Budget South African Wedding:
Dressing the bride and bridal party.
Here’s where I’ll fill you in on where I found all our bridal party outfits, as well as prices and reviews. Of course, pricing in this area will differ greatly from person to person, depending on how many people you have in your bridal party...but I hope it gives you some idea as to the types of places to look for a bargain.
The Dress: Right ladies, I’m just going to come out and say it…my dress was not new. Gaaasp! Yup, that’s right, it was bought secondhand. Now I know that’s a big no-no for some, but if like me you don’t believe in hocus-pocus twaddle about a pre-worn garment sending out bad vibes to haunt your wedding day and ever-afters, then this is the perfect way to save dosh when buying a wedding dress. There are of course the cheaper wedding dress shops on the high street, but the quality of the materials can be pretty horrific, to say the least…unless you get very lucky. Whereas if you really do your research into other options, you could walk away with a very expensive dress for a fraction of the price. I have my cousin Janet (queen of the bargains) to thank for my great find, as she secretly booked us into a secondhand wedding dress boutique run by a lady called Sylvia. Sylvia used to work in fashion, so of course she understands quality, and she only stocks worn designer dresses that are still in perfect condition. Her boutique is situated in her home, so it was rather strange showing up on someone’s door step, passing kiddie toys on entry, to then be invited up stairs into a beautiful, bright, open bridal boutique. You don’t miss out on the lovely atmosphere of buying a dress here, as she offers you tea and a computer to look through all the dresses she has on offer. You then choose the ones you like the look of and she grabs them off hangers, still inside their protective cases.
Above images by Tibor Kardos
It’s so true when they say that you just know when a dress is right. The same way you know about a good avocado. I’m no blubbering fart, neither is my mum or Jan for that matter, but we all felt pretty emotional when I had THE dress on. It was made by designer Jenny Packham, who funnily enough I had been stalking like a deranged bridezilla on Pinterest and Instagram for quite some time. I wasted hours ogling her beautiful 1920s designs, secretly knowing there was no way I could justify spending over £4k on one of her beauties. So there I was, looking into the mirror at myself wearing a pretty slinky, beautiful Jenny Packham dress. It hung like a dream and felt like one too. There was not a scratch to be seen on it, and all the bead work was intact - really impressive for silk. Whoever owned it before was either a ghost or extremely cautious with it.
Above images by Phonix capture
Now the big question was: if this would cost over £4k new…how much is it worth now? Well, it turned out to be an amazing saving, as we bought it there and then for £1000 (around $1,200) - which is a pretty hard price to beat at the best of times.
So now for the details. Her boutique is called Dream Second Hand Wedding Dresses - do bear in mind though that the costs don’t end with the purchase of the wedding dress, as often there is some kind of alteration to be done. In my case it wasn’t very much, which turned out to be a blessing, as apparently the dress style I went for (a line), in silk, is extremely hard to alter. So it was lucky that I only had to have the hem taken up (because I’m a short ass) and the straps shortened slightly. That cost me £200 (around $248). The lady I used was brilliant. If you live in London and you buy from Sylvia, Diana is who she recommends. She really pays attention to detail, so I’d certainly recommend her too: www.weddingeveningdressalteration.com. She also makes bespoke wedding dresses, which may be something you'd want to look into: www.dianaelizabeth.co.uk.
The Veil: I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted a veil. So I didn’t mind searching around for something cheap and cheerful, just in case I decided to wear one. I found an eBay shop that sells them for an amazing price. A little too amazing, actually…so of course I was suspicious. I found out they have a website called veils online (a very old fashioned 90s looking website). As they were UK based I decided to give it a shot and bought a plain champagne, one tier, floor length veil for just £30 ($38). When it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised - it came quickly, felt really soft and the champagne colour was a perfect match for my dress. The only criticism I had was that it bunched a little heavily where the material met the comb…but it wasn’t enough of a problem for me not to wear it.
Above images by Phonix capture
Bridal shoes: This is the bane of my life…I have always struggled to find shoes that don’t hurt my feet, especially when it comes to heels. And believe me ladies, you are going to be in those darn things for what feels like a lifetime on your big day. So forget all the idea of wearing the world's most beautiful yet tortuously painful bridal shoes - unless you’re a pro in heels and have the money. I spent hours perving on shoes like that and it was a real waste of time. Pinterest is the worst for this; seducing us all with shoes. Damn you, Pinterest, with your perfect shoes.
I walked up and down Oxford Street with my wonderful shop-til-you-drop mother-in-law, alas to no avail. I am the world’s biggest procrastinator, so all this was done in a panic as I left finding shoes to the very last minute (literally a week before the fitting). Again, I blame Pinterest for that. And you do need shoes for the dress fitting, so that the alterations of your dress length are correct. I knew all of this, but hey-ho, whaddyagonnado. After almost doing my back in bending over to try on shoe after shoe, and giving myself blisters (mum-in-law was still going strong), I decided enough was enough. I went for risky, again. It seems that’s what I do, jump in and hope for the best…but never without a parachute. Ummm...
