Apologies for my absence. I’ve been trying on every wedding dress within a 50-mile radius. As you can imagine, this has taken a fair bit of time. More time than I ever thought possible.
Short, long, princess, fishtail, ivory, white, lace, non-lace, off the peg, not off the peg. I’ve tried them all. This is the first rule of wedding dress shopping. You have to try everything, even things you don’t like.
‘Don’t rule anything out until you’ve tried it,’ the people of the wedding dress world keep telling me. So the fishtail frocks and the meringues, I had to give them a go. And guess what! They were amazing. Well, not the fishtail frocks because of my ample backside, but the meringues. Marvellous!
I will never forget the shock of seeing myself in a princess wedding gown, stepping out of the changing room and looking in the mirror. And wondering if the woman staring back at me was actually me.
Up until actually trying on a wedding dress I wasn’t really bothered about a wedding dress at all. I thought a bridesmaid-frock-come-ball-gown would suffice for our very small wedding.
‘It’s a wedding,’ Mum kept saying. ‘You need a proper dress.’
I wasn’t convinced but agreed to have a look anyway. And with that, the search began. Shop after shop. Dress after dress. I’m not a shopper, but I happily tried every boutique in Yorkshire, completely swept up in the search for a perfect dress. The one, as some people called it.
The only problem was that I couldn’t find The One. When this happens, the excitement at wedding dress shopping diminishes somewhat. Instead it became a real test of endurance. Trying on dress after dress soon began to lose its sparkle. I was fatigued.
Mum was struggling too. When one shop messed up our appointment and couldn’t find the booking, Mum had a funny turn and I thought she might collapse. ‘We need to get sorted soon,’ she said. ‘I can’t take any more.’
The dresses were lovely, but we couldn’t find one suitable for me. ‘You’re the wrong shape,’ Mum said. ‘That’s what it is.’
Strapless dresses didn’t suit my shape. I thought I looked okay, but apparently they accentuated my flat-chest and long upper-body.
‘We can get extra padding,’ the shop assistants said.
‘No,’ Mum said. ‘It’ll not help. Her chest is too long.’
The princess frocks made my waist look tiny and completely hid my backside, but they were huge. ‘No good,’ Mum shook her head. ‘The vicar will have to extend the church to get you down the aisle.’
The fishtails were awful. Apparently I have an ‘ample backside’, so this style just accentuated its hugeness. ‘It’s your legs,’ Mum said. ‘You have really big legs! Just like your father.’
After a good few months of shopping, where every part of my body was scrutinized, we began to run out of wedding dress shops. We’d covered most of Yorkshire and still had no luck.
The last shop was Emily’s Bridal in Sheffield. This was the first shop I’d phoned, but the last to try.
‘If we don’t get sorted here, you’ll have to wear a bin bag,’ Mum said.
‘Anything,’ I said. ‘I don’t care anymore.’
In Emily’s I was spoilt for choice. I narrowed it down to five dresses. In and out of the changing room I came, while Mum slumped on a sofa in the corner. ‘All nice,’ she smiled and tapped her watch. ‘Can you make a decision, please.’
I would happily have worn each and every one of them on my wedding day, but there was one dress that I loved just a little bit more than the others. This had to be The One.
‘Thank goodness for that,’ Mum said. ‘I thought we’d never find one.’
I was so pleased the search was over. But before we bowed out of dress shopping, I wanted to try this particular dress for my bridesmaids. I wanted to see their reactions when they saw me in my wedding dress for the first time.
Off we went to Sheffield, all five of us. I put on the dress, took a deep breath and stepped out from the changing room. No one spoke. Blank faces stared back at me.
It was Olivia, my four-year-old niece who broke the silence. ‘Auntie Liz,’ she said. ‘Your dress looks like a carpet.’
A carpet! My beautiful wedding dress and she thought I looked like I’d been wrapped in a carpet. It wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for, but after months of shopping, it would have to do.