3 months of planning… in 5 points!

Happy New Year all! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last wrote – I had a number of plans for blogs, and then life and wedding planning sort of took over… and now here I am, six months away from the wedding. My goodness, I feel a little faint!

Here’s a round-up of what’s been happening, and what I have discovered along the way.

1. The Dress: I ordered it at the end of September, and it is a beautiful, light gold Maggie Sottero number. It is not something I would have picked for myself initially, as I had imagined something lacy and romantic. Instead, I have gone for something rather glam, yet also romantic. It has that vintage feel I love, but in a more stylised way.

I ended up going back to Young’s Bride and Groom in Watford to get it, after a few near-purchases as Berketex next door.  All in all I tried on pretty much every style, shape and size possible in my hunt for the dress – from enormous princess dresses that drowned my small frame to simple column dresses. To be honest they all started to look the same after a while and I just wanted to get it organised! But the one I chose was the one that made me feel most special.

The dress has been ordered in the size closest to mine, and when it is finally delivered to Watford, they will need to alter it to me.  I’ve just found out, however, that it won’t arrive until April, which just seems a ridiculous amount of time to wait. I want to try it on now!

Brides – this just goes to show that you should start shopping around early for your dress!

I won’t put a picture up of the dress I chose in case Mr CB has a peek, but here are a couple of the other dresses I tried on (some good, some not so). The pictures are taken in a number of different shops, and my actual dress is nothing like any of these:

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2. Jewellery: To go with the vintage glamour of the dress, I needed some accessories with wow-factor. It was hard to decide what sort of thing to go for in order to coordinate with the gold of the dress, but I’ve decided on pieces with diamantes and crystals to match the waist detail on the dress.

After looking at magazines and trying some bits at Youngs, I knew that a side tiara (headband or comb) would suit me better than a full-on tiara, which makes my long-ish face-shape look even longer! I also knew I didn’t want anything too wispy and delicate as that’s not really my style, but I did fall in love with some of the more bold pieces on websites like Magpie Vintage and Flow and Percy.

I contacted the Stephanie Allin store on Chiltern Street in London to find out if I had to make an appointment to view accessories, as it stocks Magpie Vintage, and was told just to pop in. However, when I got there the reception I from the sales assistant (one in particular, I name no names, but she was quite young) wasn’t exactly warm and friendly. After showing me a few items she asked me if I had decided on what I wanted (literally after 10 mins) because she had to help someone who was due to arrive, and that I should have booked an appointment if I wanted to look around. She also showed me some items which she claimed only that particular store had. I later found out that was not true.

You can’t really do much in that situation, but politely leave and decide not to waste your cash.

Thankfully for me, Chiltern Street is full of bridal shops, and I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the Bridal Rogue Gallery. The choice of accessories there is enormous – from jewellery (some of which were ones I had been told were exclusively stocked in the previous shop) to shoes to bridal umbrellas. I literally tried on every single hair piece and was assisted by the friendliest assistant who was completely patient, and understanding.

My sister (also my maid of honour) bought me a beautiful hair comb, which was actually chosen by my bridesmaid. We later noticed that it had two diamante missing and so I went back to the shop, and they were happy to repair it for me. Now I just have to wait another four weeks to get it back!

The shop’s bridal shoe collection is also fabulous, and they offer to dye the items for you to any colour, if you provide a swatch. I intend to go back for some shoe hunting.

Now I need to find a bridal necklace and earring set. Watch this space!

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Bridal Rogue Gallery, Chiltern Street, London

3. Bridesmaid dresses: My sister and I spent a lot of time looking at magazines and websites, but were not really blown away by anything until we came across an advert for Amsale in Brides magazine. The dresses were stunning and simple and made from beautiful chiffon – really elegant and understated… but with the potential to be glammed up. Also, as my bridesmaids were nice enough to offer to pay for the dresses themselves, I wanted them to have a really special dress that they’d be able to wear again.

It turns out one place – The Dress Consultants – in London has recently started stocking the American brand. Yay! So we met up with the lovely Sophie Lewis of TDC, my three bridesmaids had a wild time trying on the dresses, and to cut a long story short, we ordered three beautiful pieces in a fabulously summery cerise colour.

