‘Long time, no blog!’ I feel like I type that every time I actually sit down to write, which you may have noticed is a rarity this weather. I attempted to write this three months ago as I thought that some of you, who liked reading my once regular posts, would be interested to hear my thoughts and how we got on on the day and see what look I chose in the end. I know that I personally am always curious to see what a bride goes for - I mean, it could be absolutely anything; there is just so much choice and what makes it all so exciting is the fact that every bride’s style and taste is so individual. I saw some beautiful winter brides over the past couple of months - they absolutely stunned, and I’m really excited to catch a glimpse of some seriously style-savvy señoritas over the coming weeks - can’t wait to see the gúnas.
I stopped blogging earlier this year as I didn’t really want this to turn into a ‘wedding blog’ as such and naturally enough, I wanted to keep details private in the run-up. At the end of summer, when I sat down to write, I thought it would be easy to write one short post to summarise the day and leave it at that. (I hear ‘Bish bosh, done!’ in my ear - one of my closest friends always says that as she dusts her hands off - ridding herself of trivial tasks). But a few lines in, I realised that I couldn’t write just one round-up blog of our wedding day. As many of you know, there is a helluva lot involved in planning a wedding, hence there’s a lot to talk about! It’s something that consumes your thoughts be it voluntarily or subconsciously until the day of… we’re talking months, years…
I would like to write another couple of blogs so I can thank and recommend our suppliers, hairdressers and make-up artists, share details of our bridal party looks and my mum’s amazing, custom-made Irish designer outfit (I chose the colours I knew suited her best) - but I can’t promise that I’ll find the time. Hopefully, I will, but it’ll remain on the to-do list for another while. Let’s see how I fare with this one!
I never even shared an album online, just a staggered handful of photos, if even… not very blogger-esque (I never liked the word blogger anyway and didn’t like to be deemed so).
I just don’t know where the past few months have gone. Gone. Honestly. But, I thought maybe it was time to share a few images, before the year is out!
As my musings and writings have been primarily style related from the outset, I decided that in this piece I’d tell you about my wedding dress and wedding dress shopping. If you’re a bride-to-be on the quest for your dress, I really hope my list of bridal shop recommendations helps. I think it will. I’ve listed them by county and shared the designers and styles I liked in each. I also tell you about my special memories from each experience. Maybe you’ll discover a designer or dress style that’s right up your alley!
Top tip: If you’re unfamiliar with designers of bridal gowns, well, you know that stack of bridal/wedding magazines you were gifted when you first got engaged? Flick through to see what catches your eye. I brought one or two along to the hairdressers and browsed as I got a blow-dry, then I followed all the designers of said dresses on Instagram. Initially, Berta stood out to me. Oh how I pared it back!
I’m not sure what your first impressions of my dress are, perhaps they’re ‘Is that it? Is that even a wedding dress?’ Maybe you expected something different from me. I play around with fashion day to day - like many of you, but for my wedding dress I knew I wanted the simplest look of all. Despite having imagined myself wearing a simple sheath/slip dress, I was actually open to every style from the start and willing to try on everything from ball gown to vintage to jumpsuit… just for fun and maybe to surprise myself in the process!
I completely understand why brides choose big, show-stopping skirts and ball gowns for their wedding day, as this is your one chance to make a statement on your runway, but I knew that wasn’t going to be me. I wanted to feel comfortable, be able to dance in a lightweight dress, not have excess material to carry around or have bridesmaids fussing over me on the altar. I didn’t want anything tied to a particular era either, like a definite 1920’s or 1950’s look.
It’s true that I have loved wearing embellished looks in the past and one of the first dresses I felt great in and was nearly sold on was an embellished sheath by Sottero and Midgley in local bridal shop Simone’s (it’s now discontinued, but here it is). Both mum and I agreed that I’d kinda done that embellished style so many times in the past for various events - that would have been too obvious and plus, that was very early on - I was adamant that I didn’t want to buy my dress too early. I wanted to enjoy the whole process as much as possible and not rush it. I had started the search so early on initially, as a local boutique had invited me in to browse, but I decided it was way too early and abandoned the search for about six months. Mum and I really did enjoy so many days out together. Any excuse. I loved mixing and matching looks and designers, adding embellished boleros and accessories to make it my own. Locally in Sligo, I tried Simone’s and Graceful Occasions. I was hoping to get out to Lamelia, but I just never got round to it. I had hoped to buy my dress locally - I pass by Simone’s every morning on my way to work - and there really was lots of variety, but I didn’t find my dress here in Sligo in the end.
