Thirty something bride? A confession

I am never going to be a thirty something bride. Just as I never wrote that novel before the age of 40, never became an astronaut, never battled the seas in the Rainbow Warrior to save the seals…I have come to terms with all of those things, but would it sound childish and pathetic to admit just how desolate I feel about never having been married before reaching the age of 40? How much of a failure this makes me feel?

In one of her novels, Joanne Harris writes about a proposal.

‘There it was in her hand. The small dream,’ as the character holds the ring. This phrase always stuck in my mind. The ring, the marriage, the happily ever after, is the small dream that women are handed as little girls. It’s in the books, the films, the lives of all the women who have gone before. A woman who has never been married is incomplete, a sad figure: a spinster. Big, bachelor dreams are for the boys..

As my 40th birthday hurtles towards me, the wedding plans just aren’t coming together. There is still no date set, no clear idea of the venue, no wedding dress ordered – and I know that I am going to be the 40-year-old bride.

I spent my 30th birthday alone, with an 8 month old baby. That day, to get myself through, I thought about my 40th birthday. I thought, by then this baby will be 10 years old. Work will be easier. Feeding her will be easier. I will be able to go to the toilet by myself. I will definitely be happier. There is no salvaging this birthday, but I will make sure the next one is better.

Now, to keep the promise I made to myself ten years ago – to be happier – I realise that I must stop defining myself, and my happiness, in relation to my status as a woman. On my 30th birthday I was defined by being a single mother, with all the pride and shame that burned in me because of that. Now, I am defining myself by my marital status – spinster at 40 – and I am allowing myself to feel shame again, and disappointment, at the small wish that I was never granted.

No, I will never be the thirty something bride, just as I was never the woman with a husband sitting by her side in the ante natal clinic. But these things don’t define me. There are so many other things I have been, and can be.

This year, my 40th, is apparently the beginning of the rest of my life. It cannot be another year of mourning for my abject failure to conform to anything like the ideal of a ‘proper’ woman. I hear my 30-year-old self calling through the years, and I can’t let her down. I would like to tell her, yes the baby is a 10-year-old, and she lets you go to the toilet on your own, she brings you breakfast in bed on your birthday and she has repaid you in gold for every sacrifice you ever made for her – the pride you felt when she said her first word is nothing to the pride you will feel when she comes out with her first bitingly sarcastic comment. You did well, 30-year-old self.

And to my future 40-year-old self, I would like to say – your 50th is going to be AMAZING!

The Tao of Tidying Up

I have always found it difficult to put things into categories. People, things – they all have so many different characteristics; choosing just one to label them by is problematic for me. This makes tidying up impossible. For example, this green felt tip pen – where should it go? The most obvious thing to do would be to put it with the other felt tips, but I don’t know where they are, so I have to think of another way to classify it. My brain struggles to do this. I don’t like to stereotype the felt tip. It’s good as a writing implement, but it is a lovely shade of green, too, so maybe I could put it with some other green things? In the plant pot? Or, do I arrange it by shape and put it with other long, thin things, like candles? Or celery, which is long, thin and green?

I look at the green felt tip for a while, considering where it should go. In the end, I just put it in my bag, where it magically becomes invisible and stops bothering me. Then I have to move on to the next object – an unpaired sock, which almost causes my brain to crash.

‘Don’t worry’ I told my Intended ‘I will do all the packing while you are at work.’

Packing is the torment of tidying magnified a hundred times. Every single item in the house must be categorised and put into a box. I must be decisive, impose order upon them.

After a week, I have made an impressive tower of boxes, packing the books by size as if doing a jigsaw. This was strangely satisfying. Books that have never been together on the shelf now nestle cozily together in boxes. Books are cooperative things to pack; they know that none of them will be left behind.

