It’s tradition to give the bride’s attendants a gift as a token of appreciation for their time and effort. Annabel’s bridesmaids will have a special memento of their role as I have made for them these frilly, beaded sachets filled with dried, Yorkshire lavender. May their smalls be scented lastingly!
Oh dear, my best intentions of keeping ‘Mother of the Bride’ updated as I work through my list have come to nought: time poverty strikes again! After the wedding I’ll be able to add tips and tutorials.
My outfit is ready and I even have a dead swan to wear on my head. Annabel has been offered great great great Auntie Dollie’s hand made lace veil but thinks it may have taken on too much of the tinge of antiquity despite being perfect as ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’.
Today I can post a photo of her garter with the ‘something blue’ in the blue organza roses. The little ivory ribbon roses are for the bridesmaids’ hair.
Rebecca is a great friend despite her lack of understanding. She doesn’t say anything when I have a good wedding-dress vent and she holds my glass of wine so I don’t spill it down my cashmere cardigan. I think she enjoys the wedding dramas as it gives her Brownie points at the WI. Actually, I just made that up … she’s not a member of the WI, she goes to the gym and I know how they gossip there.
Annabel has been searching for THE DRESS for over a year. She’s sent me so many pictures of dresses I had to clear my phone as it started behaving weirdly. I’ve been suffering wedding dress angst too although it wasn’t making me behave weirdly despite what Rebecca says.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I went with Annabel on a last-ditch effort to buy a dress. Most dresses need about 16 weeks to make and because she’s dillied and dallied for so long we understood she’d have to buy off the peg and have it altered to fit rather than having a dress made to measure.
On our mission day we started our search at a ‘warehouse’ shop where they advertised hundreds of dresses to choose from. They were right, there were hundreds! And they were horrible: the worst of synthetic fabrics that would pull the sweat out of you, drown out the Wedding March with their cellophane rustle and exhaust you in ten hours of wearing. Not good for a wedding night! Annabel didn’t try on one despite me pleading that if she could choose a style we’d have something to go on.
“We’ll have lunch and then go to the only two shops in a hundred miles that I haven’t been in. If I don’t find one this afternoon I’ll get married in my underwear,” she declared.
“You could wear a suit like Jason and that’ll get the family wondering. They’ll speculate that he’s really a girl and you’re a lesbian.” I said.
“They think that anyway. When I first met your cousin, Oliver, he asked if I had a boyfriend and when I said no he asked if I was a lesbian. I’d just been introduced, never met him in my life and he came out with that.”
“Yes, Oliver, can be a bit blunt.” I soothed.
After a decent re-fuelling at a small bistro we headed to the first shop. The window display looked promising and we had high hopes when we went in. Now, in many wedding dress shops in England, one has to make an appointment to try on the dresses. They hadn’t been able to fit us in on that day so we could only look. The assistant was very helpful and held up dress after dress for our inspection. The promise we’d felt on entering ebbed away as none looked like the drop-dead-gorgeous number that Annabel aspired to. As we walked back to the car she said, “I’m glad we didn’t have an appointment. The dresses were a bit like high school boys … seem promising but not really worth getting undressed for.”
We sat in the car and reviewed what we’d seen and looked through some pictures on Annabel’s phone. I made notes.
“Let’s try and focus on what exactly you’re looking for,” I said, “or rather let’s knock off all the things you don’t want. We’ve been working on a theme of lace and pearls, ivory, cream and white and a vintage look. Some of the dresses fit those ideas. Why exactly are they not special enough?”
“I don’t know, Mum, it’s just that those dresses are similar to lots I’ve tried on and, so far, I haven’t got into one that made me feel like I had to have it.”
“Maybe you’re asking too much of a dress … after all, it’s only a bit of fabric knobbled together with thread and with some lace plonked on it.”
“For goodness sake, Mum! We should have got Rebecca to come with us … she’d be oohing and aahing and weeping into the ruffles by now.”
“Yes, that’s what drink does to you!”
“You drink like a fish when you’re with her so don’t be hypocritical. Now let’s go and find the last shop, they’re expecting us.”
Typical England: It was now raining! The shop we were looking for was in the high street with no immediate parking. We parked in a car park and had to run down a hill and across the road to get under the protection of their awning where we shook the rain off ourselves as we inspected the window display.
“Promising,” I said enthusiastically as I opened the door. We entered a tiny foyer and a dark-haired woman dressed in black came from behind a desk, smiling, introduced herself as Beth and asked us to follow her. We went through into a brightly lit room; all sides racked with dresses and stood in the space in the middle. Beth looked at Annabel, scrutinising her, evaluating her shoes, clothes, make up and hair.
“Come this way,” she said, leading us through a door into a room with windows onto a small courtyard garden with. Even in the rain the view was charming. The room was unfurnished apart from an old church pew plumped with cushions, a small table with a bowl of white orchids and a wide, round pouffe. There were two enormous mirrors in Gothic frames on opposite walls and a ceiling rail with a curtain.
“Have a seat,” Beth said to me, pointing at the pew. I sat and Beth drew the curtain that cut me off from Annabel. “I’ll get the first dress; if you’ll disrobe please, Annabel.”
