Unapologetic Bush

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As a bridal boutique owner, many brides-to-be apologise to me. They think ‘they’ are not what I am used to. They are too something; fat, thin, hippy, busty. They are not something; rich, virginal, decisive. Their love story is not ‘pure;’ perhaps they are not marrying their childhood sweetheart, their University partner or any number of ex-lovers. If they are marrying their childhood sweetheart there are apologies that they are not more worldly or sophisticated. They feel sure that they haven’t given me enough time or are wasting my time.

Photography by Nick Tucker
The couple are  Emma, owner of Miss Bush Bridal, and her fiance, Marshy
Follow Emma and Miss Bush Bridal on Instagram

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A great deal of my day is spent reassuring brides that whatever career-oriented, feminist, Pilates-toned version of Elsa from Frozen with a budget of a Rich Kid of Instagram they think I am expecting  – along with the combined wedding taste of K-Middy a handful of Delevignes and a Pinterest board prize for the most artful collection of plaits – they are wrong.

My working life is filled with everyday love stories with couples that quite often like a cup of tea and a box set, scraped back hair and have a healthy overdraft.

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I have been married before. I have children, or more accurately, I have adults that used to be children but are still my babies. I have grey hair, naturally grey, not out of a Pixie Lott packet. I am taller than my partner. I have been all sizes from plus to puny. I work for the ‘Wedding Industrial Complex’ (Insert links to US blogs). I have a lot to apologise for. Yet I am confident around my products.

Flick through the Miss Bush Instagram feed and you will find (heavily filtered) selfie versions of me in all manner of wedding related products and scenarios. Working some sparkle, choosing some gowns, dispensing wisdom.

wpid400092 emma and marshNot exactly out of the blue but as a complete surprise back in the summer my rather wonderful boyfriend of nearly nine years proposed. We have already endured and enjoyed a lot of wedding vow promises. Sickness, health, richer, poorer, better and worse times. I feel committed already, we co-parent, we co-habit, we co-work. The Lovely Marshy is already my plus-one, my significant other and very definitely my better half.

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So, yay, choosing a dress for me won’t be encumbered by all the body shaming/anxiety/hell that terrifies a great percentage of lovely brides. Every staff discount and possible perk will be milked to the max as I roll out The Greatest Bridal Show on Earth right?

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Wrong. Getting actually engaged changed everything. I was no longer simply the larger than life Miss Bush hiding behind a logo and a log-in to a decent sized social media following. In front of real people, in real life I barely mentioned being engaged unless someone asked about my very splendid ring. I actually hated to mention it. It felt like queue jumping or pushing myself forward. It felt a bit like going in to Top Shop and browsing hotpants. I had become a member of a club for young women. I apologised constantly and made light of being engaged because I am ‘not young.’ I had fallen prey to one of phantoms of the imagination of a real bride to be.

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One of the first things one is asked on engagement is have you ‘set the date’ and for one domestic and financial reason or couple of dozen others The Lovely Marshy and I are thinking 2017 which is now technically only next year. As the surprise engagement ‘happened’ at Marshy’s 50th birthday party an Engagement Party seemed a bit repetitive so at some point I happened to mention an engagement shoot. Something to celebrate us as a couple and another excuse to nip off to Brighton for some sex and shopping.

After an unscientific straw poll among wedding friends asking which photographer I should work with the name that was most often thrown at me was Nick Tucker. I have seen Nick’s incredible work for some of our brides but the appealing aspect was what my friend and project collaborator Carolanne Armstrong’s husband succinctly described as ‘war photography for weddings’.  There are character studies in Nick’s work. A sense of time, place and story. Beauty without mandatory youth and blondeness and an indie attitude from the man described by his advocates as providing ‘no drama, no bullshit.’ Also as I had never met or spoken to him I was hoping that he wouldn’t have ever heard of me and any of the dramas and bullshit I have been party to in the circus of the ‘Industrial Wedding Complex.’