Up in the bedrooms, it’s another matter. Anarchy reigns. Clothes are everywhere, along with lost belts and socks, baby clothes, make-up and sparkly things stored magpie-like under the bed; teddies and games and shells collected from long-ago beaches. They defy me, these items, confusing me with their claims to usefulness. The baby clothes, for example – I’ve kept them for 10 years, and that very fact makes them impossible to throw away. They have made themselves part of the furniture of my life, even if the memories attached to them have faded. The socks – am I not supposed to make them into dishcloths or something? Am I allowed to throw them away or will they have to go into my handbag, too? The teddies stare reproachfully as I put them in a bag for the charity shop, and the belts clamor to be tried on with different items of clothing.

‘What have you been doing all day?’ asks my Intended when he gets home.

‘Oh, clearing out,’ I say ‘you wouldn’t believe how tidy the house is now.’

My phone rings from the bottom of my bag, and I throw a mountain of assorted objects onto the floor in my race to answer it.

All about privilege and not much to do with weddings

I have been working hard for the past couple of days. Today I was going to write a post about my engagement ring, but I decided to write about privilege instead, because that is just the kind of mood I am in.

There was a minor media storm lately regarding Caitlin Moran’s comment on Twitter that she ‘literally couldn’t give a shit’ about the fact that the sitcom ‘Girls’ features an all-white cast. Her comments triggered some debate over whether a show which has managed to become successful while focusing entirely on the concerns of the ‘Girls’, providing a rare portrayal of ‘real’ women on TV, should also feature women from ethnic minorities, and whether feminists as a group should ‘give a shit’ about whether it does or not.

Moran has been accused of demonstrating a sense of entitlement in not engaging with this debate. She answered her critics by stating that the question ‘why are the women in ‘Girls’ all white?’ is as relevant as the question ‘why were all the members of Abba white?’.

Abba is a pop group that formed in Sweden in the 1970s, where the population was predominantly white. ‘Girls’ is a sitcom written about life in New York in 2012, where the population is predominantly…oh, hang on…

The writer of ‘Girls’ focuses upon what she knows. She doesn’t extend her writing beyond her own concerns, and neither does Caitlin Moran. They don’t think about their own white privilege, because they don’t have to.

I started to think about this in relation to male privilege. This is something that all feminists can understand; it’s probably what made them become feminists in the first place. For me, it all clicked into place when I had a child. It was then that I felt the brakes applied to every aspect of my life. It was like the change from cycling along smooth flat ground in 3rd gear, to struggling up a hill in 1st. Motherhood engenders a total transformation, a complete rethink of priorities and lifestyle – yet for a father, this transformation is entirely optional.

As a single mother, I would watch news items where children went missing or were abused. The reports would focus on the mother and what she had done wrong: she took her eyes off her child for too long, she went off and had fun and left the child with an unsuitable person, she worked too much – I would marvel at the invisibility of the father; where was he? Sometimes my question would be answered, when the father would pop up on the screen, stating how devastated they were about what had happened to their child while admitting with a complete lack of embarrassment that they hadn’t bothered to see their child for several years. They had, in fact, gone off and had fun and left their child with an unsuitable person – the mother, who they were now stating they always knew was no good. Nobody would suggest that he might have shared some responsibility for the situation. For every single mother who is vilified in the press, is an absent father who is secure in the knowledge that the buck does not stop with him.

Not having to worry about things because they don’t concern you, is what entitlement is all about. Not asking questions about the lives of other people, accepting the status quo as long as it works in your favour, and dismissing other concerns as irrelevant – that’s how to feel comfortable with your own privilege. It strikes me that through reading some of the blogs here, I have gained insights into other lives, sometimes reading about struggles that I have been lucky enough never to have had, sometimes seeing the world in a new and different way – and sometimes realising that I am privileged. I still think mostly about my own experience, of course, but hopefully this all helps to ensure that I would never be the journalist who fails to query the absent father, or the feminist who when asked about race issues, says ‘I literally couldn’t give a shit about it’.