The styles of a lot of the dresses meant that it was possible to find ones that suited all three ladies, who have very different body shapes. At £250 a pop they aren’t cheap but I think they are worth it.

Now the girls have to wait until April to try them on and get them altered!

the everyone dress hindress

Two of the bridesmaids are wearing this exact first dress (the chiffon straps an be worn over the shoulder like little sleeves) and my sister is wearing the one shoulder piece in the same colour as the other dresses.

4. Shrug: My dress is strapless with a sweetheart neckline and I love it. But my Asian mother is a little traumatised because she thinks I will look naked in my wedding photos.

I resisted her attempts to make me buy a high-collared, long-sleeved Victorian style dress, and her attempt to cover me up in a Cathedral length veil (I’m 5’2”, it’s really not a good look for me). But I have conceded that maybe I need to cover up a bit for the ceremony.

Youngs offered to make me a shrug using the satin of my dress, but I felt that would be too heavy and cover me up too much (don’t tell mum I said that)! I found some beautiful lace shrugs at the Bridal Rogue Gallery, but they were about £300 – totally out of my price range.

So I was over the moon to find American designer Holly Stadler, who makes stunning lace shrugs in whatever colour you need for around £100! I have been in touch with her and she is sending me a fabric sample. Woohoo – you’ve got to love google search!

5. Photographers: This was a tricky one for me, because while photography was one of the most important things on my list, my budget was pretty small. I loved the vintage style of some photographers, such as Emily Quinton, but sadly spending £3,000 on a snapper was out of the question!

I considered getting photographers I liked to come in for just a few hours, and I also came across some very talented and well-priced photographers who could do the whole day (Elizabeth Lois and Tim James are two I met with, and I also liked Yolande de Vries’ albums).

I then emailed Julia Ford, photographer and art director of Wedding Magazine who had once helped me with a blog, and she recommended Matt and Katie Ebenezer – an Australian couple who will be travelling to Europe this summer. I looked at their site and instantly loved their photographs! They are soft and romantic, but best of all everyone in their pictures looks like they are having the best time!! They obviously have a knack for capturing people at their best. So after some toing and froing and negotiating, we booked them.

The only drawback is we won’t get to meet them until a little while before the wedding, and obviously won’t be getting an engagement shoot, but after chatting to them on Skype, we are more than certain that we have made the right decision.

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Matt and Katie – can’t wait to meet them!

That’s it for now. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to update this blog more often.  I always find reading about other people’s wedding really useful… so who knows, someone out there might say the same about mine!

Happy planning, CB x

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The quest (for the dress) begins

Standing in front of the mirror this morning I inspected my lacklustre hair. I tried tying it up. I tried pinning it. I even tried one of Mr CB’s headbands (not as weird as it sounds – he has longish hair, and favours a slightly hippie-ish look when away from the corporate environment of The City). But, damn it, nothing would work.

And it was then, as I brushed my hair into a slightly different side-parting, that I spied a few gatecrashers between my black locks. No, not a pair of nits, but worse – some grey hair. There they were, as apparent as dandruff on the shoulders of a black suit, like deodorant marks on your new black top, like… well, you get the drift.

Why am I telling you this, my patient Clueless readers? No good reason, I’m just hoping someone out there understands. And now onto more interesting news about wedding dresses, bridal stores and other lovely things that brides-to-be like to read about.

Two weeks ago I had a bit of a dress-filled weekend. I really wanted to get started on searching for my bridal gown but didn’t know where to start. Looking at the magazines wasn’t any good for me. As a dress fanatic, I loved the look of everything, and knew that I just needed to start trying things on.

I made an appointment at Young Bride & Groom in Watford, which I found from a quick Google search. My sister (and head bridesmaid) came with me, along with my mum and dad (poor dad, who somehow ended up tagging along). We had some time to kill before my allotted time, so we settled dad down in a cafe and popped into Browns & Co in the Harlequin Shopping Centre to have a quick browse. The store is a bit of an assault on the senses, with racks of (mainly) evening and bridesmaids dresses in plastic coverings everywhere. Weaving through the fabric and plastic – and trying to avoid static shocks – I located a sales assistant. She quickly showed us to wedding dresses and helped me to choose six dresses to try on, although as the shop does not stock size 6, we had to go for size 8 and 10.