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I phoned Nick, we talked, I booked. I apologised for being old, grey, taller than my boyfriend, argumentative, in the industry, you name it , I was classic angst-ridden bride I also then realised I hadn’t even discussed with Marshy the choice and had made my first unilateral wedding decision. This could be a worrying precedent…

Then like all wedding professionals, ever blasé about their own projects, I didn’t set a date or plan any damn thing until the 11th hour.

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In my head weddings start with clothes, it’s a very shallow way to go about things but dressing up is what I am good at.

Sharon Hoey is a well established Dublin based designer but very new to Miss Bush. Sharon flew into to see us with a selection of her luxe separates and I was smitten. As 2015 was a year of clean living and much sweating I have shrunk to a 12/14 so now feel super confident enough in a pair of 100 deniers and a reinforced bra to whip my clothes off and try on a few frocks for real.

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The high waisted skirt and wrap blouse in silk slipper satin are from her separates collection and are at Miss Bush sampled in top-of-the-milk cream.  As soon as I was swirling in the big taffeta skirt, hands in pockets, I was sold. The long sleeve blouse with its raglan sleeves is a no brainer for the full of bust. No side boob, no awkward crossroads of flesh at the side of the bra, under arm and bodice top. It is the ultimate easy glamour outfit and available in all sorts of colours apart from my default black. I can’t tell you the speed at which Sharon turned the outfit round for me but fast doesn’t come close (Top tip brides, buy European made if you are time poor!)

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Also, brides are often scared of volume. Don’t be! Instant fabulousness, pockets to hide both sunglasses and prescription glasses in with no bulges. You can take yourself to the toilet unaided and wear jeans underneath when battling Storm Barney in Brighton! A big skirt is far too much fun to be left to the Disney brigade, it’s all about how you wear it, not your age, size or social class. Also teaming it with a relaxed blouse, cinching the waist and chucking an on-the-day necklace purchase from TopShop adds to the insouciant look. It is a bit of a conundrum, this is an outfit that takes all of my years of experience not to over think yet I have been thinking about my whole life…

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The wool wrap, and whisper this very quietly, was the blanket from the bed of our hotel room, draped with stylist precision by Carolanne Armstrong who insisted I couldn’t look like an olden days peasant while battling hypothermia.

The evening outfit, for this was how I was thinking an engagement shoot worked, a kind of real-time fashion shoot, was the Sharon Hoey skirt teamed with a beautiful Jesus Peiro top from their 2016 collection. Made to measure from the most exquisite hand beaded pewter/gold lace, the top may well be reappearing on the day itself and will be a good ‘price per wear’ justification purchase.

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The Lovely Marshy was ‘supposed’ to wear his custom made Gresham Blake suit which was a 50th birthday present. Again the curse of the wedding pro was he hadn’t tried it on since joining me at the gym and had shed inches! Our lovely friend and formal wear supremo Stephen Bishop jumped in at the 11th hour (Monday afternoon when we were leaving for Brighton on Tuesday!)  and sorted a classic black tux. As the saying goes, do as we say not as we do…

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We arrived at The Artists Residence in Brighton, our base for this epic over thought, under organised shoot in a rather confused state. I knew what I wanted to achieve from the photos; a mantelpiece shot, some illustrative images of how to be an older bride, a blog post, a head shot for the Miss Bush website. All sorts of commercial and practical considerations. What seemed odd when we arrived was it still felt like a vanity project.  I worried that the images I am used to collaborating on and heavily critiquing feature much younger, more beautiful creatures front and centre.

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As I sat in the restaurant sharing drinks with Marshy and Nick I wondered at the folly of the idea and then both Marshy and I comforted ourselves that we only needed one shot to make it worthwhile. Nick then produced a genius image to privately share with us. A very high profile older couple that looked rockstar cool yet realistically craggy. “That. We just need one image like that.” We then headed out into Storm Barney for drinks.

