From damsel in distress to damsel in this dress…

An indicator of the passing of time is the tailing-off of wedding invitations. This ‘slow-down’ started about a decade ago and was welcomed at first. I’d served my time as bridesmaid, witness and escort. I’ve sat at top tables and on the perimeters at ‘acquaintance’ ones. I’ve danced til dawn and hailed carriages before midnight. Little wonder I developed wedding-fatigue. And hen night horror. By the time I’d get to look at store gift lists there were just the white goods left (expensive). I’ve only been to one wedding local enough that I could get a cab home. All old concerns now. They preceded a dearth of invites during a lengthy hiatus. These days wedding invitations are a novelty. A rarity. So when a BFF names her day and it’s to take place in France this summer, there’s great excitement.

When the bride-to-be asks if I’d help her choose her dress, it’s a real honour. And an adventure because she happens to live in Belgium so that’s where we’d to shop.With great power comes great responsibility. Voltaire wasn’t talking about shopping for a wedding gown but he could well have been.  I was relieved when I found out the responsibility would be shared. She’d tasked another pal too.

Our bride is pretty and slim – the perfect clothes horse. In fact we correctly predicted that she’d look stunning in many of the dresses. Good ankles, knees and collarbone, there’d  be no need for cover-ups. For a steer I checked out a few wedding blogs and bought one of those doorstop wedding magazines to take over with me. This one showcased 745 dresses within the covers.

Easter week I left from Euston on Eurostar. I’d cobbled together childcare with DH agreeing to work from home. My return ticket was for 3 days later. I’d never been through the Eurotunnel before. What a revelation. I wish the world was connected by a series of burrows. There’s something terribly civilised and terrifically emancipating about travelling by train.  In a little over two hours I was in my pal’s car en route to her beautiful home. It wasn’t just driving on the wrong (i.e.right) side of the road that announced my arrival in Europe. It was that je ne sais quoi. In London if I run out of milk I dash to my corner shop – Costcutters – where I distract my kids from grabbing garish toffees and detach them from the latest edition of Moshi monsters magazine.  In Brussels, she saunters to the Sardinian delicatessen whose stylish striped awning we can see from her kitchen. The proprietor humours her toddlers and rewards them with salted cracker samples. We are the ones tempted – by oils and cheeses and fine wines.

When I meet my pals for coffees in England, I’m sure to get my loyalty card stamped and how I revel in that free coffee, ten drinks on. In Belgium a coffee order will come with a truffle or miniature eclair or muffin on a saucer. Gratis. I love it!

With the children dropped off at nursery, we hit the bridal stores. Our bride set up these appointments days in advance.  We knew what we didn’t want and when THE dress appeared we knew straight away that it was the one. From a bridal emporium we visited in Antwerp. On day one. But we stuck to our schedule and fulfilled the other consultations before returning to Antwerp the morning we were to depart for London.

Lovely but not lovely enough

Hoping the dress (with bride in) was as we’d first viewed it. It didn’t disappoint. Group hug and a tray with champagne and glasses to toast the choice. She looks beautiful in the frock and with a little more tinkering (alterations, starching and a bespoke corset) will look even more so at the chateau in Lyon. Elegant, classy, sophisticated, dazzling, svelte. As we toasted our bride, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. Huge relief. Fait accompli.







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