I would like men to question their own entitlements; not to abuse their privilege just because they can. By the same token, I feel that feminists (including myself) have a responsibility to do the same.

The Filing Cabinet of Memories

We are moving house. We collect the keys for our new house, and are finally galvanised into action. It is time to clear out the filing cabinet. When we moved in together two years ago, we had to buy it to store the reams and reams of paper that we had brought with us – paper which tracked the courses of our lives. As we sort and shred receipts, letters and bills, we are looking at forgotten history; some of it shared, some of it from a separate past that we still carry with us. Like the kids’ old school reports, they show us how we got to where we are now.

My old bank statements tell a story. I am amazed to see a bank statement from 2008 showing that I was in credit with the bank, and that I spent £75 on my hair. Back in those halcyon days, when I had a proper job…

‘Wow, look, I paid for a meal at Picciolinos in 2010!’ I say, waving the evidence in the air.

‘I think we should keep that and frame it,’ says my Intended.

I remember every single outfit I bought, and why – from the baby clothes years ago, to the smart office wear for a new job, or the warm clothes for winter walks with my Intended – each one said something about my hopes, dreams and fears at the time. This is what advertisers sell us when they sell clothes: the chance to be someone new, to grow into another role or persona. Looking at my bank statements, I see that every purchase represented the start of something new.

We shred the old documents and tell each other stories from our past, deciding what to keep and what to leave behind as we prepare to move on, into the future.

The Trophy Cabinet of Memories

I am in a tree-top, shaking like one of the leaves which I think would take minutes to float down to the ground, way below me. To get my feet back to that solid place, I must first walk along a tight-rope, wobble my way across several rope swings, and swing down a zip wire. Only a harness attached to wires stands between me and certain death. I watch my daughter swing through the trees ahead of me, and the world swings dizzily in front of my eyes. I shut them, and reflect on the events which have led me to this terrible predicament.

We were discussing speeches, and whether we were going to have any. My 11-year-old future stepson is going to be Best Man

‘You don’t have to give a speech if you don’t want to,’ we tell him ‘It’s up to you.’

‘I don’t mind,’ he says.

‘What about me?’ says my 10-year-old daughter, who is Chief Bridesmaid, ‘do I have to give a speech?’

I start to bore on about how traditionally it is men who give speeches at weddings, while women remain passive and silent, and do we think this is right? But Chief Bridesmaid is not listening. She is already talking about the speech she is going to give. We tell the kids that the speeches are usually about memories people have of the bride and groom; sometimes people can try to embarrass the couple.

‘Can I tell everyone about the time you called Mum a mad bitch?’ says Chief Bridesmaid to my Intended.

‘No,’ he says. I say that the wedding speech is supposed to be about happy memories, maybe funny memories, not bringing up bad things that we have done in the past. ‘But can’t I talk about when you threw yoghurts? That was really funny.’
‘No,’ I say, wedding speeches are for those happy, rose-tinted memories that you get on holiday or at Christmas, or when you do something exciting together. They’re the trophy memories, all bright and shiny and ready for public display.
Chief Bridesmaid gets it. These are the instants that often get captured on camera – the ‘Kodak moments’.

‘I know. We’ll do a Powerpoint presentation of all our happiest memories.’ The kids quickly get carried away with this idea.

‘Can we have a photo of me surfing in Cornwall?’ asks Chief Bridesmaid.

‘Have we got a picture of the time Dad put the Christmas tree on the fire and it went whoosh, up to the ceiling and nearly set fire to the house? That was ace,’ says Best Man.

‘When we went ice skating!’

‘When we got a ride on the back of that jeep and I got to drive it!’