The morning dawned, breakfast, shopping and a hideous bout of nausea. “Hangover?” suggested Nick. Me?  I am a worryingly professional drinker. Carolanne ventured it was nerves. I refuse to believe it, I am fearless right? Not in front of a camera…

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The day progressed a little like a pretend wedding. Getting ready shots against a cool jazz soundtrack whilst being draped in achingly gorgeous Violet & Wren silk loungewear with a vague fear I was about to descend into some kind of panic attack. I tolerated the makeup chair because I had no other people to command as I would usually at a major event or photo shoot. The classic wedding day cock up of florist Gayle’s van failing to want to drive the flowers to Brighton happened and Nick was drifting around asking when we would like to start taking photos. I was shyer than I thought I would be. I wriggled into my dress like an actual blushing bride as opposed to my usual habit of wandering around naked to the eternal consternation of my family.

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The Godsend of the day was the extreme weather. Not only do I have a not-too-secret addiction to extreme weather footage, Marshy and I had to struggle to stay upright so any worries that we would be doing schmaltzy eye gazing were vanquished in our attempts at self preservation.

We were mad enough to have the beach to ourselves and our absolute folly was pointed out to us by a beach side restaurateur that evening! It did occur to me standing on a cob, next to one of those cellophane wrappers of flowers where someone has clearly died by being swept into the sea, whilst wearing a giant sail was not sensible but, hell, do I love the photos.

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As I was getting to an almost cryogenic state it was decided that we should return to the hotel, have lunch, warm up and wonder what next.

Craft beers, dirty burgers and an eventual van load of flowers later we were ready for takes 2 and 3. Marshy was determined to get to The Lanes. Our first really inappropriate lost weekend was in Brighton. We were virtual strangers and we wandered the town and enjoyed in equal measures bouts of awkward silences, drunken laughter, terrible dancing, questionable purchases and new couple sex. Striding off I was by now hiding jeans under my skirt and brandishing a magnificent bouquet that was shredded by gusts of wind at every turn. Onlookers sadly wondered where this black-clad bride’s friend or bridesmaids were as they helped me with my skirt train.

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It was milling through crowds that I had a lightbulb moment. Carrying a bouquet and wearing a long dress makes you a bride. The often asked question in the boutique ‘is it wedding-y enough’ wasn’t relevant. Head to toe in black in Brighton, I was probably the least interesting or varied bride ever seen in the pioneering lgbt, eco, alt capital of Britain. People smiled and said ‘congratulations’ and I was ok to accept the pretence that I had just got married. Nobody questioned whether I was the right age; there was simply ‘great dress’ approval and goodwill.

The interior shots at the hotel were hard to do, less landscape more us. Twigs in the hair, bronze metallic eyes are all good.  Kissing on camera?  I’m still not comfortable with that. I actually got a ‘wow’ from a guest as I swept downstairs “that is the best wedding dress ever…”

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I polled some Miss Bush brides on the benefit of an engagement shoot and they all cited being relaxed in front of camera and getting to know your photographer. These are both brilliant and valid points and I now know the way to Nick’s heart is with a decent Single Malt or a well mixed cocktail and Patti Smith tickets. Relaxed is not something I will ever be about the camera being on me but I can relax in the knowledge that a brilliant photographer will get some killer shots while you get on with your wedding or simply try and stand up in heels in gale force winds.

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The greatest achievement of the shoot, beyond the fun, dramas and dressing up, was that Marshy and I got our passports to fiancé/fiancée land. The place where people are happy for you, turn up and make you centre of attention. It is not age specific, there didn’t appear to be any side-head nodding like Help The Aged had sponsored our shoot.

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Age appropriate dressing? “I’m not your typical bride …” extends to being over 40 too, or facing 50 to be more accurate. If you are given to dancing like a robot from 1984 because that is precisely what you did in 1984 or you brought a new shirt every weekend to go night clubbing in you are hardly going to change into a vision of apologetic 2nd wedding dressing. Being able to wear a proper bra though and have sleeves is just a good idea at any age.

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At work I am always going to focus on my clients wedding plans over mine. I resisted the temptation outside Choccywoccydoodah shop to say ‘”everyone has those” or “seen that” because not everyone spends 28 years talking about weddings, studying the details, spotting the trends and sweating the small stuff. A wedding is not about novelty it is about the familiar, spun differently and executed well.

