How does a wedding photographer choose her wedding dress?

When Mo asked me to marry him in Summer 2017, the thoughts of buying a wedding dress were not something that immediately came to mind. We both agreed very quickly where, when and how we would get married, the rest was logistics.

After announcing the news to our friends, I had lots of offers from girlfriends to come dress shopping with me, and only once I started thinking about it I was filled with a clear uneasiness about the whole process. I had been married before, and going dress shopping was the least favourite part of preparing for my wedding then. I went to a reputable shop and said I did not want a shoulder-free, sleeveless dress, but that was all they had and they urged me and encouraged me to try a few on, which I did. And I really didn’t like them. Any of them. I didn’t like one thing I saw in the mirror, while at the same time the two shop assistants ooh-ed and aah-ed around me about how lovely I look. What I felt was their wish to make a sale, not their wish to get me a wedding dress that was suitable for me.

One day, I was attending the same wedding fair at Mansfield Traquair as Mette from Freja Wedding Dress Design in Edinburgh. We had a little chat and here’s what I said to her: 

“Mette, I need a wedding dress. You’re the only one I would trust with this task to make me a wedding dress. I want a wedding dress, that’s not a wedding dress, one that I can wear for my wedding, but I can also wear it again for special occasions.” 

For Mette - that's not a problem!

I honestly did not think it would be that easy… A few weeks later we met in her studio and she took my measurements and we discussed what I like and didn’t like and also what I am very self-conscious about on my body. No way I would show my arms, and I knew that a V neck really suits me well. The rest was down to Mette’s magic. She started drawing some design ideas on an empty sheet of A4 paper. I told her that even though most of the brides I photograph wear absolutely stunning dresses, also for many of them the dress is too long at the front and the bride often catches the seem while walking. I didn’t want that to happen to me! I suggested that my dress was about 4-8 inches off the ground. 

And then we discussed colour… I had started looking online for wedding dress ideas that somehow have a connection to the Isle of Harris and obviously Harris Tweed comes to mind immediately. Mette asked me for my favourite colours and I know that every time I wear either turquoise or red I get lots of compliments. She then returned with a few fabric samples and we checked what was available in those colours by her Harris Tweed supplier. I honestly thought that she would suggest a wedding dress type skirt with Harris Tweed top, or a wedding dress with Harris Tweed elements in it. But I was wrong, but then again - I am not a designer, she is! She suggested the whole dress be red! Oh yeah!!! We discussed a few more things about the dress, but basically the three main parts we agreed on were this: Harris Tweed top, long lace sleeves, and a shiny silk skirt. 

After Christmas, we exchanged emails and made an appointment for the first fitting. Mette told me to bring my wedding shoes and also my wedding underwear. Eek??? Wedding underwear? Of course, I left it to the last minute and an hour before my appointment I went shopping in Edinburgh. I asked the lady in the underwear department to show me the “hold-me-ins”. I was presented with either black or flesh coloured garments which were anything but sexy. I knew from experience the pants don’t work with my body shape. I tried them on anyway, but I was right. Then I tried on the second “thing”, a sort of body shape camisole. Normally I would put a cami over my head, but quickly realised this won’t be possible. So I stepped into it and eh-voila! No more lumps! My dress will have sleeves and I will definitely wear a bra! The camisole I chose had thin straps going up the side.

When we met, the toile was there, ready for me to try on. The toile is basically a replica of my future dress, but made of sheet fabric which is beige cotton and easy to draw on. I stepped into my “pre” dress and it fitted like a glove. Mette took lots of notes and drew a few lines on the dress, dropped the waist line by an inch, took more measurements for my arms and opened a few seems and re-adjusted them to make it the perfect fit. I think she must have put about 30 pins into different parts of the dress and I was surprised I didn’t get pricked. All the while we did this, we chatted about the wedding plans and I could see myself in the mirrors, watching the dress take shape. 

Please excuse the photo quality, they are just mobile phone photos :)

Only a couple of weeks later, I had the next appointment, but this time the dress was made in our chosen fabric. There I was - in my dark red wedding dress, harris tweed, lace and silk. The dress was not yet finished, the buttons were missing and the back was still to be finished, but that was all part of the process. Mette made another few very minor changes and suggested a red (yes more red!!) ribbon for my waist which set of both parts perfectly. During the whole process, I fell more and more in love with this amazing dress! 

The third appointment was soon after and I could pick up my dress! How on earth would I hide it from Mo? So I wrapped the garment bag provided by Mette in more bags, so that the red wouldn’t shine through. Mo didn’t have a clue about the colour of dress I was wearing. He kept asking me if I had sorted the dress yet, but I just kept quiet :)  

Every minute I was wearing my “pre” dress my excitement grew! Every minute I was with Mette I knew I had made the right decision. I had not said yes to the dress, however, I said yes to the designer, her expertise, the fabric, the process. Not once was this dress buying “malarkey” (sorry Mette!!) a malarkey but actually absolutely delightful! I loved every minute of it and it couldn’t have been further removed from my first experience. Mette truly listened to my concerns, but also with her vast amounts of experience with brides who come in all shapes and sizes, she helped me find and create the stunning bride I wanted to be for my man. 

Having my wedding dress designed was the perfect option for me. 

Should you have your wedding dress designed and tailored especially for you?

Here are the reasons why I chose this process over a wedding dress shop:

  • I don’t particularly like clothes shopping. 
  • I wanted to look absolutely amazing for my man, but the thought of having to trawl through different wedding dress shops filled me with dread.
  • I don’t have a great fashion sense! Therefore I need honest help and guidance by a professional.
  • I don’t particularly enjoy going shopping with friends, as their style / body shape / suggestions rarely match my own and I am easily convinced into buying a garment that doesn’t really suit me / my body shape. 
  • I don’t often wear dresses, so I don’t have a lot of experience wearing dresses, especially a very formal and long dress, so I definitely needed help in that department.
  • Previous experience has shown that the dresses available in the wedding dress shops were not in my size, so I could not see myself in the mirror with the dresses. Even though the shop assistants re-assured me they can order them in my size, it felt like “buying blind” - not being able to see if the style actually suited me. A dress can look stunning on the hanger, but might not be suitable for my body shape.
  • I don’t like pushy sales people. I knew Mette wouldn’t be like that, it’s in her own interest to design and produce a dress for me that I will rave about and love! 

What about the cost? Isn’t designing a wedding dress much more expensive? 

Wedding dresses come in all sorts of price ranges. When I started dress shopping, I went to Wed2B first, to work out which style I liked. I tried on a few dresses, but as before the whole situation was sales driven and according to their staff I looked "lovely" in all of them... but I didn't feel "lovely" in any of them!

I wanted a dress that I truly loved and couldn't wait to wear. I then visited a couple of the main wedding dress shops in Edinburgh, and because I just walked in - without an appointment - and 4 months before our wedding...(!!) - I wasn't greeted the way I had hoped... Also the price tags were way above what I wanted to spend on a dress I would wear for one day only. Some of the garments - and I must say they looked stunning - started at way over £2,000, and then you need to budget some £300 for alterations on top of that!

So when I spoke with Mette, she said her dresses start at around £1,500, and my dress was actually less than that because it wasn't a typical wedding dress. An no alterations, as the dress was made for me. Custom-made worked out much better for me and I was also keen to support a local business and incorporate our own wedding elements (red, Harris Tweed) into my dress.

Mette did a fantastic job, and I loved wearing my dress - every minute of it!! See for yourself :) (all photos Copyright Lynne Kennedy Photography)

Thank you, Lynne Kennedy for our amazing wedding photographs :)