Who read the papers last weekend? And which of you stumbled upon this feature by columnist India Knight in the Sunday Times? Knight made a case for the new £60 H&M wedding dress; ‘spectacularly expensive wedding dresses can look very cheap’ she said, ‘so there’s no reason why a cheap dress shouldn’t look expensive’.
Knight says she loves weddings, but went on to lambaste British weddings in general, which from her perspective she says have become expensive, ostentatious, competitive events, full of vulgarity, faux poshness, superficial detail and people playing pretend and being silly.
I’ve a few things to say about this.
Firstly, I don’t have an issue with a dress costing £60 – some of the most beautiful weddings we’ve featured on Love My Dress have involved amazing charity find wedding dresses which cost next to nothing. Knight is right when she says that some expensive dresses can look pretty naff and I can’t disagree with her statement that there should be no reason why an inexpensive dress shouldn’t look expensive.
But here’s the rub; I dislike the idea that a hugely successful high-street fashion brand has decided to wade in to the wedding market and use the high-volume mass production resources at it’s disposal to churn out cheap gowns for the masses. Call me a dreamer, but for me it destroys any idea of romance, magic and excitement associated with finding ‘the dress’. I love H&M – many of mine and my children’s clothes hail from this high street hot house of fashion, but wedding dresses?
The H&M dress itself is an inoffensive design that has been produced that way in order to keep production costs low. I’ve admittedly not seen the dress close-up in real life, but I’d hazard a guess that if it takes circa £20 to create (average retail markup in fashion is around 3 times the amount it costs to produce), then the dress isn’t going to particularly ooze that ‘specialness’ that a well designed, beautifully cut and elegantly fitting bespoke or designer dress will invoke. And it does leave me scratching my head about the provenance of such a design and level of wages paid to the person/people who crafted the dress in to something wearable.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m absolutely not saying you need an expensive wedding dress. But in general, you do get what you pay for. I guess it’s all about what’s important to you. Personally, I don’t believe you should be ashamed for wanting to spend money on a wedding dress that makes you feel beautiful, whatever it looks like and however much it costs. Taste is subjective – as long as you feel fabulous and ready to meet your groom and say yes in that dress, that’s really all that matters.
The problem I do have with a £60 H&M wedding dress is that it basically gives a big finger corporate salute to talented dress makers and artisans all over the UK. I’m talking about highly skilled people who design and hand-craft gowns from scratch based on years of experience in the art of dress making. Creatively talented people who have an innate understanding of how fabric can be used to create shape and flatter the female form. Designers who have access to the best silk and lace suppliers in the world, and more importantly, people who are genuinely passionate about creating utterly beautiful, breathtaking dresses that don’t just look beautiful but make their wearer feel amazing. I’d pay £60 for a mere consultation fee with such a dress maker or designer, never mind for the actual dress itself, but then I value good craftsmanship and fine production – these are the things that are important to me.
‘To me, America’s worst recent export is the mad fetishisation of your “special day” with its weird, fraudulent emphasis on virginity and princess-ness, as though all brides were 12 and had travelled by unicorn from Rainbow Land. Given that none of these things is true, they need to be created at vast expense and vast loss of marbles by the bride who has, by this point, turned into such a monster that everybody wishes her stupid wedding would go and take a hike.’ (India Knight – The Sunday Times)
Another point I’d like to make; it’s so easy to point a finger at weddings and accuse brides of being self-obsessed lunatics who are literally prepared to sell their left leg to get the wedding of their dreams. I loathe this media portrayal of women during what should be an exciting, fun time in their lives, and wish India Knight and unimaginative TV producers would give us all a damn break. Because here’s the thing – everyone knows that weddings, on the whole, cost money but in most cases my friends, there’s an actual reason for that! Wedding cakes don’t make themselves – it takes hours and hours of skilled craftsmanship to bake and decorate a beautiful wedding cake. Same for the dress – many of our sponsors produce their gowns entirely in house, right here in Blighty – it takes time to come up with a design, technical skill and training to produce a dress pattern, hours of producing toiles to refine the shape and fit, more hours, time and money to find the right fabric and embellishment and then of course – the dress maker has to pay their pattern cutters and seamstresses, receptionists, marketing people and earn a living too!