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When asked my profession previously I would have said I sold wedding dresses. I was wrong. On a good day I sell unapologetic confidence, I just had to buy some myself.

Emma x


Photography – Nick Tucker
Make Up and Styling – Carolanne Armstrong
Flowers – Bloomingayles
Silk loungewear – Violet and Wren at Miss Bush
Black Wrap bouse and skirt to order – Sharon Hoey at Miss Bush
Beaded lace top – Jesus Peiro at Miss Bush
Gold Necklace – Freedom at TopShop
Shoes – LK Bennett
Suit – Stephen Bishop Suiting
Location – Artists Residence Brighton
Hair – Macco
Nails – VII Beauty

Emma Marshall

Emma Marshall View all Emma's articles

Emma Marshall is MD of one of the UKs oldest and most respected British bridal boutiques, Miss Bush. Emma has supported and championed independent design, ethical sourcing and has lead the way in revolutionising experiential bridal shopping. Married in her late 40s, advocate for fit over size, Emma is a passionate campaigner and writer, bringing strong opinions to both the bridal trade and consumer.

42 thoughts on “Unapologetic Bush

  1. I love how she “broke” the rules, but equally how right she is, there is no normal in weddings, we are all so individual and thats what makes weddings so interesting and beautiful now – and why I doubt I will ever tire of people’s stories

  2. Bravo Emma…bravo. I absolutely loved reading this and you are truly hilarious! The images are nothing short of perfection and I wish you both the very best! x

  3. What truly stunning images and a lovely read Emma. Especially the line ‘Then like all wedding professionals, ever blasé about their own projects, I didn’t set a date or plan any damn thing until the 11th hour’ – not just me then?! But I find (most of the time) less rigorous planning makes for far more interesting stories. All the best. Sarah x

  4. Oh darling lady, such beautiful words.

    You do sell confidence and I’m glad you’ve bought some. Thank you for encouraging others too. Your gift is incredibly special.

    (The images are beyond exquisite – they are just delicious – what a team you are)

    1. You know that you and Bean are part of the inspiring New Kids on the Wedding Block team! The very idea that I dare to write and press ‘publish’ is down to the Soiree posse, Caudery and the rest of the gifted, youthful chancers. Am very happy that you are here and commenting. All the love for this year xxx

  5. These photos are truly amazing & the story is wonderful too. As an older bride I can now hear myself apologising in bridal shops but couldn’t hear it at the time!! I wish you both a lifetime of happiness together xx

    1. Thank you for responding and your lovely sentiments. The list of what the brightest and best women will apologise for is astounding. It is a testament to humility and self deprecation at best but at worst it is heartbreaking to see people wracked by low self esteem. xxx

  6. I had to comment Emma – I truly haven’t been able to stop stealing little moments all day long to look at these images – they are *SO COOL* – the last couple remind a little of a Terry Richardson style shoot – either way, that Mr Tucker is ace isn’t he? But he had such an ace couple of subjects to work with.

    I am always thrilled when you write for my blog – you write so intelligently, articulately and with balls and honesty. I am so happy that this blog led to us meeting and becoming friends. I’ve learned a lot from you Emma and I continue to learn and be inspired by not just your business management brilliance, but for your loyalty and dedication to those you work for and with. It really feels like you’re looking out for us, that you’ve got our backs and will save us from all the bullshit! It’s wonderfully refreshing. The industry just needs more people like you.

    Thanks so much for sharing this post today Emma,

    Love Annabel xXx

    1. Thank you for giving me the platform to write and reminding me I had a deadline. I honestly don’t know how I would have navigated the ‘new world’ online without you but my fondest memories will always be in real life. Big love to you, Phil and the girls. Devotedly yours. Bush xxx

    2. Thank you, and I have to say I feel immensely flattered that a straw poll of wedding biz types landed me this job in the first place. It’s a lovely honour. Just one thing.. Can we call the last few images Juergen Teller-style shots? I have major issues with Terry Richardson.. 😉

  7. These images are so so stunning on their own but the accompanying words shout about everything that’s important. Embracing our own self is so difficult to do when we are out of our comfort zone but as these images show, it can have fabulous results. I don’t know how you could ever just choose a couple of favourites though!!