Ebay it was, then. I found a designer that I loved on Google (Rachel Simpson) - she designs the most beautiful yet comfortable 1920s style bridal heels. They can be quite pricey, so with my fingers crossed, I searched through eBay for hours! Low and behold, I found a pair that I thought would look perfect...and they had only been worn once, for a photoshoot (apparently). I paid £65 ($82) for them and just hoped they’d arrive on time and in the condition they promised. And, of course, I hoped they’d actually fit! You can imagine my relief when they arrived a couple of days later and were perfect! Everything about them was perfect - the colour, the style and the size...and they felt so light on my feet, like I was wearing nothing. Of course I highly recommend her shoes - I didn’t get pain in my feet until just before we left on the night, that's a miracle for me. This is the eBay shop I bought them from: http://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/rachel-simpson.
Moral of the story: don’t wait too long to start looking, don’t waste too much time on Pinterest and do your research on the style you want…then try to find them cheaper. Ker-ching!
Above images by Phonix capture
While we’re on the subject of eBay, I’ll fill you in on the other gems I found on there...
Flower girl dresses: It always surprises me just how much little people's outfits can cost. I mean after all, it takes a lot less material than adults’ clothes…and sometimes they’re just as expensive. I found the perfect little dresses in Monsoon while out shopping one day - they’re called the ‘Estella’ dress. But I didn’t want to spend £50 ($63) per dress, when I had 3 flower girls to buy for. So I did what I did with my shoes. I searched high and low on eBay for the right colours and sizes, and thank goodness, I found them. Two were brand new with tags and one was worn once but in perfect condition. All three dresses cost me £45 ($57)! Not bad, considering I could have spent £150 ($182) on them, 3 for the price of one, Sweet business!
Above and below images by Phonix capture
Accessories: I found my stunning hand made 1920s-inspired bridal tiara from a website called hand made tiara (obvious name) and at the time it cost me £55 (around $67), though they may have gone up since. I highly recommend her designs, not only are they beautifully hand crafted but it arrived really fast, boxed really well (so no room for damage) and with the added touch of a blue bow hidden underneath the design (that’s your ‘something blue’ taken care of!). It was also really comfortable, as most head bands give me a headache from the pressure they put behind your ears (remember when you were a kid?!).
Bridesmaid: Etsy is no secret, and is another place to find bargains and/or something a little unusual. I bought two very significant things for my bridesmaid on Esty. I had searched high and low for a multiway wrap dress of the right colour and price. And thank goodness for the variety on Stitch Away Rose, because I found the perfect colour and length. Of course, it’s always risky buying online because the colour can differ on-screen to what you see in natural light - and of course you’re never quite sure of the materials' quality. But it was perfect. Differed slightly in colour to online, but that was to be expected, and only slightly (in a good way). Size-wise it was perfect - so versatile and the material was beautiful. I really recommend her shop if you’re after a multiway wrap dress. They differ in prices depending on the length you want etc. - I got the knee length one and it was only £55 (around $69). You can also get a boob tube to go underneath in the same colour, or mix and match for only £15 (around $18.28).
Groom and best men: Last but not least (actually, let's be honest, least), we can talk about the smelly men we have to scrub up. Well, in my case we hit the jackpot, as my husband-to-be wanted to wear a suit he had tailor made in Singapore a couple of years prior to the wedding. I did protest to begin with, but when I learned the price of a good suit, I decided why not...it's more money to spend on honeymoon, am I right? He didn't really care what he looked like anyway! So besides his braces, tie and tie pin, his outfit was virtually free, as he even had the shoes he wanted to wear. And the same went for the best men, they both owned smart black suites already, that they were willing to wear. So there you have it, our purse got away scot-free - sometimes not being too picky pays off! However, it wasn't all plain sailing, as I searched high and low for ties, braces and bow ties that would match the colour theme. Thank goodness for Ties Online - they have an amazing selection of colours and materials, and they're not too expensive. We paid £100 (around $120) for 2 silk bow ties, a silk tie and 3 sets of braces. Not bad at all.
Images by Phonix capture
There was one finishing touch I wanted for my husband's outfit, and that was a rhino tie pin. Why a rhino, you ask? Well, a few years back he made the most heart-wrenching documentary on the rhino poaching in Africa. And ever since, he's been bought rhino presents for every birthday and every Christmas...to the point where we all see him as the Rhino Man (Watch his documentary here). Oh yes, got a little side tracked...this is where we found the perfect rhino finishing touch: Wildlife Collections for £9.99 (around $12.00).
Bridal shoes: £65
Flower girl dresses (x3): £45
Bridal tiara: £55
Bridesmaid dress (x1): £55
Under dress boob tube: £15
Bridesmaid hair comb: £9.95
Bridesmaid belt: £23.95
Groom tie pin: £9.99
Grooms tie & best men's (x2) bow ties: £100
I then purchased her 1920s hair comb diamante belt sash, from 1920s Vintage Glamour. The hair comb was only £9.95 (around $12) and the belt £23.95 (around $29). The great thing with the belt sash is that you can choose what colour you want the ribbon to be, so that it matches the dress. And again, I do recommend this shop - they both arrived quickly, boxed and made beautifully.