AOW A-Z Of Getting Married – O is For Old Beats New

The AOW A-Z of Getting Married is a resource for brides (and grooms) to be.  It’s a welcome piece of sanity in an industry-saturated world where people are bombarded with what weddings they should have, what they should act like, and how a bride should feel.  Created by the team behind Any Other Woman, this A-Z is the first collaboration of its kind, bringing together posts from readers across the AOW community filled with advice, wisdom and experience from sane, smart, real women, many of whom have been there.  From wedding planning to family trials to breaking taboos, no topic is out of bounds.  We are honoured and excited to run each and every post, and we learn from each and every one of our readers.

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O is for Old beats New by Lara

I have a confession to make…..

I bought my wedding dress before my husband proposed.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I never wanted to be one of those girls…the ones that were planning their children’s names during the appetiser of their first date and sprinted home afterwards to photoshop wedding photos using his Facebook profile picture.  Ruthless stereo-typing aside, who I am to judge them? Maybe if I had wanted to be married and have children and we had actually had a first date and hadn’t been 18 then that would have been me too.*

 So, why did I take this premature leap into organza silk madness?

 Far from being shrouded in myth and mist, the origins of this tale lie in a conversation about the merits of second-hand dresses.  Somehow, I came across a stunning Lela Rose wedding dress  with the less-than-beautiful price tag of £4300 on Net-a-Porter. I have tortured my brain repeatedly for the exact details, but like many a toothless prisoner, it has refused to yield up the desired information although I caught a low mumble of “online competition”. Regardless of whatever perfectly-reasonable-and-not-pre-emptive-in-any-way method I chanced upon the dress, in a discussion over the ridiculousness of its price, I hit on the idea of buying and hiring out designer wedding dresses. A quick Google search showed that a business like this didn’t exist*** and one reason floated for this was that perhaps women simply didn’t want pre-worn dresses. Located firmly in the pragmatic camp of “If I can find a dress I like that doesn’t cost a fortune, I don’t care if it’s been worn by a Rottweiler as long as it can be drycleaned”, furious Googling ensued to find out if I was the sole inhabitant of said camp. As well as less authentic looking webpages with poor spelling and generic wording, I found these sites with people selling their dresses: ****

 I also found my personal second-hand Mecca –  Oxfam. I had no idea that Oxfam had dedicated bridal stores around the country. Nor did I know that even more wonderfully, the stock from these departments is available for purchase online.

 Some of the dresses were rather unfortunate-looking creations, the type that would bear the brunt of my mockery in unkind moments, but others were most definitely not. Oh no. There was one particular sartorial siren that made the breath tighten in my breast and my eyes glint possessively with longing. But there was no way I was going to buy a wedding dress, even though it was pure organza silk with pearl detailing and a line of buttons down the back for ONLY £400. That would be crazy, right? And so I didn’t buy it….then….

 Fast forward to Christmas time.  I accidentally tell his family and mine that I think he is going to propose on our anniversary trip in February. A dress discussion follows and I look up the Oxfam website on my phone to show them the silken lovely that has been quietly plaguing my subconscious for months. But alas, alack, the dress is not there. Woe ensues.*****

 Time passes and one day in procrastination-mode over my dissertation, I think to look it up on the computer. Lo and behold, it’s still on the website. Hurrah! Joy! Laughter! Sunshine! Cake! Happiness! But oh no, what do I do now? I still think it’s a little crazy to buy it but now I also think that maybe it’s crazier to actually not buy it. Faced with this dilemma, I do the only sensible thing left –  I discuss it with my boyfriend.

Me:  Sweetie….metaphorically speaking, say I found an amazing-wonderful-beautiful-spectacular dress for a REALLY good price but say this amazing-wonderful-beautiful-spectacular dress was a dress for a very specific occasion that might not happen for a really long time, would you put a continent between us in your haste to run away if I bought it?

Him: Metaphorically speaking? Hmmmm, well no, I probably wouldn’t. And if I did, you might be able to use it with someone else anyway.

Me, one day later: If a giant metaphorical parcel gets delivered this weekend addressed to me, DO NOT open it, comprende?

Him: Bemused smile

 Nine months later, on our wedding day, he would tell me that it was perfect.

By the inimitable Caroline at Candy Snaps


 GOING FOR OLD- is it for you?

 Like the journey to Olympic glory, buying second-hand is not the right path for everyone. The road can be paved with anxiety –  tense moments of waiting for the post to check that a) it arrives and b) it is how it looked in the pictures or for the tailor to tell you that he can duplicate the missing button and then of course there is the ever-present worry that you will never find what you’re looking for in the first place. So, if your idea of wedding-dress bliss is sipping champagne in a bridal boutique whilst a friendly sales assistant suggests dresses to suit you and you breathe easy knowing that they will handle the fittings and dry-cleaning, then perhaps it is not for you. For me, I loved that one of my traditionally big budget “narcissistic” spends gave me a moral feel-good factor too. I got an unbelievable buzz every time I managed to find precisely what I needed second-hand and a kick out of saying, “My dress? Well I bought it from Oxfam”…”my veil? Gumtree, £23″….”flowergirl dress? Marie Curie, £6″ etc. 

