A horrifyingly surreal feeling washes over you when you try on your wedding dress three weeks before the big day and find that it doesn’t fit. Not even close.
We had just arrived back from Sydney to get married at home and I had no concern whatsoever that there might be a problem with it.
I had lost weight since last trying it on so surely it would fit even more comfortably, I thought. Not so! It zipped comfortably to my ribcage and then wouldn’t move an inch further.
Apparently, when you’re in the early stages of pregnancy, your tummy and hips are not necessarily the first places to expand!
I brought the dress to two professionals who said nothing could be done with it – so I was eight weeks pregnant and three weeks out from my wedding with nothing to wear.
Before we got engaged, the prospect of a wedding day had terrified me. Not the marriage itself – that part I was excited for – but the show.
I believed (and still do) that there’s a growing extravagance to weddings at home, a kind of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ that puts couples under huge pressure to look a particular way and tick an increasing number of boxes.
There’s mounting pressure to lose weight, have wrinkle-free skin and pull off the ‘perfect day’.
And then it’s followed by huge scrutiny – Facebook judgments, Whatsapp chatter and photo analysis – the thought of which gave me serious anxiety.
So I was determined from the moment we got engaged to stay focussed on what really mattered and not get carried away with the nonsense or stress (which is easier said than done – Botox was mentioned to me so many times that I began to question whether I was really taking this whole wedding stuff seriously if I wasn’t getting injected!)
For the most part though, the build-up to our wedding was lovely – right up until that moment the damn zip wouldn’t close!
At that point, the creeping fears of judgement and scrutiny began to wash over me again and it was a little harder not to worry about the silly stuff.
Getting to the Altar
A week of chaos ensued.
I bought a second dress, knew the moment I got it home it wasn’t right, tried to negotiate returning it and then pondered the prospect of buying a third dress.
The clock was ticking. Two weeks to go before the wedding and I still had no dress.
I should mention at this stage that the kindness of wedding professionals toward me as a bride in crisis was immense.
At their busiest time of year, with appointments fully booked out, a few shops in particular – which I have noted below – were incredibly generous with their time and efforts. (If you’re getting married in Ireland, I highly recommend you pay them a visit, both for their dress selections and their service).
As is so often the case, however, it was my amazing mum who found a solution.
She didn’t stop trying. She hadn’t stopped preparing for the ten months leading up to that, meticulously planning everything, and she was completely heartbroken that our time at home in the run up to the wedding wasn’t being spent happily chilling out and enjoying the final preparations together.
But she was determined to find the best solution – and needless to say she did.
She found the one person who said ‘of course something can be done with the dress’: its designer, Sharon Bowen Dryden.
Based in London, she too was incredible. She had the lace and silk shipped from India to London to Glencull by the next week – then another weaver of magic (whom my mum had managed to source in Belfast) so generously agreed to take her one day off (which turned into several more) to bring it all together.
Two days before the wedding, I was finally able to zip up my dress – fully.
The Big Day
I was relieved and grateful to say the least – but also exhausted and emotionally drained. The evening before the wedding I just wanted to cry and sleep.
At about 9pm I went to place flowers on my grandparents’ grave, overlooking the chapel that we were getting married in the next day.
I love sitting there. It’s a very peaceful place and it makes me feel close to them, two people who were so hugely central to my childhood and teens.
And I got a really lovely, overwhelming feeling reminding me of what I’d sworn I’d focus on the day of our wedding: how lucky I was with my husband and all the people celebrating with us.
It may sound corny but I’ve seen how frequently those priorities get lost in the pressure and hopes of creating a ‘perfect day’.
Remembering it gave me a happiness and glow that made our ‘big day’ truly one of the best days of my life.
From the moment I woke up until I went to bed the next morning, the entire day was filled with the most beautiful, special moments that I will never forget and feel so grateful to have experienced.
Even after those three weeks of chaos, I wouldn’t have changed a thing – and I know my husband and family wouldn’t either.
It meant we had one particularly special guest at our wedding.
And almost 28 weeks later, we are just about ready to meet that little toots in person.
Thank you to all the following for helping make our day so special:
Designer Sharon Bowen Dryden
Dressmaker Lynne Gregg
The incredible Harvey’s Point, Bradley Henderson photography, Paul O’Reilly, Connolly Digital, Eamon Kelly, Father O’Dwyer, Noleen and Grace Neill and Bronagh Broderick, The Bentley Boys Band, Floral designer Stephen Mallon, Hidden Gem Beautique, Maria’s Hair and Beauty Salon and Glendale Limousines.
Joe and Nicola Canavan
And of course, our much-loved bridal party and guests (especially my miracle-working mum!)