Each dress she brought for Annabel to try was beautiful. Beth dressed her, stood her on the pouffe, then drew back the curtain for me to see. It was a gala show designed to demonstrate what a wedding is really all about: carnival, theatre, performance, with guest as spectator. Beth was an expert; she knew exactly how to embellish each gown: draping a length of crystal over a shoulder, pinning a tulle bow to a low back, fixing a beaded belt around a waist.
Beth made it easy for Annabel to decide on her wedding dress. If Annabelle had gone into that shop months ago she would have had her dress made exactly for her. But at last the dress is ticked off the list; Annabel has chosen her veil and had her first fitting.
Rebecca holds my wine glass as I pace her garden. “Not a pearl anywhere, not a trace of lace or bows or roses on that dress,” I rant, “I’ve taken months and months making all the accoutrements with pearls and lace, bows and roses. Those are what she said she wanted, it’s what she’s talked of since I read Cinderella to her, since she looked at the pictures of the fairytale wedding with the fairytale dress … with pearls and lace and bows and roses.”
“Don’t you like the dress?” asks Rebecca.
“Of course I like the dress. It’s the most exquisite dress I’ve ever seen and Annabel looks like … well, like Annabel but all grown up.”
“So what on earth are you going on about, Elizabeth. Sell the accoutrements on eBay and let someone else enjoy them.”
I stop mid-stride and look at Rebecca. She’s grinning like a gargoyle and I start to laugh. I drop to the ground and roll on the grass, laughing and laughing and letting the months of stress dissolve away. Who cares whether anything goes or doesn’t go, who cares whether half the guests have still not RSVP’d, who cares whether the ceremony starts late or the bridesmaid trips, who cares if the band plays a wrong note or the waiters are useless (which they bloody well don’t want to be at the price we’re paying!).
I sit up. Rebecca hands me my wine, sits down next to me and starts picking grass off my cardie.
“They’re going to love this down at the gym on Tuesday,” she says.
“Who the hell cares,” I reply. And I really mean it.
I have all the materials I need for the ring pillow so Jasmine and I made a start over the weekend. I am using a heavy-weight ivory bridal satin, a cotton backing fabric and I have lengths of ivory lace in different widths. I’m using glass pearls and seed beads and I’ve already made the corner bows with ribbon roses (of course!).
Jasmine is a great help –
and very good at quality control –
This is how far I got over the weekend –
I can hardly believe the phone call I had earlier. this week I think I’ve been in shock for a few days but I’m returning to myself now … slowly.
My friend, Rebecca, has lovely twin daughters who are going to be Annabel’s bridesmaids. Rebecca has known me for a long time and she’s been my ally, so far, on this wedding journey. She knows my secrets and fears … (and I know yours, Rebecca, so be careful!)
Ok, so now you know our history you’ll understand exactly why I took to my bed after Rebecca’s call and you’ll join in my outrage at what she asked me to do.
“Hi Elizabeth, quick call … is it possible for you to change the ceremony walk through from the Thursday to the Friday? We’ve booked a tour and won’t be back in time on the Thursday.”
I am completely taken aback and stutter something along the lines of, “Ummmm … I’ll let you know.”
Why didn’t I just say NO, NO, NO??? Of course we’re not changing the walk through; we’re not changing one single thing that has already been planned: not the time, the menu, the white linen tablecloths, not the position of the cake table or the DJ’s podium, not even the easel bearing the seating plan will move one inch from its already demarcated spot. The reason is simple: any change would entail a call to the wedding co-ordinator. Yes, a wedding co-ordinator … she is far and beyond an ordinary, run-of-the-mill, easy-to-call wedding planner. Our wedding co-ordinator is hugely efficient, immensely organised and terrifyingly, frighteningly scary. And Rebecca knows this so why does she put me in the position of having to call the wedding co-ordinator to change an arrangement? I would rather fall out with Rebecca than call the wedding co-ordinator to change an arrangement! When I recover enough to call Rebecca back three days later I tell her exactly that. She laughs and says she’s changed their tour date and that she’d never fall out with me over something so insignificant.
She really doesn’t get it, does she!
Elizabeth’s Wire Tendrils
- Floral or craft wire – I’ve used 8cm of green 24 guage paper-covered stub wire
- Craft (jewellery) pliers and wire cutter
- Pattern or template
Use a piece of the wire to form a shape that pleases you. When making anything out of wire it is best to turn the ends into a tight curl so no sharp bits are exposed. Put the wire shape on some thick cardboard and draw round it to make your template. Pierce a hole through the template at one end of your drawn shape. This is the end you’ll start so if you’re right handed you’ll begin working from the left towards the right and right to left if left handed.
Cut your length of wire and curl the end tightly around the craft pliers. Put a pin through this tiny loop and then through the hole you’ve made in your cardboard template. Make sure you have a pad under the cardboard so you don’t pierce your French-polished, antique, dining-room table. A helper is always useful and Jasmine is my chief assistant.
Once the wire is anchored with the pin use the fingers of your left hand (or ask your assistant to help) to hold the wire against the cardboard as you use the other hand to shape the wire to the template.
Remove the pin, use your fingers to smooth out any kinks and make sure there are no sharp edges in the tight curls of the ends.
Glue onto your name card.