I went into the tiny fitting room, where the assistant gave me a hand trying the items on. She couldn’t pin them for me, in case it ruined the fabric, but held the dresses in when I went out to show my advisers. Although I didn’t try any dresses that were right for me (and sadly they didn’t allow us to take pictures, so I wouldn’t have been able to go away and think about it properly even if I had), they had a lovely collection from large, beaded ballgown styles to simple column dresses. And the best bit was that the dresses were REALLY well-priced – the ones I tried on ranged from £195-£300. While this isn’t the kind of shop where you will get a glass of champagne and a chaise lounge to recline on, you will pick up an absolute bargain wedding dress if you are on a budget.

Onto Youngs. Well there is no other way to start, other than to say that it was a real pleasure going to this shop. As soon as we went in we were pleasantly greeted by one of the sales consultants called Sandra, who asked me some quick questions about what I was looking for before speeding around the racks (which were placed around the sides of the nicely decorated shop floor, with all the gowns in secure, plastic zip bags). She whipped out about six dresses, some I liked the look of and others not so much, and told me to get in the changing room. I went in, stripped down to my underwear – which I had made sure was a decent looking matching set! – and waited. Sandra came in with one of the dresses, told me to take my bra off and put my heels on, which I did feeling slightly self-conscious. She then held up the dress and instructed me to “dive” in, spun me around to face the mirror, said “hands on hips”, and began efficiently tugging hard on the strings at back of the dress.

Struggling to keep my balance as this lovely fairy-god mother wrenched me around the fitting room did not distract from the absolutely gorgeous Maggie Sottero dress that she had chosen for me. It had the most amazing corseted top – which she explained is what Sottero, a former underwear designer, is famed for – that suited my small frame, a simple flowy skirt that didn’t drown me, and a billowing train. The dress also had a single, detachable shoulder strap with flower details, that gave the dress a modern edge.

It was not something that I would have chosen for myself, and I was so happy that Sandra, with her experienced eye, was able to choose it for me. The dress was a size 8, so a little too big, but still lovely. Sandra then pinned my hair up, whacked a tiara on my head and told me to face the mirror. My immediate reaction was “Ah!”. I looked like a bride – it was a shock to the system, but also a complete rush.

I tried on a number of other dresses, a few we decided against before they had been done up. But three stood out as beautiful as the first – one very glam, golden Maggie Sottero dress, and two more ‘traditional’ dresses (one by Sottero – as well as being corseted, her dresses can be ordered in a shorter length which is great for petite brides – and the other by Benjamin Roberts).

I have to say that I loved all four, which were on average about £800-£900, and was surprised that I had chosen three completely different styles. However, not one particular one struck me as ‘the one’ at that time. But then it’s hard after an hour, as they all start to look the same. Thankfully we got some great pics, and I definitely intend to go back to Youngs in a few weeks.

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Images from www.youngbrideandgroom.co.uk

But you know how the world is keen to maintain a cosmological balance?  By this I mean every time something good happens, something not so good also happens? So while Youngs was a fabulous experience, I had a not so good experience at Always & Forever in Hounslow. I decided to go there because I had heard they had a massive collection, so I thought there would be plenty to choose from. However, I made the mistake of not checking if they stocked a range of sizes in store.

So, my mum and I arrived a few minutes before my appointment, and were led into the back room. Our eyes grew wide – the room was massive and lined with hundreds of dresses. “I’m sure I’ll be able to find something in here!”, I thought. With this in mind I asked the assistant where the smaller sizes were, and she looked confused. “We only stock size 14. Have a look around, and pull out the dresses you want to try on”, and with that she went back to the front room of the store. Frankly, while she seemed friendly enough, my heart sank at the fact that she didn’t offer to help at all. So we had a look around, but hardly any of the dresses were kept in plastic, so they looked worse for wear. When it came around to trying on the items, I had to call her into the fitting room each time as I was strugging to get into them myself. While the sales person made an effort to pin the dresses for me and suggest we take pictures, the level of service was not up to the same level as the other stores I had been to (which was especially surprising as the dresses in Always & Forever were on average about £500 more expensive than the ones in Youngs). I had enough after about three dresses and we decided to leave. It was a shame – I’m sure lots of people have found great things in the store, but it just wasn’t for me.

