The BBC website informed me this morning that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West married yesterday “at a fortress” in Florence. At a fortress? There’s romantic. Lovely. Mind you, I wouldn’t recognise either of them if they introduced themselves. I’d have been mildly interested in pictures of frocks because, well, pictures of frocks interest me. Especially if they are either incredibly beautiful or just jaw-droppingly over the top. (BFGW, anyone? Loved it.) Alas, the BBC was not forthcoming in this respect, probably because there is a huge media deal with someone I’ve never heard of. Ah well.
I do love weddings. I go all gooey at the first mention of a wedding and hit with the urge to help in any way I possibly can. Maybe I missed my vocation and should have become a wedding planner instead. But then again, judging by my attitude to a lot of the ‘stuff’ that seems to be involved, maybe not. I am constantly horrified at the amount of money people throw at a day – one day – which shouldn’t really be about money at all. At one stage, I was developing a theory around the fact that the more people spend on the wedding, the shorter the length of the marriage. Sixteen thousand and four months was the case for one couple of my acquaintance. That’s a grand for every week of their apparently not particularly happy married life. Surely that can’t, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered good value? Mr March and I managed the whole thing on less than a thousand. That included my frock, his new jeans and shirt (2 pairs of jeans as they were on offer at the farmers’ merchants!), license, register office and reception at the local pub. Oh, and wedding favour candles, which I made myself. The cake was a present and we were driven – together – to the ceremony by some friends in their nice Mercedes, as they were going too. With the Best Dog in the back. The whole day was extremely informal and people were told that they were to wear whatever the heck they liked and felt comfortable wearing. “My new girlfriend’s a goth and she’s a bit worried…” Tell her to be herself and not to worry. She’ll fit in perfectly. She did. And to this day (we’ve been married nearly 10 years) people are still wittering on about how much they enjoyed our wedding precisely because it was so completely unstuffy and relaxed. And a little, er, “different”. Apparently a “Best Dog” is unusual, and the Register Office had never witnessed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as bridal attendants before. I think the staff enjoyed it as much as we did.
So why does everything to do with the “W” word seem to be so pricey? I frequently hear people say, “Oh, it’s all a racket.” Well, yes, I’m pretty certain some of it is. But then it is imperative to factor in The Stress Factor. For it’s almost always there. I’ve yet to have somebody bounce into my shop or studio with a big smile and say, “I’m going to a wedding/getting married/the mother of the bride(groom)/being a bridesmaid!” They either stomp or slink in and always with a visible cloud hanging over their countenance and eventually announce the fact, accompanied by a heavy sigh.
This is not the way it should be. Weddings should be joyful occasions for all concerned.
But the truth is that they’re not. Because the minute the “W” word comes into play, so many normally perfectly nice and sensible women turn rogue. Not all of them but most. And a Bridezilla (or Mother of Bridezilla) is a ghastly thing, turning the most joyful occasion into one of stress, hassle, fear and misery. Most keenly felt by the dress designer and the bridesmaids. Followed closely by the harpist. (As a wedding harpist, I had a scale of charges which depended on who did the booking. Venue was the cheapest, followed by the groom. If the bride booked it, the price went up and if it was her mother, then it went up even further. Brides’ mothers fuss, fuss, fuss about the choice of music and in actual fact, on the day neither she nor the bride will register anything that is played. And provided the harpist’s frock doesn’t overshadow the bride and or clash with the bridesmaids, they’re both happy. I also learned the hard way and tripled my price for “friends” of myself or my husband when we hadn’t heard a peep out of them for years but all of a sudden their daughter was getting married and wanted a harpist at her wedding. Frankly, three hours of plinking with a late start as the bride was late, no break (ouch!) and one glass of poxy flat liquid surreptitiously handed over by a kind waiter was not my idea of a good gig for £100.) But I digress…
Wedding dresses. Yes, they’re expensive. Go to a bridal shop and have a look. Why do they cost so much? You can find them on the internet from China for little more than the price of the postage! Yeah, good luck with that. You’ll need more than luck.
I saw a programme on the tellybox where Alex Polizzi was attempting to turn around the fortunes of a bridal shop. She told them in no uncertain terms that there was no profit in stocking dresses that retailed at less than £700. And, sadly, she was right. Yes, you can find them for less but when you factor in the hours of time taken in assisting a client choose her dress and the fun and games involved with altering it to fit her when it arrives (“ready to wear? I think not, baby puppy…) the profit margin goes right out the window. Hence the price of most of those frocks. The staff at the bridal store earn every penny, trust me.
So why do I charge more for a wedding dress in exactly the same style, just in white or ivory? Well, I don’t. Not in theory. But nobody has a wedding dress in a plain white cotton, er, sheeting, do they? No, they want poncey fabrics like silk or satin… Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore silk. Silk dupion is my favourite fabric. Favouritest favourite. Toppiest top. Love it. But it’s expensive. Several times the price of the cotton poplin that I normally use for my frocks. So you have to take that into account. Yes, there are synthetic versions. No, I don’t use them. Not only are they so ghastly to work with that I just plain refuse, they are not particularly nice to wear. If you want to feel hot and sweaty on your special day, then choose a nice acetate satin and watch those stains spread. Nice. Plus, if you choose white or ivory, there’s all the extra fuss about keeping it pristine while it is worked and manipulated from flat fabric into three-dimensional masterpiece. Do not underestimate the ‘fun’ of that part.
No, the traditional bridal gown is not a fun thing to produce, especially when the bride goes ‘zilla and fusses and frets over every single aspect of it.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. My first bridal client was just lovely. She came into the shop with her mum and sister and asked about wedding dresses. I said that in theory I did them but they weren’t traditional and would be retro-style. All three ladies looked around the shop and left. Then they made an appointment to come back and talk about dresses properly. She sent me pictures. They kept the appointment and I prepared myself to make a fifties-style halterneck in white. When I asked about fabric, the lovely Leah pointed at the sample of emerald green silk dupion I’d shown her purely to show the fabric type as I didn’t have a sample in white and said, “That.” Okay, what colour? “That!” Really? Things were looking up. “With an electric blue petticoat, edges bound in satin.” Yesssss.
So that’s what we did and she looked stunning. She was also the easiest to work with, not batting an eyelid when I said the dress would be ready two days before the wedding. (When a bride says she “might lose some weight”, alarm bells ring. Once that frock is made and fitted, it’s not being altered again so it goes out at the last possible minute to prevent the need.) Leah’s sister also had a dress made by me for the occasion and she was a delight to work with, too. If only they were all that easy! Actually, that’s not quite fair. When someone picks me to make their frock and I agree to make it, we usually have a pretty good understanding of how the relationship will pan out. We will choose a design, I will make it. If we can’t agree on a design or I get an inkling that they are going to become a Bridezilla, then the price will rise to a level at which point they will make the good decision to go and bother someone else. And if they still decide to stay with me, then at least I’ll be recompensed for the amount of hours and grey hair incurred.
Incidentally, the green fabric that attracted Leah wasn’t the one used for her wedding dress, as the original was shot with black and her petticoat was blue. I found just the right shade of green shot with blue for her and was ecstatic over the effect for days. In fact, I still have a small piece of the fabric somewhere and it makes me smile when I look at it. The first length of silk languished in my Guilty Fabric Stash until a young lady came to me for a prom dress. It’s currently a work in progress but this is what I do with silk dupion. And dotted silk tulle. If I must. You’ll have to wait for a future blog to see the finished thing on the lady in question but I think I can guarantee it will be worth the wait.
Wedding dresses in silk dupion start at £695. Take that, Alex Polizzi…