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Katie’s Long-Distance Wedding

Katie finds her dream wedding dress with a little help from those she loves

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Katie Maloy’s Real Bride Blog; Katie finds her dream wedding dress

Well Brides, in all the craziness of UH coming home and now sadly preparing for him to leave again, I forgot to tell you about my dress. That’s right I have found it and more importantly paid for it so the decision really has been made! I know exactly what I will be wearing when I walk down the cathedral aisle floating on a breeze of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria and then leaving to Ride of the Valkyrie by Wagner: the Parachute Regiment’s official Quick March arrangement. UH excitedly plugged his laptop into the TV the other day and showed me the clip from Apocalypse Now where they play Ride of the Valkyrie against the backdrop of a graphic scene from the Vietnam War. Keep in mind that we already have a choir and an organist and UH wants a piece of music that requires a full orchestra with a complete brass and string accompaniment and maybe even some cymbals – and perhaps one of those guys that wears a giant drum necklace. My brother was in fits of laughter as he imagined the hero pitching up to the cathedral and handing the sheet music over to our 80-year-old organist!

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Anyway, back to the dress. So there I am off with the wedding fairies, gliding down the aisle to The Sound of Music and now I know exactly what I am going to wear. I was more concerned about the dress than anything else. I liken it somewhat to the feature in the Groom’s supplement of the last issue of You & Your Wedding. Groom-to-be Jonathan Thompson explains that choosing your wife is easy, you just know when you have found the right girl for you. The best man on the other hand is political – as a best man is for life not just for one day. I feel the same. The husband part was easy, I knew straight away that UH was in fact the Ultimate Hero, it was a complete no-brainer. The dress on the other hand was another story, it also was for life and not just for one day. Your Wedding Dress is the one item of clothing that is the concentrated version of yourself, you will never be this ‘dressed up’ again. This was the source of my bridal angst and could have most certainly seen me trip well over into Bridezilla territory.

The relationship a girl has with her Wedding Dress is a complex one. When I was a teenager, I was determined I would wear a sheer ballerina wrap top and a giant ballgown skirt in baby pink, no less. In my 20s I was sure I would go for an ultra geometric, origami, Westwood gown with lots of sharp edges. Only recently I was convinced I would do the New York thing and have two dresses, one for day and then a beaded Temperley shift for night with Nicholas Kirkwood heels and a birdcage veil, complete with a full make-up change. It’s a good thing I never got a tattoo. What’s worse is that the relationship a bride has with her gown can be flooded with a great deal of angst. The worst-case scenario would be to buy an 8 when you are really a 10 and then split the bum in it when you got into the car. Oh wait, I already did that picking up UH from the airport ‘That will Learn Ya’ as UH proudly proclaims when I foolishly do something stupid that I clearly should never have tried to begin with. My mind is cast back to that iconic final scene in Clueless where Dionne announces that when she marries Murray she will be wearing a sailor girl outfit with the sailor hat and a veil sprouting from the back of it. At the time I thought that was such a fabulous idea and slightly envious I hadn’t thought of it myself. I could be a sailor girl, UH could be all army like with a bit of dirt on his face running around the desert with guns after just jumping out of a plane. Oh wait, that’s the video footage I recently saw of the hero, not my wedding day. For the record, I found tapes of the hero on military exercise. They were off the charts! There is close-up footage of the hero’s killer six-pack and it wasn’t one of those 375ml can six-packs but rather a 500ml killer six-pack. I had never seen anything quite like it in my life. The Hero was a little taken aback.

1. He didn’t realise it was ever that substantial

2. He has since told everyone that will listen that I ‘fell off the sofa’ when I clapped eyes on it

The hero is still in great shape and I don’t care that he no longer has the killer six-pack, I was just more shocked that a stomach could look like that. That is the truth. Completely. Now, moving back to the dress.

I embarked on my bridal dress shopping over a few weekends when UH was in Iraq and I thought I would not worry too much about finding ‘The One’ but rather view the shopping as research. I also thought of it as a really awesome excuse to try on bridal gowns and spend some time with the mother of UH. The mother of UH is without daughters or daughters-in-law so was quite excited to get involved. As I was without my own dear mother and best friends, the mother of UH was a brilliant stand-in. At the beginning I was slightly worried MOUH might be too conservative, but she was brilliantly on-trend with her observations and predictions. My Mum was really happy MOUH was there to help as she couldn’t be. At one stage I went into a bit of a meltdown about it. I was tearful to UH about needing my Mum to do wedding stuff with me and how we only got one chance to do it as a mother and daughter. The hero asked if I wanted him to fly her over from Sydney to go wedding dress shopping.

This tipped me over into an acute attack of sentimental hysteria.