So if grabbing a bargain****** makes your blood sing and you have the time and energy to scour the internet/charity shops in search of what you want, then why not “go old”?

 * Maybe I’d also have ended up as president.**

 **Probably not, there are numerous exclusions for both. Also, we didn’t have Facebook then and I’d have gone straight for the medical records (what? I’d need to check that he was fit father material, wouldn’t I?)

 ***Probably because it’s not a very smart idea. Take a minute to consider the practicalities. Can you imagine the initial expenses?  The potential damage? Sizing issues? Hassle of returns? Or the dry-cleaning/seamstress /courier costs for that matter? Not feasible. Sigh.

 **** I am not necessarily recommending these sites.  These just seemed to be the most legitimate ones but I did not personally use them and as with anything on the big wide wonderful interweb – please use your own judgement, common sense and be careful.

 ***** You know that sob-inducing scene in Titanic where Leo slips away under the icy water? Well it wasn’t quite as heart-wrenching as that…. and on a slightly unrelated note, I think I have a footnote problem.

 ****** For instance, this gorgeous silk and satin confection (with a polyester lining) is on offer at the moment for £350 having already been dry-cleaned. Various brand new Romantica of Devon dresses are also available as well as this unusual but highly elegant number.


Categories: A-Z of Getting Married
8 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Katielase
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    “and on a slightly unrelated note, I think I have a footnote problem.” just made me choke with laughter.

    You look gorgeous in the photo Lara, I love it. I’ve actually looked at it about 5 times now (stalker alert) because it makes me feel all happy inside. And great to hear about second-hand dresses. I very nearly bought a second-hand Suzanne Neville dress, but then I happened upon my actual dress reduced by 2/3 at a wedding fair and fate was sealed. Definitely think second-hand is an excellent option though!

    K x

  2. Posted November 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Hello footnotes! Ha. Love it.

    I got my dress in a charity shop too and it’s definitely a good feeling!! . I was happy at the time but I really regret not trying on anything else!!!

    I’m using too many exclamation marks. Sorry!!!!

  3. Crysta
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    Love the footnotes! And your dress as well as the look on both of your faces! You look stunning and so happy.

    I have a confession to make…I bought the pattern for a wedding dress nearly two years ago. At least you had an inkling you’d be proposed to! I did have a rational reason for it: it’s a pretty popular pattern (being similar to Belle’s gold dress when she dances with the Beast. No, I’m not a Disney princess fan, or one of those girls, but that bit when it swishes as they dance is my favourite bit of animation.), it’s no longer in print and it may be something I want to wear in the future. I don’t know that I’ll use it, but it makes me happy to know it’s hidden in my wardrobe, just in case I do.

    I’d definitely consider second hand. I’m all for a good bargain. And there are some lovely preloved dresses out there.

    • Posted November 29, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      BELLE!!! Yes. I *do* have a Disney problem it has to be said, but that is my absolute favourite and if I liked off-the-shoulder I would have wanted to BE Belle for my wedding.

      Ermmm, yes off topic, I couldn’t resist.

      Lara you look gorgeous. I bought an expensive dress from a bridal salon, and I do not feel guilty about it. But I love all the options and that they make different people happy in different ways :)
      Woo pretty dresses!!

  4. Fran
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    OOh that second dress you linked to is really nice!

    I really wanted to buy second hand. I’m not hung up on having new for the sake of it and am not bothered about someone having worn it before me. I just couldn’t find anything that was quite right.

    If I’d've started thinking about it earlier I might have gone down the route of pre-buying too Lara – dresses are so blimmin expensive on the most part, that if you find something you love, it just makes sense.

    On a tenuously related note… anyone interested in buying a Suzanne Neville gown come early next year?! ;)

  5. Posted November 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    This post made me chuckle. Love it, love the picture, loving your footnotes Lara!


  6. Roz
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful and laugh out loud funny, Lara I loved reading this! Great story and what a photo beautiful lady :) xx

  7. Posted November 29, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I really love this post*. I had a secondhand dress and loved it, especially after quickly learning that bridal stores aren’t really ideal for people like me**. I ended up getting mine through a store on etsy, but was a regular browser of the oxfam website and the others you listed. You looked amazing in your dress***.

    * especially the footnotes
    ** people who don’t like trying on clothes/wedding stuff/spending lots of money on one white dress
    *** although I did also immediately imagine a rottweiler wearing it too!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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