In Donegal, I visited Pearls and Lace. This an intimate boutique with a lovely selection and I was interested in this Willow By Watters Irene gown. When I tried it on, I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the fabric unfortunately and the skirt seam was a little ripped, so that was disappointing. They did have other beautiful art deco styles that through a spanner in the works, momentarily.
I tried McElhinney’s in Ballybofey, of course! That was a lovely experience. Mum and I made a night of it and stayed at Villa Rose Hotel. I liked styles from Julie Vino with the detailed bodice and plain, fitted skirts and I also adored this relaxed look by Maggie Sottero. It’s now a steal on McElhinney’s online store. I loved the idea of and the versatility of a two-piece, but felt maybe it was a little beachy, or like a look I would actually wear anyway (crop top and flowy skirt) in the summer. You’d definitely wear that top again, but you could mimic that style so much more affordably. It would probably be an ideal, relaxed look if you were getting married on a beach.
Bride on a budget?
I have a couple of unworn wedding dresses for sale in Sligo this weekend!
I went back to McElhinney’s for their sample sale and I actually picked up a couple of back-ups as I was panicking that I wouldn’t find a dress. I know this may sound strange to some, but they were a steal (honestly), and as you know, I’ve always resold preloved clothing online and at local markets and I could see not only their potential (I had reimagined them slightly), but the resale value.
They are beautifully embellished and still have tags intact. I plan to sell them on Saturday, December 15th at The Nest, Custom House Quay in Sligo town. I’m having a pop-up shop for my jewellery, bridal wear and preloved party pieces at the Christmas Bazaar there from 12pm-5pm. It’s hosted by Pulled, who do my screen-printing. The Nest is an all-ages, alcohol-free community arts centre.
Over the next couple of days, I’ll be showing you the dresses and party-wear on my InstaStories (@bytriona). If you can’t make Saturday, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in a wedding dress for a bargain.
Name your price. They will be ideal for some brides-to-be out there.
My bridesmaid Avril is based in Limerick, so we organised a few appointments there. We tried Lilac Rose, which had so many heavily embellished gowns from Eliza Jane Howell; I was going all out, open to everything, trying on embellished capes over dresses - the works! The girls were really lovely here. Stacey, if I remember correctly.
In The Attic, I got to meet Irish designer Orlaith Carroll and I really enjoyed this session. I must have slipped into 12 gowns, even though we arrived late and had little time before her next appointment. She was a great help. I adored this Elbeth Gillis Nicole gown (here’s a front view) and it was a serious contender from the start… right up to the end. I liked lots of Elbeth Gillis’ designs and Orlaith explained that Elbeth makes your dress to your exact measurements and you can chop and change the skirts. I was really interested in this South African designer. Although you get measured in all bridal shops, the dress usually arrives in and it really isn’t made to measure, which can be disappointing! Elbeth Gillis’ dresses are made to your exact shape. That was something that interested me about her. I liked this Anna Georgina dress at The Attic too. The bodice looks like lace, but it’s beaded.
We popped over to Adare (thanks Trevor for chauffeuring us around!) as well; It’s such a pretty little village, where I spent my 30th birthday with Julian. We visited Áibhéil and I tried on some Pronovias gowns. Their crêpe fabric is very figure flattering. My main memory from this store was a lady handing me baby wipes, despite not wearing tan or foundation. I suppose they just like to keep their dresses pristine - not a bad thing I suppose! Also, Av said that while I was getting changed, another bride-to-be came along with a big folder / scrap book of dress cuttings… that sounds like one super-organised bride. I had a more relaxed, rough and ready approach: I take a mental note of everything - I like to say that when my friends tell me I need to buy a diary.
I’d recommend a visit to Padanee in Carrick-on-Shannon. The nicest, warmest lady, Patricia owns this bridal boutique and will make you feel so great about yourself. She inspired such confidence in me, making me fit into dresses I thought would never fit. She stocks Irish designer Dawn Fitzgerald and something really drew me to her luxurious silk satin fabrics like in her Goddess Gown, but I wasn’t mad about the cowl back. Patricia organised coffee and cake across the road for Julian’s niece, Sophie and I afterwards. It’s a special memory and just as we left I heard ‘Blackbird’ by Paul McCartney on the radio. It’s now my favourite song and I walked down the aisle to this, leaving the church with the happiest head, singing along to the beautiful lyrics. Sarah Crummy, you were and are Wow!
Westmeath/Roscommon - which is it?
