AOW A-Z of Getting Married – O is for the Older Bride

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 The Older Bride by Sarah 

Before I start this I feel I must first begin to define “older”. What do you think is an older bride? 30? 40? 45? 50? Even older than that? Do people older than that have the right to be brides? Not to get married but to be brides. And I think there is a difference.

I am speaking for myself here as I got married in 2011 at the age of 53. Yes 53. Probably the same age as your mother. And I wanted to be a bride! A real proper “look at me having my day in the sun” bride. I felt like a bride in my head, I wanted to be treated as proper bride, I wanted our day to be special and not an apology.

There is so much that is different for older brides. The family dynamics are almost certain to be more complicated. It’s not just a man and a woman and two families joining, but in our case, two lots of previous children, uncles and aunts with more than one family each, a grandchild, a severely disabled step-child, parents with long term illnesses, a parent who has passed away… the permutations and complications of family are almost endless.

Marriage feels different. With no babies to cement a blending of families and previous offspring commitments still uppermost the separateness is evident. There’s just too much life before this marriage to make a successful single family. But it’s ok. It’s just different.

And then there’s the wedding itself. At least we didn’t feel we had to bow to family pressures. Actually, that’s not entirely true, despite our advanced ages, some family members still thought it appropriate to stick their oars in. My only real bridezilla moment came when I told my then fiancé that either this particular (uninvited) person came to the wedding or I did and it was his choice. Fortunately he made the right one!

And don’t get me onto outfits. The wedding dress industry is (naturally) aimed at the young and beautiful, but sadly is missing a huge trick when it fails to recognise the older (or even alternative) bride. No, a strapless corseted number is not appropriate, but I don’t want to wear a grey sheath dress (as offered to me in one upmarket bridal shop with “some of our older ladies like this”) I still want to feel like a bride. I know I’ll never be radiant and beautiful as those days have long gone, but I want to be bridal. ( I suspect this may well be the same for “plus size” brides, brides with disabilities, glasses, frizzy hair, big feet or anyone not conforming to the Vogue princess style, but that’s for another day.) I had such trouble finding a dress (far too embarrassed to go into bridal shops after the experience of being completely ignored by four separate retailers at a wedding fair) and ended up with an off the rail dress that I took a needle and thread to. I didn’t love it that way you’re supposed to, but it did the job.

We actually had the most wonderful wedding day. It was everything we wanted and more. Our service in church was perfect; full of music and flowers and friends and family and glasses of wine and cake and laughter. I have two favourite photographs from the day that sum up our position perfectly. The first is my new husband and myself standing at the altar holding my 4 month old granddaughter while the Rector blesses her. The second is my husband and myself sitting in a field of daisies relaxing after the ceremony. One family (and marriage is the continuation of family, even in a strange, contorted way!) and the other just the two of us. Long may it continue.

EDITED TO ADD: This wonderful picture of Sarah in her beautiful dress, as requested!

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

18 Comments

  1. Beth
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Congratulations Sarah! I really like the way you talk about family and weddings and what it felt like for you. Would love to see the photos….! Lovely post

  2. Lara Blue
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    It saddens me that finding a dress was such a disheartening experience for you but I’m glad that you had a wonderful day in the end. I would also love to see the photos you describe- why don’t you submit one as your Any Other Photo? :)

  3. Katielase
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    I love this, thank you so much for writing it Sarah. It’s so refreshing to hear from a bride who is older, and to get a different perspective on the day. I really enjoyed reading this.

    K x

  4. Gemma C-S
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Could we have your full wedding report? and photos? more please :) this was lovely x

  5. Celestine
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your kind comments ladies. I have sent a photo (just a friend’s snapsnot) to Clare, so perhaps she will put it with the article later.

  6. Gemma C-S
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Ahhh lovely. The dress is gorgeous and might I add you look a very young 53!!! Radiant x

  7. Lara Blue
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    “I know I’ll never be radiant and beautiful as those days have long gone” <=== I beg to differ. You look beautiful, radiant and most importantly, happy in your picture! I think the dress is gorgeous too :)

  8. Martha
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Wow Sarah, you look fabulous, two fingers up to all those snotty wedding dress shop owners and wedding fair ladies who made you feel bad – Pah! x

  9. Posted November 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m starting to think I should open a wedding dress shop!

    They all sound shit.

    Anyyyyway- you looked incredible!! Are you actually 53?? No way.

    Really enjoyed this post, lovely writing x

    • Celestine
      Posted November 28, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Anna, no I’m 54 now! I blame good genes and the portrait in the attic.
      And I’m blushing at the generous comments – thank you.

  10. Laura
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Your dress is beautiful!

  11. Posted November 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations Sarah! And may I compliment your choice of dress – total fox :) My mum got married a few years ago in her mid-fifties and it was genuinely the best wedding I’ve been to – obviously partly because I was so invested but also because there was just so much happiness in the room for them (I showed my delight by blubbing like a child all the way through but everyone else was much more dignified!)

    I hope you have many happy years together ahead. x

  12. Peridot
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, that photo just shows that an older bride can totally ROCK a traditional wedding dress – you look amazing! And not even nudging your 50s.

    I do know what you mean, I got married 3 weeks ago at the ripe old age of 42 (although when the registrar asked me for my age, I had absolutely no clue) and felt like apologising to every shop/supplier that I wasn’t 23, 5’10″ and a size 8. I’m a bit of a porker too so was challenged on two fronts! Three if you count my short-arse status.

    But not all wedding shops are like this – look at reviews and shop around for your shop. If you’re within a 6 hour journey do yourself a favour and go to Miss Bush near Guildford. Yes, they deal with the annoyingly physically perfect but they seem to relish the challenge of making the downright ordinary feel almost beautiful.

  13. Katielase
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Your dress is gorgeous, you are gorgeous (seriously, 53?! I want your genes), but most importantly you just look so HAPPY. Age and everything else is irrelevant in the face of that smile!

    K x

    PS: You should send this photo to the wedding retailers who were awful to you with the Pretty Woman quote “Big mistake. Huge.”

  14. Beth
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Great photo! Gorgeous bride x

  15. Posted November 30, 2012 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I just loved this, so much. You look so gorgeous!

    My Mum was the same when she got re-married 4 years ago. She wanted a proper wedding dress as she didn’t have one when she got married the first time, but was too intimated by most shops. Plus they didn’t have her size. And don’t even get me started on plus-size underwear, she had a nightmare! In the end my sister made her a dress and she looked like a film star.

  16. Sarah
    Posted December 3, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Congratulations! Laughing maniacally at being steered towards a dull dress with the comment “some of our older brides like this”. HOW RUDE.

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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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