To round up my wedding dress activity, my sister and I went to the Brides magazine/Browns Bride event at The Langham. Browns Brides had organised the most amazing fashion show, featuring dresses by top designers including Oscar de la Renta and Mira Zwillinger (who was present at the event). We had a gorgeous afternoon tea, swooned over ridiculously overpriced dresses (but hey, if you can afford them..) and got some ideas for pretty, laser-cut invites. Fun, fun,fun, but to be honest I was totally wedding-ed out after it.

I’m now trying to decide where the next stop on my quest for a dress should be. Answers on a postcard.

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Red carpet glamour

The 82nd annual Oscars took place last night, with Sandra Bullock winning best actress for her appearance in The Blind Side and the Hut Locker being named best film.

But who cares about the prizes? The red carpet glamour is just as important, and I couldn’t help but notice the theme of soft, muted colours and princess-style gowns sported by the Hollywood ladies, which could be used as inspiration for bridal-wear.

Let’s check it out:

Amanda Seyfried and Jenny Lopez went for dramatic and structured Georgio Armani Privé gowns.

09_amanda_seyfried oscars 2010 Jennifer Lopez

Miley Cyrus and Cameron Diaz went for metallic numbers with fitted bodices and A-line bottoms (Cyrus in bridal-wear favourite Jenny Packham and Diaz in Oscar de la Renta).

Kate Winslet also went for metallic in YSL, as did top winner Sandra Bullock (in Marchesa).

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Many of the celebs were thinking pink this year, as soft blush, pink and salmon colours made appearances on the red carpet. Here’s Demi Moore in a dazzling, layered Atelier Versace gown, while Anika Noni Rose brought out her princess side in a hand embroidered piece by a local LA designer (sorry to be vague!).  Anna Kendrick wore Elie Saab and Diane Kruger made an appearance in couture Chanel.

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Finally, flying the flag for the fabulous older ladies… Meryl Streep in Chris March and Helen Mirren in Badgley Mischka.

oscars 2010 meryl streep 2010 oscars helen mirren

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Supermarket Sweep

asda weddingIf you are on a really tight budget, the following piece of news will be music to your ears – supermarket chain Asda will be launching a new budget wedding collection in May.

The range will feature wedding dresses for £60, groom’s suit, shirt and tie for £40, and bridesmaid dresses for £28… meaning you can probably dress your bridal party for less than £200.

The supermarket last week also hosted its first wedding, when Andrea Birchall and David Culverwell got hitched in the Ashington branch of Asda, in Northumberland.

Check out their wedding and listen to Fiona Lambert, brand director of George, discuss the new collection by clicking HERE.

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Charlotte Balbier: The Modern Fairy Godmother

Designer Charlotte Balbier, the daughter of bridal powerhouse Amanda Wyatt, has been creating romantic, fairytale wedding gowns (with a quirky, vintage twist) since 2003. And she has really waved her magic wand over the recently launched 2010 collection, which features a wide range of dresses that are likely to have broad appeal.

Along with more classic pieces in beautiful fabrics, the range offers options for fashion-conscious brides – think short puffball skirts and forties-inspired tea dress hemlines. Also on offer are trends such as soft pastel shades and dramatic, ruffled single shoulder straps.

I love, love, love this range and the fact that there is something for most women, whether they want to look like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland or a Hollywood siren. Let’s have a look:

Short stuff

If you are small like me, or want to show a little leg, these dresses are just fab!

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Blushing bride

Not everyone wants to wear white, and the collection features soft shades of pink and champagne.

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The cold shoulder

Single, ruffled shoulders are a key look.

AdvertisingShot_CAMILLA AdvertisingShot_ELLA_2 Havana_CloseUp Havana_Front

Racy lace

Delicate, gorgeous lace is a classic trend.

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Statuesque

Column dresses and mermaid shapes are totally elegant.

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Big and bold

Sometimes a girl just wants to feel like a princess…

Camilla_SatDown Fifi_Front Sorrento_Front Tasia_Front

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