If you want or need to arrange a low cost wedding, there are a myriad of ways of doing it cheaper whilst still ensuring everything looks, feels, *is* amazing. Wedding blogs are full to bursting with money saving suggestions and a perfect wedding isn’t about how much money you spend on the day itself. But I want to challenge Knight and ask, why the bloody hell shouldn’t you be able to spend money on your wedding day without feeling like you’re somehow invalidating the experience of getting married?
Nobody cares about the room. As long as it’s not derelict and as long as the flowers aren’t dead, nobody minds. Nobody cares about the cost of the dress or the ponciness of the canapés or the vintage of the wine. People just like jolly weddings, which are to do with atmosphere and jokes and celebration. Given that everybody knows this — I bet there isn’t a single person reading this going “no, she’s wrong, I love a Versailles-like display of wealth” — it is very odd that we ignore what we know to be true and keep on coughing up lunatic sums. (India Knight – The Sunday Times)
Why shouldn’t you pay a talented cake designer to produce a splendid 7-tier deliciously baked and skillfully iced masterpiece? Why should you not splash out on the most spectacular floral arrangements, because flowers are one of natures most beautiful creations, and you want to fill your day with beautiful things and elegant scent? Why should you not be allowed to treat your guests to a day full of amazing experiences so that whenever your loved ones recall their memory of your wedding day, their mind swims with visions of how out of this world fantastic it all was? Why should a stately home not charge for the privilege of hiring it’s beautiful historical venue – putting it’s treasured space at risk of wear, tear and damage? Why is a wedding photographer not worth £2-£3k and more when they have to spend a whole day artistically and skillfully capturing precious moments that will create invaluable treasured memories for a lifetime? Why shouldn’t a bride and groom spend money on all these things without being accused of being vulgar and competitive and overlooking what’s really important?
‘I am having, because my partner and I are saving like maniacs, what would be seen as a large wedding that will cost us quite a lot of money and I do resent the tone of some brides and blogs sometimes that there is an added virtue in a homespun, low budget wedding that somehow means that couple are more genuine and in love than those amongst us having the full kit and caboodle church and reception for 130 people. I think what is important is that your wedding day is a celebration of you as a couple, your love and your family and friends. Your marriage is then a commitment that springs from that celebration and will, through ups and downs, last your whole life.’ (Reader comment in response to our feature, ‘Fairy tale weddings versus real life marriage‘)
I was happy to spend £2.5k on a Jenny Packham dress (in 2008, when I purchased it for my 2009 wedding) because I wanted to feel the amazingness that the Jenny Packham brand bestows upon all who wear one of Jenny’s gowns – and I knew an exquisite bias cut dress would deliver a confidence boost on a day I’d be feeling emotional and nervous. I wanted to save up money to hire a beautiful country house that would provide a comfortable setting for guests who had travelled far and wide, and elegant backdrop for our once-in-a-lifetime celebration. And yes, I wanted fancy canapés. Did I feel guilty for spending as much as I did on our wedding? No way! This was a celebration and I wanted to make it a memorable and wonderful one.
Knight says that weddings ought not be expensive – of course they ought not be – if you want a naff disco (we did!), iffy food and a 60-quid bridal gown, go do your thang and celebrate with pride! But, spending money on your wedding day does not make you a bad person – it does not mean you are ‘playing pretend and being silly’. It simply means you’re being a bride planning your own unique, amazing, one-off celebration of love. Embrace it, spend what you can afford * and bloody well enjoy it to the max.
Time for you to share your thoughts below readers. Have weddings become too expensive, competitive and vulgar?
A note on ‘affordability’ – please consider things very carefully before entering in to any debt to pay for your wedding. Short term debt might be perfectly manageable in your circumstances, but debt that’s going to take months, years to pay off once your wedding has been and gone is something I’d very strongly discourage.