What do you wear to your wedding when your guests are expecting the unexpected? Hilary Wardle found the answer in a surprisingly obvious place.
When I told a friend that I was getting married in September, her reaction was lovely.
She practically bubbled over with excitement and after asking about the venue and number of guests she said: “What are you going to wear? I can totally see you in some kind of 1950s Lindy Hop-style dress. Oh, you could wear one of those little pillbox hats with a veil!”
When I awkwardly mumbled something about wearing a traditional long white wedding dress instead she looked surprised and replied: “Oh! But you’re gay! You can make up your own traditions. Wouldn’t you rather wear something a bit more unusual?”
To be fair my pal does know I have a habit of wearing vintage frocks. But even people who I haven’t met in real life (and who don’t know that the majority of items in my wardrobe are fit and flare dresses covered in Portlandia style bird motifs) said the exact same thing when I told them I was planning to buy a normal wedding dress from a shop with the words ‘elegant’, ‘exquisite’ or ‘blushing’ in its name:
“Don’t you want to do something a bit different? You could wear anything you want.”
Despite explaining to a variety of relatively sensible people that anyone – regardless of their sexuality – is allowed to wear anything they want on their big day, I was left with an uncomfortable feeling. Is it odd for a gay lady to wear a big white frock? Will people think I’m aping straight marriage customs? I started to feel a bit worried that it wasn’t the right thing to do, so I deleted my various bridal wear bookmarks and started to look at a variety of Things That Are Not Wedding Dresses.
The first option I considered was an old bridesmaid dress in sage green. It’s absolutely lovely but – on closer inspection – it seemed to have developed some mysterious stains that looked a bit like a combination of red wine, beer, a variety of spirits and some blue WKD. I have no memory of why that would be, but then again I don’t have any memory of the end of that evening for some reason.
The second not-a-wedding-dress I looked at was a cheeky little gold number from Monsoon. At £229 it wasn’t much cheaper than a standard off the shelf wedding dress but at least my guests would think I was unusual, quirky, non-traditional and moderately wealthy.
Unfortunately, when I tried it on it was a much brighter gold than I was expecting. I decided against buying it in case my wedding guests mistook me for some discarded jewellery from Elizabeth Duke and handed me in to lost property.
The third option I looked at was a 1950s-inspired short white dress because I’m nothing if not suggestible. It was nice but flared out so much I’d be in constant danger of showing people my knickers if things get weird on the dance floor (which they definitely will). The second issue was the fact I’ll have to shave my legs, and ain’t nobody got time for that.
Speaking of having no time these shopping expeditions were taking up oodles of it. At least if you stick to wedding dresses there are only about three bridal shops in each city and all the frocks look the same anyway. I decided to just ignore everyone and say yes to the (bog-standard) dress.
In general, just because a couple is gay it doesn’t mean we aren’t traditional: especially if we’re the sort of people who think getting hitched is a good idea. Of course, if you’re more comfortable in trousers it’s unlikely you’re going to want to wear a flowing frock on your big day. However, the majority of boyish brides tend to opt for a smart, sensible suit rather than, say, a stormtrooper costume. And yes, that comment is directed at my wife-to-be. And no, you can’t be Boba Fett either.
I hugely admire couples of any gender that have the drive and imagination to plan an unusual event. But please don’t assume gay couples who are getting married don’t want to be traditional. I certainly do and not just because I can’t be bothered to spend hours handcrafting rainbow sundresses for my bridesmaids. It’s because I first imagined my wedding day years before I realised I was gay and that’s the day I want, although unfortunately He Man won’t be able to attend. So with that in mind, I’ll be getting a standard white frock from Blushing Bog Standard Bridalwear.
I just don’t have the time, energy – or the inclination – to be different.
Hilary Wardle is a freelance journalist based in Edinburgh. She writes for BuzzFeed, Daily Record, Metro, MSN and has contributed to the Guardian and the Independent in the past.