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Saying yes to that special dress!

Wedding season is well and truly upon us and Emma Hannigan’s gorgeous novel The Wedding Promise publishes this Thursday! Set in the beautiful Spanish countryside this is a heartwarming from the bestselling author and we’re delighted to share this lovely piece from Emma on how to pick that all important wedding dress!

‘Cian and I were married nineteen years on 4 June! In many ways it seems like a lifetime but in others, it’s a blink of an eye. We have two wonderful teenagers to show for our time together so I guess there’s no getting away from the facts!

I still remember the fun and excitement that surrounded the wedding-dress shopping. As you may be aware I have an ‘A’ grade in shopping. I am a self-confessed shopaholic and I love nothing more than getting something new. Put it this way – I will never be the richest person in the graveyard. I believe in earning my own money and spending it! Why save for a rainy day – although if we’re going with that notion, it rains most days in Ireland, so I’m covered! Once the bills are paid, what’s the point in leaving money to sit and fester?

Since online shopping has exploded into our lives, I am a thousand times worse. There is literally no stopping me… Ouch!

When Cian and I got engaged on New Years Eve of 1997/98 we decided we weren’t going to have a long gap until the wedding. So we booked our venue at a lovely hotel that overlooks rolling hills and has wonderful views of our home county of Wicklow.  I had five months to do absolutely everything. Cian wasn’t and never will be good at shopping. We went on one trip together early on in our relationship and agreed to never do so again. I’m certain that has been a major factor in our marital bliss.

To say that Mum and I (I get my shopping skills from Mum) were thrilled at the prospect of purchasing a wedding dress is putting it mildly. We were possessed with delight. We began in earnest as soon as the shops reopened after the Christmas festivities. Our balloons of enchantment were deflated slightly however, when many of the bridal stores laughed at us when we said we needed the dress in five months: ‘Girls come to us a year and half or two years ahead of their big day. Five months is impossible. The dresses need to be ordered and fitted.’

Two of the shops I made appointments for didn’t even allow us to look when I told them our wedding date! Suddenly, what was meant to be the most fun and fabulous dress of my life was becoming a humungous problem. How could the shoppers of all shoppers fail at buying a wedding gown? The shame of it…

Dad, being the king of practicality, decided we needed to go to London. Being a spoilt princess (and only daughter) he whisked Mum and I off to the fabulousness of London. We’d made appointments in three stores. The first two had some stunning dresses but the prices were eye watering. Even though I was being treated to the dress by my parents, I simply couldn’t justify spending thousands of pounds on something I would wear for one day. But quite apart from that, none of them were really working for me. I’m five foot four and at the time I was very slight. Two children later and a current diet of steroids and chemotherapy mean I probably wouldn’t get my big toe into my dress today!

The last store I had an appointment for was Harrods. Dad had made the booking as he had a wonderful romantic idea that I would get my dress there. As a family we always visit London for a weekend before Christmas, to take in a show, and the lights and general atmosphere. Needless to say we always look in Harrods too. It’s gorgeous at any time of the year, but particularly magical at Christmas, I’m sure you’ll agree. On this day, I was feeling a little deflated by the time we walked through the main doors of the iconic store. There wasn’t one dress in the previous shops that had stood out, nor could I stomach the prices, as I said. I was convinced that Harrods would be well out of my price range, but went along with the appointment to please Dad. Not to mention having the experience of being in their bridal hall!

When we arrived, the lady took my name and welcomed us graciously. It was incredibly busy which surprised me slightly. ‘I presume you are aware that today is a special sale day?’ she said as a throwaway comment.

‘No, I had no idea,’ I said. ‘We flew from Ireland for a night and this store was on our list. What does this mean?’

‘We’re selling off samples and some gowns from a previous season to make space for new stock.’

Now I was interested!  She invited us to look around and said she’d be back to assist us and, should we not find anything I liked, she would make some suggestions.

One dress drew my eye the second we walked in. It was a pretty lace-topped one with a full skirt in a skin-flattering tone. Mum spotted it too. We nodded and smiled. We looked through the rails and although each and every dress was wonderful, I knew I wanted to try the one on the mannequin. The assistant set about taking it off and I also chose another three dresses to try. Each of the three dresses were fine. But as usual they were too big, or too long or needed a lot of adjustment. I was assured the adjustments could be done. We were thinking of ways we could make them work, by adding beaded belts or OTT head pieces, or by taking some fabric from the bottom and so on…

Eventually the one we’d spotted on the mannequin was brought in. I tried it on, Mum zipped it up and I knew. I had that feeling so many other girls had told me about. It fit like a glove and it literally didn’t even need the hem to be adjusted. They put on a simple hair band with cream roses and a plain long veil and that was it. Subtly I tried to find the price tag as I was in the changing room. But it was missing. Nervously, I asked. Then came the best news of all. It was a sample, it was half price, and because it was such a small size there was a further reduction! The veil had been in the window at some point, so that was down to bargain-basement prices too. I walked away with my dress in a Harrods bag for the price of a pair of shoes in some of the stores we’d been to!

I knew the price couldn’t totally determine the choice of my dress, but little did the lady know that day, that I would’ve agreed to sell my house to get it! I loved everything about it and it looked as if it had been made for me. It didn’t swamp me, it was a classic design and hand on heart, I would wear it again right now… if only I could squeeze into it!

The one and only time I’ve tried it on since our wedding day, I was five months pregnant with our son. I sat and cried until Mum found me and told me in no uncertain terms that I was being ridiculous. I know I’m certainly not in the right shape to try it again now, but telling you the story has given me a longing to wear it, even if just around the house! I’ll wait until the steroids and chemotherapy stop, I’ll get walking at a marching pace again, and who knows, maybe I’ll get to post a photo of me fitting into it again. Don’t hold your breath now, but I would dearly love to waft around in it once more! Oh to be the weight of a flea again…’

The Wedding Promise is out on Thursday but if you can’t wait that long you can download the eBook here!