In Athlone, we visited Kadee. This is one fabulous bridal store… so tasteful and edgy. I was drawn to their minimal designs like those from French designer Margaux Tardits and a dress that wowed me was a sample from Houghton NYC. It was like it was made for me they said. It just hugged my body and hung beautifully. The owners at Kadee are a sister-duo (Katt and Dee) and they said that sometimes the boldest statement is the simplest, the most pared-back. It’s all about you wearing the dress as they say. It was effortless and I loved it, but it didn’t have the low back, which was the feature I wanted most. It was very nearly my dress too, but lowering the back and changing the criss-cross straps would have altered the way the dress hung.
Sometimes, it’s better not to see a dress on a model. It’s not going to be the same on your figure. Of course, many times the dress will look better on the model on Instagram, but believe it or not, sometimes the dress may look better on you, on your shape: It’s really all about how a dress makes you feel. And no one else can experience that feeling. I hadn’t seen the gown on a model, until I researched after. It may look like the plainest dress that ever was, but I really loved this on: Bacall gown by Houghton. I remember the girls saying that they’d love to see the dress that would beat this on me.
Although I was open to every look at the beginning, soon the patterns in what I was drawn to became very clear: I liked simple. Simple, clean lines. No fuss.
I’d heard about Dinagh Modes in Castlerea and had seen some of their custom-made designs. It was a workmate of mine who recommended them. I just wanted reassurance that what I liked and the style I’d narrowed it down to, actually suited my body shape. Yep! They said simple, clean, bias-cut, no fuss. They said to show my skin: shoulders and back. All I needed was that reassurance and I knew it was time to get a move on and buy my dress.
Ah, could I have three dresses, please? It’s difficult to choose just one. I mean, I narrowed it down to three dresses. One in Kadee in Athlone, one in The Attic (Limerick) and one in Sharon Hoey (Dublin). It’s not like I could just try on all three at the same time and place and compare them. They were each similar in their simplicity, each had elements I loved, but in the end, I chose none of these!
When I finally spotted my gown, I was sold. You may think, well, there’s not much to the dress, but you know what? You can see the thought and time I put in, and how difficult it really is to find the simplest dress!
In Dublin, I had tried Dirty Fabulous Vintage and Sharon Hoey. I was particularly interested in designs from Suzanne Neville (this Premiere one was fab) and Sassi Holford (Sienna gown). I visited this store a few times actually.
The second I walked into Myrtle Ivory, I spotted my gown. It was the tiniest, unassuming, satin-silk sheath. I tried on ten or twelve dresses, to leave no stone unturned, but none compared to this one in my eyes. It had the low back I wanted, it had the tiniest, barely-there straps I imagined and it was that fabric I seemed to revisit - perhaps a little nod to1920’s glamour. A dress by David Fielden.
I slept on it and the next morning I realised that the Sassi Holford gown I had in mind was way too safe an option. I found myself browsing Irish designer Don O’Neill (THEIA) too - I wanted to see all - and realised that the styles of his I liked (Jean and Bruna) were very similar to my David Fielden.
David Fielden at Myrtle Ivory it was! That was 1st November 2017 and we got married eight months later.
Mother and daughter at Myrtle Ivory, Marina and Meghan, were both great to deal with. Meghan made be realise that if I’d been back to other bridal shops two and three times, I obviously hadn’t found my dress - that I hadn’t been convinced and she was right. She had married the previous year and gave me good advice regarding bridal party wear… ultimately it was Marina who helped my bridesmaids and I make the decision on dresses there and then at Myrtle Ivory…. I think that’s for another blog!
I’d heard good things about The White Room in Mullingar and I was hoping to try Folkster (they stock THEIA/Don O’Neill), but you know what? You could spend months and months travelling the length and breadth of the country… you won’t make it to every store that someone recommends! Here our my top 5.
Top 5 recommendations:
You’ll discover loads of brands online too. Instagram is a great source and of course bridesmaids and friends will send you ideas. Just watch this video of Anna Campbell’s Eternal Heart Collection my bridesmaid Brónagh sent me. Wow! I discovered another gorgeous Australian brand called Made With Love. I really liked their Sienna and maybe Georgie even more so, but the only Irish stockist was in Cork (Bella Bleu) and they didn’t stock either of these designs, unfortunately. I was running out of time and unwilling to order online.
There are just so many options - all beautiful.
Should I take photos?