As the kids reach back into our trophy cabinet of memories, we realise that a) they enjoy it when we do things together and b) we haven’t done anything together for a long time. This is how I come to be fighting terror as I watch my Intended, Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid swinging one by one down the longest zip wire I have ever seen, their voices getting fainter as they zoom off, screaming, into the distance. I close my eyes, sit down and let myself go. My feet graze a treetop as I gather speed. I can hear the kids yelling something, maybe ‘the zip wire is broken and you’re going to die’? Their voices get closer and closer until I am suddenly ricocheting along soft bark, my clothes scooping it up and depositing it down my back as I slide.

‘Don’t worry, Mum, we got you on video for the Powerpoint.’

The next climbing zone turns out to be too much for Chief Bridesmaid. We are mounting higher into the treetops with every set of ladders, until we reach a wooden tunnel which is suspended on a wire. It sways alarmingly as she puts her hands across the gap to climb in.

Ooh it’s going to fall. You go in first Mum, I need to see if it can take your weight.’

I climb into the tunnel, clenching my teeth into a rictus grin.

‘It’s absolutely fine, it only wobbles a bit.’

Chief Bridesmaid takes one look at my face and yells ‘I want to go down!’

‘Oh. Well, If you really insist…’

We climb back down and walk shakily back to the starting point. As we go, we polish our story, making the memory shine until it’s the bravest and funniest thing we have ever done. On the way home, the car breaks down and Best Man admires the sunset as we wait for the AA.

This can go in the Trophy Cabinet of Memories, too.

Tribulations of a 30H Bride

Oh, those ******* dresses! Not even champagne and friendly encouragement could convince me that they suit me..Not even my mother could manage to look entranced at the sight of me in The BWD (Big White Dress). Not even the addition of a tiara and a veil to cover my face would ever convince me to appear in public in one of these dresses.

It’s Just Not Me.

There may be a reason for this; two reasons, in fact. As I try on a dress, there they are, making the top of the dress stick out almost horizontally, as there is certainly not enough material to go around them.

‘Well, obviously the dress will need some adjustments, or the vicar is going to get an eyeful. He’ll be like, hmm, let’s take our time over these vows!’ the shop owner is saying. Oo-er missus, we are indeed talking about my chest, and what hangs there: those vicar-distracting, dress-ruining, joke-inducing mammary glands which are here today to teach me not to tempt Fate by saying anything as sappy as ‘today I am going to choose the dress that I will wear to marry the man I love’. Fate will simply slap you in the face (well, it would if I jumped, but I learned long ago not to make THAT mistake).

Fate endowed me with these ‘assets’ very early on in life, and has been having a good laugh ever since. ‘Boobs’ are funny, everyone knows that. They’re just so rude. At the age of 10, boys would ask if I was a ‘Page 3’ girl and dissolve into helpless laughter. At 14, myself and a friend (who shared with me the affliction of a D-cup) would spend our PE sessions resolutely walking (NEVER running) past the school classroom windows. The wrath of the PE teacher was nothing compared to the laughing and pointing of the boys on seeing a pair of jugs jiggling before their eyes. When I got older, this tendency of males to point out to me that I had breasts still continued, but could seem a little darker, sometimes quite disturbing. When at university, a male colleague suddenly interrupted me mid-sentence with a look of utter contempt on his face and the question

‘Do you ever read Mayfair magazine? You remind me of a girl I saw in there,’ I had no idea what to reply.  A friend who had overheard, yelled

‘Who do you think you are? You can’t talk to women like they’re a piece of shit on your shoe!!’ and explained to me that he wasn’t talking about some prestigious high fashion magazine where women were showing off clothes, but a porn magazine where women were showing off their large breasts. In either case, he would have been following the misogynistic tradition of reducing a woman to her physical characteristics, but the second comparison did seem more insulting to me at the time.

I began to feel quite disconnected from my breasts, what with them being so very rude and funny, and me being really quite polite and serious. They seemed like a separate entity, entering the room before me and getting all the attention, while the real me resided somewhere else, in my head.

