffed sleeves, but with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face. And then bidding Diana goodbye-e-e—” Here Anne broke down entirely and wept with increasing bitterness.

I’ve always loved this exchange – I don’t think I’d ever seen before an acknowledgment of the joy of indulging in sentiment. Say what you will of Montgomery, and I’d be the first to acknowledge she had a lot of weaknesses as writer – she understood teenage girls. This is funny and touching and very 13 years old.

Anne is somewhat more level-headed about a decade later, when Diana actually gets married, to the unremarkable Fred Wright:

“After all, the only real roses are the pink ones,” said Anne, as she tied white ribbon around Diana’s bouquet in the westward-looking gable at Orchard Slope. “They are the flowers of love and faith.”

Diana was standing nervously in the middle of the room, arrayed in her bridal white, her black curls frosted over with the film of her wedding veil. Anne had draped that veil, in accordance with the sentimental compact of years before.

“It’s all pretty much as I used to imagine it long ago, when I wept over your inevitable marriage and our consequent parting,” she laughed. “You are the bride of my dreams, Diana, with the ‘lovely misty veil’; and I am YOUR bridesmaid. But, alas! I haven’t the puffed sleeves—though these short lace ones are even prettier. Neither is my heart wholly breaking nor do I exactly hate Fred.”

We see the usual deep interest in the details of the wedding: the roses (pink, if you please) and their meaning; the bridal white – Montgomery’s brides always either wear white, whether it is silk or satin or a simple organdie, or navy blue, if they are older and sensible. And the paramount importance of the veil – how delicious is that description of Diana’s black hair being “frosted over with the film of her wedding veil“?

I also like the detail of Anne’s envisioned puffed sleeves being replaced by short lace ones – much more chic, one imagines, as well as prettier. Anne is wearing a “soft, white dress with lilies-of-the-valley in the shining masses of her hair“, showing that bridesmaids in white is no new idea.

Designer wedding dresses on the cheap

The title is catchy, but what I really mean is “designer wedding dresses on the less-expensive-than-is-usual-for-designer-wedding-dresses”. The Outnet have just unloaded a glorious crop of glamorous long dresses which would make beautiful bridal options. I’m gonna list a few of my favourite that are below £1,000, because £1,000 is a number I personally am not willing to go over for a dress you hopefully only wear once, but you ought to go to the website and look through their dresses if you’re willing to spend more — they have some fabulous pieces.

Click on the pictures to buy.

This Roksanda Ilincic dress is gloriously high fashion. I love the drapeyness and the fact that I have no idea what’s going on with the collar. If I was going do heavy breathing at any of these dresses, it would be this one, but I’m saved from piercing dress regret by the fact that I’m not quite on board with the asymmetric sleeves. Usually I like asymmetry, but here the sleeve just confuses me. I’m inclined to think either both or none would be better with this dress. Still, it is beautiful, and my favourite of the lot.

Another Roksanda Ilincic piece, this dress is made of “honey silk satin”. How delicious is that? You just want to lick it up. I love the wonderful shapelessness of this dress and the drapey bit at the side — the train or bustle for the woman who likes neither. Not quite keen on the black slash at the bust, but if you don’t mind black for a wedding this is a wickedly cool choice.

I like the simplicity of this. The shape is great, the halter detail and the sleeves are both lovely touches, and the bandage bodice (their words, not mine) would probably be enormously flattering. I’d be seriously tempted if it weren’t for the fact the only size left is large.

I tend to either adore or feel really meh about Temperley wedding dresses. I think I fall on the side of “adore” here — it’s such a beautiful shape and material, and the bodice is so interesting. I like how from a distance the medallions look like eyes staring at you.

There’s something very ’90s about this — very Monica from Friends! — but it’s none the worse for that. I like it for its stark simplicity — you could pile on the accessories and have the craziest shoes you wanted with this dress.

And finally:

How cute is this Thakoon Addition dress? It’s a little flirty, it’s a little luxe (made-up fashion magazine word, but the perfect one for this dress), it’s got interesting detailing, is made of a beautiful sheeny silk and has an eminently wearable shape. That said, if you’re going for this style, I think you ought to buy this vintage dress instead:

Admittedly the shape is different and it’s polyester, not 100% silk, but it’s totally cute and is £320 cheaper. Add fabulous shoes and you’re done. You’re welcome!