Many bridal boutiques discourage you from taking photos - for various reasons; primarily so you don’t get all the details of designers and the codes and then take your business elsewhere. I would dissuade you from taking photos and try to focus on how the dress makes you feel there and then. I’d taken a few photos at the start of my search and ended up really disliking the way I looked in some of the dresses, even though I liked them on in the shop. You’ll second guess yourself too much. Or maybe you won’t - that was just me, probably!
To veil or not to veil?
Hmmm… I know it’s the one day you’ll probably ever wear a veil, but to me, a veil is a little redundant. Of course I get it, it’s bridal, but not every bride is into the traditional bridal look. I just don’t see it’s significance anymore. Plus, I’d enough going on with my gruaig, I think. Sure didn’t I wear a veil to my communion and at my hen party?
I decided to take my dress home to Sligo for alterations as I knew I would be under pressure for time and wouldn’t get to Dublin two or three more times for fittings before the wedding. Imagine that hassle and expense? I would highly recommend Ella and her mum from The Alteration Centre if you’re based in the Sligo area. Ella was a dream and made me feel like I chose the ideal gown for me: You nailed it girl! She accommodated my bridal party and I to suit each of our schedules and fitted us in on very short notice sometimes.
My dress had no cups, no boning or corset, no coverups… no help. I knew this fabric was risqué and that I would have to work hard to wear it. Maybe in another blog I’ll tell you about my fitness and diet last year. Ella of course offered padded cups to enhance my décolletage, but it just wouldn’t have been me. I wanted it to be all me. Au naturel. I chose not to wear fake tan either as I’d just been to Seville for our friends’ wedding and actually had a nice natural tan, although I’m not sure it shows in the professional photos.
Here is a small selection of photos from our wedding by photographer Darek Novak. Initially, I was super critical of myself thinking I should have looked a certain way: maybe I should have trained harder, lost a few more pounds, laid off the red wine… Yikes, you can see my mosquito bites and where is my nice tan? But looking back at the photos now - five months on - it’s really nice to relive these moments and I appreciate Darek’s beautiful photography style so much.
You’ll wonder if you got it right. I had thought about adding to my dress - sleeves or a sheer bolero with pearl detail. Being so simple, I knew I had the option to add. But in the run up to the wedding it was so incredibly hot in Sligo I found myself saying I hope it won’t be too hot! Can you imagine? In Ireland!
So, it was the right choice for me on our day. You can see that we were blessed with the weather. And… it wasn’t too hot! Just right. I think anyone who got married in Ireland this summer (2018) lucked out. What a day! Some of my fondest moments of the day were taking time-out with Julian after a beautiful ceremony to walk the beach at Culleenamore. We got the fun bridal party photos at Strandhill beachfront and the cannon shots I’d hoped for for months and some special photos on our beloved Wolfetone Street that I wanted. I’m really glad we took the time to capture all these.
Would you sell your dress?
Wedding dresses still clog my Instagram feed and I admire them all, but it’s the simplest looks that I still love the most and that reassures me that I stayed true to my own style. Also, as strange as it may sound - it being a wedding dress and all - it would kill me not to be able to re-wear my dress. I’d hate the thought of it hanging there forever. I plan to shorten my gown and wear it again - 100% - if I still fit into it! It’s a versatile piece that I can add to for sure. I like my fashion to be functional.
What I did invest in were designer shoes. My first pair! I’d read about Sophia Webster and initially wanted her signature Evangeline shoes, but then thought to myself Are they a little Gypsy Bridal? I opted for her Rosalind Crystal rose gold staple heels in the end as they were sophisticated and very wearable - I’ve since worn them on honeymoon and to other weddings. Definitely a good buy.
Top tip: Get your nearest and dearest to buy you Brown Thomas vouchers this Christmas/for your next birthday - it really helps if you want to treat yourself to shoes or something special for your wedding day - something you may not normally ever treat yourself to!
What are your thoughts on an evening dress?
Cool, if you feel the need and I suppose it’s fun to change into something fresh and a totally different look, but personally, I loved my dress so much that I didn’t want to take it off for the day!
