‘I chose a ballgown silhouette – and brown hiking boots’
We ‘eloped’ at Dunseverick Castle in Northern Ireland. My family lives in Singapore and were unable to come over, so we decided to do what felt right – a wedding with just the two of us. I was on the fence about having a traditional wedding dress, but my husband, Seamus, convinced me to go for it, as much of our day was already set to be unconventional. I chose a ballgown silhouette, as I loved the dramatic contrast with the rugged cliffs of the north coast.
Because we were still in lockdown, I bought my dress at an online sample sale, after endless scrolling. We needed shoes that would work on the rough terrain – hence my favourite part of the wedding attire: my £59 brown hiking boots from M&S. We’ve been married for a month, the dress is still with the dry cleaner (who was horrified by the mud, grass and sand stains) and the boots have been worn on many a hiking expedition since. Chelsea Collins, doctor, Northern Ireland
‘Everyone said it was much more “me” than a traditional gown’
I’d always imagined having a big wedding and wearing a lace gown, but when my partner proposed last November we decided we wanted to tie the knot sooner rather than later. We couldn’t face having to postpone and reorganise again and again, so we opted for a very small wedding as soon as possible.
I realised I wouldn’t be able to wear a traditional wedding dress, because shops were shut, so I ordered a couple of dresses from Coast and fell in love with the first one I tried on. I had so many compliments on my dress and everyone said it was much more “me” than a traditional wedding gown. One day, my husband and I would like to host a big party for all our friends and family who couldn’t be there and I may choose to wear a traditional wedding dress then. Or I may just buy another nice dress that can be re-used for other occasions. Keira Yates, communications manager, Wakefield
‘I wore a blouse from Sainsbury’s and a pair of M&S jeans’
My partner and I were married on 30 March and, for a wedding with only four people (the two of us, plus our witnesses), it seemed unnecessary to dress up. We were having lunch in a beach hut afterwards, so we ended up in swimsuits and sun hats – I wore a blouse from Sainsbury’s and a pair of M&S jeans. I did buy a lovely tweed jacket from Boden, but it was hot that day, so I didn’t need it. Instead of splashing out on a dress, we spent a bit of money having our house decorated and a chef came to cook us a wedding dinner for two. Cate Evans, retired, Suffolk
‘I got lots of comments on how cool and original my dress was’
As our wedding on 1 May had to be a lot smaller than originally planned – we just had a register office wedding followed by a meal in a pub – a full-on gown seemed a bit excessive. So I went for a short, 60s-style shirt dress from Karen Millen. I loved it. My husband loved it, too, and I got lots of comments on how cool and original it was. Carys Robshaw, charity worker, Essex
‘My new, short dress was more casual – and perfect for us’
I bought a long, traditional dress with the intention of having a register office wedding, followed by a reception in central Edinburgh. In the end, the reception just wasn’t viable. It was too stressful to field questions from guests about whether it was going ahead and instead we got married on 18 May with two witnesses, my parents and two grandparents. I bought a new, short dress that was white with flowers and it felt better suited to the occasion than a traditional wedding dress. It was more casual – and perfect for us. Heather Storgaard, charity development worker, South Queensferry
‘I knew my dress was no longer right. Perhaps it was never right’
Our wedding was originally scheduled for 6 June 2020. We never wanted a huge do – 35 guests was always the plan. I went dress shopping early and bought a full-length dress from Phase Eight. We rescheduled our wedding to 24 October 2020 thinking that surely the pandemic would be over by then, but as the date approached we became nervous about the arrangements. We changed our choice of venue and I knew straight away my dress was no longer right. Perhaps it was never right.
The delay in our plans, coupled with the fact I had the dress at home, meant I was constantly looking at it. I decided I wanted something with a nod to tradition and obviously bridal, but that wouldn’t look ridiculous at such a small, intimate wedding. I bagged a bargain LouLou bridal ex-sample dress on eBay, which I loved. It cost the same again to fit, but it was worth every penny – and was the perfect length to show off my fabulous Jimmy Choo shoes! Andrea Haslam, operational manager, Darlington
‘The smaller event took some pressure off the dress’
Originally, my wedding dress was a £600 full-length, fit-and-flare brocade dress with a train – but the pandemic meant I never had it properly fitted and pinned after its purchase. I had three wedding dates cancelled between August 2020 and April 2021. We eventually scheduled a small wedding for 1 June and the smaller event suddenly took some pressure off the dress. I wanted to look and feel like a bride, but I didn’t want the heaviness of the big dress; it’s just not my normal style. I scoured eBay and found a pre-owned (but still tagged) Lipsy dress. It was still form-fitted and brocaded, but short, with a low back. I bought it for £25 and loved it. I felt glamorous, but so much more like myself. It also meant my fabulous shoes were always on show. My groom said the new dress was exactly what he hoped I would wear and I truly felt like a queen. Catherine, teacher, Dudley
‘My dramatic, bohemian dress suddenly felt showy and overly bridal’
My fiance, Steve, proposed to me in Palawan in the Philippines in November 2019. Before we had even landed back on UK soil, we had settled on a zero-guests ceremony in Joshua Tree national park in California, followed by a three-week road trip. I had always been intent on buying a preloved wedding dress; I was so excited when I found a secondhand gown online that I felt matched the hedonistic romanticism of our plans, with dramatic, flowing hemlines and modern bohemian lace. It fit me perfectly and, being an untraditional bride, I showed my dress to all my friends, family and even my fiance. Looking back, I think that took some magic away from it.
Then the pandemic meant our September 2020 wedding was a no-go. We postponed until May 2021, which also never happened. We have since rescheduled our road trip to September 2021. The additional time in limbo has seen me try on my dress one too many times. Looking at myself in the mirror, I thought: “When would I ever wear this dress in real life?” The bohemian drama suddenly felt showy and overly bridal. I soon had a vision in my head of what I actually wanted and it was so different to the dress I had bought. I found a local dressmaker who made my dress for £150: a simple backless slip dress in a beautiful silk crepe. No lace, no train, no beads, no pearls, no tulle, but still sexy and elegant. I am so glad I had extra time to reassess. Belle Dowber-Hawkins, director of operations, Portsmouth