I realise that complaining about being a 30H provokes the same reaction in some women as thin women complaining about being thin provokes in me, that is: a) it isn’t a real problem and b) isn’t it considered by most people to be a Good Thing? The problem is, that for women there is perceived to be a Right and a Wrong way to look, and there is always pressure to conform. Nowhere is this pressure more apparent than in the choosing of a wedding dress. More than any other garment, the wedding dress says something about the wearer. Its very colour has been taken to symbolize the purity of the woman. Nowadays, we think that white wedding dresses signify virginity, although initially they weren’t worn for this reason, but to symbolize the wealth of the bride’s family; white can only be worn once, and only a rich family could afford to buy a dress that wouldn’t be used again. So, the dress came to be a statement of both ostentatious wealth, and modesty and purity. The groom’s dress, on the other hand, came to signify…nothing at all. Men were free to walk down the aisle as themselves, their clothes being simply clothes, rather than statements about their sexuality, purity, or wealth.

Modern day wedding dresses definitely symbolize wealth, being quite expensive, and while they no longer have to signify purity, a pair of breasts is seen as giving the wrong message. As the women in the wedding dress shop circle around me, adding a sparkly belt here, a head-dress there, and muttering ‘that’s nice, it distracts a bit from…’ with vague gestures in the direction of my unmentionables, I realise that I am probably in the wrong shop.

My ‘boobs’ often seem to take on a significance all of their own, mainly down to the portrayal of large breasts in our culture. They conjure up the idea of sex, and availability. Yet to me, they’re just a part of my body. It is quite pointless to try to hide them, or to worry about whether other people will see them as ‘rude. I decide to reclaim them, to decorate them with pride.

Typing ‘corset makers’into a search engine, I come up with this website of beautiful dresses. Dresses fit for a queen.

The Dress Again

After my disastrous attempt at finding a wedding dress in a chain-store, I have made an appointment in a small boutique just around the corner from where I live. I think this is going to be much more enjoyable than the last visit, mainly because I will be accompanied by two friends as well as my Mum and daughter, and they are going to ply us with canapes and champagne. Now, that’s more like it. I have walked past this shop on an almost daily basis for the two years I have lived here with my husband–to-be. Sometimes I allowed myself to look in the window as I walked past, but usually I averted my eyes. You don’t get to thirty-something without having experienced some bitter disappointments, and cynicism is now a deeply ingrained habit for me. I will not allow myself to hope, dream or even think about something until I am 100% sure that it is really happening. But now, today, it really is happening. I am going to choose The Dress. The dress I will wear to marry the man I love.

The Child-less Wedding

(This picture is not very relevant. The little girl just makes me laugh.)

It has come to my attention that there is a growing trend for children to be excluded from weddings. Whether you call these events ‘child-free’ or ‘child-less’ probably reveals where you stand on this ‘issue’, which has provoked debate from Mumsnet to WordPress.

I first became aware of the trend when my sister got married last year and made it clear that children weren’t welcome – including my 9-year-old daughter. This sent shock waves through my family, and I must admit to feeling hurt and angry at the fact that she didn’t consider my daughter to be one of the ‘close friends and family’ she wanted at her wedding. The reasons she gave (‘I don’t want noise or crying during my wedding vows’) didn’t make sense either, given the age of my daughter. Now I’m planning a wedding, however, I see that this is a fairly standard response. Rather than invite some children and not others, it is easier to exclude all children, who are increasingly seen as a huge threat to the careful choreography of a wedding.

The reasons given are as follows: general noise and disruption, not remaining vertical (hiding under tables, falling into things, rolling on the floor), breaking things, boring other guests with their inability to carry on a rational conversation and complaining when they themselves get bored. On top of all this, there are Just Too Many of Them and they Cost Too Much to Feed.

My sister’s wedding was the intimate, relaxed day she wanted, which she ended with a midnight swim (still in her tiara). I was still hurt by the perceived slight to my daughter, though, and retaliated when she asked about my birthday party (to which she is usually invited):

‘There will be loads of children there. You probably won’t like it.’

