"Uh, why are you dressed like a medieval wench in this picture?” my sister-in-law asked as she flicked through our stack of wedding albums during a recent Sunday lunch. “Hmm, I thought I looked more Star Wars,”I said, peering over her shoulder. “Like Princess Leia among the Ewoks?”
To be clear, we weren’t talking about my wedding dress. Instead, she’d stumbled across one of the many big-day scrapbooks I’d put together – this one dedicated to the camera-worthy moments that cropped up during our 12 months of planning. In the shot in question, I’m sporting a chocolate-brown bed sheet over my jeans, tied kerchief-style around my neck then fastened at the waist with a white terry bathrobe belt before cascading cape-like to the floor. Oh yeah, and black stilettos. It was my emergency first-dance training outfit.
“Do you think your dress is going to be an issue?” my fiancé had wondered one evening just weeks before the wedding, as we rolled back the carpet for our nightly practice session. I’d just picked up the gown after the final fitting and it was hanging (safely obscured from prying eyes in a garment bag) on the back of our bedroom door. But, boy, was it massive! On the expansive dressing-room floor of the bridal boutique, the puddle train looked subtle and delicate. In our tiny flat, I got the first inkling that all that extra fabric might impede the fancy footwork we’d spent months learning.
No one warns you about this potential game-changer when you start training for the first dance. “Wear shoes similar to the ones you’ll wear on the day,” our instructor had told us before our first session, “and bring a copy of the track as it will be played at the reception.” She didn’t bother to mention the white tulle elephant in the room, and neither had any of my married friends. Along with their opinions on our chosen date and menu selections, a head’s up on the dress issue might have been helpful. Then again, what would the advice have been: break out one of your other ballgowns to wear to dance class? Invest in a Scarlett O’Hara hoop skirt costume and file it under the first dance section of the budget?
So, at the 11th hour, we rigged up the Jedi robe and hoped it would approximate the gentle flutter of my dress. After all, we had a series of spins, shoulder-to-shoulders and fan steps to execute – and with £250 sunk into dance lessons and countless hours of practice with the iPod on loop (sorry, neighbours) under our belts, success was the only option. It’s one thing to wing it on the night or opt for a casual sway, but when you splurge on pro training, you’d better be prepared to deliver the goods.
I’d like to say the bed sheet worked a treat… but really, on what planet is Egyptian cotton a reasonable substitute for diaphanous dress fabric? When the lights dimmed and the band cued up our song, we took a deep breath and just did our best – whirlpooling tulle, feet on train and all (but wow, did that train look great in the pictures!).
And you know what? The dance wasn’t half bad either. Guests cheered as we went in for a death-defying dip and punctuated the music with theatrical twirls. We looked so confident, our band even added a bonus chorus – “one more time ’cause it feels so good,” our soul singer crooned – so we could work our dancefloor magic a little longer. “It was just like Strictly,” some relatives exclaimed afterwards.
Well, maybe not exactly – but in the moment, it couldn’t have been more perfect