    1. I have never liked any photos of myself that much before. My first wedding photos never saw the light of day and I was a apple-cheeked pip squeak of a girl! I may end a complete egomaniac and have gigantic prints everywhere! 😉 Thank you for reading x

  8. A truly wonderfully inspiring story! Our industry is one of glamour, romance and sparkle – but first and foremost it’s about people, love, and emotions. You both look fabulous and very much in love!

    Bruce xx

  9. Oh Emma – I was gripped from start to finish. So humble, so passionate, so very true. Stunning work by Nick. You and Marshy look incredible and so happy.

  10. Great wtitting & fabulous photos of you both. I have been making coloured wedding dresses for twenty years & have known for a long time that a long dress & a bouquet &, I would add, exuding radiance & sheer happiness (as you did) is all you need to ‘look like a bride’. I got married in ametyst, in Venice & the rest of my bridal party wore black with purple accents; that did confuse the locals 😉 Of course therin now lies your problem, you looked so fabulous & bride like, the pressure will be on to eclipse it on your wedding day x Looking forward to seeing you in full Bride mode. Regards, Chantal

    1. Your wedding sounds incredible! DO NOT give me ideas like that! I think I can one of two ways I could go with the ‘actual dress/es’. Now I have these images I could go either casual to the point of jeans.Or fabulously theatrical! 😉 x

      1. I think its lovely you have these images x This time last year I went through some personal drama that really made me feel like I had to find me again. So I bit the bullet & subjected my camera shy self to the lens of a couple of photographer friends of mine & was glad I did. At 42 I was only going to get older & I’d hardly got a single photo of me, my whole life, that I liked, so it felt like it was high time I got over that & now I have half a dozen images I actually love & like you, if there’d just been one, I’d have been happy! Why does it sometimes take us until we’re in our 40s to be accepting enough of ourselves?
        If you go theatrical in a Westwood/Galleano type direction, look me up, I’d live to meet you & would love to work with you on a corseted, coloured, couture piece x I wish you the best – Chantal Mallett @ 18thcenturycorsets.com x

  11. I felt absolutely compelled to comment, Nick has always been a firm favourite of mine and Ems, and now feel fortunate to call him a friend too. Emma you write with such fierce and articulate flow I’m instantly a fan, thank f@ck for people like you in this world. Which is a phrase we frequently shout when viewing Nick Tucker’s images. So this glorious combination is almost too much to bare. You are such a delightful couple, you and Marshy it’s really lovely to watch you together and captured so timelessly and cinematically by Nick. Thank you for sharing their wonderful story Annabel. Big big love to you all xxx

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking time to comment. I have got to thank Carolanne and Laura Caudery for suggesting Nick and Marshy & I would click. I love that Annabel gives me the privilege of taking over her blog and gives me free rein to write from the heart! x

  12. absolutely wonderful Emma – the words and the images. My brother has wondered past my computer, and noticed me sitting there in a bit of a daze, like yesterday when I heard that David Bowie had died, you and him, willing to go out of your comfort zones, inspiring to us all. By the way, Paul knocked me out of my reverence by saying, ‘hmm…Emma photographs well’, probably a better compliment than well done! xxx

  13. I’ve just gotten round to reading this and what beautiful pictures Emma, you must both be thrilled! The one of you with just your bouquet in the dark background is just stunning, the light is perfect. And I love the energy of the sea front shots. I imagine these will be so treasured.

    But you’re writing really resonated with me too. Obviously I wasn’t a bride when I came to visit you but I still felt apologetic and I didn’t even know it til I read this; sorry I was a bit quiet compared to all you lovely ladies; a bit plain; not fashiony or sophisticated or witty enough. I guess I was intimidated by the confidence, the outward-facing glamour, the close-knit group of friends. But I just wanted to say even though I wasn’t a bride trying on dresses, working with you gave me a bit of a confidence boost, probably without you realising it. I could do it! So thank you! x

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