I invited my friends and all their children to a buffet style affair at my house, expecting some decorous wine drinking downstairs and some noisy chaos from the kids’ bedrooms. However, this year all of my friends had arranged babysitters. With no children to remind the adults to be sensible, the wine drinking didn’t remain decorous for long, and the party lasted until 5am, about an hour longer than the last unsmashed wine glass. It’s not often that I am more sober than anyone else, but it seemed to happen on this occasion, and I realised that there are many reasons not to let people get drunk at your party.

These are pretty much as above: general noise and disruption, not remaining vertical (falling into things, rolling on the floor), breaking things, boring other guests with their inability to carry on a rational conversation and Not Knowing When it is Time to Go Home.

Which leads me to the conclusion that alcohol and children are both equally disruptive, and mutually exclusive, but in a choice between the two, alcohol generally wins. The child-free wedding seems to be part of a growing trend to separate children (and, by extension, mothers) from the rest of society. Commercial outlets provide places where children are ‘free’ to gorge themselves on sugar, then swing on ropes and scream to their hearts content (ie soft play centres) and other spaces where adults are ‘free’ to get as recklessly drunk as they like. These things feel like fun at the time, but result in irritability, headaches and empty wallets shortly afterwards. I have nothing against rope swinging, or getting drunk. Nobody can get more outrageously drunk than a mother who rarely gets to go out in adult company (I can speak with authority on this) – but wouldn’t it be nice if mothers and children spent less time confined to the house, and more time in the company of others, and wouldn’t this have a civilizing influence, on all sides?

For my wedding, I’m envisaging a European cafe-style scenario, kids playing hide-and-seek among the trees while the adults sip their drinks in a sophisticated manner, allowing me to enjoy everyone’s company, be they 9 or 90. Never mind that the wedding is in March, in Manchester, and I’ll probably make the mistake of drinking champagne for breakfast. I can dream…

The Wedding Script

Much of life follows a script, from proscribed polite responses to more subtle unspoken rules about what should and shouldn’t be said. Every so often, I get an irresistible urge to deviate from the expected response, particularly when in interviews or a work situation. I describe this as ‘being original’; bosses unfortunately tend to describe it as ‘being inappropriate’.

Yet when it comes to my wedding, my behaviour is right on cue. I find myself shouting at my Intended in typical ‘Bridezilla’ fashion:

‘You are showing NO INTEREST in the wedding, and it was YOUR IDEA in the first place!’

This argument was so clichéd it could have been following a special wedding script. Imagine my dismay on picking up one of the wedding magazines that I have been flicking through, to find the subheading

‘Is your fiance showing no interest in the wedding, even thought it was his idea in the first place?’

I was following a wedding script, and not even a good one; I had picked the most banal line from the whole wedding magazine! Am I really so suggestible, I wondered? What is it about a Wedding that gives rise to so many stereotypes, and why is it so hard to avoid conforming to them?

As we found when looking around wedding venues, wedding coordinators (or sales advisors, as they never call themselves) refer often to wedding tropes, explaining to the groom that the wedding is ‘all about the bride’. They talk about weddings as highly orchestrated, almost choreographed events, each separate constituent referred to in capital letters and prefaced with The: (The Guests, The Toast, The Flowers), which makes it sound somehow scary as in my head they were our friends and family, some booze and some flowers. Too much formality could bring on an embarassing attack of original behaviour from me.

As we were struggling to picture our wedding in the hotel we had chosen, we widened our search to include the local golf club. Red patterned carpet shrieked at red patterned sofas as we mounted the stairs, past the stair lift, into the bar room with its well stocked bar and faint aroma of leather, cigars and manly sweat. We opened the doors out onto the balcony which looked out over the golf course, now colourful with autumn leaves.

‘The golf course is out of bounds,’ said our guide ‘we are not insured for people getting hit on the head by golf balls.’