Pressure is for tyres
It can be a lot of pressure - being a bride - planning a wedding. It’s hard not to succumb to the pressures and concerns: Where do I start? How do I choose my bridesmaids? I don’t want to leave anyone out! Do I need to lose weight? Should I hire a PT? Why can’t l stop drinking wine? Do I have to get my teeth whitened? I don’t have a spare €300 right now. What if I get a break out/cold sore/my period on the day? Yikes! What’s that you say? - a wedding scent! Botox? What’s wrong with my lips? Will I find a dress? Is that fabric gonna show my lumps and bumps and emphasise my scar? Who do we invite or not? This is so hard! Why are we getting married? Sure, it’s only a piece of paper! We never see them - should they come to the wedding? Ahhh the list. I’ve heard mixed reports about the food… We are so limited for numbers… You mean, this is for life? Hold on… this is a massive decision. Should I wear a veil? Don’t sit so and so with so and so… you know there’s history there… Will s/he act up on the day? Did I leave someone out? Do we need mass booklets? Will I bother with fake tan? Am I too plain Jane? Oh God, I hope they like my dress...
Well, that was a soliloquy!
Sometimes, it seemed people were more excited about my wedding than maybe I appeared to be. There were so many things I enjoyed in the run up to the wedding, but I could get very anxious about things at times too… it’s the unknown; I’d never done anything like this before, I didn’t know how it would pan out or if everything would come together. I think every bride has worries. It could be appearance, weight, skin, money, hair, family - everyone has these worries: be it estranged parents or siblings or aunties or uncles. Every single person has something, they just may not talk about it!
I was so so happy to have my whole family by my side on our wedding day. It’s a rarity to get all eight of us together in the one country. And that’s one rare sight: the six siblings together in a photo: Laughing and joking and taking the absolute piss out of each other as usual. We keep each other grounded - that’s for sure! I spent the night on the dance-floor surrounded by them - each of us so different, I would be lost without them.
Weddings provoke and unearth different feelings and issues, but my God, as for mum and dad - for a pair that are never in a rush to give any of us away (I think they worry enough for us and want us to bide our time), I have never seen my mum so giddy and excited and my Dad spend so long in the garden… our family home was immaculate, garden - perfection.
You may not believe it, but I got a slight touch of body dysmorphia in the days following my wedding. Well, self diagnosed… maybe I just got very self conscious. I don’t know was it because I saw a dodgy photo or what, but I was finding fault with practically every part of my body. Perhaps, it was exhaustion. I can’t say I ever got the post-wedding blues, but maybe I was emotionally exhausted. I became fixated on various body parts, some that I never worried about ever before. Anyway, it was momentary really. I do think there is a lot of pressure on brides to strive for perfection and to follow the latest trends.
I feel like the girls (my #ridesmaids) deserve a whole separate blog, so I won’t go into too much detail here. I am blessed to have had so many options that made this choice possibly the most difficult and stressful of all. Definitely time to call it a day here… this has taken me hours.
I look at this selection of photos now - five months on and with a different outlook, and I’m so pleased with them (thanks Darek Novak). It was a magical day and I can’t help but be excited for all the brides-to-be out there - a special road ahead. I now know why everyone was so excited for us - such overwhelming love, warmth and well wishes - it has taken me months to digest it all.
Everything does come together and although it’s lovely to get advice from people, they’ve only done it once too - no one knows it all; no one is an expert! Do it your own way and in your own time. If I’m honest, I left much of my wedmin until the two weeks before our day, but I was off work and knew I had time… I’m last minute and that’s always the way I’ve worked. I enjoyed those couple of weeks so much as I felt in control of things, like I was making progress. I even had time to sun myself on Rosses Point beach an hour here and there, while ticking off my daily checklist.
Would I do it again?
I think once was enough. I think it’s a great thing to do and it’s an achievement to have organised such a big event. I did love dress shopping and days out with mum and all the love and support from everybody. I liked getting fit again and my God, I loved my hen party.
But Jules and I don’t like fuss - we like simple things like our meals out together and walking our dog Bow, so I’m kinda happy it’s all back to normal! I’m not an overly lovey-dovey, affectionate person, but I find myself feeling thankful for all life’s little pleasures and the important people, especially Julian, in my life - although I may not express this outwardly often. Maybe it’s the time of year!
If you are unsure about getting a video, I say do it! We are so pleased we got one in the end. It captures the day, feelings, voices, ambiance so beautifully and succinctly. Have a look at ours! I would highly recommend Stephen Kilfeather (and Fionn Rogers).
Ok, I think it’s really time to call it a night here. I hope to write another blog to thank all our other suppliers, who are definitely worth mentioning. I just cannot write anymore right now.
Best wishes and thank you for reading.
Ps: Come visit my pop-up shop at The Nest at Custom Quay House, Sligo this Saturday 15th December from 12pm-5pm. I’ll kit you out with some party pieces for a steal. Maybe you’ll find the dress of your dreams. X