1. How off the charts is the hero for suggesting that? There are not enough words in the world to describe the generosity of this man. Sadly I can’t give you too many details, as many mates of the UH are now following these entries and they will only wind him up about it and tell him he is becoming ‘soft’. So for the sake of the hero’s mental health, I need to retain his macho status.

2. I really did want my Mum to fly over to go wedding dress shopping with me because for thousands of reasons it is only your mother that can do the job effectively, as she knows you better than anyone else.

3. My Mum couldn’t fly over as she was anchored to work.

4. I had to accept that my Mum wouldn’t be with me when finding my wedding dress.

So this is what I consciously did when I tried on dresses. I immediately thought of what Mum would think of the dresses I was trying on. I also took into account my grandmothers. I lost my paternal grandmother a couple of years ago and I luckily still have my maternal one. Being the first granddaughter to get married and also being insanely sentimental I had a kind of mock conversation going on my head as to what I thought these women would tell me.

I knew my paternal grandmother would have shrieked when I tried on one number that was outrageously low-cut but fabulously Versace-like. A lady of class and sophistication, my paternal grandmother – Jay Bee (her initials) as she was known to most – taught me many useful life lessons that I carry through to this day. Such as the importance of hosiery (the modern woman often dismisses it), the need for a three-step skincare routine, and how, no matter what, you need to look after your teeth as they are the only set you are going to get. What is so lovely for me is that I know all of my grandparents would completely approve of the hero. It is strange how a milestone such as a wedding can raise lots of feelings about family. My aunt very kindly and emotionally offered to handmake my garter for my something ‘blue’, and Irish crochet a hanky for me as that was what Jay-Bee would have done if she was alive. Most importantly, when I tried on my wedding dress I knew that my mother and grandmothers would love it as much as I did. So my replacement system worked a treat, mostly because I am furiously nostalgic and it was really important that I could share this life-changing milestone with the women who are responsible for my existence. I might not have had them in the flesh but they had all had such a massive impact on me I knew what they would have said if they were there. MOUH was wonderful, I also roped Nanny of UH into the sequence. UH was over the moon about this, he thought it was great that I wanted to involve the women in his family and they really enjoyed the process. Weirdly, when you think about it, this time last year UH and I hadn’t even met and there I am twirling bridal gowns in front of MOUH and NOUH.

Apart from all my emotionally charged nostalgia I learnt a very valuable lesson when I found my dress. I thought I would scale Norfolk’s bridal boutiques more so for research and fun but always expecting that I would end up either getting my gown custom-made or at least in London, and pay an astronomical fee for it. The dress was one thing I was never going to compromise on, it had to be totally right and I wasn’t all that bothered with how much it cost; I just had to sleep at night knowing I had the dress that was entirely appropriate for the greatest day of my life. I would have lived on Special K Red Berries for a year if it meant spending the money on the right dress. So I trawled through the boutiques of Norwich, Norfolk, still in a London State of Mind, and weirdly and isn’t it bizarre how things work out, the most posh and expensive of all the boutiques in the county would either never pick up their phone or when I left a message never call me back. I scheduled an afternoon slot for them thinking I was bound to eventually get hold of them. When I didn’t, and the slot was available, I made an appointment with the only remaining boutique I hadn’t visited. Now at this stage myself, MOUH and her best friend had a pretty good idea of bridal gowns as I had tried on no less than 30. When we went into this boutique we almost fell over at the quality and diversity of the gowns, their selection was the best and the staff so friendly. The key, Brides, is: you need to like the sales staff. They are going to be in your life for months and no less than three fittings, and deal with all the demands that you may throw at them. So you have to like them and feel they are up to the job. The lady who owns this particular boutique had been in the business 25 years and after trying out some gorgeous gowns she halted the whole process and said ‘I have it!’ I stupidly was pre-menstrual – Brides, it is a ridiculous time to try a dress on. You will never have a flat stomach unless you are a freak of nature and you will not look good in a dressing room with mirrors lining the walls, so I didn’t really take notice until I tried it on. It was the look on everyone’s faces that told me. The internal dialogue in my head of the three women in my life also confirmed it. Also the owner of the boutique was convinced it was the dress for me and she was right, it wasn’t the most expensive so I knew it was more important for her to have a happy bride rather than sell an expensive dress.

So Prima Donnaboutique of Norwich, thank you, thank you so much for toning down my own Prima Donna tendencies and finding me my perfect dress!!

And to the women in my life. I could write pages for all that I have learnt from you but, importantly and profoundly, maybe you just gave me the confidence to hold out for what was right and not settle for anything less than ‘The One’ and that goes for both the dress and the husband!

‘Til next week
Katie xx

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 1 here.

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 2 here.

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 3 here.

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 4 here.

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 5 here.

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 6 here.

Read Katie’s wedding diary week 7 here.

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Read Katie’s wedding diary week 8 here.