‘You can put the cover on the pool table and put your buffet on there,’ he explained.

On the way out, we stopped to look at the stair lift.

‘Kids are not to play on this, they keep breaking it. We did cover it over with a black bin bag for the last wedding, but it didn’t look too clever. We’ve ordered a proper cover now.’

We had never heard any of these lines before. As we left the building, golden leaves swirled around us like confetti. We laughed, turned to one another and said, in (unrehearsed) unison

‘I like it.’

When we got home, we began to discuss how we could decorate the golf club so that it would look like the scene of a wedding. My Intended actually began to search for other local venues and caterers on the internet, with an enthusiasm he had not shown earlier. I felt relief that these onerous tasks were no longer to be left to me alone.

It seems that the chance to write our own wedding script was what we had needed all along.

The Dress

Fairly soon after we announced to our children and our parents (in that order) that we were getting married, we changed our status to ‘engaged’ on Facebook.  Of course, I am not dependent upon social media for my identity (honest), and didn’t NEED to change my status to be officially engaged – but bizarrely, it did feel more real to me once I had become ‘engaged’ on Facebook and enjoyed the predictable flood of congratulations from people I haven’t seen since school.

What was less predictable for me was the ensuing barrage of diet advertisements which now flash in the corners of my eye as I log on. I had become used to the ‘Adele lost 2 stone’ advert, but now I am distracted by the ‘White Dress Diet’, not to mention the ‘Wedding Diet’, alongside a competition to win personalised m and ms for wedding favours! Yes, Facebook certainly knows I am engaged and assumes this means I will be on a diet, as does the entire internet. Even a search for wedding trainers (see my shoe dilemma) came up with someone who would make me run around a field and do press-ups in order to be worthy of my Big Day.

Being beautiful seems to be a vital part of being a bride (as if anybody would marry a woman for any other reason!) and being thin appears to be a vital part of being beautiful. I was annoyed by this implication, especially the thin part, until I went to try on a wedding dress. The bridal diet obsession then became clear. It is not possible to look beautiful in a wedding dress unless you are a) very tall and statuesque or b) a stick insect. If you don’t believe me, find the thickest, widest and longest swathe of material you can (a pair of curtains would do) and drape it around yourself. Press it flat against your bosom and pin it at the back, preferably tightly enough to make some flesh bulge out around the sides. Now add some frills for added bulk. Now imagine this whole ensemble in WHITE.

The wedding dress is the opposite of the little black dress. It is, in fact, a big white dress. The BWD does not, like the LBD, make you feel as if you have lost a stone. It makes you instantly wish you could lose 2 stone. I now believe that the diet industry is paying the wedding dress industry to continue to make these unflattering dresses. The number 1 reason for dieting has got to be an impending wedding (just check any Weightwatchers magazine for proof of this one).

Apparently, we have Queen Victoria to thank for the white wedding dress, which became the norm after she wore one to marry Prince Albert in 1840. Before then, women just wore their best dress – in any colour.

It has now become such a strong tradition that few wedding dresses deviate from white, or off-white,  and it is hard to imagine ‘feeling like a bride’ in anything else.

Yet there is no escaping it, the BWD does not suit the thirty-something bride. I took my ten-year-old daughter, Chief Bridesmaid, to Debenhams as she had begged to be allowed to help me choose The Dress. She sat on a chair and enthused as I walked out in the first dress. She enthused about the second dress, and the third. An hour later, her enthusiasm was beginning to evaporate. I was back to the first dress which she and the sales assistant agreed was the best.

‘I look like an enormous white square,’ I said sadly as I regarded the vast expanse of lace, tied at the waist with a piece of thin ribbon, making me almost as wide as I was tall.

‘Well I think you should get that one because actually you just look RIDICULOUS in all the others!’ snapped Chief Bridesmaid, patience finally gone. I had to laugh – and seriously consider the possibility of getting married in my best jeans.