Last September I married my ideal husband. And then I sank . into a depression as blue as any spoilt child’s post-Christmas comedown. I hadn’t been a particularly zealous bride-to-be, but once the marquee had been dismantled and all the stories from the night been told, I couldn’t imagine a wedding beyond my own, let alone wearing something lovely to someone else. Yet, within a month, four of my friends had got engaged. By the end of the year that number had risen to 12. Whether I liked it or not, in 2019 I would be going to weddings. Lots of them.
Had I been a different person – indeed, a better, more organised and more logical person (and one without a full-time job) – I would have developed a dressing-for- weddings strategy; after all, between May and July alone, I was off to six. Ideally I’d have reorganised my wardrobe, maybe created mood boards, certainly drawn up clarifying lists. I might also have robbed a bank: every wedding, from a traditional church ceremony in Suffolk to an exchange of vows on a Balearic beach, brought with it its own idiosyncratic sartorial demands and costs. Recycling outfits was going to be difficult. Plus, thanks to the recent vogue for multi-event weekend weddings, I now needed a whole bulging rail of clothes to get me from Friday through to Sunday.
I began with a mental evaluation of what I owned, then made distressed calls to friends and then designers, asking if I might borrow their beautiful clothes. On the occasions this didn’t work, I took to internet shopping. Jewellery, I borrowed from my mother’s safe (not always with her knowledge). I resolved to economise on shoes: my black Kurt G. sandals carried me through nearly every nuptial.
Wedding dressing is not party dressing. It is not only about looking attractive or cool
– that would be comparatively easy. It’s about looking appropriate. Take the classic English wedding’s Jekvll and Hyde duality: church followed by debauched dancing. What is appropriate for God feels like a contraceptive by the time dinner has finished. Professional wedding-goer Pippa Middleton finds a solution to this by always wearing a jacket over a slinky dress. But not even she could have resisted wearing a coat for the wedding of Net-a-Porter’s beautiful fashion buyer Sophia Akrovd, my first of 2013, in snow-capped April. I wore a thin vintage velvet coat bought years before on a sweltering summer day in Paris. As I walked to the romantic sixteenth-century church, I learnt with a shiver dressing-for-weddings lesson number one: check the forecast.
Another lesson: don’t pack just hours before your flight. It was only as I zipped up my suitcase the day before model Florence Brudenell-Bruce’s wedding in the South of France that I realised the Peter Pilotto dress I’d hoped to wear – an exotic riot of non-bridal colours – had never been delivered, nor would it be. Its panicked replacement, a Fifties-style Heritage dress, mint green and Bardot- esque in London, looked nothing but white in the blazing French sun. This revelation was not stress-free (it made the dress feel asphyxiating and unbearably hot), but with no Selfridges to hand and the church bells booming in my ears, I concluded thus: for an ex-girlfriend or a mother- of-the-bride, wearing white is an outright act of war. For other guests, it is inadvisable if your dress is long or you are better looking than the bride.
As I didn’t qualify in either of these categories, I went along to the hilltop church service and noticed with relief whole swathes of the congregation wearing colours that flirted with white.
Back to England’s green, pleasant and porous land for my third outing: the country wedding of a beloved schoolfriend. Outside cities, wedding receptions tend to open with champagne-drinking on emerald lawns, which owe their vivid colour to the 13cm of rain dumped on them the week before. There is really nothing less elegant than the lurching that comes with stiletto heels sinking into turf. Besides, body weight can be distributed in other ways, on flat shoes or platforms. Thankfully, my Kurt G. have a sizable heel that would maintain traction even in a mudslide. Before the bride, artist Phoebe D., said “I do” beside a pagan temple in her parents’ phenomenal English garden, I had focused my attention on acquiring a dress that would match the pastoral colour palette (coaxed into bloom on the day bv the father-of-the-bride armed with a hairdryer). Erdem delivered (on sale: hallelujah!), and I wore a cacophony of purples with long sleeves, which curiously felt more elegant than no sleeves at all.
Dressing appropriately isn’t purely about concealing flesh. My general rule is to look at the bride and groom’s own style and not deviate offensively. At a wedding in Suffolk, full of brilliant academics, I made my first mis-step as my fellow guests, baffled beyond comprehension by the plastic buckle on my pink floor-length Christopher Kane, stared at me in silence. I spent the night thinking up quips about lifejackets and seat belts.
Then again, sometimes a girl has to dress up, and sometimes in national dress. For stylist Caroline Sieber’s wedding to financier Fritz van Westenholz in Vienna, the first party of a two-day celebration was a traditional dinner involving schnapps, schnitzel and dirndls. Before acquiring my
I felt supremely special Then I spotted my friend in the exact same dress own dirndl, I consulted an Austrian. She was strict: they must be cotton, super-fitted, below the knee, with absolutely no glitter. When I walked across Vienna’s main square with my husband, he in short leader hausen, red socks and check shirt (as he smugly pointed out, the exact same outfit as Erdem M.), tourists stopped us and asked to have their photograph taken with us.
For the ceremony itself, the pressure was on to wear something worthy of the bride’s exacting tastes (not to mention those of the other guests, including Lauren Santo Domingo, Hamish B., Julia Restoin- Roitfeld, Emma Watson and Jacquetta Wheeler). I wore an exquisitely cut red
Stella McCartney dress. Chanel ambassador S. wore Chanel couture in palest grey, with a train that turned the aisle of St Michaels church into a river of trailing silk. For the third and final party that evening I had, a week earlier, prostrated myself at the door of the Chanel press office, a pantheon of black and white chic that displays its collections with the same rigour a museum does its artifacts. Taking pity, they agreed to dress me. But I was late to the game: most of the clothes had already been reserved by guests up to a month before.
At the magnificent Saturday night party, surrounded by hills that released everyone’s inner Julie Andrews, I wore floor-length candyfloss-pink Chanel with pinky gold accessories. I felt supremely special for a while. And then, from behind a bonfire, I spied my friend Nina Flohr in the exact same dress. On the barometer of wedding-guest catastrophes, this came reasonably high. But it also had a puerile amusement factor to which we both fell prey and then, naturally, Instagrammed.
Four days off from the nuptial merry-go-round, before it was time to head to another wedding, in Ibiza. Not quite prepared to honour the party island with dayglo, I wore orange Bottega Veneta. It’s a definite truth that when guests have travelled 800-odd miles to a wedding, they commit themselves to the task completely. No one left the party until the father of the bride asked them to, shortly after 7am.
With five more weddings still to attend (two in one day), I’ve acquired some insights. Firstly, going to a summer wedding (be it near a beach or not) with a tan significantly improves every aspect of you. If I can’t find any sun, I visit James H. at W Hotel the day before and then pretend to whomever I travel with that I can’t carry my bags (in case they rub off my tan). Secondly, avoid hats: I feel ridiculous in any sort of head wear. For this year’s more traditional English weddings, Four London braided my hair into a wreath. Foreign weddings mean humidity, and no matter how mighty, the blow-dry cannot conquer the consequential frizz; long hair must be pinned up. Thirdly, putting your bag somewhere, forgetting where, and then hyper actively searching for it between 2 and 4am can prompt threats of divorce. Lastly, if you want to dance, bring flats. Bare feet always end in tragedy.